Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Value of Gitmo

Presidential Candidate Obama thundered on the campaign trail about how he would close Gitmo as soon as he became president. He may change his mind as President because presidents can not afford to be ignorant and irresponsible as candidates for president can be. Of the 800+ prisoners tossed into Gitmo, most have been cut loose. Some were innocent, some were transferred back to their home countries, and some were small fish not worth holding. There are about 250 remaining, who are the worst of the worse.

Obama is about to discover, doubtless to his surprise, that the Bush approached worked, stopping follow-on attacks on the USA by vigorous interrogation of terrorist chieftains. It's entirely likely that Obama will leave Gitmo substantially alone, if not to defend America then to defend his own reputation against letting terrorists go who will kill Americans. Again.

Thomas Joscelyn lays it out in "Clear and Present Danger" in the Weekly Standard:

"For example, in his autobiography, At the Center of the Storm, former Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet explained that KSM's interrogation led to the arrest of an entire cell that was plotting destruction. The same day KSM was detained in 2003, another terrorist named Majid Khan was picked up. During his interrogation, KSM admitted that Khan had recently passed along $50,000 to operatives working for al Qaeda's chieftain in Southeast Asia, a man known as Hambali. When interrogators confronted Khan with KSM's revelation, Khan confirmed it and said that he gave the money to an agent of Hambali named Zubair. Khan gave his interrogators Zubair's telephone number. Shortly thereafter, Zubair was taken into custody and gave up information that led to the arrest of yet another operative nicknamed "Lilie." According to Tenet, Lilie then provided information that led to Hambali's arrest in Thailand.

"Khan, Hambali, Zubair, and Lilie are all high value detainees at Guantánamo. They were plotting the "second wave" of attacks on America when they were captured. According to the Guantánamo files, Zubair and Lilie were both chosen to be suicide hijackers in an al Qaeda attack on Los Angeles. They had also plotted against targets in Southeast Asia under the direction of Hambali. Hambali was responsible, in part, for planning the 2002 Bali bombings (killing more than 200 people) and a series of attacks on 30 churches in Indonesia on Christmas Eve 2000 (killing 19).

"In addition to serving as an intermediary between KSM and the Hambali crew, Majid Khan was involved in other post-9/11 plots. Khan, who lived in Baltimore for years, was planning to smuggle explosives into the United States. He wanted to target gas stations and landmarks such as the Brooklyn Bridge, and he recommended to KSM that a truck driver living in Ohio named Iyman Faris could help. Faris, who had trained at an al Qaeda camp in Afghanistan, had begun preparations for these attacks. But within weeks of KSM's and Khan's capture, Faris was identified and arrested. Months later, Faris was convicted of providing material support to al Qaeda and sentenced to 20 years in prison.

"Another of Khan's accomplices, a Pakistani named Uzair Paracha, was also arrested just weeks after Khan and KSM. In late March 2003, authorities raided Uzair's apartment in Brooklyn. There they found a number of incriminating pieces of evidence linking Uzair to Khan. In 2005 Uzair was convicted, and in 2006 he was sentenced to 30 years in federal prison.

"Uzair's father, Saifullah Paracha, is a current resident of Guantánamo. Although he has not been designated a high value detainee, he clearly consorted with terrorists. Saifullah is reportedly a multimillionaire who owns a Pakistani media company and a textile business, which exported goods to the United States. Al Qaeda wanted to use Saifullah's textile business to smuggle explosives into the United States. Saifullah also offered his media company's services to Osama bin Laden for the production of al Qaeda's propaganda.

"KSM and Khan were not the only high value detainees to give up crucial, life-saving details during their interrogations. In March 2002, Abu Zubaydah was captured at his safe house in Faisalabad, Pakistan. In At the Center of the Storm, Tenet says that Zubaydah unwittingly gave up information that led to the capture of Ramzi Binalshibh on September 11, 2002. At the time, Binalshibh was plotting an attack on Heathrow Airport in London. At least several of the detainees at Guantánamo were captured along with Zubaydah at his safe house in 2002, and they too were involved in al Qaeda's post-9/11 plotting. For example, Zubaydah intended to use one of them in an attack on Israel.

"The greatest success of the Bush administration is that it stopped all of this, and more, from happening."
So, the question is whether Obama will deliver on his foolish campaign promise to close Gitmo and let the terrorists loose via the courts or will he sober up and realize these people are hellbent on killing more Americans? Obama has proven in the past to be averse to making risky decisions and agile at avoiding embarassments. It's just possible that Obama's fecklessness may play in favor of keeping terrorists locked up in Gitmo. Perhaps he will kick a couple loose through the courts to maintain the pretence of keeping his promise.

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