Why the Gov't Had to Release an Admitted al Qaeda Operative
The release of a former Al Qaeda operative in federal prison is sparking outrage and debate.
The Justice Department told Fox News on Tuesday that Ali Saleh Kahlah al Marri was released from a federal prison prior to completing his 15-year sentence because of "time served."
Al Marri was picked up on a routine traffic stop just weeks after the 9-11 terror attacks. Police discovered that federal authorities had him on their radar.
He was arrested and charged with providing "material support or resources" to 9-11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other Al Qaeda operatives.
The 49-year-old al Marri, a Qatar native, at the time of his arrest was a U.S. resident attending graduate school.
He was declared an enemy combatant in 2003 and sent to a Navy brig in Charleston, S.C.
In 2008, U.S. courts ruled that al Marri, as a U.S. resident, was entitled to a federal hearing. He accepted a plea deal in 2009 that included the 15-year sentence, reportedly at a federal prison in Illinois. Al Marri was freed on Friday, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
This morning on "Fox and Friends", Judge Andrew Napolitano explained that the Department of Justice got this case right.
"The problem with this case is of the government's own making," Napolitano said. "They pick him up after September 11 and put him in a military brig and charge him before a military tribunal with conspiracy. Conspiracy is not a war crime."
He added that military tribunals do not have jurisdiction to hear that case.
"They kept him in the military brig anyway," he said. "They kept in the military brig naked, shackled, blindfolded and with tape over his mouth. And eventually when that was brought before a federal judge, he was outraged and said you can't do that."
Napolitano emphasized that al Marri's actions are "indefensible," but said it is the federal government's fault that he's now free.
He said the reduced sentence stems from a judge's objection to how the detention of al Marri was handled.
"If they had charged him in federal court in New York City, he would have been sent away for 20 years and he would have served almost all of it."
Brian Kilmeade noted that during al Marri's time in the military brig, investigators were able to obtain valuable intelligence about other terror cells.
Watch the full discussion above.