MAUREEN UMEH: Khalid Duham Al-Jowari was convicted of trying to carry out many deadly terrorist attacks in New York City thirty years before 9/11. Now after serving just half of his thirty-year sentence, he could be set free for good behavior.
FOX's Eric Shawn explains.
ERIC SHAWN: Khalid Duham Al-Jowari was convicted of trying to carry out deadly terrorist attacks in New York City thirty years before 9/11.
[shows footage from 9/11]
This would have been the scene in midtown Manhattan if authorities say his plan had worked. He was convicted in 1993 of trying to kill with car bombs by parking three rental cars packed with explosives on the streets of New York City and at JFK airport.
But for some reason, they did not go off – just like what happened in London two years ago, when authorities stumbled upon two potential car bombs there. But now after serving just half of his thirty-year sentence, with time off for good behavior, Al-Jowari is set to get out from prison in a few weeks.
MICHAEL FINNEGAN: He is a dangerous man because he's our adversary. I mean, he is a sworn adversary of the United States.
SHAWN: Mike Finnegan is a professor of Criminal Justice and Intelligence at Point Park University in Pittsburgh. He was the FBI Counterterrorism Agent that captured Al-Jowari in 1991.
FINNEGAN: They say martyr. I saw mass murderer. It's an ideology that incurs mass murder and he was a mass murderer as long as he wasn't going to be one of the victims.
SHAWN: Al-Jowari reportedly has claimed he was innocent. His lawyer did not respond to our request for an interview, but Finnegan and others link Al-Jowari to Black September – the terrorist group responsible for a slew of attacks in the 1970s from the killing of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics, to the hijacking and bombing of U.S. airliners. Investigators also believe Al-Jowari's case could have been connected to the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center by Islamic extremists.
STEVEN EMERSON: It is virtually 99% sure that he will resume his terrorist campaign.
SHAWN: Steve Emerson, the Director of the Investigative Project on Terrorism, says Al-Jowari's release exposes the problems of prosecuting terror suspects in criminal courts.
EMERSON: It sends a message to terrorists that terrorism is cost-free. You can carry out a bombing against Americans, against Jews, against Europeans, and you won't have to pay a price.
FINNEGAN: It's a conundrum. We're stuck with our system. It's a mixing of the military and the judicial justice system, and it's not a good mix.
SHAWN: It is not clear where Al-Jowari will live, but he will be turned over to the Immigration Service, and the Feds say his deportation is uncertain. But investigators predict he will pick up right where he left off once he is out.
In New York, Eric Shawn, Fox News.