President Obama is desperate to empty the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay before the end of his presidency. In fact, he’s so desperate he’s decided to hand over 9 prisoners to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia even in the midst of several media reports suggesting the Saudis were either complicit or possibly even involved in the 9/11 terror attacks.
More on the 9/11 angle in a moment. First, the details on the nine detainees.
According to the Washington Post, they’re all Yemeni and include one Tariq Ba Odah, a detainee since 2002 who has gained media attention recently for a hunger strike in protest of his detention:
Military officials had been force-feeding Ba Odah daily, strapping him down and pumping a liquefied supplement through his nose to his stomach. He began his hunger strike in 2007 and had lost roughly half his body weight. At one point last year, the 37-year-old weighed as little as 74 pounds.
While the military has said that Ba Odah was clinically stable, his attorneys had submitted testimony from doctors warning that his hunger strike could have ended in his death.
USA Today points out that the detainees have been in line for transfer for some time, but political turmoil in Yemen precluded them from being released. This is the first instance of Saudi Arabia accepting non-citizens in a detainee transfer.
Any transfer of Gitmo prisoners raises grave concerns over the potential threat to the US and our allies around the world. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) is no fan of Gitmo yet even he has raised a red flag by reporting an alarming 30% recidivism rate. “We know for a fact that roughly 30 percent of those who have been released have re-entered the fight, and usually at a very high level, because it’s a badge of honor to have been an inmate at Guantanamo Bay,” McCain told Fox News back in January.
The transfer brings the Gitmo prison population down to 80.
The timing of this latest release is curious considering the recent uproar over the so-called “secret 9/11 papers” which, according to a 60 Minutes report on redacted pages from the 9/11 commission, implicate Saudi officials in the 9/11 terror attacks:
Bob Graham won’t discuss the classified information in the 28 pages, he will say only that they outline a network of people that he believes supported the hijackers while they were in the U.S.
Steve Kroft: You believe that support came from Saudi Arabia?
Bob Graham: Substantially.
Steve Kroft: And when we say, “The Saudis,” you mean the government, the–
Bob Graham: I mean–
Steve Kroft: –rich people in the country? Charities–
Bob Graham: All of the above.
Graham and others believe the Saudi role has been soft-pedaled to protect a delicate relationship with a complicated kingdom where the rulers, royalty, riches and religion are all deeply intertwined in its institutions.
The revelations of the alleged Saudi link reportedly found in the 28 redacted pages has put pressure on Obama to declassify the pages on the eve of the president’s diplomatic visit to the desert kingdom. Given the bi-partisan outrage over the suggestion that DC politicians “put the happiness of the Saudi royal family above the survivors of 9/11,” as Fox News analyst Lt. Col. Ralph Peters said, it’s surprising the president would go ahead and deliver the terror detainees over to a government that is facing such scrutiny.
Clearly, the president’s priorities are clear: Empty Gitmo at all costs, even if it means handing terrorists over to a government that may have been complicit in the most devastating terror attacks in American history.