Martyr for the Cause

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on October 20, 2016

Mohamedou Ould Salahi

Mohamedou Ould Salahi, a Mauritanian, was released from Guantanamo Bay back to his home country on Monday. This comes as part of Barack Obama’s effort to drive the number of inmates at the detention centre down as far as possible before his Presidency ends. Salahi is the first detainee transferred since the mass-exodus in August, leaving sixty men at Guantanamo, nineteen of them already approved for transfer. Salahi is among the many detainees who claims he is innocent and that he has been maltreated in custody, and he has written a book, Guantánamo Diary, to that effect. The known facts about Salahi’s pre-detainment behaviour suggest caution should be exercised in accepting his version of events.

Background

Born in Rosso, a town of 50,000 people on the Mauritania-Senegal border on 21 December 1970, Salahi “graduated from high school in Nouakchott … in 1988 and traveled to Duisburg, [Germany] on a grant from the Carl Duisburg Gesellshaft Center, where he studied German and participated in internships for a year. In 1989, detainee attended the FH-Krefeld Engineering School for a year of preparatory studies before being admitted to the University of Duisburg in 1990 and graduating in 1995 with a degree in electrical engineering,” according to his leaked Joint Task Force Guantanamo (JTF-GTMO) file. Salahi had joined the Mauritanian Muslim Brotherhood and “participated in the missionary activities of Jamaat Tablighi,” the JTF-GTMO document says, a common cover for al-Qaeda facilitation work.

Salahi was arrested in Mauritania in November 2001, transferred to a CIA facility in Jordan, moved to Bagram airbase in Afghanistan for two weeks in late July 2002, and moved to Guantanamo in early August 2002, the JTF-GTMO files explains. According to the introductory essay in Salahi’s book written by Larry Siems, an activist sympathetic to Salahi, Salahi wrote his 466-page manuscript while in solitary confinement in the summer of 2005, where he was undergoing a routine of interrogation personally signed-off on by then-Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. The book, which begins with the transfer to Bagram, was completed in December 2005, but was then classified until 2012 when a very heavily redacted version was cleared. A fuller version of the book was published in January 2015.

Siems writes an introduction to the book that gives Salahi’s background. Salahi went to fight with the Mujahideen in Afghanistan in December 1990 and early 1991—after the Soviets were out, when the Islamist insurgents were trying to topple the Communist regime. Salahi trained at al-Farouq Camp and swore bayat to al-Qaeda, taking on the name “Abu Musab”. Salahi then travelled back to Germany, before travelling again to Afghanistan in February 1992, where he fought under the command of Jalaluddin Haqqani, one of the most important long-standing assets of Pakistan’s intelligence services and in time a close ally of al-Qaeda’s, in the city of Gardez. Muhammad Najibullah’s Communist regime fell in April 1992.

According to the Guantanamo file, alongside his combat operations, Salahi trained in Afghanistan between April and June 1992, and left in December 1992, travelling to Slovenia where he attempted to join the jihad in Bosnia, but found it too dangerous and instead returned to Germany.

In Salahi’s telling, this was the last he had to do with al-Qaeda. Once al-Qaeda made its ambitions outside Afghanistan clear, against America and the West, in the mid-1990s, Salahi firmly dissociated, he says. “I personally had nothing to do with [global jihadism],” Salahi writes. “I didn’t join them in this idea … I am completely out of the line between al-Qaeda and the U.S.” Two later court findings, which are otherwise favourable to Salahi, ordering him released and then upholding that verdict on appeal, throw severe doubt on the idea he dissociated from al-Qaeda.

The appeals judgment notes that Salahi “had an ongoing and relatively close relationship” with Mahfouz Ould al-Walid (Abu Hafs al-Mauritani), Usama bin Ladin’s key spiritual advisor. Al-Walid is a cousin of Salahi’s and for a time a brother-in-law, married to Salahi’s wife’s sister. In August 1993, Salahi went with al-Walid to an al-Qaeda safe house in Mauritania, and this contact lasted “right up to 2001”.

In 1995 and 1996, Salahi does not deny that he played host to Mamdouh Mahmud Salim (Abu Hajar al-Iraqi) in Germany and facilitated Salim’s travel. Salim, a Sudanese founder of al-Qaeda, and at this time (p. 127) al-Qaeda’s telecommunications chief, was arrested in Munich on 16 September 1998 on charges related to the African Embassy bombings the month before.

The question is whether Salahi aided Salim at the behest of al-Walid and to what extent, beyond the discussion, which Salahi admits to, of assisted in developing the communications capacity of al-Qaeda with its global cells.

The initial verdict records:

[A] January 26, 1997 fax from Salahi, using his kunya “Abu Musab,” to Christopher Paul, a.k.a. Abdul Melik, … ask[s] for help to find “a true Group and Place” for “some Brothers want to make Djihad.” The fax bears Salahi’s kunya, Salahi’s handwriting and home telephone number, and was faxed from a store near Salahi’s home. Salahi admitted to sending the fax to this acknowledged “man of great respect in Al-Qaida” as a way to “facilitate getting the brothers to fight,” but later disavowed those statements, and said that he had never seen the fax until interrogators questioned him about it. … [T]he fax appears to be authentic and speaks for itself … Salahi continued to be in touch with people he knew to be al-Qaida members, and … was willing to refer would-be jihadists to them when the opportunity arose.

Paul was later convicted of terrorism offenses.

Salahi’s facilitation of jihadists joining al-Qaeda thus continued for certain after Bin Ladin had issued the August 1996 fatwa declaring war on the United States, making his global agenda clear. In truth, Salahi’s connection with the Qaeda network continued (see below) after the February 1998 fatwa that made it individually obligatory on Muslims everywhere to “kill the Americans and their allies—civilians and military”. Even in Siems’ telling—where Salahi was trying to “balance” between “avoiding close relationships” with al-Qaeda members, while “trying to avoid making himself an enemy” and incurring their wrath as a defector—this involved Salahi maintaining connections with al-Qaeda.

At least once, in December 1998 or January 1999, Salahi spoke to al-Walid on a satellite telephone belonging to Bin Ladin. Siems says in his introduction to Salahi’s book that this call was made in 1999 and is what put Salahi on the radar of Western intelligence. And twice—in December 1997 and December 1998—Salahi facilitated the transfer of $4,000 at the behest of al-Walid, allegedly to al-Walid’s family in Mauritania, but in truth nobody knows where those payments went and at various times Salahi has testified that they were on behalf of al-Qaeda.

In October 1999, Ramzi bin al-Shibh (identified in the JTF-GTMO file as “YM-10013”), the conduit through which the Hamburg cell that brought off the 9/11 massacre received resources and instructions from al-Qaeda, was travelling on a train in Germany with Marwan al-Shehhi, who smashed United Airlines Flight 175 into the South Tower of the World Trade Centre, and Ziad Jarrah, who was piloting United 93 when it was brought down by its passengers in Pennsylvania. The trio allegedly encountered a stranger on the train, named by the 9/11 Commission (p. 165) as Khalid al-Masri, who directed them to contact Salahi in Duisburg in western Germany, where there was a well-known al-Qaeda cell.

The Commission refers to Salahi as a “significant al-Qaeda operative who, even then, was well-known to U.S. and German intelligence, though neither government apparently knew he was operating in Germany in late 1999,” and Salahi is said to have telephoned al-Shibh and al-Shehhi to invite them to his home.

Salahi denies that the other two men who stayed with him were later death pilots on 9/11, and adds that in any case this was two years before the attack so their later actions cannot reflect on him.

There is a strong suggestion that al-Shehhi and Jarrah were headed for Chechnya, and Salahi diverted them to Afghanistan because of the difficulty of travel through Georgia, provided them and al-Shibh a codename for Taliban facilitators in Quetta that would take them to al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan, putting them on the path to the September 11 attacks. (Salahi’s Guantanamo file suggests he may have had met with al-Shehhi and Mohamed Atta, the lead suicide-killer on 9/11, in Spain in July 2001.) By the 9/11 Commission’s account, Salahi consciously assessed Jarrah and al-Shehhi as recruits before sending them to al-Qaeda, and the U.S. government has maintained that Salahi was an al-Qaeda recruiter.

The best he response Salahi and surrogates like Siems have offered is that Salahi never intentionally sent these men to join a conspiracy against America. Not unlike Siems’ contention that joining al-Qaeda in 1991 is fine because at that time it “was a very different al-Qaeda, practically an ally of the United States,” the argument here is that al-Qaeda was not known by Salahi to be an organization that could or wanted to perpetrate a 9/11-style attack. That this is after five terrorist attacks against America around the world, and numerous other thwarted plots, makes it rather difficult to believe that Salahi directed men into al-Qaeda’s path having no idea that the group might use them against America.

What is uncontested is that Salahi hosted three men, one of whom was al-Shibh, and that jihad and travel to Afghanistan were discussed.

Unmentioned by Siems, in November 1999, Salahi received two passports and money. Salahi says he received them from al-Walid, who was encouraging him to return to Afghanistan at a time when Salahi was planning a move to Canada. The U.S. government maintains—and Salahi has previously admitted—that the passports and money came from al-Qaeda even more directly via Christian Ganczarski, a Polish-born convert who was returning to Germany from Taliban Afghanistan, and that these resources were meant to assist in Salahi increasing al-Qaeda’s internet capacity, i.e. its ability to orchestrate terrorism and other illegal activity with its cells, notably in Pakistan. Radio equipment seized from Salahi later in Mauritania was also for use by al-Qaeda, Salahi said in testimony he has now repudiated.

Ganczarski was a personal friend of Salahi’s and—with Karim Mehdi and Hosni Mohsen—a member of al-Qaeda’s Duisburg cell, which had come together c. 1995 around the Taqwa Mosque. Nizar Naouar, a 25-year-old Tunisian, rang Ganczarski on the morning of 11 April 2002 to acquire permission for his suicide bombing later that day against the Djerba Synagogue that massacred nearly two-dozen civilians, most of them foreign tourists. Salahi maintained contact with Mehdi until at least May 2001. Mehdi is also assessed by German authorities to have been involved in the Djerba terrorist strike. Mehdi was later convicted for trying to bomb the French island of Reunion in 2003. Mehdi told French intelligence that he “frequently attended meetings“ hosted by Salahi where al-Shibh and Jarrah were present between 1997 and 1999.

Salahi moved to Canada, arriving in Montreal on 26 November 1999, because he had been unable to secure permanent residence in Germany, according to Siems. This was coincident with the execution phase of the “millennium plot,” and Salahi attended the same mosque, Al-Sunna, as Ahmed Ressam, the Algerian would-be bomber of LAX. Ressam left Montreal for Vancouver 17 November 1999. Ressam was arrested by a diligent U.S. border guard on 14 December.

Though Salahi’s Guantanamo file says he met Ressam on 30 November 1999, German intelligence later assessed that there was “no indication that Ressam and … Salahi knew each other.” It might even be true. But by Siems’ own account the separation was by degrees. Salahi not only attended the same mosque as Ressam but “had connections with several” of what Salahi called Ressam’s “bad friends,” Siems writes, and Salahi’s family were so worried about the circle their son was moving in that they asked him to come home.

Left out of Siems’ narrative is Mohsen, whom Salahi appears to have followed to Montreal. Salahi was staying at Mohsen’s home. When Mohsen was later arrested in Israel, he had in his possession a document containing Salahi’s name and Ressam’s telephone number, a concrete link between the Montreal and Duisburg cells that placed Salahi at the nexus of the two. But exactly “how, and for what, remain unexplained,” which allows for what one might call a defence-by-gap.

Unsurprisingly, Siems also leaves out of his account the evidence that suggests that Salahi had retained close contact with Ahmed Laabidi, a former roommate at Al-Sunna Mosque, who financed the Montreal cell. Laabidi, as cell leader, allegedly answered to, and received his cash from, al-Walid. Salahi does not deny that “he was asked to transfer money for Laabidi,” but the U.S. government was not able to definitively show he actually did so, again providing space for Salahi and his defenders to argue that there is nothing to explain here. Salahi did once admit that Laabidi had used his bank account to launder al-Qaeda funds and that he had seen Laabidi give money to Raouf Hannachi, another member of the Montreal cell, but Salahi later took back these statements.

In this context, Salahi’s move to Mauritania a month later looks less like a family order and more like Salahi fleeing town since he was, by his own admission, “scared to hell” after his first interrogations on 20 and 21 December 1999 by Canadia police in Mohsen’s home.

On 21 January 2000, Salahi went back to Mauritania. During the trip, Salahi was detained twice because of his alleged role in the millennium plot, by police in Senegal for four days when he landed in Dakkar and then by the Mauritanian government after the Senegalese extradited him. Salahi was released in Mauritania on 14 February 2000.

While Siems presents a picture of Salahi back in Mauritania as settled and just getting on with his working life, the Guantanamo file adds some details that suggest otherwise. “On 19 April 2000, [Salahi] and his wife attempted to travel to Germany to escape the negative notoriety that resulted from his arrests,” says the JTF-GTMO file, “but he was arrested upon his arrival[,] … held in German custody for three weeks, and was returned to Mauritania, where his passport was confiscated by government officials.” It was then that Salahi took a job as a maintenance engineer with the National Medical Dahoud in Nouakchott, the Guantanamo file states, where he was working on 11 September 2001.

After the extraordinary Boumediene ruling in 2008 that allowed civilian courts to interfere in the military detentions process, a further ruling in 2010 dealt specifically with Salahi, setting up a very high threshold for what counts as making an individual dangerous, and ordered his release. The court inter alia found that Salahi “probably did not even know about the 9/11 attacks [in advance]”. While Salahi and his defenders took the 2010 ruling as vindication, since at certain stages the U.S. government had believed Salahi had some role in facilitating the 9/11 attacks, this statement can just as easily can be interpreted the other way around: the best that can be said of Salahi is that he probably did not know about the 9/11 atrocity before it happened.

The JTF-GTMO file describes Salahi’s detention. Salahi was taken into custody on 29 September 2001 for questioning, and released on 12 October after his home had been raided. FBI agents were present during these interrogations. Salahi was re-arrested on 20 November 2001. It is often said that at this point Salahi “voluntarily” gave himself into authorities. That is not correct: there was nothing voluntary in Salahi’s trip to the Mauritanian intelligence ministry that day, as he himself explains in his book. What it appears to refer to is that Salahi allegedly drove himself there—under police supervision. On arrival, Salahi was questioned with the FBI present.

After just over a week, on 28 November 2001, during which there are several joint Mauritanian-FBI interrogations, Salahi was shipped to a “black site” in Jordan for eight months. On 19 July 2002, Salahi was moved to Bagram for a fortnight, and finally arrived at the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay on 4 August 2002, being processed in the day after.

In Custody

Salahi is one of the very few detainees to have been subject to a specialized interrogation routine at Guantanamo because of his assessed significance, a result of the capture of al-Shibh in September 2002, and his resistance to questioning—a capability, incidentally, Salahi himself testifies to in his book. It is presented by Salahi as the stoic act of a righteous man but it looks very like tradecraft even through the redactions.

Salahi’s harsh interrogation program began in August 2003.

Salahi claims that the guards at Guantanamo threatened to bring his mother to the facility, despite the “logistical difficulties her presence would present in this previously all-male environment,” which he interpreted as a threat of gang-rape. Additional claims were made by Salahi of being put in stress positions, which aggravated his sciatica; of being “sexually molested” by having a female interrogator grind against him and whisper suggestive things; of having the temperature in his cell manipulated, being deprived of sleep, and bombarded with loud music (Drowning Pool’s “Bodies,” specifically).

Salahi presents a picture of routine humiliation and beatings at Guantanamo, even by the middle of 2004 when Salahi has become compliant. (Salahi claims that this compliance was actually him telling the guards what they want to hear.)

Salahi describes two instances of unambiguous torture, one from before Guantanamo and one while there.

While in Jordan, Salahi claims he was dragged into a boat, where his captors put him in “a kind of thick jacket which fastened [him] to the seat”. This was then tightened to a point that he had difficulty breathing.

Additionally, says Salahi:

They stuffed the air between my clothes and me with ice-cubes from my neck to my ankles, and whenever the ice melted, they put in new, hard ice cubes. … [E]very once in a while, one of the guards smashed me, most of the time in the face. The ice served both for the pain and for wiping out the bruises I had from that afternoon. Everything seemed to be perfectly prepared. … I finally had gotten used to the routine, ice-cubes until melted, smashing. … The Arabo-American party was over, and the Arabs turned me over once more to the same U.S. Team.

In August 2003, Salahi writes of being in an interrogation room in Guantanamo when a three-man commando team with an Alsatian dog burst in, punched him in the face and kept hitting him:

One of them hit me hard across the face, and quickly put the goggles on my eyes, ear muffs on my ears, and a small bag over my head. … They tightened the chains around my ankles and my wrists; afterwards, I started to bleed. … Thanks to the beating I wasn’t able to stand, so [redacted] and the other guard dragged me out with my toes tracing the way and threw me in a truck, which immediately took off.

The beating party would go on for the next three or four hours before they turned me over to another team that was going to use different torture techniques. … [E]ach took a side and started to punch me and smash me against the metal of the truck. One of the guys hit me so hard that my breath stopped … After ten to fifteen minutes, the truck stopped at the beach, and my escorting team dragged me out of the truck and put me in a high-speed boat. … Inside the boat, [redacted] made me drink salt water … It was so nasty I threw up. …

The goal of such a trip was, first, to torture the detainee and claim that “the detainee hurt himself during transport,” and second, to make the detainee believe he was being transferred to some far, faraway secret prison. We detainees knew all of that; we had detainees reporting they had been flown around for four hours and found themselves in the same jail where they started.

Reuel Marc Gerecht, a former officer in the Directorate of Operations in the CIA, has written that “one must assume that any Muslim the CIA deposits into the hands of the Egyptian or Jordanian security and intelligence services will be tortured”. The doings of Amman’s “fingernail factory” are notorious, and there is every possibility that Salahi’s description about his treatment in Jordan is accurate.

The prosecutor in the Salahi case, Lt. Col. V. Stuart Couch, withdrew charges because he believed the evidence was inadmissible in court—quite a different thing to it not being true, or useful as actionable intelligence. Nonetheless it leaves open the possibility that Salahi’s allegations of abuse should not be wholly dismissed, but they deserve rather more scepticism.

The head of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Centre in the post-9/11 period, Jose Rodriguez, wrote a book (reviewed here) explaining the process for aggressive interrogation. The intention was to “disabuse detainees of the notion that they were able to control the situation,” Rodriguez writes, and impress upon them that the “only way to ensure some semblance of order in their lives was to cooperate. … Detainees were brought to a state of cooperation with the least amount of discomfort because gratuitous pain is counterproductive.”

The enhanced interrogation techniques (EITs) were applied in a graduated way:

[O]nly after a detainee showed that he continued to be noncompliant and after specific written authorization from Agency headquarters would a more aggressive technique be used. …

Initially, those who refused to cooperate were subjected to “conditioning” techniques. These included sleep deprivation, dietary manipulation, and enforced nudity.

If detainees continued to be unwilling to cooperate, they might receive some of the next level of procedures, which were known as “corrective” techniques.

These included things like “the attention grasp,” in which the detainee was grabbed on both sides of the collar … Also used was the “facial hold,” in which the interrogator would place a hand on each side of the individual’s face and hold his head immobile … Finally, there was the “insult slap,” in which the detainee was slapped somewhere between his chin and the bottom of his earlobe. The interrogators were trained and instructed to make sure their fingers were spread out so that the slap was not particularly painful. The intent was to surprise and humiliate the detainee, not to hurt him. More than one detainee expressed surprise when slapped … The al-Qa’ida training manual told them that Americans would treat them with kid gloves.

If the detainee still refused to cooperate, then, and only then, would he be subjected to what were called “coercive” techniques.

These included being placed in a confined space … or a smaller box in which there was enough room to sit but not stand. … Another technique that was used from time to time was called “wall standing.” The detainee was directed to stand four to five feet from a wall with his arms in front of him and his fingertips resting on the wall. It was intended to produce fatigue but not pain.

Finally, should all else fail, with specific headquarters approval, the detainee might be “waterboarded.”

As can be seen, this was a highly regulated system. It was improvisational, to a large degree, and there were mistakes aplenty. But the techniques were not applied indiscriminately: EITs were applied to 39 of the 119 people the CIA took into custody, and just three people were waterboarded.[1] And when an open-handed slap requires written permission, savage beatings of the kind described by Salahi, particularly in the routinized way he describes rather than by an individual, seem outlandish.

There are also other reasons to suspect Salahi’s testimony, other than his continued mendacity about his background. At one point Salahi claims he forgot his wife’s name because of the severity of the beating; in reality it is much more likely that he was simply caught lying by interrogators using a question to test his cooperativeness. Some of the incidents described in his book are literally incredible.

Additionally, there is the Qaeda manual for waging full-spectrum—not simply military—insurgency found in the Manchester home of Nazih al-Ruqai’i (Abu Anas al-Libi) in the year 2000. The first instruction for al-Qaeda members facing trial is that they should “insist on proving that torture was inflicted on them,” and should accuse specific officers if possible. Salahi confesses to trying to learn the names of his captors—though only because he “didn’t want those people to have the upper hand over any of my brothers,” apparently.

Conclusion

Salahi’s book became a New York Times best-seller, and it is easy to see why. In that terrible moment, in the shadow of 9/11, decisions were made under public pressure to get results. Later, once a sense of safety returned and the public learned what had been done in its name, it recoiled, as did the opinion-makers. It was insisted they hadn’t meant that, because in any case that doesn’t work. Salahi’s account buttresses this feeling.

Salahi also very skilfully exploits the West’s own guilt about its imperfections, its inherent self-criticism, and its unease with a situation of war that doesn’t confirm to Kantian legalism.

Salahi, in his book, presents U.S. soldiers as drawn from the lower orders, victims themselves who are given orders to victimize others. The just-following-orders part allows the cheapest of allusions to Nazi Germany, and moral equivalence more generally is employed so that President Bush is said to have been on a “holy war” and the U.S. government to have “committed more barbaric acts than the terrorists themselves.” The U.S.’s troubled racial history is fairly crudely weaponized, both in the micro form of a black prison guard who is apparently treated as subordinate, and at a societal level, with unequal rates of incarceration held to prove America isn’t democratic and the hysterical claim is made that in America “Christian terrorist organizations such as Nazis and White Supremacists have the freedom to express themselves and recruit people openly … But as a Muslim, if you sympathize with the political views of an Islamic organization, you’re in big trouble.”

Prisoners held at Guantanamo are held under the laws of war: the intention is to keep them off the battlefield and exploit them for intelligence, not to find just enough evidence to secure a criminal conviction, as in civilian courts. The latter counter-terrorism method was tried all through the 1990s and ended with 9/11. Salahi exploits this ambiguity of indefinite-but-not-infinite detention, and the repetitive nature of interrogations, to present a picture that allows for facile references to Kafka and even the Salem witch trials. The reality is closer to the reverse, as Salahi’s own release and the tragic mishandling of prisoners in Iraq shows: legalism was prioritized and enemies were released during an ongoing war, protracting the conflict and increasing the risk to human security.

The comforting myth that pain and discomfort cannot produce accurate information is one that Salahi plays on very heavily. The CIA of all agencies knows the falsity of this. The kidnapping and horrific torture of the CIA station chief in Beirut, William Buckley, by Iran/Hizballah led to the disclosure of information that “basically closed down” the CIA’s operations in Lebanon. The Soviets’ use of torture, and the threat of torture, was ruthlessly effective during the war with Hitler’s Germany. Nonetheless, civilized states should not use torture, and that was the whole intention of the United States.

The EITs were, as John Yoo has exhaustively explained, specifically designed to provide additional tools for gathering intelligence that did not cross the legal line banning torture. There is much controversy about this, of course. The waterboarding decision, because of the Japanese and Vietnamese precedent, is very difficult to defend; there were also instances of line-crossing, and—which is completely different—simple criminal behaviour, such as at Abu Ghraib, which were punished to degrees that some feel were insufficient. It can be added that, whatever one thinks about the effectiveness of the EIT program, there is no doubt it was deeply politically damaging.

Of Salahi himself, an oft-quoted line is from Colonel Morris Davis, who became chief prosecutor for the Guantánamo military commissions in 2005: “When Salahi came in, … [h]e reminded me of Forrest Gump, in the sense that there were a lot of noteworthy events,” but ultimately “there’s a lot of smoke and no fire.” This is not the conclusion drawn by U.S. intelligence professionals, for whom Salahi is “a key al-Qaeda recruiter”.

Salahi’s return to Mauritania is deeply worrying. Al-Qaeda thought the Mauritanian government could be drawn into a non-aggression pact, and even if Nouakchott acted in the best of faith its capacity is limited. The Iranian theocracy released al-Walid in 2012—one of many al-Qaeda “prisoners” released by Tehran. Whether Salahi reconnects with al-Walid, time will tell. Provided Salahi does not, again, take up armed jihad, he will not register among the alarming number of Guantanamo recidivists, but he can serve that cause in many other ways: by facilitation, finance, proselytizing, or media work.

At Guantanamo, Salahi admitted that he was willing to be a suicide bomber; on the outside he is likely to be a martyr of another kind. The former Guantanamo inmate who agitates for the closure of the facility, while lying about the character of themselves and the other inhabitants, is now a well-established figure in the West, and Salahi literally wrote the book.

 

*          *          *          *          *

 

Notes

[1] The three people waterboarded were: Zayn Husayn (Abu Zubaydah), a senior al-Qaeda facilitator; Khalid Shaykh Muhammad, the architect of the 9/11 atrocity; and Abdurraheem al-Nashiri, an operative who had been involved with al-Qaeda’s Yemen operations. Some have tried to stretch the definition of waterboarding to include EITs applied to ten more terrorist captives.

 

Originally posted at The Henry Jackson Society

Post has been updated

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