Guantanamo Report Casts Pall Over Detainee Hearing

     WASHINGTON (CN) – Guantanamo Bay’s parole board met Thursday to consider releasing a high-value detainee who spent three years in a secret CIA cell before his decade without a charge at the Cuban prison camp.
     Mohammed Bashir bin Lap, also known as “Lillie,” entered CIA custody in 2003 after being captured in Thailand with several other Malaysian detainees. The three were sent to Guantanamo in 2006.
     Today bin Lap is one of 76 men who remains at Guantanamo without charge or trial. Some of the detainees have been held in custody for up to 14 years.
     The Obama administration has tasked a body called Periodic Review Board with determining which of the detainees are safe to release, but the venture is not risk-free.
     On the eve of bin Lap’s hearing before this board Thursday, Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., posted online an unclassified Defense Department report that details the alleged backgrounds of detainees whom the board has either already transferred or cleared for release from the prison.
     With the presidential election season heating up, Ayotte is among a group of Republicans who claim that the release process clears the way for former Guantanamo detainees to return the battlefield.
     These concerns spiked in June when the Washington Post reported that 12 released detainees were implicated in killing five U.S. service members and a U.S. civilian aid worker in Afghanistan.
     Denying culpability, officials with the Obama administration testified before Congress last month that the detainees in question had been released by the Bush administration. They said there is a more rigorous process in place now for assessing national-security risk.
     Such assurances have done little, however, to assuage the fears of Ayotte and many of her Republican colleagues.
     The senator’s report Wednesday represents a compilation, essentially, of unclassified U.S. government information about the detainees that is publicly available.
     The men are accused al-Qaida bomb makers, facilitators and bodyguards for Osama bin Laden. Some fought on the frontlines with the Taliban and al-Qaida, while others are low-level fighters and cooks.
     What the report lacks, however, is the mitigating evidence or statements in support of the detainees – materials that the review board considers in making release determinations.
     Detainees like bin Lap are likely among those about whom Ayotte is most concerned.
     According to his unclassified profile, bin Lap was a key lieutenant for senior al-Qaida leader Riduan Isomuddin, better known as “Hambali.” He allegedly trained at al-Farouq camp in Afghanistan and swore allegiance to Osama bin Laden.
     The United States says bin Lap, along with Mohd Farik bin Amin, were part of an abandoned plot to hijack airliners to crash into the tallest building in California. Both men are accused of facilitating money transfers to Hambali that may have been used to carry out the 2002 and 2003 attacks in Bali and Jakarta, Indonesia. Bin Amin had his parole hearing Tuesday.
     Identifying bin Lap by his internment serial number, the profile says “MY-10022 views America as an enemy of Islam, and he has spoken of his intent to fight and kill Americans, specifically U.S. soldiers.”
     “MY-10022 has not shown any regrets, and should he be released, most likely would engage in wars where he perceives Muslims are being oppressed,” the unclassified profile continues.
     Two anonymous military representatives for bin Lap offered a brief statement of support about the detainee, which Courthouse News viewed from the Pentagon in a closed-circuit feed.
     They said bin Lap would like to get married and start a family.
     “He has told us that he is not a threat to America, and his mindset has changed since the time before his capture,” one of them told the board, reading from a prepared statement. “If he were released, he would say good-bye to his old life, because he feels that he has lost so much since he has been detained.”
     Bin Lap’s loss apparently includes his parents, an older sister and friends.
     The clock for Obama to close the prison is winding down. Congress has barred the transfer of any detainees to the U.S., preventing the use of federal courts to try them.
     Though seven detainees are currently in the military commissions system, pre-trial hearings are moving at a snail’s pace and there are no trial dates on the horizon.
     The Periodic Review Board will issue a ruling on whether to release bin Lap within the next two months.
     The board is made up of one senior official from the Homeland Security, Defense, State and Justice Departments, and representatives from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Joint Staff.
     Detainees are cleared for release only after Defense Secretary Ash Carter is satisfied that the appropriate security assurances can be met by countries that agree to take them.
     According to a count by the Miami Herald, the board has cleared 32 detainees for release, and has determined that 17 of are still too dangerous to release.
     In their testimony before Congress last month, special envoy for Guantanamo closure at the Departments of Defense and State said that less than 5 percent of Obama-released detainees are confirmed of re-engaging on the battlefield.
     The number of detainees suspected of re-engaging is higher. According to the Director of National Intelligence, 8.3 percent of Obama-released detainees are suspected but not confirmed of re-engaging.
     Republicans have accused President Obama of trying to close the detention center at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base before he leaves office, no matter the cost to national security.
     Ayotte said in a statement that her report undercuts claims to “transparency” by the Obama administration.
     “The preeminent responsibility of the federal government is to keep the American people safe, yet the Obama administration’s misguided commitment to releasing detainees in order to eventually close Guantanamo unacceptably gambles with our nation’s safety,” Ayotte added.

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