Yesterday, Barack Obama signed an order pledging to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay within in a year, but without offering a solution for the current detainees. That little detail takes on a little more significance after today’s report in the New York Times about the career of a released Gitmo inmate. After getting sprung from Gitmo, Said al-Shihri became a leader of the al-Qaeda network in Yemen:
The emergence of a former Guantánamo Bay detainee as the deputy leader of Al Qaeda’s Yemeni branch has underscored the potential complications in carrying out the executive order President Obama signed Thursday that the detention center be shut down within a year.
The militant, Said Ali al-Shihri, is suspected of involvement in a deadly bombing of the United States Embassy in Yemen’s capital, Sana, in September. He was released to Saudi Arabia in 2007 and passed through a Saudi rehabilitation program for former jihadists before resurfacing with Al Qaeda in Yemen.
His status was announced in an Internet statement by the militant group and was confirmed by an American counterterrorism official.
“They’re one and the same guy,” said the official, who insisted on anonymity because he was discussing an intelligence analysis. “He returned to Saudi Arabia in 2007, but his movements to Yemen remain unclear.”
The war on terror is no game. These people intend to kill us in large numbers, and unless we take that seriously, they will succeed. It’s not the same as using the exclusionary rule to return a burglar to the streets rather than offend tender sensibilities because someone filled out a warrant incorrectly. Al-Qaeda is not the Gambino crime family, and a law-enforcement approach will not defeat them — as the entire decade of the 1990s proved.
How did Shirhi get released? He told the Gitmo tribunals that he only traveled to Iran and Afghanistan to get carpets for his family’s store. The Pentagon’s dossier on Abu Sayyaf showed that he trained at a terrorist camp outside of Kabul, went to Iran to bring extremists into Afghanistan, and wanted to assassinate a writer on which a mullah had placed a fatwa for his writings. Shihri was fortunate that his review came at a time when the Bush administration was getting enormous pressure to reduce the number of inmates at Gitmo, and Shihri went into the Saudi rehab program. A year later, Shihri disappeared — and now he’s running the AQ network in Yemen.
Half of the remaining detainees come from Yemen, and would have to be returned to Yemen. The Yemenis have allowed terrorist suspects to break out of prison or have set them free on their own recognizance repeatedly. The Yemen branch of AQ has grown, and the addition of more than a hundred Gitmo detainees will only assist in that process.