Will the Real 20th Hijacker Please Stand Up?

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USA Today's Tuesday scoop that the FBI has identified a new "20th hijacker" has persistent John Ashcroft critic Jonathan Turley seeing red:

The status of "the 20th hijacker" has become something of a terrorist time-share. As the government seeks the arrest of the third 20th hijacker, it is struggling to execute its first 20th hijacker ? Zacarias Moussaoui. [?]

It does not matter that, while the government pushes the 9/11 theory in court, other government officials are widely quoted outside of court admitting that he was not the 20th hijacker. Ashcroft appears to be working on a legal version of the string theory of physics in which he can prosecute multiple 20th hijackers in parallel legal universes. [?]

Ashcroft's obsession with executing Moussaoui for the crimes of 9/11 now stands in willful ignorance of both the evidence in the case and the statements of high-ranking officials. It is time to try Moussaoui as a terrorist ? not as a 9/11 terrorist but simply a garden-variety terrorist. It may be a blow to Ashcroft's ego, but it is hardly a loss. After all, we have plenty more 20th hijackers where he came from.

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  1. Pardon my ignorance, but who was the 2nd 20th hijacker?

  2. Joe,

    It is in the article I think.

  3. I know there’s something in the Constitution about being tried twice for the same crime, but I don’t recall any prohibition against trying an infinite number of people for a particular offense. And although there’s another clause about making ex-post-facto laws, we having plenty of vague laws allowing for ex-post-facto reintrepretation.

    It is understandable that such a terror would inspire a zealous pursuit of justice. Understandable, but not reasonable.

  4. Mark,

    In theory, the concept of probable cause should prevent that sort of abuse, but you know how that goes …

  5. Why does Moussaoui have to be the “20th Hijacker” for us to execute him? Under current law, he does, but that’s a problem with the law. We need a RICO for terrorists. It should be a federal crime, punishable by death, to be a member of Al Qaeda. It shouldn’t matter which plot you were involved in, if any. If you knowingly join a terrorist organization that’s trying to kill Americans, we’re going to grant you your wish of martyrdom.

  6. Why does Moussaoui have to be the “20th Hijacker” for us to execute him? Under current law, he does, but that’s a problem with the law. We need a RICO for terrorists. It should be a federal crime, punishable by death, to be a member of Al Qaeda. It shouldn’t matter which plot you were involved in, if any. If you knowingly join a terrorist organization that’s trying to kill Americans, we’re going to grant you your wish of martyrdom.

  7. sorry, hit “post” twice

  8. A Christian fundamentalist trying to protect us from Islamic fundamentalists. Yay.

    Ashcroft is a punchline from a Foxworthy joke.

  9. I don’t recall any prohibition against trying an infinite number of people for a particular offense.

    There was a case, and forgive my being lazy for not wanting to look it up, but two brothers were being tried for murdering their father with a baseball bat, and an adult who had some kind of sexual relationship with the older brother was also tried for the crime. The results of one trial were sealed pending the result of the second. I don’t recall how that worked out. I think the kids’ last names were King, go look.

  10. rst

    It happened in N Florida a couple of years ago. I don’t recall what happened either.

  11. “Ashcroft appears to be working on a legal version of the string theory of physics in which he can prosecute multiple 20th hijackers in parallel legal universes.”

    Actually that would be an (unforgivably commercial) interpretation of quantum theory. One of the things string theory has going for it, is that it eliminates the need for parallel universes.

    As for Ashcroft, he won’t rest until all sinners are safely behind bars, leaving the world safe from sin. And he’s not above using whatever tactics it takes to get the job done. Onward Christian soldiers. Marching as to war.

  12. “Why does Moussaoui have to be the “20th Hijacker” for us to execute him? Under current law, he does, but that’s a problem with the law. We need a RICO for terrorists. It should be a federal crime, punishable by death, to be a member of Al Qaeda.”

    How do you define “a member of”? It’s not like they carry business cards or have a membership book. This kind of overzealousness would just manufacture more hysteria. HUAC, anyone?

    We have enough pseudo-crimes on the law books of the United States. No need to add more. Let those who conspire to kill Americans rot in jail for a nice long 20-to-life term.

  13. “Let those who conspire to kill Americans rot in jail for a nice long 20-to-life term.”

    Jay,

    As a taxpayer, I don’t want to pay for their upkeep while they rot in jail.

  14. Right on Jay. That bastidge Ashcroft will be the death of liberty yet. After all, Moussaoui has already admitted that he wasn’t part of the 9/11 plot to hijack planes and fly them into buildings – so why’s he being persecuted?

    He admits instead that he was part of a different plot to hijack planes and fly them into buildings.

    So really, he’s not guilty of anything and the AG is just on a moralistic right wing fundamentalist tilt in arresting this guy. It’s a total violation of his free speech rights.

    It’s clearly the AG’s fault that this whole situation is messed up. As Eugene Volokh pointed out,

    One problem with Moussaoui’s trying to represent himself, pointed out by Howard Bashman — check out the docket entries in the appeal, especially starting at page 4 (e.g., “20th HIJACKER DIRTY JEW SYMPATHISER . . .” and “”20TH HIJACKER NO APPEAL FOR A WANNEBE CATHO-FACHO AND A BOUDIST AMERICAIN KAMIKAZE”).

    That stuff is probably Ashcroft’s fault too. I blame it all on the PATRIOT Act.

    What the hell. It’s as logical a comment on Ashcroft or the Moussaoui prosecution as anything I’ve heard here.

  15. Sorry, Jay, that isn’t good enough, as Tom notes. I hate to belabor the obvious, but … (drum roll) we are at war here.

    If you’ve got prisons full of terrorist scum, it might make the other scumbags think they can negotiate for their surrender.

    As to how to define a “member” of Al Qaeda: pass a law. (I know, I know, I’m a libertarian advocating a new law. But I want to get rid of thousands of laws, so it evens out.) That’s how we define exactly what a crime is. You know, participating in any plot to kill Americans, knowlingly supporting terrorists, whatever. There are plenty of ways you could do it. I don’t much care — any measure of support to the people that have declared war on us should be punishable by death.

    But we should be as open as possible about the charges, the evidence, the verdicts, etc. Like I said, if martyrdom is what they want…

  16. Conversations like this make me wonder just who is more fanatical.

  17. Please elaborate, Jean. I assume you were referring to me, but maybe not.

    I do admit that I am “fanatatical” about seeing Moussaoui and the like dead. Is that OK with you?

  18. Steve in Ca,

    No, it wasn’t specifically directed at you.

    And my only answer is to qoute Charles Peguy:

    “The arms of Jesus are the Cross of Lorraine,
    Both the blood in the artery and the blood in the vein,
    Both the source of grace and the clear fountaine;
    The arms of Satan are the Cross of Lorraine,
    And the same artery and the same vein,
    And the same blood and the troubled fountaine.”

  19. *sigh* Stephen, are you actually familiar with how the US legal system works? Last time I looked, once the government charges you with a particular crime, they are obligated to prove you committed *that* crime, not some other crime. If you are charged with jaywalking at First & Elm on Nov. 7, and the prosecutor brings in a witness who says he saw you jaywalk at Third & Oak on Nov. 3, the judge will properly dismiss the case unless there is other evidence to support the original charge. The prosecutor could then charge you with jaywalking at Third & Oak, if he were so inclined.

    In this case, if Moussouai admits to conspiracy and attempted hijacking and attempted murder for a different planned hijacking, that can serve as no basis for prosecution concerning the 9/11 attacks. (They could serve as an excellent basis for a “life-in-prison” plea bargain on that other alleged plot, though.)

  20. Wake me up when they get around to arresting George Martin and Billy Preston.

  21. And after we make “being a member of Al Qaeda” against the law, why don’t we make being a Muslim a capital offense too? The first step to joining AlQ is being a Muslim, so that’s downright proactive. And what about outlawing Christianity or better yet, religion all togather, I mean those people never do anything but cause trouble.

    Yeah, libertarians care about individual rights.

  22. Hillary Clinton was the 20th hijacker. Doesn’t everyone know that?

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