Gitmo Detainee Ordered Released

More fallout from the misguided US policies for handling detainees:

Gitmo Detainee Ordered Released


A suspected al Qaeda organizer once called "the highest value detainee" held at Guantanamo Bay was ordered released by a federal judge Monday.

Mohamedou Ould Slahi was accused in the 9/11 Commission report of helping recruit Mohammed Atta and other members of the al Qaeda cell in Hamburg, Germany, who took part in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the U.S.

Military prosecutors suspected Mr. Slahi of links to other al Qaeda operations, and considered seeking the death penalty against him while preparing possible charges in 2003 and 2004.

Judge James Robertson of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia granted Mr. Slahi's petition for habeas corpus, effectively finding that the government lacked legal grounds to hold him. The order was classified, although the court said it planned to release a redacted public version in coming weeks.

Judge Robertson held four days of closed hearings in the Slahi case last year. Mr. Slahi testified via secure video link from the U.S. military's detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, his attorney said.

"They were considering giving him the death penalty. Now they don't even have enough evidence to pass the test for habeas," said Mr. Slahi's attorney, Nancy Hollander, of Albuquerque, N.M. She said she couldn't comment further because the proceedings were classified. Mr. Slahi is still being held at Guantánamo.

The government may appeal. Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd on Monday said the agency was "reviewing the ruling."

Brig. Gen. John Furlow, who helped lead a Pentagon-ordered probe of detainee abuse at Guantánamo Bay, has testified that at one point Mr. Slahi was "the highest value detainee" at the site and "the key orchestrator of the al Qaeda cell in Europe."

Plans to try him by military commission were derailed after prosecutors learned Mr. Slahi had been subjected to a "special interrogation plan" involving weeks of physical and mental torment, including a death threat and a threat to bring Mr. Slahi's mother to Guantanamo Bay where she could be gang-raped, officials said.

Although the treatment apparently induced Mr. Slahi's compliance, the military prosecutor, Marine Lt. Col. V. Stuart Couch, determined that it constituted torture and that evidence it produced couldn't lawfully be used against Mr. Slahi.

Col. Couch, in a March 31, 2007, Page One story in The Wall Street Journal, cited legal, professional and moral reasons for declining to prosecute.

Mr. Slahi, who was then viewed as a cooperator by interrogators, was granted various privileges at Guantánamo Bay, including his own quarters and garden to tend.

Col. Couch, now in private practice in North Carolina, said Monday's order "is one of the consequences that the decision-makers should have foreseen when they decided to adopt a policy of cruelty, and the interrogation techniques that flowed from it."

After the Sept. 11 attacks, Mr. Slahi, about 40 years old, was arrested by authorities in his native Mauritania at Washington's request and eventually taken to Guantánamo Bay.

In 2008, the head of the Pentagon's military-commission system rejected charges against a second detainee who had been subjected to a special interrogation plan, Mohammed al Qahtani, after determining that he had been tortured.

This was posted on Facebook by Yon in response to the news:

Prisoners. What to do? It is a fact that some terrorists return to the battlefield after release from detention. I've witnessed an American soldier shot just in front of me by such a catch and release terrorist. Last night, during a radio interview, the question was posed to me. How should the U.S. handle this? I... pose another question: is it smart for our troops to risk their lives capturing terrorists (far more dangerous to capture than to kill) knowing that terrorists eventually will be released? Our troops are under no moral or legal obligation to seek surrender from or to attempt to capture combatants. It is legal to kill combatants in their tracks without warning. Combatants can be unarmed and sleeping, yet it remains perfectly within the law to kill them. Until an enemy is captured or disabled, he remains a combatant. We are under obligation to accept surrender, but never under obgligation to demand surrender. After terrorists are captured, they must be handled with great care. But there simply is no legal/moral obligation to use lethal force as a last resort. If we cannot keep them from being released, high-level terrorists should be killed on the battlefield. Unfortunately, they will die with useful information.
Looking at your last quote, boiled down it appears to read that a round of 5.56 is cheaper, quicker and more certain than capture, imprisonment and ultimate release. I think most squaddies will understand and act accordingly.

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