While America was seemingly fixated on the pope’s first ever visit to the United States, a move by the Obama administration flew under the radar.
Buried underneath all the pomp and circumstance of the media’s oversaturated coverage of the pope’s visit was a story about the release of another Guantanamo Bay detainee by the Obama administration in their continued quest to close the prison. It’s no secret this has been an Obama obsession since he declared he would close the prison on his second day in office way back when.
In this pool photo, reviewed by the U.S. military, and shot through glass, a guard watches over Guantanamo detainees inside the exercise yard at Camp 5 detention facility at Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base, Cuba, May 31, 2009. Credit: AFP/Getty Images
The unpopularity of this idea has not waned with the American people, with 66 percent still opposing the idea. The attempts to close Gitmo and transfer inmates have been rebuffed on numerous occasions by Congress. In 2010, Congress passed a provision under the National Defense Authorization Act to prohibit the transfer of any Gitmo detainee to U.S. soil after backlash over the administration’s attempt to move prisoners to a federal prison in Illinois.
Despite these firewall efforts by Congress, the Obama administration continues to find ways to release detainees. The latest being Abdul Shalabi, repatriated back to his native Saudi Arabia on September 22. The decision to release Abdul Shalabi had been in the works for some time.
The Associate Press reported Shalabi was one of the first prisoners at the Gitmo facility and had engaged in hunger strike since 2005 to protest his confinement. In June, his lawyers pleaded that the former Osama bin Laden bodyguard was sufficiently reformed and wanted only to reunite with his family in Saudi Arabia and take “care of his ailing mother.”
Of course he does. And who are we to deny this jihadi that opportunity, right?
We have good reason to be suspicious of humanitarian appeals. It didn’t take the British government long to call its release of a Lockerbie bomber in 2009 a “mistake.”
Despite being deemed too dangerous to be released by a multi-agency task force in 2009, the Obama-established Periodic Review Board ruled in June 2015 that Shalabi no longer posed a threat. The fact that he was a known Al Qaeda operative who conspired with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed while plotting the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks from Karachi, Pakistan and was said to have trained at Al Qaeda camps to participate in “a suicide attack or deployment to the West,” apparently didn’t matter anymore.
This ill-advised policy of releasing Gitmo detainees actually stems back to the George W. Bush administration. However, according to the latest report issued by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the recidivism rate has reached 30 percent and over 100 recidivists are at large. The Weekly Standard reports in “June 2008, the Department of Defense listed 37 former detainees as confirmed or suspected of returning to fight. Today, that number has tripled to 196.”
That’s not very reassuring.
But don’t fear, Shalabi, has now been taken in by the Saudis and will be housed in one of their government-run jihadi rehabilitation centers as part of the “Mounasha program.” What does this program entail? According to a report last year by CBS news, the facilities are “more like a hotel than a prison.” They have recreational facilities, Olympic size pools, free schooling, medical care and laundry. The inmates participate in art therapy, take non-violent Islam courses and have access to special rooms for conjugal visits. The Saudi government will even pay for their weddings. How nice.
Although the Saudis boast of an alleged 80 percent “success” rate, there is still some doubt about the program’s effectiveness. In September 2014, after the Saudis arrested 88 suspected Al Qaeda terrorists, it was discovered 59 of them had been through the Saudi program.
According to a report in the Guardian, “in May 2014, security forces rounded up an alleged jihadist group of 60 people; half of them were repeat offenders. In February 2014, Yemeni authorities extradited 29 Saudis, suspected of belonging to al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula; among them were several former Mounasaha inmates. One of the founder members of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula in 2009, was killed in 2013 by a U.S. drone. He too had undergone rehabilitation.”
So much for that 80 percent success rate.
With Islamic State continuing to expand its territorial conquests and virtual genocide of Christians and the latest reports of Iraq joining forces with Russia, Syria and Iran to combat Islamic State (what could possible go wrong there), perhaps the Obama administration should be expending its energy on devising a concrete strategy to actually fight and destroy Islamic State instead of bending over backwards to accommodate terrorist detainees.
TheBlaze contributor channel supports an open discourse on a range of views. The opinions expressed in this channel are solely those of each individual author.