At NYC trial, 2 admitted homegrown terrorists offer unique insight into post-Sept. 11 al-Qaida

NEW YORK — By the time a wayward kid from Long Island named Bryant Neal Vinas joined al-Qaida in 2008, the sight of trainees swinging from monkey bars was a thing of the past.

The Afghani terror camps had been replaced by safe houses tucked away in the border region of Pakistan — houses made of mud.

“There’s no carpet. There’s no wood floors,” Vinas told a Brooklyn jury on April 23. “Just mud.”  Vinas’ description of the crude Waziristan hideout came during the trial of Adis Medujanin, a New York City man convicted last week in a foiled plot to attack the subway system in 2009. Prosecutors had accused Medunjanin of receiving terror training and instructions from al-Qaida in Pakistan during a trip with two former high school classmates who pleaded guilty.

At Medunjanin’s trial, jurors heard Vinas and another high-value government cooperator born in Great Britain, Saajid Badat, testify as expert witnesses. They provided an unprecedented, firsthand look at al-Qaida in the heady days following the Sept. 11 attacks and in more recent years as it struggled to survive.

The testimony also gave the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn and British authorities a chance to show off two trophies in the civilian prosecution of terrorists — sworn enemies of America who, after their arrests, were persuaded to switch sides and tell everything they know.

Badat, 33, described growing disillusioned with al-Qaida. After hearing that admitted Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed would face American justice, he said he “felt … almost a moral obligation to give evidence specifically against KSM.”

9/11 plotter to be tried in NYC; trial faces major issues

Self-professed 9/11 plotter Khalid Sheik Mohammed (KSM) will be tried along with four perpetrators in a Manhattan court just blocks from Ground Zero.

Attorney General Eric Holden is likely to pursue the death penalty for KSM.

He says of the decision, “For over 200 years, our nation has relied on a faithful adherence to the rule of law to bring criminals to justice and provide accountability to victims. Once again we will ask our legal system to rise to that challenge, and I am confident it will answer the call with fairness and justice.”

But the effort to criminalize the events of Sept. 11 and accord Mohammed the full panoply of rights enjoyed in a federal trial has infuriated and dismayed Republicans, as well as some organizations of victims’ families. They argued that military commissions at Guantanamo Bay offered a secure environment, a proper forum for war crimes, and adequate legal protections for a ruthless enemy.

“The Obama Administration’s irresponsible decision to prosecute the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks in New York City puts the interests of liberal special interest groups before the safety and security of the American people,” said House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) in a statement. “The possibility that Khalid Sheik Mohammed and his co-conspirators could be found ‘not guilty’ due to some legal technicality just blocks from Ground Zero should give every American pause.”