Guantánamo Prisoner Caught in Al-Qaeda Catch 22

Sunday, September 19, 2010
Mohamedou Ould Slahi
To be released from indefinite custody by the United States, a suspected terrorist must have quit being a member of al-Qaeda. But how can a detainee really demonstrate he has left the terrorist organization, while still in American detention? Moreover, even if the individual could communicate such a decision to his former terrorist counterparts, would he really do so—and mean it—given that to do so would get him killed?
That’s the Catch 22 dilemma facing detainee Mohamedou Ould Slahi, whose ordered release from Guantánamo Bay may be overturned by a federal appellate court. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit said it will likely order a lower-court judge to reconsider Slahi’s case and the decision to free him, in part because of questions about whether Slahi had really disassociated himself from al-Qaeda.
Suspected of involvement in the plot to bomb Los Angeles international airport on New Year’s Eve 1999-2000, and of having ties with some of the 9/11 terrorists, Slahi was seized on November 20, 2001, in his home country of Mauritania by local authorities at the request of the U.S. government. He was sent by the CIA to Jordan, where he was tortured, and then, after a stop in Afghanistan, he was transferred to Guantánamo on August 4, 2002. The following year, he was subjected to another round of torture and told that his mother was being shipped to Guantánamo as a prisoner. Slahi then told his interrogators whatever they wanted to know.
However, in May 2004, Marine Corps Lt. Col. Stuart Couch, who was supposed to prosecute Slahi, resigned because the evidence against Slahi had been obtained through torture. On March 22, 2010, District Court Judge James Robertson ordered Slahi’s release from custody. However, the Obama administration has persisted in trying to keep him incarcerated, and on Friday the three-judge appeals panel hinted that they were sympathetic to the Obama arguments.
-David Wallechinsky, Noel Brinkerhoff
U.S. Appeals Court: How Do You Quit Al-Qaeda? (by Spencer S. Hsu, Washington Post)
The Conscience of the Colonel (by Jesse Bravin, Wall Street Journal)


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