One of America’s most reviled convicted terrorists – Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, the bombmaker and mastermind behind the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and several other terrorist plots – has been in solitary confinement in a 7′ x 11′ cell with steel doors in a maximum security prison in the wilds of Colorado for more than a dozen years. He was sentenced to life +240 years. He’s not going anywhere.
But Yousef’s lawyer is doing everything he can to get the Federal Bureau of Prisons to ease up on the stringent restrictions under which Yousef lives. He wants more current reading material, he wants fewer body searches, and he wants to be moved to a less restrictive prison environment.
And he wants more human contact – the last person he saw was his lawyer, Bernard V. Kleinman, back in the fall of 2010, and he only saw Kleinman through thick plexiglass. Even his meals are served by being passed through an opening at the bottom of his cell door.
A little history, first.
Yousef, born in Kuwait in 1968, is of Pakistani “Palestinian” ancestry, and grew up with a homicidal hatred for Jews and for all western countries who assist the Jewish State. He came to the United States on September 2, 1992, for the purpose of carrying out terrorist bombings on our shores.
When Yousef landed at Kennedy Airport, he was seized because he held an obviously fake passport and he did not have an entry visa. But when Yousef requested political asylum, the Immigration and Naturalization Service released him, simply asking that he return for a court date.
Yousef instead disappeared into the wilds of New Jersey and established contacts with various other Arab terrorists.
Between November, 1992 and February, 1993, Yousef and his fellow terrorists obtained various chemicals and a storage shed in which to keep them.
On February 16, 1993, Yousef and another terrorist drove to the World Trade Center to scout out the best location to place an explosive device. Ten days later, Yousef and his colleague placed the bomb they had built in a Ryder van, then detonated it in the garage of the World Trade Center complex, killing 6 people, injuring hundreds of others, and causing $500 million in property damage.
But that bombing was a failure for Yousef, as his plan was to cause the Towers to burn and crash, and in the process kill many thousands of people.
The day after the bombing, Yousef fled to Pakistan and was eventually placed on the FBI’s Most Wanted list.
While in Pakistan, Yousef plotted with others to simultaneously bomb 12 commercial airline flights over the Indian Ocean. The goal of this plan, nicknamed “Bojinka,” was the same as for the World Trade Center bombing – to influence U.S. policy in the Middle East and cause the U.S. to turn away from its ally, Israel.
But Yousef was ratted out by an informant in February, 1995, was eventually arrested by Pakistani authorities, and turned over to the United States.
CONVICTION AND INCARCERATION
On September 6, 1996, Yousef was found guilty following a criminal trial in New York City, and on January 8, 1998, he was sentenced to life imprisonment for the Bojinka plan, plus an additional 240 years for the World Trade Center bombing.
Yousef is now serving in the super maximum security facility in Florence, Colorado, which is southwest of Colorado Springs.
When Yousef was sentenced 15 years ago, certain “Special Administrative Measures” were imposed. SAMs are imposed when a convict is deemed to pose a national security threat or a threat to someone in the prisons system, either an employee or another prisoner. They were imposed on Yousef because of his history of terrorism and relations with terrorists.
Bernard V. Kleinman is Yousef’s lawyer. Kleinman, New York born, raised, schooled and employed, was assigned Yousef as his client by the federal court system.
Kleinman is a pretty typical New York liberal Jew, by his own admission. He didn’t choose Yousef as a client, but he will defend him and his rights to the best of his abilities, no matter what he might think about the man, his motivations, or his merit. As Kleinman explained to The Jewish Press, “I do the best I can, or I don’t do it at all.”
What Kleinman is seeking is to have Yousef’s SAMs revised, or removed. His reasoning is that because SAMs, according to the relevant legal code, are authorized only if there is a determination by the relevant authorities “that there is a substantial risk that a prisoner’s communication or contacts with persons could result in death or serious bodily injury to persons.”
The SAMs, as Yousef’s do, can “include housing the inmate in administrative detention and/or limiting certain privileges, including, but not limited to, correspondence, visiting, interviews with representatives of the news media, and use of the telephone, as is reasonably necessary to protect persons against the risk of acts of violence or terrorism.”
But, Kleinman said, by law the restrictions can only be imposed in 120-day increments.
And that’s why the lawyer is comfortable challenging the system, repeatedly asking that the limitations imposed on Yousef be justified in accordance with the law. Kleinman points out that the requirements of repeated determinations and short-term durations must mean that a defendant’s original conviction cannot justify, without any more, the repeated imposition of the restrictions.
Kleinman told The Jewish Press, “the rules are there for a reason, and if we ignore them because the defendant is odious, the entire system breaks down.” He said, “the constitution, due process: these rules either apply to everybody or they apply to nobody.”
Surely Kleinman makes the right case for his client and for the American legal system.
But there’s one more bizarre twist to this tale.
WHAT A FAMILY How can an article be written about Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, the mastermind of the first World Trade Center bombing, without mentioning that Yousef is the cousin of Khaled Sheik Mohammed, who, according to the 911 Commission, the principal architect of the 9/11 bombings, in other words, of the Second World Trade Center Bombing.
But we’re not done yet. Yousef is also the cousin of one of the financiers of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali. Aziz Ali was also involved with financing the bombings of the U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya. Aziz Ali’s wife, Aafia Siddiqui, who is related to Yousef not by blood but by marriage, is yet another convicted terrorist who is in prison in the U.S.
Siddiqui, who was educated at Brandeis University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was recently in the news. Her release was demanded by the Masked Brigade, the al Qaeda affiliate responsible for a hostage siege at a natural gas complex in Algeria in January of this year, in retaliation for the French military effort against Islamists in Mali. Scores of people, including three Americans, were killed in the ensuing blaze.
The other terrorist whose release was demanded was Omar Abdel Rahman, the “Blind Sheik,” who is considered the spiritual mastermind of the ’93 World Trade Center bombing.
About the Author: Lori Lowenthal Marcus is the US correspondent for The Jewish Press. She is a recovered lawyer who previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools.
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