Sufyan Ben Qumu, a Libyan, is the former Gitmo detainee. He is one of a circle of former detainees released from Gitmo who have returned to jihad against the United States.
Qumu was released in 2007 and handed over to the Libyan authorities who were supposed to keep him in jail there. They did not. Ironically, the Qaddafi regime released him as part of its attempt to reconcile with Islamists. Obviously, Qaddafi’s efforts at reconciliation did not work out so well for the late dictator. But the return of Qumu and other Gitmo alumni to jihad has not worked out very well for us either.
The information regarding Qumu’s possible involvement in the Benghazi consulate attack is yet another nail in the coffin of the Obama administration’s absurd initial explanation of the Libyan attack. They at first claimed it was essentially the product of a spontaneous protest against an anti-Muslim video that was exploited by extremists.
Obama’s Press Secretary Jay Carney claimed last Friday that the violence was “in response not to United States policy, obviously not to the administration, not to the American people. It is in response to a video, a film, that we have judged to be reprehensible and disgusting.” Our UN Ambassador Susan Rice made the rounds of the Sunday talk shows and said pretty much the same thing. Both Carney and Rice deplored the violence but saw no link to any larger pattern of Islamist terrorism aimed squarely at Americans.
It took several days before a top Obama administration official finally conceded that once again on 9/11 Americans were indeed the target of a terrorist attack. “We are looking at indications that individuals involved in the attack may have had connections to Al Qaeda or Al Qaeda’s affiliates, in particular Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb,” said Matt Olsen, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, at a Senate Homeland Security Committee hearing earlier this week.
It is unclear to what extent Sufyan Ben Qumu, the Guantanamo alumnus, was the leader of the attack on our consulate in Benghazi that resulted in the death of Ambassador John Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. However, the fact that he was involved at all is a tragic unforced error of our catch-and-release policy in dealing with some Gitmo detainees that goes back to the Bush administration.
According to the Defense Department file on Sufyan Ben Qumu made available to Fox News, Qumu was considered “MEDIUM to HIGH risk” and “likely to pose a threat to the US, its interests and allies.”
The Defense Department write-up stated that Qumu had been detained at Guantanamo because of his “long-term association with Islamic extremist jihad and members of Al-Qaida and other extremist groups.” His behavior was described as “generally uncooperative and aggressive.” Despite this, he was still regarded as having “HIGH intelligence value.”
Nevertheless, Qumu was recommended for transfer “to the Control of Another Country for Continued Detention (TRCD) to his country of origin (Libya) if a satisfactory agreement can be reached that allows access to detainee and/or access to exploited intelligence. If a satisfactory agreement cannot be reached for his continued detention in Libya, he should be retained under DoD control.”
Apparently, a “satisfactory agreement” was reached with the Qaddafi regime, which the Bush administration was foolish enough to trust would keep its word.
Obama came into office vowing to close down Guantanamo altogether. He changed his mind. Guantanamo remains open, but with a total detainee population as of July 2012 down to 168 — from a high of 680 in May 2003.
The good news is that Obama has kept Guantanamo open as part of a continuation of key elements of the Bush anti-terrorism security policies. The bad news is that he is also continuing the Bush era detainee release program to bring the Gitmo population down. All told, approximately 600 detainees have been released during the Bush and Obama presidencies, about a quarter of whom are believed to have returned to their terrorist or insurgent activities. Although the 2011 National Defense Authorization Act requires the Defense Secretary to certify that steps are being taken by the transferee country to “ensure” that a freed “individual cannot engage or re-engage in any terrorist activity,” it is one of those feel good provisions that has no practical impact.
The Gitmo alumni club is continuing to expand with more “medium to high risk” ex-detainees like Sufyan Ben Qumu.
For example, Ibrahim al-Qosi, who had admitted to being Osama bin Laden’s bookkeeper and driver and pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy with al Qaida and supporting terrorism, was released this past July.
Even more alarming are reports that the Obama administration is seriously considering moving several Taliban detainees from Guantanamo to a prison in Afghanistan. To entertain for even a moment the idea that we can trust the corrupt, inept government of Afghanistan to keep these detainees in jail is beyond comprehension. Remember the murder of our own soldiers by Afghans we thought we were training to take over responsibility for Afghanistan’s security. Do you think for a moment that a Taliban detainee released from Guantanamo will be sitting in an Afghan jail rather than re-joining his friends on the battlefield?
It’s time to stop releasing any Guantanamo detainees deemed a medium or high security risk unless tried and acquitted in a military court. Giving second chances may end up producing more tragedies like the Libyan killings in which one former Gitmo detainee was very likely involved.