Well, the verdict is in. And attorney Lynne Stewart, the American who willingly aided and abetted convicted terrorists to communicate secretly from prison and arrange more terrorist attacks and killings, will pay the price for her crimes.
For violating her duties as an officer of the court, for conspiring in the planning of terrorist attacks, for essentially committing a textbook case of treason against the United States (defined by the Constitution as “levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort” in Article III, Section 3) she will spend less than two and a half years behind bars.
Stewart says she was just “zealously representing her client,” Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman. But let’s look at the facts:
Stewart visited the cleric — convicted of helping plan the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993 — with a colleague of his who passed himself off as a “translator.” Stewart pretended to have lawyerly discussions through the translator, who instead spoke directly with Abdel-Rahman, informing him of goings on within their terrorist organization and receiving orders from the blind cleric. Stewart exploited her status as Abdel-Rahman’s attorney to knowingly aid and abet a terrorist leader in continuing to control his terrorist organization.
And for that, she gets less than two and a half years in prison.
This is the latest example — and, with luck, one of the last gasps — of the Clinton administration’s policy on terrorism. That terrorists are just criminals, and the way to defeat them is to fight them with police, with prosecutors, with judges. It was this belief that led to the escalating terrorist attacks in the wake of that first bombing: the Khobar Towers attack, the African embassies attacks, the near-sinking of the USS Cole, the almost-successful Millenium bombing, and ultimately the direct successor of that first bombing, the 9/11 attacks.
Terrorists are a unique breed. They commit criminal acts, but they are not just criminals. They are enemies of our nation, but they are not conventional soldiers. They are a blend of criminal and military, taking from both elements and blending them into a horrifying hybrid that is neither fish nor fowl. And to challenge them on just one aspect is to invite more, larger attacks.
It is well worth noting that between 1993 and 2001, Al Qaeda successfully attacked the United States four times. Since then, when the US military was brought directly into the fight (instead of serving as targets), they have not struck again on US soil, nearly all of their senior leadership has been captured and killed, and “Head of Al Qaeda in Iraq” is becoming the “drummer for Spinal Tap” in the world of terrorism.
It takes two hands to fight terrorism — one the hand of justice, one the fist of military might. During the Clinton administration, we learned what happens when you tie one hand behind your back and put a kid glove on the other.
By all rights, Lynne Stewart ought to be locked up for the rest of her life — if not executed. Instead, she gets a slap on the wrist and remains, to many, a champion. (Her supporters rallied outside the courthouse during her sentencing, and many argued that there was nothing wrong with what she did.)
Lynne Stewart has escaped justice. Congratulations, counselor. I only hope we don’t end up paying too high a price for your treason.