LAX bomb plotter Ahmed Ressam reneged on his deal with the feds and continues to play games with prosecutors. They requested that a federal judge double his sentence for terrorism-related convictions.
The judge (more on him in a moment) refused:
Ahmed Ressam was resentenced this morning to 22 years in federal prison for conspiring to bomb the Los Angeles International Airport despite telling a judge that he recanted everything he has told the federal government about terrorist activities.
Ressam, speaking in Arabic through an interpreter, told U.S. District Judge John Coughenour that he withdrew his testimony from a 2002 terrorism trial against a co-conspirator in New York.
Federal prosecutors, based on Ressam’s statement, urged Coughenour, to sentence Ressam to life in prison, saying he now clearly posed a threat to the U.S. Coughenour, however, said that despite Ressam’s retractions, the information he provided the government shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, 911 attacks was invaluable to the government.
Federal prosecutors said they would seek to appeal the sentence.
This was the second time Ressam appeared before the judge for sentencing. His first sentence, also 22 years, was thrown out by the U.S. Supreme Court. But the high court let stand his conviction for conspiring to set off a powerful suitcase bomb at the Los Angeles airport during the millennium celebration.
Ressam was arrested Dec. 14, 1999, in Port Angeles, coming off the ferry from Victoria, B.C. Inspectors found powders and liquids in the trunk of his rental car that turned out to be the makings of a powerful bomb. The investigation showed Ressam had been recruited by al-Qaida in Montreal and had trained in Osama bin Laden-sponsored terrorism camps in Afghanistan.
Among those in the federal courtroom in Seattle this morning was Gordon Haberman, whose 25-year-old daughter, Andrea, died in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City, said he was disappointed in the sentence given to Ressam.
Haberman, who traveled to Seattle from Wisconsin for the sentencing, called Ressam a coward and attempted killer.
“He meant to kill a lot of people,” said Haberman.
Three years ago, Coughenour handed Ressam the first 22-year sentence, less than the 35 years sought by the government and a decade longer than the sentence his defense team wanted imposed. If sentenced to maximum terms on all nine felonies he was convicted of, Ressam was looking at 130 years.
Following his conviction, Ressam cooperated with the government to win a lower sentence.
After the Sept. 11 attacks, he provided rare and unparalleled insight into the inner workings of al Qaida and its presence in North America. However, after years in solitary confinement and repeated interrogations, he stopped talking in 2003.
What a mess. But not a surprise. Coughenour is a terrorists’ little helper who engaged in brazen grandstanding during Ressam’s sentencing in 2005 — using the occasion to pat himself on the back, express his opposition to military tribunals and detention of enemy combatants, and argue in support of applying the full panoply of constitutional rights to foreign al Qaeda conspirators.
Such are the perils of using the Ally McBeal approach to fighting terrorism.