Released Gitmo Inmates Planned Detroit Bombing

It appears that the Detroit terror plot was fomented by people formerly held at Gitmo:

detroit-terrorist-plot-montageTwo of the four leaders allegedly behind the al Qaeda plot to blow up a Northwest Airlines passenger jet over Detroit were released by the U.S. from the Guantanamo prison in November, 2007, according to American officials and Department of Defense documents. Al Qaeda claimed responsibility for the Northwest bombing in a Monday statement that vowed more attacks on Americans.

American officials agreed to send the two terrorists from Guantanamo to Saudi Arabia where they entered into an “art therapy rehabilitation program” and were set free, according to U.S. and Saudi officials.

Guantanamo prisoner #333, Muhamad Attik al-Harbi, and prisoner #372, Said Ali Shari, were sent to Saudi Arabia on Nov. 9, 2007, according to the Defense Department log of detainees who were released from American custody. Al-Harbi has since changed his name to Muhamad al-Awfi.

It’s difficult to know what to make of this, given this scant information.  The most obvious alternatives are that we either let free two very dangerous men or that two formerly less-than-dangerous men were radicalized by their imprisonment.  Either way, it’s rather clear that our screening mechanisms are not very good.

It’s also safe to say that Saudi Arabia continues to be a major feeding ground for al Qaeda, despite the monarchy’s strong self-interest in opposing the terrorist group.

FILED UNDER: General, Terrorism, , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. steve says:

    One would hope that they did a thorough job before releasing them, which would suggest that six years at Gitmo wearing hoods pissed them off. Hard to know for sure. What I do know, is that if I was running AQ, I would make sure it was widely known that ex-Gitmo detainees were involved in an AQ planned attempt to strike the U.S. Good PR for them.

    Steve

  2. Herb says:

    Have you heard anything about how and why these guys were apprehended in the first place?

    Rather than suspecting their stay at Gitmo radicalized them, I’d bet money that they were pretty radical to begin with.

    I’m also curious to know why they were released. Does it have anything to do with them being Saudi nationals? Did they need to beds? Did the authorities think they weren’t a threat anymore?

    Anyone know?

  3. Pug says:

    I can only imagine the furor if they had been released by Obama and Holder.

  4. Pug:

    Yes, there’s a strange calm in the right wing blogosphere over this interesting detail. Strange, I say.

  5. Triumph says:

    The most obvious alternatives are that we either let free two very dangerous men or that two formerly less-than-dangerous men were radicalized by their imprisonment.

    Listen, this Bush derangement syndrome is unacceptable. The fact that they didn’t strike until Obama was in office shows that Bush and Cheney were right and that they scared the bejeezes out of these people.

    It was only when the weakling Obama became president that they sought to strike. If we were still torturing these bastards, there is no way they would have tried to attack the plane.

    This debacle should fall squarely on Hussein’s shoulders. The fact that he was playing golf all weekend instead of planning an attack on Yemen shows just whose camp he sympathizes with.

    Bush REFUSED to play golf while the war on terror was going on as a way to show solidarity with the troops and to sacrifice for the country.

    Obama fled the country for a week and did nothing but play golf while we were under attack.

  6. PD Shaw says:

    Michael, I believe the line of thinking is that if these are the people the 9/11 obsessed Bush administration thought were safe to release, what does that say about those that were deemed not safe to release?

    I don’t have a problem in general with release (much less than bringing these characters on to U.S. soil), but it’s always amusing to read in the history books of detainees being released after swearing not to take up arms again. Surprisingly, some take up arms again! There just really aren’t great incentives for release here; no prisoners to exchange, and other than a few detainees that were citizens of allied countries, there is not really any goodwill to purchase that would bring about peace any quicker. The numbers, around 200, aren’t that large to pose significant costs.

  7. PD Shaw:

    Back in a much more innocent time gentleman officers taken prisoner would give their parole, their promise not to engage in combat until exchanged.

    Needless to say, these are not gentlemen we’re dealing with.

  8. Wayne says:

    Yes the Bush administration made a mistake in releasing these two men. Standards for release should be even tougher.

    Ironically Obama and many on the left wanted and probably still do even more relax standards for releasing Gitmo detainees. To do so will result in even more terrorist attempts.

    So the question should be not who to blame but if the standards should be tougher, the same, or lower? What do you think Michael? I’m interested in other’s opinions as well.

  9. Wayne:

    I’ll be damned if I know.

    On the one hand we can’t morally justify holding people forever without compelling evidence of a crime or terrorist act.

    On the other hand however much these guys may have hated us before, it’s a sure bet they hate the hell out of us after years in detention.

    Maybe we need a hi-tech solution: implant a GPS tracking device in them. Release them back into the wild, like whales or eagles. See where they go.

    But realistically, this is one of those messes where Obama earns his salary. Better him than me.

  10. Wayne says:

    Michael
    Sound like you are not blaming Bush then since your standard for release is much lower than his.

    Yes it is possible to treat someone in a way where they will try and get revenge. In this case it is more likely we only delayed their actions and/or prevented actions that they would have conducted for the time they were detain.

    Implant GPS tracking device? Are you suggesting performing unnecessary and unwanted medical procedures on prisoners? Besides they would disable the devices anyway.

  11. Wayne:

    Guantanamo has never been something that rose to the level of important issue to me. Torture did, but torture and prison aren’t the same issue.

    The only blame I have for the Bush administration is that they started down this road without thinking through the sequelae. They didn’t have a plan for what to do with these people, many of whom are undoubtedly innocent.

    But then what did the Bush administration ever think through to a logical conclusion?

    I don’t blame the Bush people for releasing these particular guys. Risk is never 0%.

    The Saudis apparently thought they had a way to rehab some of these characters, so it was probably worth trying. And incidentally, I’d suggest that another word for “rehabbed terrorist” might in some cases be “double agent.” I’d be surprised if Saudi Intel didn’t recruit some of these people. But who knows?

    What is clear is that the Saudis are probably doing as much as they can within the limits of their own crazy-town religion to stop Al Qaeda. Yemen’s government appears to be co-operating as well. I would point out that co-operation is easier for Arab governments when the American president has made an issue of extending a hand of friendship to Islam, and co-operation is a very good thing right now.

  12. Norman Rogers says:

    Geez Looueeze!

    James, I thought there was nothing to see here — just another isolated madman, easily handled by law enforcement, no organized terror group here.

    What gives?

  13. Norman:

    And you were ranting about killing their families. In this case the father had tried to turn his son in.

    You also leapt at the diarrhea bomber and said that proved your case.

  14. Wayne says:

    “They didn’t have a plan for what to do with these people, many of whom are undoubtedly innocent. “

    It is not like they just randomly pulled these people off the street.

    What plan should they have had? If someone surrenders on the battlefield, should we let them go so they can try another day? What is Obama’s plan?

  15. Wayne:

    Actually, many were in fact pulled randomly off the streets. They happened to be walking by when a bomb went off. Or they were ratted out by personal enemies just to get rid of them. Many of those have now been released and we’re told the ones remaining are more serious cases.

    As for why they should have had a plan: they might have kept them locked up in Afghanistan or Iraq and turned over to the host governments eventually, no fuss no muss. We think things through because otherwise we end up with insoluble messes like this.

    The analogue to traditional battlefields fails in the case of terror suspects, and if applied to Taliban we should probably, logically, have released them when the Taliban government fell.

    These things are easier if you think them through but as I said, Mr. Bush didn’t think things through, he just stuck out his chin and decided. And after 8 years he handed off a country teetering on the brink of an honest-to-God depression, a monster deficit, a desperate situation in Afghanistan, an open sore in Iraq, a vastly strengthened Iran, and a nuclear North Korea.

    Fortunately we’re done with zippy the decider now and we have a president who appears to actually think about things before acting on secret guidance from Jesus.

  16. steve says:

    Phil Carter wrote a lot about this when he blogged. If we had just made these guys POWs, we could have legally kept them until the war was over. Since the war on terror will never be over, we could have kept them indefinitely. We could have still interrogated them, but not torture them.

    Steve

  17. Have a nice G.A. says:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GTAfdWxOmxc

    Think what it will be like after he thinks for say maybe two years and not just one…. ‘

    We are delivered!

    Man it must be hard to stand upright in the aura of such unequaled brilliance, the sheer majesty of it all!!

    Such omnipotently derived decisions should melt your puny brain for just trying to think how it could have possibly been arrived at so carefully and so perfectly.

  18. Wayne says:

    “They happened to be walking by when a bomb went off”

    Do you have any sources for that beyond an accused claim or defense lawyer spin? I grant you that the terrorist turn in had issues but to simply not accept the turnover of a suspect terrorist like Clinton did with Bin laden has its own issues.

    We have and still do have some lock up in Afghanistan and Iraq. To do that only creates its own problems as well, including having your best interrogators having daily access to top targets collected from various places. Also where do you keep targets snatch from somewhere else?

    As for releasing former Taliban, is this the same Taliban that is still fighting us? Just because you capture someone’s Capitol doesn’t mean you have defeated them. At least you came up with some ideas. Ideas with many flaws as most ideas do but at least you tried.

    Obama has been taking his time all right. Taking time at not making decisions and doing little but ruining our economy and making the U.S. look extremely week.

    Steve
    The Taliban, Iraqi Forces and anyone should have been and were treated as POWs as long as they follow the rules of war. Once they put on civilian cloths and breaking those rules then they become enemy combatants. A country doesn’t “have” to (they can but not obligated to) afford Enemy Combatants protection of POW status. You are probably one of those who think not allowing them lawyers amounts to torture.

  19. Wayne:

    Many of those are very good questions. But Mr. Bush never asked them.

    Now Mr. Obama is trying to clean up the mess. It isn’t easy. He has Mr. Bush’s economic mess, his wars, his foreign policy and Guantanamo. It’s going to take a while to repair the damage. It’s much easier to smash a car into a tree than it is to fix the damage.

  20. anjin-san says:

    As for releasing former Taliban, is this the same Taliban that is still fighting us? Just because you capture someone’s Capitol doesn’t mean you have defeated them.

    Why don’t you share this nugget of wisdom with Mr. Bush? He told us he “destroyed” the Taliban back in ’03. They are putting up a pretty decent scrape for people who were destroyed years ago…

  21. Have a nice G.A. says:

    It’s much easier to smash a car into a tree than it is to fix the damage.economey.

    Or to sit around thinking.

    You got 2 days left for the chosen one to fulfill his prophecy, then what?

    Spend more money?
    Print more money?
    Barrow more money?
    Promise to spend more money?
    Change more terminology?
    Promise more hope and change?
    Think some more?
    Appoint some more czars?
    Blame Bush?
    Bribe more votes?
    Crush more cars?
    Win more awards?
    Read more teleprompter?
    Drink more beer?
    Blame fox news?
    Call Glen Beck?
    More transparency?
    Throw another party? ya ya a new years party, and we can all party like it’s 1969…….

  22. anjin-san says:

    doing little but ruining our economy

    After all, you can just look at the market and see how businesses and investors are fleeing in terror from health care reform. Oh wait…

    You are joking I hope. I would hate to think that you are really this stupid. Our economy was in the worst shape of our lifetimes when Mr. Bush left office. Try reading the Wall St. Journal, which is hardly an Obama fanzine. Most of the stories now are about an improving economy.

    We are not out of the weeds by any means, and a fragile recovery presents its own share of danger, but the economy is significantly stronger than when Obama took office. If you deny that you are either ignorant or simply blinded by an ideology that does not allow you to think otherwise.

  23. anjin-san says:

    G.A. you need better material. You are just getting really boring.

  24. Wayne says:

    “Our economy was in the worst shape of our lifetimes when Mr. Bush left office”
    “but the economy is significantly stronger than when Obama took office”

    You have to be joking. The unemployment rate is over 10%, Fuel prices are going up. The Deficit is far far greater. It is a great deal worst a year after Obama has taken office and looking to get worst. It should have started improving a long time ago. However Obama and his minions are dragging this economy down. Their foreign policies and security policies are looking piss poor as well.

    Economy is significantly stronger, give me a break. Your head is so far up Obama’s backside you can’t tell B.S. (Barack Shit) from reality.

  25. Have a nice G.A. says:

    anjin-san, there is no better material than Obama and his worshipers.

  26. anjin-san says:

    The unemployment rate is over 10%, Fuel prices are going up.

    Have you ever even taken econ 101? Unemployment is a lagging indicator. The last 2 recoveries have been pretty much jobless, so there is a trend there that goes back quite a ways. Fuel prices are well below the historic highs they reached under Bush. Deficits are a concern, but deficits reached historic highs under Bush, so this is a continuation (and escalation, I admit) of an existing trend, not something new. (and let us remember, Bush inherited a surplus, Obama a train wreck).

    I guess you are just ignorant. If the economy is “significantly weaker” than the disaster Bush handed off to Obama, why has the market had a banner year?

  27. anjin-san says:

    anjin-san, there is no better material than Obama and his worshipers.

    Implying that people who support Obama actually view him as a Deity is pretty offensive. But don’t let me get in the way of your vainglory…

  28. Have a nice G.A. says:

    Implying that people who support Obama actually view him as a Deity is pretty offensive. But don’t let me get in the way of your vainglory…

    Offensive? Vainglory is what Obama is and thats all that he is, and you support him. Blindly at every turn you see not the footing, Everything you cried that Bush was doing this man is actually doing a hundred fold.

    Offensive? Hypocrisy is very much so, but when it be this blatant, gosh….

  29. anjin-san says:

    G.A.

    I think we are done. You have gone around the bend. Kind of a shame, you used to be likable in an odd sort of way.