Ever since 9/11, the United States has taken an expansive definition of "aiding and abetting" terrorism. To cite merely the latest example, this morning a chap called Khairullozhon Matanov appeared in US District Court in Boston. Who is Mr Matanov? He's a 23-year-old cab driver from Quincy, Mass, and a Kyrgyzstan national. He appears to share the same general view of "the horror that is America" as the acclaimed war hero Bowe Bergdahl, so there's no reason to hold that against him.
But he was also a buddy of the Tsarnaev brothers. On the evening after the Boston Marathon bombing, he had dinner with his friends in a local restaurant. A few days later, after his chums were publicly named as suspects, he tried to get a hold of them by phone, unsuccessfully. Eventually, he went to the Braintree Police Department, but is alleged to have downplayed his friendship with the brothers. He also deleted a big bunch of videos from his computers:
The FBI has recovered some of these files, which it said "contained violent content or calls to violence."
But as the Guardian story emphasizes:
The document does not accuse Matanov of being involved in the 15 April 2013 bombings.
Likewise, the Fox story:
He isn't charged with participating in the bombing.
He is not, however, accused of playing any role in the bombing itself.
He appears to be guilty of being a friend of the Tsarnaevs, and of sharing broadly their worldview, which - under America's insane, suicidal immigration policies - many, many people in this country also share. But he was aware of the scrutiny his friendship with the brothers would draw and so he clumsily deleted from his computer a bazillion generic "Death to America!" videos, none of which are material to the investigation. At the hearing today, he was also accused of wiring $14,000 over four years to non-relatives overseas. (By the way, I'm guilty of that.)
For this, he's looking at forty years in the slammer:
Matanov was charged with obstruction of justice by destruction, alteration, and falsification of records or documents in a federal investigation, which carries a punishment of up to 20 years in prison. He was also charged with three counts of making false statements to agents in a terrorism investigation, each of which carries a punishment of up to eight years in prison.
As I said, America's immigration and asylum policy is nuts: that's the ultimate suicide bomb, here as in Europe. If I were in charge of the bureaucracy, I would not prioritize Chechen, Dagestani or Kyrgyzsz immigration. (Mr Matanov was admitted as a refugee "because of turmoil in Kyrgyzszstan".) But, absent my stern hand, the Government of the United States takes a more relaxed view of these chaps, and as a matter of policy gives them the run of the country. Until, that is, you schedule an ill-timed dinner date and delete your collection of Jihad for Dummies YouTube videos.
Now consider another US resident - an American national called Barack Obama. To the best of my knowledge, he hasn't had dinner with terrorists but he and his subordinates have been in close contact with them, including extensive negotiations to pay Bowe Bergdahl's Haqqani kidnappers a ransom, doubtless well in excess of the three-and-a-half grand a year Mr Matanov was wiring out of the country. The implication of today's testimony is that Matanov's wire transfers may have gone to some murky middle-men who passed it on to some guy who passed it on to some guy who passed it on to some guy who used it to finance terrorism in some way. All $14,000 of it.
Could be. Who knows? But we do know for certain that the money the Government of the United States offered to the Haqqani network would have gone to terrorism because that's the business these guys are in - which is why, two years ago, the same US Government that subsequently offered to pay them money designated them as a terrorist network. If 14K is enough to earn Matanov four decades behind bars, what sum do you think the Government of the United States was offering to the Haqqani, and what pro rata jail term would that work out to?
The terrorists Mr Matanov is accused of "aiding and abetting" killed four people. What of the five high-level terrorists Barack Obama has just sprung from Gitmo to wander around Qatar at liberty for a year and then head off wherever they wish? Let's take just one of them, Mullah Norullah Noori, according to a report from JTF-GTMO, leaked by Wikileaks:
Detainee was a senior Taliban military commander in Mazar-e-Sharif during hostilities against US and Coalition forces in late 2001. Detainee was also the Taliban governor for the Balkh and Laghman provinces and is wanted by the United Nations (UN) for possible war crimes including the murder of thousands of Shiite Muslims.
So Barack Obama has just liberated an internationally wanted war criminal who's killed thousands of people. If going to a Boston restaurant with terrorists who've killed four people is worth 40 years in the Big House, how long would you get for helping terrorists who've killed thousands?
Oh, but Mr Matanov had all those "Death to America!" videos on his computer. Well, Barack Obama stood in the Rose Garden and hugged a man who declared that "God will repay for the death of every Afghan child, ameen!" - which presumably means that Americans will suffer and die as a result of their actions in Afghanistan. And, in fact, the Rose Garden video itself, complete with invocations of Allah in Arabic, is a much more effective jihadist propaganda tool than any of the garbage on Matanov's computer.
But there it is: Khairullozhon Matanov's life is over, while Barack Obama is hailed by Susan Rice and Senator Chris Murphy for bringing home an American hero.
~What national interest of the United States justified President Obama's actions?
Oh, don't be ridiculous. That's not how he thinks about it. He's working on his "legacy", and one of the things that he wants to do is close Gitmo before he leaves office, and redeem himself in the eyes of the anti-war left. The problem is nobody except our avowed enemies wants to take these guys. Obama went behind the British Government's back and dumped four Uighurs on Bermuda - which is the equivalent of David Cameron dumping a bunch of IRA guys in the US Virgin Islands. Bermuda would dearly like to be rid of them ,and the Uighurs would dearly like to be rid of Bermuda. But they're stuck in limbo, the lonesomest Uighurs on the planet, so Obama can't pull that shtick twice.
So as the clock ticks down the priority was to liberate the hardest, most violent men out of Gitmo under some other pretext. The pretext the President chose was a "prisoner exchange" - and Bowe Bergdahl was the only American available to play the US end of this pantomime horse of a pseudo-exchange. It's not that he wanted this guy back, it's that he wanted to get rid of the other guys.
Even so, it's impressive how far he was prepared to go to prioritize his "legacy" - which is to say his and his party's political needs - over the national interest of the United States of America. If you were watching from Afghanistan or Pakistan or Yemen or Saudi Arabia, that Rose Garden ceremony was, in effect, an acknowledgment of American defeat.
But it was worth it to the President because, under the peculiar priorities of his base, it's better to be the man who closed the prison camp than the man who won the war.
~Tomorrow, I'll be talking about these and other issues on The Hugh Hewitt Show, live coast to coast across America at 6pm Eastern/3pm Pacific.