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by Peter Lance
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On the morning of September 11, 2001, the greatest would-be mass murderer since Adolf Hitler was locked down in solitary confinement in a Colorado prison. In a seven-by-twelve-foot cell at the Supermax, the most secure of all federal jails, Ramzi Yousef sat waiting like a bird of prey. Small, gaunt, and reed thin, with close-cropped hair and two milky-gray eyes, he looked across his cell at the stainless-steel toilet and sink below a shelf supporting a thirteen-inch TV. It was Yousef's only link to the outside world. As CNN played silently in the background, his eyes darted across the dog-eared pages of his Koran.
Yousef may not have known the precise moment of the attacks, but he was sure they would come. After all, he'd set them in motion seven years before in Manila. The idea of hijacking jetliners laden with fuel, and using them as missiles to take down great buildings, had come to the bomb maker after he'd tried to kill a quarter of a million people with his first Twin Towers device in 1993. He'd gone on to plot the deaths of President Clinton, Pope John Paul II, and the prime minister of Pakistan, while hatching a fiendish plan to destroy up to a dozen jumbo jets as they flew over American cities. But his most audacious plot involved a return to New York to finish the job he'd started in the fall of 1992. In one horrific morning, suicide bombers trained as pilots would take the cockpits aboard a series of commercial airliners and drive them into the Trade Center towers, the Pentagon, and a series of other U.S. buildings.
Now, just before 6:45 A.M. Mountain Time, as Ramzi Yousef sat in the Supermax reading the Koran, he heard muffled noises on the cell block: inmates shouting. One of the prisoners down the corridor had been watching CNN and now he was screaming. A guard rushed to his cell, went inside, and saw the devastation.
He yelled, "Some plane just hit the Trade Center."
Yousef quickly looked up at the black-and-white TV above his head. Eyes wide at the site of the North Tower burning, he turned up the sound and heard the voice of an eyewitness: "I just saw the entire top part of the World Trade Center explode."
Yousef rocked back, amazed himself at the execution of his plan. He stared at the news footage of racing FDNY engines, terrified evacuees, and bodies dropping from the towers. Then, from the Battery, a camera captured United Airlines Flight 175 slamming into the South Tower.
Another onlooker described it as "a sickening sight." But Yousef, the master terrorist, saw it as the culmination of a dream and the end to some unfinished business. He dropped to the floor, bent over, and gave thanks. "Praise Allah the merciful and the just, the lord of the worlds. We thank you for delivering this message to the apostates."
Later that morning, Yousef's cell door swung open and a pair of FBI agents from the Colorado Springs office came in. They stood in the three-foot-wide anteroom between the solid steel cell door and the bars to the cell.
The convicted terrorist got up from his bed and approached the bars as the two agents presented Bureau IDs and identified themselves.
"Why do you come here?" he demanded.
One of the agents nodded to the TV behind Yousef, still tuned to CNN.
"Did you have anything to do with that?"
Yousef shot back: "How would I possibly know what was going on from in here? Besides, I am represented by counsel. You have no right to question me without my attorney present."
The two agents eyed each other. Now they were facing Yousef the lawyer, the man who had represented himself throughout the entire three months of the Manila airline bombing trial.
"I have nothing else to say to you," snapped Yousef. He turned up the sound on the TV and sat back down on his bed.
The agents withdrew, but within minutes the steel door swung back open and two Bureau of Prisons guards stormed in.
As one began to unlock Yousef's cell bars, the other one shouted, "Get up and face the wall." Yousef stared at him defiantly for a moment, but then the guard slammed a black box and a belly belt chain against the bars, so Yousef got up. Now, as he faced the wall, one guard came in and quickly put the belt around his waist. The other one bent down and snapped on ankle irons and a chain.
"What is this?" shouted Yousef. "What are you doing?"
"Changing cells," said one of the guards. He turned off the TV. "Hands clasped in front of you." Yousef ground his teeth but complied, as the guard snapped the black box onto his wrist -- a six-inch-long solid restraint that rendered the prisoner's hands completely immobile. The guard locked the box onto the belly belt, making it impossible now for Yousef to strike out with his arms or fists. The guards turned him around and shuffled him out of the cell, moving him down the corridor of "D" wing, past the cell of the infamous Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski. (For a time, this so-called bombers row had also housed convicted Oklahoma City bombers Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols.)
One of the guards unlocked the door to an empty cell and moved Yousef inside as he continued to rant.
"Why are you moving me? My papers -- you have to let me take my Koran!"
But when the guards had him locked behind the cell bars, they slammed closed the steel door and went back to Yousef's cell. There they began to toss it, searching around the mattress and on the shelf beside the bed, throwing Yousef's letters, papers, and drawings into a plastic garbage bag. The units on the maximum-security "D" wing are supposed to be soundproof, but as the guards worked to clean out Yousef's cell, they could still hear him screaming down the corridor ...
Excerpted from 1000 Years for Revenge by Peter Lance. Copyright © 2003 by Peter Lance. All rights reserved. Posted with permission of the publisher. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.