Freed Gitmo in­mates a threat

The Washington Times Weekly - - Front Page - By David R. Sands

De­fense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates said May 8 that a “fair num­ber” of de­tainees at the Guan­tanamo Bay mil­i­tary prison can­not be re­turned to their coun­tries for fear that they might be freed when they ar­rive home.

Mr. Gates was re­spond­ing to re­ports in The Wash­ing­ton Times and other press out­lets that for­mer Guan­tanamo in­mate Ab­dal­lah Salih al-Ajmi is now thought to have par­tic­i­pated in a sui­cide bomb­ing in the Iraqi city of Mo­sul on April 26 that killed six other peo­ple.

“I would say that I think we do as care­ful a vet­ting job as we pos­si­bly can be­fore re­leas­ing th­ese peo­ple,” said Mr. Gates, who has called in the past for the U.S. fa­cil­ity to be even­tu­ally shut down.

“There are a lot of pris­on­ers down there, frankly, that we would be pre­pared to turn over to their home gov­ern­ment, but the home gov­ern­ment isn’t pre­pared to re­ceive them, or we don’t have any con­fi­dence that if they still need to be in­car­cer­ated, that the home gov­ern­ment will keep them in­car­cer­ated,” he added.

Mr. Gates con­firmed Pen­tagon fig­ures re­leased ear­lier last week that showed an es­ti­mated 6 per­cent to 7 per­cent of the de­tainees re­leased from Guan­tanamo have re­joined mil­i­tant Is­lamist groups to

fight the United States and its al­lies af­ter their re­lease.

At least 10 for­mer Guan­tanamo in­mates have been killed or re­cap­tured, ac­cord­ing to Pen­tagon fig­ures. Al-Ajmi, who was re­leased from Guan­tanamo in 2005, is the first for­mer in­mate of the U.S. facil- ity in Cuba linked to a sui­cide at­tack.

The case of the 29-year-old Kuwaiti, re­leased af­ter be­ing kept 3 1/2 years in Guan­tanamo, has been re­ported as civil lib­er­ties groups and some con­gres­sional crit­ics have been press­ing to close the prison im­me­di­ately.

A mil­i­tary judge on May 8 threat­ened to sus­pend the war-crimes trial of a Cana­dian detainee at the prison, ac­cus­ing gov­ern­ment at­tor­neys of fail­ing to pro­vide records of his con­fine­ment. The detainee, Omar Khadr, is ac­cused of killing a U.S. sol­dier in Afghanistan.

Mr. Khadr’s at­tor­neys say the records could give them grounds to sup­press self-in­crim­i­nat­ing state­ments he made. The judge com­plained that prose­cu­tors were seek­ing an ex­pe­dited trial date for the Cana­dian detainee with­out pro­vid­ing the doc­u­ments needed to make a rul­ing.

The Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion and its de­fend­ers say the ques­tion of Guan­tanamo’s fu­ture re­mains dif­fi­cult, bal­anc­ing the rights of the de­tainees and the de­mands and dan­gers posed in wag­ing a global war on ter­ror.

Guan­tanamo records show that dur­ing his time in the prison, al-Ajmi was in con­stant trou­ble with the guards and had to be placed in spe­cial de­ten­tion. De­spite the records, he was trans­ferred to Kuwait in 2005.

In May 2006, a Kuwaiti court ac­quit­ted al-Ajmi of be­ing a mem­ber of al Qaeda and rais­ing money for the ter­ror or­ga­ni­za­tion. The court also ac­quit­ted four other for­mer Guan­tanamo pris­on­ers.

“There is an im­plied fu­ture risk to U.S. and al­lied in­ter­ests with ev­ery detainee who is re­leased or trans­ferred from Guan­tanamo,” Pen­tagon spokesman Cmdr. Jeff Gor­don said May 7.

Asked May 8 whether the U.S. gov­ern­ment was any closer to clos­ing the Guan­tanamo prison, Mr. Gates replied, “I don’t think so.”

Bill Gertz con­trib­uted to this ar­ti­cle, which is based in part on wire ser­vice re­ports.

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