Skip to comments.Afghans Released From Gitmo Return to Terrorism
Posted on 07/06/2004 1:30:03 PM PDT by Nasty McPhilthy
Several prisoners released by the U.S. military from a detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have rejoined their comrades in arms and taken part in fresh attacks on U.S. forces, according to Defense Department officials and a senior GOP lawmaker.
"We've already had instances where we know that people who have been released from our detention have gone back and have become combatants again," Rep. Porter Goss (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence told United Press International recently.
"It's the military Willie Horton," he said, referring to the notorious killer who absconded on furlough and a year later pistol-whipped a man and raped his fiancee. "I do in fact have specific cases," he said when pressed for further details, but declined to say more.
The Willie Horton case became a major issue in the 1988 presidential campaign, and the case of the released detainees threatens likewise this week to become a political issue as Congress returns in the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that the Guantanamo Bay detainees have a right to file writs of habeas corpus.
A Defense official confirmed to UPI that several such cases had involved Afghans released from Guantanamo. "At least five detainees released from Guantanamo have returned to the [Afghan] battlefield," said the Defense official, who requested anonymity.
When asked how U.S. authorities could know, the official declined to comment. "That gets into intel[ligence] stuff. I can't go there," the official said.
Mark Jacobson, a former senior official at the Pentagon who helped put together the policy for detainees at Guantanamo, explained to UPI that every detainee is fingerprinted and photographed. "We build up pretty extensive biometrics on these guys," he said. "There are a lot of different ways we could know that someone we'd captured or killed had already been in our custody."
In the absence of further details, it is unclear how many of the five -- about 10 percent of the 57 Afghans released from Guantanamo -- have fallen back into the hands of U.S. forces, leaving open the possibility that more might be at large.
"I would hope our intel is good enough that we'd know if someone we'd released was back on the battlefield," said Jacobson, now a visiting scholar at the University of Michigan.
At least one of the men released appears to have been a Taliban field commander. Media reports from Afghanistan in April said that Mullah Shahzada, released in spring last year, had been captured or killed. Shahzada appears to have become active again almost immediately following his release. In May 2003, he -- or possibly another Afghan with the same name -- was interviewed in Quetta, Pakistan by a U.S. newspaper. The report, which described him as a "former fighter," did not mention that he had been detained in Guantanamo.
Until recently, the U.S. military made decisions about who should be released from Guantanamo on an ad hoc basis, considering, officials say, whether they have intelligence that might still be of use, and whether they continued to pose a threat. Jacobson described the process as "pretty meticulous."
"Even if five got through," he said, "that's still an 'A' grade."
The Defense official also defended the review process. "It's very thorough, but it's not foolproof," he said. "We err on the side of caution, but mistakes are going to be made."
The official said that the process was complicated by the lack of system of personal identity or other records in Afghanistan. "These people don't have driver's licenses," he told UPI. "They don't even have birth certificates. Some of them are trained in deception and counterinterrogation techniques. One guy had 13 aliases."
Earlier this year, facing a Supreme Court challenge to the legality of the Guantanamo detentions, the Pentagon began work on a more structured review process for detainees, under which an annual hearing would consider whether they still posed a threat. The initial plans for the new system were unveiled June 23 by Navy Secretary Gordon England.
England declined to comment on whether detainees released under the old, ad hoc review system had taken up arms again, but said it was one pitfall the new process he was in charge of was designed to avoid. "Obviously, we don't want to release someone who's going to come back and attack America or our allies," he said.
But the Supreme Court ruling last week, and the prospect that the Pentagon will now face an avalanche of litigation from the 500-plus detainees still held at Guantanamo, has left plans for the new system in limbo.
England said it was too soon to tell what might happen "The department is still reviewing the [Supreme Court] decision," he said. "We just don't know what we're going to do yet."
Ruth Wedgwood, a staunch defender of the administration's legal strategies for detention, said that the court's ruling had "left everything quite confused." She said that although the judges had made it clear some form of review was necessary, they had given officials no real guidance on how it should work.
Whatever arrangements were eventually made to fulfill the legal duty to provide due process, she said "they are not going to be as simple as the Supreme Court seems to think."
The Defense official said the Pentagon might use the new review process, both to reduce the numbers being detained before the department has to go through the arduous process of preparing to defend multiple habeas corpus writs, and to show the courts that there already is some due process in the continuing, open-ended detentions at Guantanamo.
Experts familiar with the review procedures agreed. "The process of sorting through the detainees will be put into overdrive," predicted Elisa C. Massimino, director of the Washington office of Human Rights First.
Eugene R. Fidell of the National Institute for Military Justice expects the numbers of those detained to drop precipitately "to below 200" before the courts begin to consider habeas writs. "The floodgates problem has been overstated," he said.
Jacobson said it would have been wiser to treat the detainees captured in Afghanistan as prisoners of war "straight off the bat" -- as some on the administration had urged -- rather than leaving them in the legally murky situation of unlawful combatants. "That way," he pointed out, "the only question is 'When is the conflict over?' The courts don't get involved."
"It makes much more sense to do Article Five hearings on the front end than get into complex review procedures afterward," agreed Massimino, referring to the process mandated by Article Five of the Geneva Convention, whereby those captured on the battlefield are screened to check they really are combatants and not bystanders or displaced persons caught up in the fighting.
Other commentators said the administration had only itself to blame for any difficulties it now found itself in. The National Journal's Stuart Taylor said that the administration had provoked the court "by refusing to give even the minimal hearings [to detainees] most agree are required under international law." The court, he said, was effectively "being asked to put its imprimatur on violations of international law that had caused worldwide outrage."
Goss said he would hold Intelligence Committee hearings on detention issues later this month.
Shaun Waterman is the homeland and national security editor for UPI, a sister news organization of Insight.
Well, let this be a lesson to us. From now on, don't take prisoners! Kill them before they can surrender.
They probably all had little transponders implanted in their @ss when they were all given their medical shots before they left Gitmo.
Plane flys overhead and constantly pings, the XPDR's answer the ping back.
RFID, it's not just for Walmart anymore!
I agree .. how many "I told you so" people reside at this website.
When I was a kid, we'd put a cork on some fishing line hooked to a fish and release it back into the lake. Then we'd follow it to the rest of the school and "murderize" them.
I think one or two unsuspecting hooked terrorists with gps tracking devices could teach us something....
It's a dirty war and I've a nasty, decidedly unfair and mean spirited idea. Inject the released ones with rabies. It's hard to spread to others (although who cares), invariably fatal and easy to blame on the animals in the area creating plausible denial.
Good point. I certainly hope so. In which case, we should start a "catch and release" program, placing telemetry tags on their Islamist patooties.
Sounds good to me! I can keep a secret.
Execute them. Stupid government. Stupid War. Stupid public for not demanding execution of repeat offenders.
Surreptitiously implant a GPS tracking chip before release. When they go to rejoin their Taliban/Al Qaida pals in Pakistan or Tora Bora ... deliver a GBU-28 welcoming gift onto the whole gang.
But thank goodness we didn't violate their rights.
Unbelievable...this qualifies for a 'no shiite sherlock...'.
Don't take prisoners.
If they didn't have a reason to hate us before being imprisoned in Gitmo, I guess they have one now - I'm amazed they didn't go back to Afghanistan and open up a rug store or climb up on a mountaintop for a quiet life spent in meditation and quiet calm.
Not murky at all.
International law provides no protection for unlawful combatants or spies.
If we didn't do this, we should have! At least we wouldn't have put panties on their heads...
I think that the events of 9/11 show that they may have held a certain resentment towords us before Gitmo.
I'm all for letting them return to open a rug shop or climb to the top of any mountain for a quiet life spent in meditation.
Then they can be shot!
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