Friday, January 23, 2009

Detainee Released by Bush Then Attacked U.S. Embassy

You read that right. A terrorist released from Guantanamo two years ago at the order of then-president George W. Bush later bombed an American embassy.

The emergence of a former Guantanamo Bay detainee as the deputy leader of Al Qaeda's Yemeni branch has underscored the potential complications in carrying out the executive order President Obama signed Thursday that the detention center be shut down within a year.

The militant, Said Ali al-Shihri, is suspected of involvement in a deadly bombing of the United States Embassy in Yemen's capital, Sana, in September. He was released to Saudi Arabia in 2007 and passed through a Saudi rehabilitation program for former jihadists before resurfacing with Al Qaeda in Yemen.

As Steven Benen notes:

I get the idea behind reports like these -- Guantanamo has housed some dangerous folks, and if we let them go, they'll do dangerous things. Therefore, we better not let them go, and Obama should rethink all of his recent announcements.

Except, the evidence doesn't match the conclusion. Obama isn't saying that he wants to just open the Gitmo doors, he saying he wants to review the pending cases and present evidence against the bad guys as part of a legal process. Ali al-Shihri returning to al Qaeda isn't evidence of a flawed Obama process, it's evidence of a flawed Bush process. Why did Bush let a dangerous guy this guy go? Did Bush's team not consider, I don't know, bringing charges against him before setting him free?

The same is true with the incessant media fascination with the 61 former Guantanamo Bay detainees who've since become alleged terrorists. First, the confirmed number is 18, not 61. Second, even that number isn't considered entirely reliable.

And third, again, the argument about how this relates to Obama is flawed. As Atrios noted, it wasn't Obama's policy that led to their release. The administration created this nightmare at Guantanamo, which was supposedly necessary for U.S. national security. What do we have to show for the former president's efforts? A series of bad guys who went free, and many more bad guys we'll struggle to prosecute because the Bush administration broke the law and tortured them.

As John Cole noted, "The moral of this story is not the danger for Obama going forward with his Gitmo decommissioning, the moral is that when venal, shallow, small men are given unfettered power and authority, they do incompetent, stupid, and evil things."

Glenn Greenwald takes the argument further.

All of this is pure fear-mongering -- the 2009 version of Condoleezza Rice's mushroom cloud and Jay Rockefeller's "we'll-lose-our-eavesdropping-capabilities" cries. Both before and after 9/11, the U.S. has repeatedly and successfully tried alleged high-level Al Qaeda operatives and other accused Islamic Terrorists in our normal federal courts -- in fact, the record is far more successful than the series of debacles that has taken place in the military commissions system at Guantanamo. Moreover, those convicted Terrorists have been housed in U.S. prisons, inside the U.S., for years without a hint of a problem.


Both pre- and post-9/11, there are numerous other individuals who have been convicted in U.S. civilian courts of various acts relating to terrorism inspired by Islamic radicalism, including many alleged to be high-level Terrorists, who are now serving sentences inside the U.S., in U.S. prisons. Moreover, terrorists accused of being members of Al Qaeda and affiliated groups have been successfully tried in the regular courts of other countries -- including Britain and Spain -- and currently sit in those countries' regular prisons, without a whiff of a problem.

If it were really the goal of Terrorists to attack American prisons where their members are incarcerated and if they were actually capable of doing that, they already have a long list of "targets" and have had such a list for two decades. If U.S. civilian courts were inadequate forums for obtaining convictions of Terrorism suspects, then the above-listed individuals would not be imprisoned -- most of them for life -- while the Guantanamo military commission system still has nothing to show for it other than a series of humiliating setbacks for the Government. As is true for virtually every fear-mongering claim made over the last eight years to frighten Americans into believing that they must vest the Government with vast and un-American powers lest they be slaughtered by the Terrorists, none of these claims is remotely rational and all of them are empirically disproven.


The crime for which Omar Abdel Rahman was convicted and for which he's currently serving a life sentence in Colorado is the February 26, 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, of which Rahman was the alleged "mastermind." That terrorist attack took place just seven weeks after Bill Clinton was inaugurated, but after that attack -- to use the Beltway parlance -- Clinton kept us safe, for the rest of his presidency. No more foreign Terrorist attacks on the Homeland. It wasn't until Clinton left the Oval Office and George Bush became President were Islamic Terrorists able to strike the Homeland again.

Therefore, using the reasoning of Bush followers everywhere, this means that Clinton's counter-terrorism policies -- i.e.: trying accused Terrorists in civilian courts and incarcerating them in U.S. prisons -- have been proven to be extremely effective in keeping us safe (since, as any beginning student of Logic will tell you: if A precedes B, then it means that A caused B -- as in: A = "waterboarding, torture and GITMO," and B = "no Terrorist attack on U.S. soil from 2002-2008"). Using that same "logic": A = "trying Terrorists in civilian courts and imprisoning them in the U.S.," and B = "no foreign Terrorist attacks in the U.S. from February, 1993 through the end of the Clinton presidency

Smirky/Darth, their accomplices and their apologists are desperate to prevent people from discovering just how much danger their Excellent Iraq Adventure placed the nation in, and uncovering the full extent of their crimes.

It's now obvious that every argument - every argument - made in defense of the bush maladministration is at best deluded and more likely a pack of lies.

Don't let them get away with it.

Cross-posted at They Gave Us A Republic ....