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Sisyphus and Guantanamo

The New York Times is out with a new report on Guantanamo and recidivism rates, claiming that 1 in 7 released detainees find their way back to the battlefield.

Much of the Pentagon document, as it is reported by Elisabeth Bumiller, is beyond both my expertise and the scope of Waq al-waq, however, there are a few points that need to be addressed here.

First is this:

In the report, the Pentagon confirmed that two former Guantánamo prisoners whose terrorist activities had been previously reported had indeed returned to the fight. They are Said Ali al-Shihri, a leader of Al Qaeda’s Yemeni branch suspected in a deadly bombing of the United States embassy in Sana, Yemen’s capital, last year, …

I still don’t know why people keep saying al-Shihri was involved in the September attack on the US Embassy, when he was not. Certainly he associates with al-Qaeda in Yemen, but he wasn’t involved with the group when it carried out the attack, besides which it is far from clear exactly how much command-and-control either al-Wahayshi or al-Raymi had over that particular attack. One could make the argument that al-Shihri was involved in the suicide attacks in March, but this would take more evidence than I’ve seen. I’ve touched on this particular issue before.

Also there is this, which comes after a curious quote by Bruce Hoffman, which I don’t think holds up in the Yemen case:

In addition to Mr. Shihri and Mr. Rasoul, at least three others among the 29 named have engaged in verifiable terrorist activity or have threatened terrorist acts.

Abu Hareth Muhammad al-Awfi, a Saudi national who was released from Guantánamo to Saudi Arabia in November 2007, and who is named on the most recent list of 16, appeared with Mr. Al-Shihri in a video released by Al Qaeda’s Yemeni branch in January and reported by news organizations at the time. Like Mr. Shihri, Mr. Awfi passed through a Saudi rehabilitation program for jihadists after their release from the prison. The program has been seen as a model, and the Saudi government has previously said that none of its graduates had returned to terrorism.

In the video, Mr. Awfi threatened attacks against Saudi Arabia and spoke angrily about Israeli attacks on Hamas in Gaza.”

Whatever one may think of al-‘Awfi’s surrender and/or capture it seems a mistake not to mention that he is back in Saudi custody either because he turned himself in (if you believe the Saudi story) or was captured (if you believe the initial Yemeni story). The way it is written here makes it seem as though he is still at-large, which he is not.

I understand the need some feel to make the case for the potential danger of some of these individuals, particularly before President Obama’s speech tomorrow, but if this issue is as important as so many seem to think it is – and I happen to agree – shouldn’t there at least be an extremely detailed and careful marshaling of the evidence, and by evidence I mean actual evidence not conjecture and imagined links based on perceived similarities.


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