Was David Hicks a ‘Real’ Terrorist After All?

Remember the case of David Hicks? The Australian terror suspect was held at Guantanamo for five years without being charged, but finally appeared before a Military tribunal in March 2007.

Human Rights activists and journalists from Australia and all over the world swarmed Guantanamo to witness Hicks’ trial, and in the dispatches that resulted, Hicks was inevitably portrayed as hapless figure caught in the gears of the U.S. war machine — a wanna-be jihadist perhaps, but not a “real” terrorist; a patsy in a U.S. show trial. When Hicks pleaded guilty and was returned to Australia to serve a mere nine months in prison, the action was widely derided as a shady deal between Bush and conservative Australian Prime Minister John Howard.

An April 2, 2007, Huffington Post dispatch by Human Rights Watch’s Jennifer Daskal captures the tone of much of the coverage:

The government once proposed military commissions as the best way to prosecute the masterminds of 9/11, and the prosecutor in Australian David Hicks’s case made a valiant attempt at maintaining that fiction. He stood up, pointed at Mr. Hicks, and in a sentencing argument worthy of a fire and brimstone preacher called him an “enemy who wanted to kill Americans,” “a threat”, and an “extremist” who sought to destroy liberty and freedom. But then the plea deal was revealed: a mere nine months incarceration and a promise to transfer him home to Australia within two months time, in exchange for a series of conditions that mostly revealed the government’s interest as protecting against the disclosure of his abuse while in detention.

It’s true that Hicks was no KSM, but the implication of the above, and of much else written about Hicks, was that he wasn’t even an extremist or a threat.

Now from Australia comes word that Hicks kept a sort of diary of his exploits at al-Qaida training camps in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The diary, made public by a magistrate to support his ruling that Hicks remains a threat, demonstrates Hicks’ terrorist bona fides. Hicks has been released, but the judge’s ruling means he will continue to be monitored closely, with a curfew and regular mandatory reporting to police.

The Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Focus (the current newsletter has not yet been published online) has a good summary of what is contained in what it calls a “handwritten manual of terrorist and guerilla techniques” compiled by Hicks:

The 30-page notebook was compiled between 2000-2002, during Hicks’ training in northern Pakistan with the Lashkar-e-Toiba (Army of the Pure), a major Islamist militant organization focused on ending Indian rule over parts of Kashmir Province (Radio Australia, February 20). Hicks later trained with al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan before he was captured.

Sometimes referred to as Hick’s “jihad diary,” the notebook contains instructions for the use of rocket-propelled grenades, simple tips for cleaning wounds or treating dysentery in the field, map reading and notes on the theory and practice of guerrilla warfare. There are also sketches of the circuitry of warheads and the mechanism of a sniper rifle’s telescopic sight. Elsewhere, Hicks describes methods for penetrating the security details of “VIPs” during assassination attempts and records the details of weapons like the Heckler & Koch submachine gun and the M-16 assault rifle (The Australian, February 20).

Parts of the notebook are devoted to anti-Jewish invective and a paraphrased hadith (sayings and deeds of the Prophet Muhammad) concerning the destruction of the Jews prior to the Day of Judgment. The book was sent home from Afghanistan to his parents in Adelaide, where it was seized by the Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO). According to his lawyer, Hicks stopped being a practicing Muslim in 2002. A gag order imposed by U.S. authorities as a condition of his transfer to Australia will expire in March.

What a considerate son. No doubt his parents appreciated his sending home such a memento from his holiday abroad.