Freed Gitmo inmates a threat
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.