Even as al-Qaeda was preparing to fly its airplane bombs into buildings, the group was also trying to acquire nuclear and biological capabilities. In August 2001, bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, met around a campfire with Pakistani scientists from a group called Umma Tameer-E-Nau to discuss how al-Qaeda could build a nuclear device. Al-Qaeda also had an aggressive anthrax program that was discovered in December 2001 after bin Laden was driven from his haven in Afghanistan. Al-Qaeda proclaimed a religious rationale to justify the WMD attacks it was planning.
In June 2002, a Kuwaiti-born cleric named Suleiman Abu Ghaith posted a statement on the Internet saying that "al-Qaeda has the right to kill 4 million Americans" in retaliation for U.S. attacks against Muslims. And in May 2003, at the same time Saudi operatives of al-Qaeda were trying to buy three Russian nuclear bombs, a cleric named Nasir al-Fahd issued a fatwa titled "A Treatise on the Legal Status of Using Weapons of Mass Destruction Against Infidels."
Interrogations of al-Qaeda operatives confirmed that the planning was serious. Al-Qaeda didn't yet have the materials for a WMD attack, but it wanted them. Most chilling of all was Zawahiri's decision in March 2003 to cancel a cyanide attack in the New York subway system. He told the plotters to stand down because "we have something better in mind." What did that mean? More than four years later, we still don't know.Seven years later Zawahiri is still not under arrest, either house or otherwise. But at least his "better" plot hasn't been pulled yet. Presuming there was one. Abu Ghaith would likely have known--is it safe to assume US intelligence now knows? And, since Ghaith is known as more an ideologue loudmouth and not an operational planner, what happens if the jury acquits? Surely Obama won't let him walk out the door into lower Manhattan, free as a bird.