- The Washington Times - Friday, May 1, 2009

The last “enemy combatant” held on U.S. soil pleaded guilty Thursday in federal court to acting as an al Qaeda sleeper agent.

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 in U.S. District Court in Peoria, Ill., is scheduled for July 30.

Al-Marri had been held in isolation for nearly six years without charges at a Navy brig in South Carolina before the Obama administration brought criminal charges against him in February. It will be up to Judge Michael M. Mihm to determine whether al-Marri receives prison credit for his time 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.”

According to the plea agreement, al-Marri admitted to attending terrorist training camps where he learned how to use weapons, operational security and codes to communicate with other al Qaeda operatives. Al-Marri was approached by Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and agreed to take part of an attack in the U.S.

Al-Marri also admitted he traveled to Dubai and received $10,000 from Mustafa al-Hawsawi, who authorities say was a primary financier of the Sept. 11 attacks.

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.

“Ali al-Marri was an al-Qaeda ‘sleeper’ operative working on U.S. soil and directed by the chief planner of the 9-11 attacks. Al-Marri researched the use of chemical weapons, potential targets and maximum casualties,” said Arthur M. Cummings II, executive assistant director of the FBI’s national security branch. “The investigation that disrupted his plot began with tips from local police partners. The investigation that followed took the FBI agents and task force officers around the globe to develop the intelligence to prevent any potential attack and the evidence to bring al-Marri to justice.”

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.

The FBI said it found incriminating information on his laptop computer, such as information about poisons, coded messages and lectures from bin Laden. Al-Marri also has contact information from other al-Qaeda operatives.

The criminal charges were dropped two years after the arrest, 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 has since stopped using the term “enemy combatant” and changed the definition of who could be detained under such circumstances.

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