When Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani was first transferred to New York from Guantanamo Bay last year, House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio called it "the first step in the Democrats' plan to import terrorists into America."
More than a year later, Ghailani remains the only detainee from Guantanamo Bay to be brought to the United States. He's scheduled to go on trial starting this week in lower Manhattan. Jury selection begins Monday.
Ghailani is a Tanzanian accused of helping to bomb two U.S. embassies in East Africa in 1998 that killed 224 people. Like the September 11, 2001 attacks, those bombings have been attributed to Osama bin Laden.
In hundreds of legal charges filed with the federal court in New York, Ghailani is accused of having scouted out the American embassy in Tanzania before it was bombed, assembled bomb materials and escorted the suicide bomber to the site. After the bombings, prosecutors say he fled to Afghanistan and rose up the ranks of al Qaeda, forging documents for the group and working as a cook and a bodyguard for Osama bin Laden.
When he was captured in Pakistan in 2004, U.S. authorities deemed Ghailani a "high-value" detainee and sent him to a secret CIA prison for interrogation, where Ghailani claims he was tortured. Indeed, a variety of so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques," including waterboarding, were authorized for use by CIA interrogators on high-value detainees.
Ghailani was transferred to Guantanamo Bay in 2006. Last year, more than ten years after the embassy bombings, he was transferred to the New York prison. The same prison has safely held such notorious criminals as John Gotti and the blind terror leader Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman.
Critics of Ghailani's transfer warned that his prosecution could be derailed by his abuse in prison and the long delay in bringing him to trial. But the federal judge hearing the case, Judge Lewis A. Kaplan, has denied the defense lawyers' requests to dismiss the trial on those grounds.
Last week, former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani insisted that it would be safer to try Ghailani in a military commission in Guantanamo Bay than in New York City.
Ghailani has already appeared in court for pretrial hearings, however, without incident. New York City police have said that while they will provide some extra security for the trial, the proceedings will not require any of the elaborate and costly measures that New York City officials had warned would be necessary for a trial of the 9/11 plotters. After receiving complaints from local business groups about the potential disruption that trial might cause, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly announced that he would take a range of extraordinary security measures, including a flood of uniformed police officers, checkpoints and thousands of interlocking metal barriers. Mayor Bloomberg estimated the cost at $200 million a year, and the Obama administration soon backed away from the plan.
Despite the huge costs and inconvenience predicted for the 9-11 plotters' trial, no such estimates have been made for the trials of any of those accused of carrying out al Qaeda's U.S. embassy bombing attacks.
Four other men have already been tried and convicted in the same New York courthouse for their roles in the U.S. embassy attacks. All were sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani is expected to announce tomorrow that he's not running for governor, U.S. senator or any other office next year, the Daily News' David Saltonstall reports.
Instead, he's expected to declare that he's staying in the private sector for now and endorse fellow Republican Rick Lazio for governor.
As I wrote before, once he bowed out of the gubernatorial race, I never thought Rudy would engage in a year-long campaign to become (likely) 100th in seniority. Personally, I thought his rumor-mongering of running for weeks was aimed at (a) alleviating his own boredom (b) drumming up consulting business (c) done because he was upset at the diminishing number of daily Google News hits on his name (d) all of the above.
At any rate, Lazio will get crushed by Cuomo or (we nervously hope) by Paterson, although I do remember an unknown State Senator by the name of Pataki running against the titan, papa Cuomo, in '94. Speaking of that unknown State Senator, he is still in the mix to run against Gillibrand.
Via devtob at The Albany Project, Josh Marshall is being a little overly pessimistic about the prospects of Gillibrand retaining the Senate seat in NY next year. Here's Marshall:
Maybe she'll turn out to be a great senator. But this one surprised everyone when it was announced. And she's far from the best positioned person to hold this seat in 2010. It wasn't clear when she was appointed that it would be such a tough climate for Dems. But that's life. If Giuliani gets in to this race, this one could end up looking like a senate (seat) Gov. Paterson all but gave away to the Republicans.
Now, I'm not the world's biggest fan of Gillibrand, but she's been very good so far in the Senate, has worked extremely hard to raise her profile and win the seat. Far from the best positioned? Even though Marshall doesn't say who would have been better positioned, even leaving aside the hindsight is 20/20 argument, I am doubtful that any of the other contenders would have been better. I have trouble seeing why a Caroline Maloney or a Randi Weingarten would have been too much better positioned, all things considered. Byron Brown? I can't even count on one hand the number of good things he's done for Buffalo. Caroline Kennedy?
With respect to the optics of holding the seat, at the time she was chosen, Giuliani wasn't really looking to run for anything, and the expectation was Governor if he did. As devtob points out, there was no "lock" on the seat except Cuomo, and we all know he wanted to run for Governor. I don't know how Paterson could be charged with "giving away" the seat just because Giuliani is scared of losing the gubernatorial race. Besides, I'm not even sure he gets in. Being 100th in seniority for an impatient egomanic like Giuliani, with no executive power whatsoever, doesn't come across to me like it's up his alley. If he does get in, I remember he couldn't even be well-informed on a bunch of major issues in the presidential race, making numerous gaffes on basic policy. He's lazy as hell. He's no lock to win the seat.
What is also interesting to me is how many people have made noises, or are still making noises, about running. First Carolyn McCarthy threatens to run the very day Gillibrand was appointed over gun issues. Then she bows out. Then Carolyn Maloney reportedly gets in, then gets out. At some point Tasini, a labor and anti-war activist who also ran in a primary against Clinton in 2006, got in, and Jon Cooper, an openly gay Suffolk County legislator who has been deciding for months, just said he will wait another several weeks to announce if he's running. Now, via Gray in Quick Hits, Bill Thompson might run because, it seems, he just wants to run for something. Giuliani is the same way. The amount of hand-wringing in this race is certainly entertaining, if nothing else.
Mike Bloomberg, the billionaire mayor, said he hadn't seen it but he said if voters think city schools are better today than they were under Thompson's leadership at the Board of Education, they should vote for Bloomberg.
The record will show that the control of New York City Public Schools was firmly gripped by the New York City's Mayor's office.
Rudolph W. Giuliani made New Yorkers three promises when he campaigned for mayor in the early 1990s: He would fix troubled schools, cut crime and boost the economy.
New York City schools went through eight years of political chaos during Giuliani's terms, which ended in 2002. His bare-knuckle tactics contributed to the departure of three chancellors, according to interviews with former school administrators, Board of Education members, teachers, parents, union officials and outside experts.
This was the Rudy Giuliani Show. Chancellors made guest appearances and the Board of Education, students and parents were a captive audience.
To follow up on my post re former AG and Gov. Spitzer considering a comeback, the musing and maneuvering has begun. Immediately after The Hill and Danny Hakim at the NYTimes reported he was considering it, Spitzer came out with a full denial Tuesday night, then announced yesterday he was planning on teaching a course on law and public policy at City College of New York. Of course, this doesn't preclude doing a campaign as well, but it does try to bat down the rumors. Meanwhile, Survey USA did a snap poll, finding that 62% of New Yorkers would definitely or consider voting for Spitzer if he ran again for public office. It also found that 41% of voters think Spitzer is more qualified than Paterson to be governor, with 31% going for Paterson and 35% unsure. This follows up on a May poll finding 51% would rather have Spitzer as Governor over Paterson. While Spitzer's numbers do tank against Giuliani (if he runs) in the SUSA poll, and this is all speculation until Cuomo makes up his mind on running for Governor or not, I think there is some positive sign there that he could definitely run for office again and win, perhaps for Comptroller.
I should also mention that the New York State Comptroller is a guy named Thomas DiNapoli, who was most recently a member of the Assembly until chosen by his peers to replace the previous Comptroller over a scandal. An August 24th Siena poll found a whopping 74% had no opinion of DiNapoli, despite taking office in early 2007. To be honest, he's maintained a low profile, and I think can be beaten in a primary. I see that, or running for Attorney General if Cuomo opts to run for Governor, as the most likely possibilities.
The one other thing I did want to address was opinion over respect and forgiveness. After the news came out Tuesday evening on speculation that he might run again, I chatted with my mom and my sister about it. My mom was previously a die-hard Spitzer supporter. I interned in his Buffalo office when he was AG many years ago, and the same office intervened on our behalf when a car dealership tried to screw her out of their warranty obligation when the car was broken. And, as she would say, he's a good Jewish boy.
I was shocked by the flat refusal to support him (at least, in a Dem primary), and it was because of the prostitution issue. To me, I don't care about his personal life to any extent, unless he's using state resources or severely breaking the law, or it's rape. To her, and my sister, cheating on your partner is one thing, but cheating on your partner via prostitution is another. It's supporting an illicit industry, I was told, condoning a lifestyle that shouldn't be condoned, even if it's to support a child. It's taking advantage of women, even if it's consensual. It's interesting to note my mother and my sister are both die-hard feminists and Hillary backers (their reactions to the McCain campaign's targeting of Hillary supporters by picking Palin inspired me to write this piece last year analyzing the effects of it), so perhaps that has something to do with it. Each is entitled to their own opinion, but I am concerned this may by more prevalent than expected, at least among women or a certain demographic of women. It would certainly an important concern in any Spitzer campaign.
Keeping track of all the recent Conservative attacks on poor people and their "lobby" (ACORN) is getting to be a bit of a task.
The latest "outrage du jour" involves these (oh so obviously fake) voter registration forms that a few idiots (?) decided to turn in.
A few things to consider here.....
So it's still possible that there will be a brokered convention on the Republican side, as the anti-McCain forces in the Party, of which there are many, are right now working hard to pull together around a strategy for dead-locking the convention. Romney, as well as obviously Huckabee and Giuliani, have pretty much lost any chance of winning the nomination outright. The question is now whether they can get to a brokered convention by each of them picking off enough states and enough delegates to stop McCain from getting over 50%. The odds are against them, given the winner-take-all rules in some states. But they still have a shot if all the anti-Nelson forces have a coordinated strategy.
However, it's clear that we have to assume that we have to beat McCain in the fall. That's going to be a huge challenge. McCain is beloved by the media and independent voters generally like him pretty well. They think of him as genuine, a maverick, a war hero, and overcoming all of that likability and those kinds of clichés about him is going to be very tough.
On the Republican side, it obviously appears to be shaping up as Romney vs. McCain. The traditional media's love affair with McCain naturally continues unabated, so they were hyping his South Carolina win. But Romney's dominating victory in Nevada was more impressive to me than McCain barely holding off Huckabee in South Carolina, especially considering that McCain's best buddy Thompson delivered the victory by drawing a share of the Southern evangelical vote.
At this point, I'm betting on Romney to take this thing. He has a lot more money than McCain, and in Florida and February 5th states, that matters a lot. And as wounded as the GOP establishment hasproven to be, they still have the resources and clout to make a difference in all these big states on Super Tuesday.
Florida looks pretty damn interesting. Huckabee will get his core evangelicals, even as everything else for him fades away. Guiliani is pouring everything he can into the state, and I'm sure Floridians have appreciated the attention. McCain still has the media fawning over him every day, and he'll get his usual "it's his turn, I know him the best, he's a war hero" vote. And Romney will have the conservative establishment coalescing behind him as the last chance to beat McCain.
On the Democratic side, I would caution everybody rushing to say Clinton's got it. She's clearly and firmly re-established her front-runner status, but what happens over the course of campaigns every day really does matter. Momentum doesn't matter very much at this point, and if Obama runs a smarter campaign than he's run so far, or if Hillary makes even a modest sized slip, Obama still has a chance.
Having said that, Obama and the Obama campaign continue to perplex me. Floating along on their lofty post-partisan hopefulness, they give you the impression that they are too noble to do what it takes to win. This whole Reagan thing was Obama acting like an above-it-all professor of history, analyzing things from the mountain top without thinking about the effect that the Reagan presidency actually had on people, or what his effect his words might have on the Democratic primary electorate.
The reason Obama lost New Hampshire and Nevada is that he is floating so high above the nasty world of partisanship and politics that regular voters, especially the blue collar voters who actually face the gritty realities of the real world, are rejecting him. Obama was perfectly positioned to go on and win this thing after Iowa, not because of momentum but because he was convincing voters that he would actually change their lives. But this high brow crap is killing him.
At the start of this campaign cycle, many commenters online compared Clinton's national poll lead to Joe Lieberman's national poll advantage in 2003. I disagreed, arguing that Clinton had a much larger, much more stable national lead than Lieberman. I seem to have been proven correct during the campaign, as Clinton's national lead has held up straight through the start of the Iowa caucuses. However, like so many other things involving Lieberman, the appropriate analogy was actually to the Republican nomination, not the Democratic one. Rudy Giuliani and John McCain held national leads analogous to Lieberman's 2003 advantage. That is, those two candidates held early national leads based entirely on high name recognition and a thin, vague, positive, media fueled image of those two candidates despite their lack of a real national base of support. McCain's national support collapsed during the first half of the year, and Giuliani's is now quickly following suit. From Pollster.com:
Giuliani is jetting around the country wooing Bible-thumping conservatives, but his plane is often provided by a king of Sin City.
The Republican presidential hopeful anted up more than $122,000 last summer alone for jets traceable to casino kingpin Sheldon Adelson, whose Las Vegas Sands empire has made him the third-richest American, a Daily News review of campaign records shows.
Last quarter, The Sands' innocuously named Interface Operations LLC was the top provider of corporate jets to the frequently flying Giuliani, who was whisked around the country on the casino's plush Gulfstream G-IV in late August and early September, records show.
"You have to follow the money and ask, 'Why is Sheldon Adelson partnering with Rudy Giuliani?'" asked Stacey Cargill, an anti-gambling and Republican Party activist in Iowa, where the nation's first presidential caucus is set for Jan. 3.
Cargill, who views even legal gambling as a magnet for crime and vice, said, "If Rudy Giuliani wants to be the crimefighting candidate, why is he partnering with a large and growing gambling empire?"
Besides being a gambling magnate, Adelson is a prime funder of the group 'Freedom's Watch', which advocates for the bombing of Iran. It's just remarkable how the tribalism and worship of phony machismo of Giuliani, and his sadistic corrupt tendencies are reinforced at every turn, from his love of the mechanics of organized crime to his defense of Bernie Kerik. Remember this?
In his autobiography, The Lost Son, Kerik includes a revealing account of a meeting in which Giuliani told him he was going to name him first deputy correction commissioner, a post for which the street cop felt himself woefully unprepared. After convincing him he could do the job, Giuliani led him downstairs to a dimly lit room where senior administration aides waited. Each embraced Kerik and kissed him on the cheek.
"I wonder if he [Giuliani] noticed how much becoming part of his team resembled becoming part of a mafia family," Mr. Kerik wrote. "I was being made."
There is no doubt that Giuliani not only noticed the resemblance, but reveled in it. Throughout his tenure at City Hall, one of the mayor's less than endearing quirks was a constant recitation of lines from his favorite movie, "The Godfather," which would send his aides into titters.
Behind this ritual was a mindset that intermingled arrogance, criminality and authoritarianism, producing atrocities like the stationhouse torture of Abner Louima and the police killings of Amadou Diallo and Patrick Dorismond, as well as a series of corruption scandals.
So what we have is a megalomaniacal charismatic individual who models his political stylings around the the norms of a fictional murderous and ruthless criminal syndicate traveling around the country to pander to white evangelical Christians on a plane paid for by gambling money that is also used to lobby for another catastrophic war against a Middle Eastern oil state.
That's your modern Republican Party. Phony, macho, sadistic, authoritarian. Lovely.
Maybe this is the moment that crystallizes it all: Rudy Giuliani has to flat-out lie in order to argue against a guaranteed healthcare on the single-payer model. Worst of all, he trades on his own cancer diagnosis to prop up a healthcare system that is failing many other cancer patients. It's a perfect symbol for the twilight of a decrepit insurance-based healthcare system.
I hate to be melodramatic, but that's pretty much what it comes down to.
At least according to today's report finding that America is last among industrialized democracies in terms of infant mortality. Because our healthcare system is set up to guarantee billions of dollars of profit to unnecessary insurance corporations, kids born here are more likely to die than they are in countries with guaranteed healthcare through the single-payer model.
Via Steve Benen, I see that Bill Kristol is floating the idea of Joe Lieberman as VP on the GOP ticket, which reminded me of something I had forgotten to mention about Giuliani and any supposed 'revolt' against him by social conservatives.
If you look at the last election in Connecticut, it's quite evident that Republican voters don't care about choice or social issues. Schlesinger, Lieberman, and Lamont are all pro-choice; Lieberman was endorsed by NARAL, the League of Conservation Voters, and the Human Rights Campaign. While there was a pro-life candidate in the Connecticut primary, he got an inconsequential number of votes. There are any number of reasons Republicans voted the way they did. Caring deeply about social issues isn't one of them.
Thankfully, the chatter about a third party run by social conservatives has died down.