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Serrano reports: "He has been there for 15 years, in nearly 24-hour solitary confinement at the prison they call the 'Fortress in the Rockies.'"

Ramzi Yousef, 44, is currently in prison for life plus 240 years for committing acts of terrorism, including the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. (photo: U.S. Department of Justice)
Ramzi Yousef, 44, is currently in prison for life plus 240 years for committing acts of terrorism, including the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. (photo: U.S. Department of Justice)

Terrorist Pleads for End to 15 Years of Solitary

By Richard A. Serrano, Los Angeles Times

17 February 13


Ramzi Yousef, convicted in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, asks a judge to move him into a more open prison environment. Some agree his treatment is unconstitutional.

amzi Yousef, inmate No. 03911 at a federal "supermax" penitentiary, is serving life with no parole plus 240 years in a 7-by-11-foot cell with no bars and one small high window, far from other inmates, prison staff and the world beyond the fortress deep in the Colorado Rockies.

He has been there for 15 years, in nearly 24-hour solitary confinement at the prison they call the "Fortress in the Rockies." Even his meals provide little relief, with the food trays shoved by unseen guards through a sally port between two steel doors. The only other inmate within shouting range has killed others in prison.

Yousef, now 44, knows he will never go free. An avowed terrorist convicted in the February 1993 World Trade Center bombing, he killed six people and injured more than 1,000. But in a lawsuit, he is trying to persuade a federal judge to at least release him from solitary confinement. The judge is expected to rule soon whether the suit will go to trial.

Despite his good behavior, Yousef says, he is being kept isolated because he is a convicted terrorist, something he can never change - and that, he argues, is a violation of his due process of law.

"I request an immediate end to my solitary confinement and ask to be in a unit in an open prison environment where inmates are allowed outside their cells for no less than 14 hours a day," he wrote the warden, according to confidential government records obtained by The Times. "I have been in solitary confinement in the U.S. since Feb. 8, 1995, with no end in sight.... I further ask not to be in handcuffs or leg irons when moved outside my cell."

The suit says that long-term solitary confinement leaves him "no hope or prospect of any remedial condition" and that it has led to "severe psychological trauma." His lawyer, Bernard V. Kleinman, said in an interview that Yousef already "demonstrates a degree of paranoia and a degree of fear that would not be normal or expected if he was in the general population or had more contact with other inmates."

The prison warden maintains that Yousef is still a serious security threat, but some outside experts agree with Yousef that his treatment is unconstitutional.

Colin Dayan, a humanities professor at Vanderbilt University who has studied solitary confinement in Arizona, said many prison administrations use isolation without regard to psychological damage to inmates.

"You no longer know what's real," she said. "You can't speak to anyone; you can't touch anyone: your senses no longer have any outlet. You have delusions and become psychotic. Your mind deteriorates."

The newly obtained documents show just how brazen Yousef was after he was captured in 1995, and why officials have long been concerned about his potential for still more damage.

"Ramzi Yousef is a cold-blooded killer, completely devoid of conscience," said U.S. District Court Judge Kevin Thomas Duffy of New York, in an unusual memo last October in which he agreed the Yousef lawsuit should be heard in Denver rather than New York, the site of the bombing.

He noted that Yousef's uncle is Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the alleged Sept. 11 mastermind. "Yousef was close to his relative KSM both in blood and in mental desire to wreak havoc on civilized society," the judge said.

Duffy added that during his trial, Yousef "was collecting urea in his cell, a main ingredient in the WTC bomb," and "also attempted to obtain the particular type of cheap wristwatch that had been used as the timing device" in bombs intended for airplanes.

In addition to the trade center blast, which he masterminded after slipping into the country from Pakistan a month earlier, he was also convicted of trying to kill Pope John Paul II and President Clinton and trying to bomb 11 airliners on their way from Asia to the U.S. His plots were financed by Al Qaeda and his uncle, allegedly the person behind the Sept. 11 attacks.

"Yes, I am a terrorist, and proud of it," Yousef told Duffy at his January 1998 sentencing. "You are butchers, liars and hypocrites."

Duffy has also refused to approve $23,225 in legal fees for Kleinman, who told the appellate court that the judge was trying to "tar me, somehow, with my client's actions and those of his relatives."

Warden David Berkebile wrote to Yousef in November, in response to his requests to get out of solitary: "You are a violent jihadist, committed to waging war on the United States, with a strong following of supporters and admirers. There is substantial risk that your communications or contacts could result in death or serious bodily injury to others."

Flying back to New York after he was arrested in Pakistan, Yousef had boasted to FBI agents about his bomb-making skills and, according to a 21-page FBI memo, said he was motivated to kill because of U.S. aid to Israel.

"His desire," the agents wrote, was "to topple one tower into the other, and cause a total of 250,000 civilian deaths."

Yousef said he expected the death penalty, but instead received life. your social media marketing partner


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+18 # maddave 2013-02-18 01:56
Regardless of what he did back in his 20's, locking a person up in solitary confinement for the rest of his life is nothing less than revenge: torment for the sake of torment, torture for the sake of torture.

Some may ask "What kind of a man would do what he did?" Given the right set of circumstances, I'd guess that there are right many of us, but at this point, that question is wholly irrelevant not relevant.

The proper question today is "What sort of people are we?"
+15 # Fiona Mackenzie 2013-02-18 02:27
These are the Super-Max prisons, where prisoners have no contact even with guards. Life without hope of release in one of these is far worse than death.
0 # RMDC 2013-02-19 05:32
These super max prisons were developed in the 80s as part of pyschological experiments in ways to drive people craze. They also live in cells painted all white and the lights are on 24 hours a day. They don't have any day/night rhythm, no color, almost no sound. This is sensory deprivation and it makes people psychotic. They hallucinate, scream for days, cry for days. If they had anything to use to commit suicide, they surely would.

Why is the American government so cruel. The constitution prohibits "cruel and unusual punnishment" but it seems that's all the USG really wants to do. There are super-max prisons all over the US and more being built.
+9 # fettenberg 2013-02-18 02:46
So much for the myth of the US being a Christian nation. This story further confirms the hard-heartednes s that's entered into our so-called civilization. Other, more recent stories, such as Obama's unapologetic use of Drone warfare with much collateral death and destruction, the resistance to surrendering individual weapon ownership, in light of a sincere reaction against death by mass murder by assault rifles...on and on it goes..And it must stop..our nation must start valuing peaceful measures and a letting go of vengeful 'solutions'.
+2 # RMDC 2013-02-18 05:50
Yousef is just one of thousands of people the USG has buried alive in its gulag of supermax prisons. He was convicted not on evidence but on statements he made under torture to FBI and other government officials. The case against the 1993 WTC conspirators was as phony as the cases we now see against other so called terrorists.

There's nothing wrong with opposing US foreign policy toward muslim nations. It is the real case of terrorism in the world.

In the 1993 WTC bombing, the bomb was actually made by an FBI undercover agent who had infiltrated Omer Abdel Rachman's mosque. All testimony about the FBI agent was prohibited from the trial. Yousef probably never made the statement quoted above about bomb making.

All of this is just standard operating procedure for the Global War of Terror that the US has for some reason declared against the world.
-4 # pagrad 2013-02-18 07:20
Yousef is an admitted killer of life, what does he expect? Given his determination, he will do it again. Given his circumstance, there is only one other solution, which will provide safety to society.
-1 # RMDC 2013-02-19 05:19
I wonder what you say about Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Patraeus, Brennan, Obama, and the rest of the terror warriors on the US side. Bush and his crew in thier shock and awe attack on Iraq dropped 100,000 bombs in 72 hours. Probably they killed 30-50,000 people. All of them were innocent.

Shouldn't Bush and his crew be locked down in 7 x 11 foot cells in Florence Colorado for their crimes?

Ramsey Yousef confessed to "masterminding" the 1993 attack on the WTC and other terrorist acts under torture. No one needs to torture Obama or Brennan to get them to confess to drone murders. They do it quite willingly. They are proud of their murders. They are keeping you safe.
-1 # jack406 2013-02-18 09:44
Shoot him and set him free!
0 # RMDC 2013-02-20 05:44
This is Obama's plan. Don't arrest people. Just drop a bomb on them and kill them along with their family and friends. See how the US regime is improving and progressing. No more messy trials and cruel and unusual prison sentences. Maybe Obama will use the big one and set the whole world free.
-2 # Urbancurmudgeon 2013-02-18 09:46
maddave seems to have a good grasp of the situation but does not provide any solution. Yousef's confinement is inhuman but release to the general population could create serious problems as this man is a leader. I think the only solution is to give him his own choice- death or life continued under his current circumstances. Yes, it's harsh but why he wasn't executed already, considering his crimes, bears investigation. I am usually against the death penalty but it really seems to fit the crime here.

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