In another triumph of idiocy, the Obama administration is negotiating with the Yemeni government to release Guantanamo Bay and Afghan terrorists to a “rehabilitation” facility to be constructed outside Yemen’s capital city of Sana’a. According to the Los Angeles Times, the detainees “would undergo counseling, instruction in a peaceful form of Islam, and job training in Yemen before any decision on freeing them,” would be made.
The deal is part of the president’s ongoing effort to close Guantanamo Bay. He reiterated that intention on November 4, asking Congress to once again consider lifting restrictions on detainee transfers. Speaking on behalf of the president, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney contended that Congress has “significantly limited our ability to responsibly reduce the detainee population and ultimately close the facility.”
Rightfully so. Unlike the Obama administration, Congress recognizes that many nations refuse to repatriate potential terrorists, as well as the reality that some released prisoners rejoin the ranks of those seeking to destroy the West. A report released early last month by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) revealed that out of the 603 terrorists released from Gitmo, 100 have been “confirmed of reengaging” in terrorist activities, and another 74 are “suspected of reengaging.”
In other words, as many as 174 thugs we had already risked Americans lives to capture are now free to pursue jihad against our soldiers all over again. Not only is such a reality apparently a reasonable tradeoff for an Obama administration determined to elevate politics over the safety of Americans, it is a willful determination to ignore the threat that Yemen itself presents and has presented for quite some time.
In 2009, Senate Intelligence Committee member Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) joined Republicans calling for a halt of Gitmo prisoner transfers to Yemen because it was “too unstable.” Nine days earlier, the Obama administration had released 12 detainees from Guantanamo Bay, six of whom ended up in Yemen. Four days after that, Yemen-trained “underwear bomber” Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab tried to blow up Northwest flight 253, and a Yemen-based al Qaeda affiliate claimed credit for the attempt. Furthermore, ABC News revealed that the Christmas Day plot was abetted by two Gitmo detainees released to Saudi Arabia in 2007.
At the time Obama blamed it all on a “systemic failure” of Yemen’s security apparatus. He imposed a moratorium on releasing detainees to Yemen in January 2010, and promised not to release any detainee who posed a threat to the American people. Yet in spite of the ongoing terror threat emanating from that nation, Obama lifted his moratorium on May 23, 2013. He did so despite the belief of intelligence officials that the al Qaeda affiliate in Yemen represents the greatest threat to the U.S. homeland and that the affiliate’s creation was abetted by several former Gitmo detainees released in 2006.
But it gets worse. According to al Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) expert Gregory Johnsen, the formation of AQAP was the result of a merger between a “handful of former Gitmo detainees, primarily Saudi citizens” who slipped into Yemen, and al Qaeda members who staged a 2006 break from a maximum security prison in Sana’a. Regardless, the president remained defiant. “I think the lifting of the moratorium reflects a changing U.S. policy that reflects a changing Yemen,” said White House Press Secretary Jay Carney in August.
Thus, the president is continuing the effort to create a de facto “half way house” for the Yemeni prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay. Yemenis comprise more than half the facility’s remaining 164 inmates.
Details of the negotiations remain closely guarded, but the Yemeni government has reportedly drawn up plans for the new facility just outside Sana’a. Yet many questions remain unanswered. There are deep disagreements regarding who will fund the facility, with the Yemeni government urging U.S. and European officials to fund its construction, as well as the training of security guards and other staff. Yemen’s president, Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi, reportedly offered to fund the project when he met with Obama in August. But that offer was rescinded due to a government budget shortfall. U.S. officials insist America will not fund the project either, because Republicans, many of whom are against closing Gitmo, will not appropriate money for a facility in Yemen. The White House has acknowledged that they are asking the United Nations and other governments for help with the project.
Yemeni officials have political reservations as well. They do not want to be seen as offering America an alternative to the “unpopular” Gitmo, and they worry that the new prison would be a prime target for terror attacks, requiring heavy fortification as a result.
As of now, the Pentagon has designated 55 Gitmo prisoners for transfer to the Yemeni government. Twenty-five are considered “low risk” and have been approved for an “immediate” transfer. The other 30 will be moved if Yemen provides satisfactory assurances that they will not return to violence.
Considering the United States failed to prevent as many as 174 Gitmo prisoners from returning to jihad, it remains impossible to see what constitutes “satisfactory assurances” of anything. Obama administration officials contend that the program based on the aforementioned counseling, instruction in peaceful Islam, and job training is modeled after a “successful” Saudi Arabian undertaking, also aimed at reintegrating former terrorists into society.
That would be the Saudi rehabilitation program that “graduated” deputy al Qaeda leader Said Ali al Shihri, who organized a 2008 bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Sana’a, as well as additional car bombings that killed at least 16 people. In 2009, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, detailed other notable failures of the Saudi program in a letter sent to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Sessions revealed that of the 85 “top wanted terrorists” listed in February 2009 by Saudi Arabia’s Interior Ministry, 11 had been part of the Saudi rehabilitation program. All 11 were also former Gitmo detainees. That’s a recidivism rate of 13 percent. In 2010 the Saudis were boasting that their recidivism rate was 20 percent. This year they are claiming that of the of 2,336 al Qaeda prisoners who have been through rehabilitation, the recidivism rate “does not exceed 10 percent,” according to Said al Bishi, director of a luxury rehabilitation center in Riyadh.
Thus it seems the administration is OK with the idea that at least one-in-ten terrorists will be rejoining the fight against America.
Caitlin Hayden, spokeswoman for the National Security Council, agreed with the move: “We believe that the establishment of a credible, sustainable program would be an important step for the Yemeni government in bolstering their counter-terrorism capabilities,” she said. Yemen’s foreign minister, Abubakr Qirbi, apparently agreed. “We are currently planning to construct this facility and taking legal steps for the return of the 55 people who the U.S. has agreed to send home, those who do not pose a threat,” he said, according to Yemen’s official news agency.
Human rights activists were on board as well, threatening to oppose any facility that was primarily a prison. “I don’t think [it] should exist unless it’s an actual rehabilitation program,” said Andrea Prasow, senior counter-terrorism counsel with Human Rights Watch. “There’s no way I would find it acceptable for [returned Yemeni detainees] to be held against their will.”
The aforementioned ODNI report reveals the fatuousness of such thinking. While noting the inevitability of recidivism in general, it spelled out the hazards associated with countries like Yemen. “Transfers [of detainees] to countries with ongoing conflicts and internal instability as well as active recruitment by insurgent and terrorist organizations pose a particular problem,” it said.
Yemen may be the most “particular problem” in the Middle East. Even the discussions about the prison were held in Rome due to security risks in a country “battling an insurgency by warring tribes backed by Islamist groups that has caused a sharp decline in security in recent months,” according to the Times.
Despite all of it, reality takes a back seat for a president looking for another “signature achievement,” no matter how reckless the consequences. In a better world, those who believe in terrorist “rehab” would be forced to live amongst their subjects, much like the Americans troops who were quartered with their Afghan trainees. That particular rehab effort was finally abandoned, but not before more than 100 unarmed U.S. and NATO troops were killed in the effort to “build trust” with their armed Afghan counterparts. Any Islamist rehab program deserves the exact same fate. We’ve sacrificed more than enough American lives on the alter of political correctness.
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