Some of the initial criticism was tempered when the administration issued detailed rules for tribunals in March that would give defendants many traditional legal rights. Defendants still do not have full constitutional protection, and the standards of evidence are looser before a tribunal than before a traditional criminal court.
The U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is the most likely place to hold and interrogate Binalshibh, lawyers said.
At Guantanamo, Binalshibh could be interrogated for a longer period and with far fewer protections than if he were held inside the United States. Bringing Binalshibh onto U.S. shores would make him eligible for prosecution in the federal court system, but also could afford him constitutional and legal protections the government would prefer to withhold, lawyers said.
—The Associated Press
U.S. Officials Identify Two Bin Laden Lieutenants
W A S H I N G T O N, Sept. 17 — U.S. counterterrorism officials have identified two key lieutenants of Osama bin Laden — including an alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks — as the most active plotters of several al Qaeda attacks during the past year.
While many top al Qaeda leaders went into hiding after Sept. 11, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri have taken the lead in arranging new attacks with cells in the field, U.S. officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Mohammed, a Sept. 11 organizer who has risen to be one of bin Laden's top planners, and al-Nashiri, al Qaeda's Persian Gulf operations chief, are among roughly two dozen key lieutenants being sought by the CIA, FBI and military in a worldwide manhunt.
While last week's capture of Ramzi Binalshibh in Pakistan may shed light on both the Sept. 11 attacks and ongoing al Qaeda plots, U.S. officials say he was not a leader but an aide to Mohammed. Officials hope that by tracking down the leaders they can disrupt terrorist plots and the multiple cells under their command.
Mohammed, a Kuwait-born Pakistani national, has been linked to the April 11 suicide truck bombing of the Djerba synagogue in Tunisia. At least 19 tourists, mostly Germans, were killed.
The suspected bomber, Nizar Naouar, spoke by phone with Mohammed about three hours before the attack, German officials said. Bin Laden's son Saad, seen as a rising star in al Qaeda, is also suspected of ties to the plot.
The Tunisia attack marked al Qaeda's first successful strike since Sept. 11. The suicide bombing of the U.S. consulate in Karachi in June is also believed to be an al Qaeda operation, but who commanded it has not been determined.
Mohammed, who is on the FBI's most-wanted terrorists list, has been charged in connection with plots in the Philippines to bomb trans-Pacific airliners and crash a plane into CIA headquarters. Those were broken up in 1995. He is believed to be related to Ramzi Yousef, who was convicted for his role in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
"He's the most significant operational player out there right now," said a senior U.S. counterterrorism official, speaking recently on the condition of anonymity.
U.S. counterterrorism officials believed Mohammed was in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region as recently as June.
The capture of Binalshibh, a Yemeni and planner in the Sept. 11 attacks, probably has set Mohammed on the run, said Vince Cannistraro, a former CIA counterterrorism official.