- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 30, 2009

A man accused of being an al Qaeda sleeper agent, who was the last “enemy combatant” held on U.S. soil, pleaded guilty Thursday in federal court to terrorism charges.

Ali al-Marri pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to provide material support to al Qaeda under an agreement with prosecutors that calls for a maximum prison sentence of 15 years. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for June.

Al-Marri had been held for nearly six years without a charges in isolation in a Navy brig in South Carolina before the Obama administration brought criminal charges against him in February. He could get prison credit for some of the time served in the brig.

“Without a doubt, this case is a grim reminder of the seriousness of the threat we, as a nation, still face,” Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said in a statement. “But it also reflects what we can achieve when we have faith in our criminal justice system and are unwavering in our commitment to the values upon which this nation was founded and the rule of law.”

A native of Qatar, al-Marri arrived in the U.S. on Sept. 10, 2001, with his wife and five children. He entered the country legally and was working toward a master’s degree, attending computer science classes at Bradley University in Peoria, Ill., when he was arrested in December 2001.

Authorities initially accused him of credit card fraud and lying to investigators, charges stemming from the FBI’s investigation into the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Investigators said Mr. al-Marri had met with Osama bin Laden and Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed while attending al Qaeda training camps. The FBI said it found incriminating information on his laptop computer, such as information about poisons, coded messages and lectures from bin Laden.

Two years later, the criminal charges were dropped, and the Bush administration declared him an “enemy combatant,” saying al-Marri had critical information about terrorism.

After charging al-Marri in criminal court, the Obama administration stopped using the term “enemy combatant” and changed the definition of who could be detained under such circumstances.

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