A VERY LONG READ—BUT TELLS THE TRUTH ABOUT GITMO
The disgraceful gitmo exodus–Obama’s terrorist-release program—72.17.59h., b12-2,59
He had on announced a year earlier that the United States would be ending its decade-long isolation of Cuba and seeking rapprochement with the authoritarian Communists who run the island nation 90 miles from Florida. In this December 14,2015, interview, Obama described his new approach in greater detail. The change he proposed nominated headlines for days.
The president declared that an he remained committed to closing the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, despite strong objections from Republicans and some Democrats. Obama had campaigned in 2008 on closing Guantanamo and as one of his first acts upon taking the oath of office signed Executive Order 13492 directing his national security team to shutter the facility within a year.
It turned out that the jihadists who remained in Guantanamo were there for a reason. Many of them were truly, as the cliche had it, “the worst of the worst.” Al Qaeda leaders, top Taliban officials, the men who planned the 9/11 attacks, veteran jihadists caught plotting follow-on attacks on U.S. interests, and even those al Qaeda operatives believed to be charged with carrying out the next wave of assaults on the U.S. homeland. It was instead the presidents attempt to mislead the American people to accomplish his controversial objective.
This isn’t true. There is virtually no evidence that jihadists use Guantanamo as a significant recruiting tool, and national security experts from across the political spectrum who have tested the claim have judged it false.
When Obama made this claim, 653 , detainees had been released. Of that group, 196 had been confirmed (117) or suspected (79) of returning to Jihadist activity upon their release. Those numbers came from the office of the director of national intelligence and represent the U.S. government’s official count of Guantanamo recidivism. Nearly one-in-three former detainees returned to the fight, not a “handful”, as the president suggested.
“The bottom line is that the strategic gains we make by closing Guantanamo will outweigh you know, those low-level individuals who, you know, have been released so far.” Again, false. The U.S. government—under George W. Bush and Barack Obama—has released dozens of veteran jihadists whose terror resumes include senior positions in al Qaeda and like-minded groups. And of course Obama had himself transferred five senior Taliban officials to Qatar in order to secure the release of Bowe BergdahL.
So, at a time of escalated threat levels from international terrorists, the president of the United States is releasing dangerous jihadists against the advice of the military and intelligence professionals who have studied the threat for years, and he’s lying to the American people to downplay the threat.
Vice President Joe Biden, at a press conference in Stockholm late last month, said his “hope and expectation” is that Guantanamo will be closed by January 20,2017. In recent weeks, the Obama administration has transferred from Guantanamo al Qaeda operatives who were working directly for the men who planned the 9/11 attacks. Obama’s Periodic Review Board has approved for transfer a veteran jihadist who was identified in the 9/11 Commission report as an individual who “recruited 9/1,1 hijackers in Germany.” The administration is preparing to release or transfer many remaining jihadists judged by U-S. military and intelligence professionals to be “high-risk” detainees who would almost certainly return to the fight if freed.
THE KARACHI SIX
ON September 11, 2002, Pakistani forces stormed three al Qaeda safe houses in Karachi. Their targets were Ramzi Binishibh, the point man for the 9/11 hijackings one year earlier, and Hamza al Zubayr, who was planning to attack hotels frequented by Americans. Both Binalshibh and Zubayr worked for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (‘KSM) the chief architect of 9/11. Elsewhere in Karachi, at another al Qaeda guesthouse, Zubayr was killed during an intense firefight that lasted hours.
All six were transferred to Guantanamo on October 28,2002.
Since the beginning of this year, at least five members of the “Karachi Six” have been approved for transfer by the Obama administration. Two of them, including the man captured at the side of this planner and organizer of the September 11th attack—Ramzi Binalshibh—were sent to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in August. When the Department of Defense announced their transfer from Guantanamo, along with 13 others, it thanked the UAE “for its humanitarian gesture and willingness to support ongoing U.S. efforts to close the Guantanamo-Bay detention facility.” The implication was clear: It was inhumane for the United States to continue holding the jihadists. A senior UAE official tells The Weekly Standard that the men will be kept in a military facility that allows them internal freedom of movement but includes “strict monitoring” to ensure that they cannot escape. The Pentagon said nothing about the dangers posed by the detainees. Nor was there any mention of the fact that the decision to transfer them reversed years of warning from US military and intelligence professionals about the Karachi Six.
They were part of the support network that helped with Zubayr’s plotting against American targets in Karachi. But intelligence officials thought these al Qaeda operatives may have been involved in something even more troubling: KSM’s plans to target the American homeland once again. U.S. intelligence agencies, including in-person interrogations with other senior al Qaeda leaders—that the men captured in Pakistan on September 11,2002. were dangerous al Qaeda operatives determined to attack the United States and its interests.
The Obama administration reversed these conclusions, describing four of the Karachi Six as merely “low-level or “low-ranking” fighters. In 2008, Joint Task Force
Guantanamo (JTF-GTMO), which oversees the detention facility, deemed each member of the “Karachi Six” a “high” risk, “likely to pose a threat to the U.S., its interests, and allies.” JTF-GTMO recommended that they remain in the Defense Department’s custody.
But the Obama administration changed the assessment on precisely this point beginning in late 2015. In files submitted to a Periodic Review Board (PRB), which was authorized by Obama in 2011 to evaluate the Guantanamo detainees’ cases on a regular basis, the administration’s representatives conceded that the Karachi Six were transferred to Guantanamo “based on concerns that they were part of an al Qaeda operational cell intended to support a future attack.” But, the administration argued, they probably “did not play a major role in the attack plotting in Karachi.”
That it is more likely the six Yemenis were elements of a large pool of Yemeni fighters that senior al Qaeda planners considered potentially available to support future operations. The file for one of the six, Ayoub Murshid Ali Saleh, who was transferred to the UAE in August, explicitly notes the Obama administration’s disagreement with previous U.S. intelligence analyses.
The Obama administration does not claim that the change in the assessment on Saleh was based on new information, but a “review of available intelligence.” In other words, they looked at the same information that has driven U.S. intelligence assessments since 2002 and decided it no longer meant what the intelligence professionals had concluded. In making this determination, the Board noted that the detainee’s degree of involvement and significance in extremist activities has been reassessed to be that of a low-level fighter. The mosaic of intelligence portrays a very different picture: All six were working for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed or KSM’s men, including some of the same Operatives who planned and facilitated the 9/11 attacks.
Members of the Karachi Six were captured, the Pakistanis recovered a crucial document known as the “perfume letter.” The missive, which was written by KSM in May 2002 and addressed to Zubayr, was given this name because of its cryptic reference to “perfumes.” U.S. officials initially suspected that this code word referred to chemical weapons or poisons, but they later concluded that KSM meant military-grade explosives.
The CIA claimed that intelligence from harsh interrogations thwarted an al Qaeda plot against American targets in Karachi in 2003.
Dear Brother, we have the green light for the hotels,” KSM wrote to Zubayr. KSM added that Zubayr should consider “making it three instead of one.” Consistent with al Qaeda’s ‘modus operandi of conducting simultaneous suicide operations against multiple targets, KSM wanted Zubayr to strike three hotels housing Americans at once. CIA had completed a search of the names identified in the perfume letter in its databases and found many of the individuals who had assigned roles in support of the operation were arrested by Pakistani authorities during the Septemter 11 2002 raids” . While it is not clear based on public reporting which members of the Karachi Six are directly named in the “perfume letter,” if any, only four other individuals were arrested during the raids.
One of them. Shawki Awad Balzuhair, identified Zubayr as the Karachi Six’s “operational leader.” According to the JTF-GTMO files, Balzuhair explained that Zubayr was “unconditionally accepted as the leader of the group given his stature in al Qaeda ” and his experience as a “senior military trainer” at the Farouq camp, which was Osama bin Laden’s primary training facility in pre-9/11 Afghanistan. Balzuhair has been approved for transfer from Guantanamo. Another senior al Qaeda operative named Walid Bin Attash, also known as khallad was specifically identified in the “perfume letter.” Khallad was directly involved in the USS Cole bombing in October 2000.
He also helped al Qaeda prepare to hijack airliners leaving Southeast Asia for the United States prior to the 9/11 hijackings. Al Qaeda originally intended to commandeer planes headed for America’s West Coast as part of the 9/11 plot, (also a key figure in the 9/11 attacks), on the anti-American plots in Pakistain. The intelligence cited by JTF-GTMO tied Khallad and Baluchi directly to the Karachi Six.
“Primary facilitator in Karachi,” as well as “their link to senior people in al Qaeda.” Balzuhair also said that Baluchi “visited to bring money, clothing, and assistance.” Additional evidence cited in the leaked JTF-GTMO files indicates that the Karachi Six were working directly for KSM and his subordinates.
Bashir Nasir Ali al Marwalah was transferred to the UAE in August. The JTFGTMO threat assessment for Marwalah notes that he was captured alongside Binalshibh, the man Bush cited in the raid as a key planner of the 9/11 attacks.
JTF-GTMO’s analysts surmised that KSM’s “comment indicates that detainee Marwalah had access to operation planning and coordination through his handling of the correspondence.” The Obama administration’s reassessment elided this Straightforward conclusion, and the evidence that led to it. claiming curiously that Marwalah’s “role in al Qaeda operational plotting is unverified. ”
It was “probable” Jafar al Tayyar (Shukrijumah) was “utilizing the data from the hard drives” in his “operational planning. Another document scooped up during the raids is especially difficult to explain away. The Obama administration’s PRB summary notes in passing that Marwalah’s “last will and testament” were “found in the Karachi raids” and “included a martyrdom statement.” JTFGTMO’s memo describes this document as Marwalah’s “last will before a suicide operation.” And JTF-GTMO’s analysts added a commonsense observation: “The presence of the document indicates that detainee [Marwalah], and probably the group [Karachi Six] as a whole, were in the final stages of planning suicide terrorist operations.
The Obama administration, in its eagerness to rewrite the history of the Karachi Six, didn’t offer an alternative explanation in its unclassified summary ; Nashirn is the only one of the six whose PRB decision has not yet been released to the public. In its unclassified summary for Nashir’s case, the administration claimed he wasn’t part of Zubayr’s plot in Karachi. But Nashir was hardly exonerated.
In sum, there is abundant evidence that the Karachi Six were working directly for senior al Qaeda operatives, including KSM and his immediate subordinates. Five of them lived with Zubayr, who was plotting against American hotels in Karachi. The administration itself argued it was “more likely” the Karachi Six “were elements of a large pool of Yemeni fighters that senior al Qaeda planners considered potentially available to support future operations.
Tellingly, the Obama administration previously found that the Karachi Six should remain in U.S. custody. In January 2010, President Obama’s Guantanamo Review Task Force concluded that all six should be detained under the law of war, because they were “too dangerous to transfer, but not feasible for prosecution.” It was only under Periodic Review Board (PRB) process, established by President Obama on March 7,2011, that five of them were eventually granted transfer. It turns out that is an all too frequent occurrence.
Transferring Detainees Too Dangerous to Transfer:
To simplify: President Obama created two different entities to evaluate Guantanamo detainees and the risks they present to the United States. Both bodies-first Obama’s task force and later the Periodic Review Board were conceived to further the president’s oft-expressed objective of closing the detention facility. As the end of Obama’s presidency draws near, and the urgency of closing Guantanamo increases, Obama’s PRB is finding ways to transfer many of the same detainees that Obama’s own task force previously said were too dangerous to transfer.
To date, according to a review of government filings conducted by The Weekly Standard, the PRB has issued a ruling in 52 cases. Thirty-three detainees have been for The PRB determined that continued detention of 19 Guantanamo detainees “remains necessary” to protect the “security of the United States. This means that the PRB has approved Guantanamo detainees for transfer in nearly two-thirds of the cases it has heard. keep in mind that Obama’s own Guantanamo Review Task Force previously assessed all 52 of these detainees and determined that none of them—not one of them—should be transferred or released. 28′ of the 33 detainees approved for transfer by the PRB had been deemed “too dangerous to transfer but not feasible for prosecution” by Obama’s task force.
To add some additional perspective, keep in mind that Obama’s task force decided that nearly two-thirds of the240 detainees remaining at Guantanamo as of January 2009 could be transferred. The task force made it clear that the detainees approved for transfer were not deemed innocent. Nor were they considered non-threats. Instead, Obama’s task force concluded that the security risks they nosed could be adequately mitigated. In many of these cases Obama’s task force decided to transfer detainees who had been deemed “high” risks by the military and intelligence professionals at JTF-GTMO. That is, Obama’s task force was willing to accept the dangers these detainees’ presented to further the president’s desire to close Guantanamo.
Even Obama’s task force drew the line at transferring the detainees who have been evaluated by the PRB. But roughly two out of every three of them have won transfer under the PRB process. Simply put: The Obama administration is transferring many of the detainees the administration itself previously deemed to be the worst of the worst—including at least five members of the Karachi Six and the man long suspected of recruiting some of the 9/11 hijackers.
Al Qaeda’s Forrest Gump:
On page 165 of the report, readers are introduced to a Mauritanian named Mohamedou Ould Slahi, who is described as a “significant al Qaeda operative.” Slahi was “well known to U.S. and German intelligence, though neither government apparently knew he was operating in Germany in late 1999,” the commission’s report explained. Slahi’s presence in the heart of Europe proved to be crucially important. An appendix to the report makes clear why Slahi “recruited 9/11 hijackers in Germany.”
The four jihadists who traveled to Afghanistan on Slahi’s advice are known to history as the Hamburg Cell. Three of them piloted hijacked planes on 9/11. AI Qaeda probably could not have pulled off the attacks without them Slahi was detained in late 2001 and shipped to Guantanamo in 2002. He has been held at the facility ever since. As reflected in the 9/11 Commission report, U.S. intelligence professionals have long considered him to be a key Qaeda recruiter.
Slahi was one of a few detainees subjected to a special interrogation regime in Cuba. Slahi admittedly swore allegiance to al Qaeda in the early 1990s and repeatedly assisted various al Qaeda operatives through the years thereafter, he somehow wasn’t really an al Qaeda man. According to the 9/11 Commission, Binalshibh and the others wanted to join the jihad in Chechnya. It was Slahi who convinced them to go to Afghanistan for training first.
Court documents show that, in January 1997, Slahi sent a fax to a known al Qaeda operative named Christopher Paul. In it, Slahi asked for Paul’s help in finding “a true Group and Place” ‘or “some Brothers” who wanted to wage jihad. The fax is significant because Slahi sent it years after he and his boosters now claim that he had forsworn al Qaeda. In 308, Paul pleaded guilty in an American court to conspiring to bomb targets in Europe and the United States. Slahi “established a broad network of terrorist contacts while living in Germany, Canada, and Mauritania.
Abu Hafs is also referenced in the 9/11 Commission report as one of a handful of bin Laden subordinates who may have opposed the suicide hijackings, although he later praised them. Abu Hafs was also suspected of involvement in earlier terrorist plots. Files recovered in Osama bin Laden’s compound show that al Qaeda negotiated a truce with the government of Mauritania. In exchange for not committing any terrorist attacks inside the country. al Qaeda was given free rein to proselytize.
The Guantanamo Blame Game:
The linchpin of President Obama’s argument for closing Guantanamo is that it is a major recruiting mechanism for terrorists. In December 2010, Obama claimed that Guantanamo is “probably the number one recruitment tool that IS used by” al Qaeda and other jihadist organizations. The Obama administration still has not offered any empirical evidence to substantiate this argument. Anyone even casually familiar with jihadist propaganda knows that Guantanamo is infrequently mentioned and is not part of any significant recruiting theme. Ayman al Zawahiri, the head of al Qaeda, has released five messages since early August. He didn’t mention Guantanamo once.
At no point in time did AQAP’s leaders, some of whom were once held at Guantanamo, say that the facility was the reason they launched their organization. In fact, in May, AQAP’s Inspire magazine directly rebuked Obama on his claim that the facility is a key recruitment tool, arguing that al Qaeda talks about many issues and Guantanamo wasn’t nearly at the top of their list.
The Islamic State rarely mentions Guantanamo in its propaganda, the administration shifted attention to the group’s use of orange jumpsuits in its snuff videos. After the Islamic State struck in Paris last November, killing and wounding hundreds of people, Obama went so far as to cite Guantanamo: “It’s part of how they rationalize and justify their demented, sick perpetration of violence on innocent people. And we can keep the American people safe while shutting down that operation.
The fifteenth issue of the Islamic State’s Dabig magazine, released earlier this year, carried an article aptly tided “Why hate You & Why We Fight You.” For starters: “We hate you, first and foremost, because you are disbelievers; you reject the oneness of Allah—whether you realize it or not by making partners for Him in worship, you blaspheme against Him, claiming that He has a son, you fabricate lies against His prophets and messengers, and you indulge in all manner of devilish practices.” Dabiq’s editors listed many other reasons, including our “secularism and nationalism,” our “perverted liberal values,” and our “Christianity and atheism.” They did include a generic mention of the imprisonment and “torture” of Muslims around the world, but only after listing Obama’s drones and many other reasons, and even then there was nothing—not a word—about Guantanamo.
208 RECIDIVISTS AND COUNTING:
“The existence of Guantanamo,” the president claimed in 2009, “likely created more terrorists around the world than it ever detained.” But the president has not shown, and cannot demonstrate, that Guantanamo has “created” as many as the 208 recidivists who have now been freed. Just this past week, the office of the director of national intelligence released its latest estimate of the number of “confirmed” and “suspected” recidivists. Most of them, 188, were transferred during Bush years. But the growth in the number of recidivists over time demonstrates the flaws in Obama’s thinking. In January 2009, the month Obama was inaugurated, the Pentagon counted 61 recidivists. Today, that figure is nearly three and a half times larger. Sources familiar with the negotiations on Guantanamo transfers tell TWS that when Obama administration officials have insisted on a time frame for host-country tracking of detainees, the requirements for monitoring soften considerably after January 2017.
In other cases, just as Obama administration officials have misled the American people about the threats presented by Guantanamo detainees, they’ve also misled the diplomatic partners who have agreed to receive them. On January 6, 2016, Mahmmoud Omar Mohammed Bin Atef and Khalid Mohammed Salih al Dhuby were transferred to Ghana. U.S. intelligence determined that both men were committed jihadists. Bin Atef, in particular, was assessed as a “high risk” detainee “likely to pose a threat to the US, its interests and allies.” According to JTF-GTMO, he was “a fighter in Usama bin Laden’s former 55th Arab Brigade and is an admitted member of the Taliban” who had trained in al Qaeda’s notorious Farouq camp. In addition. Bin Atef had participated in hostilities against US and Coalition forces.” Unlike many detainees who renounce jihadist—or pretend to—Bin Atef “continues to demonstrate his support of UBL and extremism” and “has threatened to kill US citizens on multiple occasions including a specific threat to cut their throats upon release.”
Jojo Bruce-Quansah, the information minister at Ghana embassy in Washington told us at the time that the U.S. government provided assurances that Bin Atef was “never involved in terrorism” and presented little risk. “If that assurance was not there,” he said, there is “no way” his government “would have taken the detainees.” A spokesman for the National Security Council declined to comment on whether the U.S. government provided Ghana with the full intelligence assessment of Bin Atef.
source —weekly std, stephen hayes, thomas joscelyn, olivier knox,