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Read this story, there are so many mistakes being made I'm very worried about the future. Blame the administration, blame the pressure put on the administration by the other side, the bottom line should be protecting people.
Pentagon officials worry the United States may ultimately regret the decision to free five 'dangerous' detainees from Guantanamo Bay.WEB EXCLUSIVE
By Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball
Updated: 7:20 p.m. ET Jan. 12, 2005Jan. 12 - President George W. Bush has agreed to release five “dangerous” detainees from Guantanamo Bay following repeated pleas from British Prime Minister Tony Blair and growing protests from human-rights groups amid disclosures about abuses by U.S. military interrogators at the camp, according to U.S and British officials.
Pentagon officials expressed grave misgivings about freeing the five detainees—four Britons and one Australian—who are seen by Washington as hardened Al Qaeda members who could pose a serious terrorist threat if, as seems highly likely, they are soon allowed to walk the streets freely as a result of this week's agreement.
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Indeed, in documents filed in federal court just last fall, Pentagon lawyers alleged that one of the detainees, Mamdouh Habib, the Australian, had advance knowledge of the September 11 terror attacks, trained some of the hijackers in martial arts and “planned to hijack a plane himself.”
Another of the detainees, Martin Mubanga, was allegedly assigned the job of plotting terror attacks against New York-based Jewish organizations and was apparently planning to fly to the United States when he was arrested in Zambia in 2002, according to documents obtained by NEWSWEEK. (Mubanga has denied the charges and, like the other detainees, alleges he was mistreated in U.S. custody.)
But those concerns were in effect trumped by Bush’s desire to mollify Blair, who has come under come under increasing domestic pressure to protect the rights of British citizens held at the controversial U.S. detention camp in Cuba. In a trip to Washington last November, and in follow-up teleconference calls that the two leaders regularly have, Blair made “personal pleas” to Bush to repatriate the British detainees, a British government official said today.
The upshot was a series of conflicting public statements this week about the transfer that seemed to designed obscure a potential embarrassment for both governments. A White House official insisted that the U.S. government only permitted the release of the British detainees—the timing of which is still being worked out—after receiving “assurances that the individuals will not pose a threat to others.”
But those guarantees are hardly iron-clad and might even be empty. A British counterterrorism official told NEWSWEEK that there were “no assurances” that the detainees will be kept off the streets once they return to the United Kingdom.”
Indeed, British officials say, there is no practical way for them to provide such an assurance: under British law, once the detainees land in London they can be held initially for 48 hours and then, if there are any grounds to suspect they might be implicated in terrorism, another 14 days after that.
But after that, the suspects must be formally charged—or released. “It becomes a matter for the police and the Crown Prosecutor’s office,” says Steve Atkins, a spokesman for the British Embassy in Washington. “They are independent of the government.”
What British officials did promise the Pentagon, sources say, is to keep the suspects under intensive surveillance and ensure that they were not permitted to leave the United Kingdom once they return.
Page 2: Risky Releases?
Page 1 | 2Newsweek
Updated: 7:20 p.m. ET Jan. 12, 2005Still, Pentagon officials are ambivalent at best. They acknowledge what they see as mistakes in releasing prisoners in the past: according to some U.S. intelligence reports, between 10 to 12 former Guantanamo Bay prisoners were released—and then returned to the battlefield to fight against U.S. forces in Afghanistan. At a minimum, officials fear a replay of the case of the so-called Tipton 3: three British detainees from a suburb of Birmingham who were released from Guantanamo last year and promptly let go by British authorities upon their return to the U.K. The former Guantanamo prisoners then were celebrated in the British press and used their newfound freedom to denounce the U.S. government for their alleged mistreatment.
“There’s always anxiety about any transfer decision,” says a senior Defense Department official who described the soon-to-be released British and Australian detainees as “dangerous individuals” who “we continue to believe pose a significant threat.” But the official added: “We also recognize the war on terror is a global one, and the only way it’s going to be won is by sharing the responsibility for containing the threat with our Coalition partners.”
One development that seems highly unlikely is that British prosecutors will ever be able to build a case against the detainees using the evidence gathered by the Pentagon against the suspects in Guantanamo. That evidence rests in large part on confessions extracted during repeated and “aggressive” interrogations by U.S. military interrogators. The methods used by interrogators—as well as the conditions under which the detainees have been confined—have provoked renewed controversy in recent weeks following the disclosure of internal FBI reports documenting abuses at the camp, including one that even referred to the military’s methods as “torture techniques.” Last week, the Pentagon announced a new inquiry into the cases documented by the FBI reports— including one in which a female U.S. interrogator taunted a male detainee, rubbed his body with lotion and "grabbed his genitals."
In perhaps the most notable of the cases, the U.S. evidence against the Australian detainee, Habib, is further complicated by the fact that some of what is seen as the most incriminating information was apparently extracted while the prisoner was in Egyptian custody. An unclassified summary of evidence that Pentagon lawyers presented to a “Combatant Status Review Tribunal” at Guantanamo last fall states that the detainee admits to traveling to Afghanistan prior to the September 11 terror attacks “where he stayed at a known Al Qaeda safehouse in Kandahar.”
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The summary further states that Habib admitted to “having knowledge of the attacks of September 11, 2001 prior to their occurrence”; to training some of the hijackers in martial arts; to having “ties to individuals involved” in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing; to conducting surveillance of buildings, hospitals and schools with another detainees, and to assisting with the transfer of chemical weapons at a compound near Kabul.
But according to a lawsuit filed by a lawyer for Habib, which was made public just last week, Habib only made many of these confessions after he was transferred to Egyptian custody and subjected to gruesome and "horrendous" interrogation methods. Held in a small windowless cell, with cockroaches and other insects crawling over the floors, Habib says he was suspended from hooks on the walls and was “kicked, punched, beaten with a stick and rammed with what can only be described as an electric cattle prod,” the lawsuit states. (Egyptian officials have denied they employ the methods alleged in Habib’s lawsuit.)
Habib is far from the only problematic detainee to be released. Another of the Britons being released from Guantamamo, Mazzam Begg, used to manage a Birmingham book store that sells jihadi literature and that British officials see as an important Al Qaeda propaganda outlet in Britain. FBI reports obtained by NEWSWEEK say Begg has told interrogators about a plot to fly remote-controlled airplanes packed with explosives into the White House. The Pentagon “summary” of evidence on Begg states that he was trained at an Al Qaeda camp in Afghanistan. After the U.S. invasion of that country, it says, he retreated with Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters into the mountains of Tora Bora—Osama bin Laden’s last known hiding place.