Murphy's Law: The Usual Suspects

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September 28, 2009: So far this year, the U.S. has released over 5,000 suspected terrorists it was holding in Iraq. Since then, dozens of them have been killed carrying out terror attacks, or arrested by Iraqi police for being part of terrorist groups. Iraqi and American counter-terrorism warned that a wholesale release of American held terror suspects would get people killed. But letting all those guys (they were mostly guys, and mostly Sunni Arabs) go was the politically correct thing to do, and off they went. Several hundred Iraqis, and a few Americans, at least, have  died as a result. So far.

It may never be known exactly how many of the released suspects returned to their murderous ways. All of them were held because there was some evidence of involvement in terrorist activity. But the Iraqi police would not accept all the American evidence or, in many cases, did not consider it sufficient for an Iraqi arrest warrant. All this was driven by the desire to empty the U.S. prisons, without overwhelming the Iraqi justice system. Mission accomplished.

Earlier this year, it was revealed that 14 percent of the 534 terrorism suspects released (to date) from Guantanamo had returned to terrorist activities. This was not a big surprise, except for the extent of the recidivism. There had long been reports of men released from Guantanamo backsliding. Before the Guantanamo revelation, Saudi Arabia announced that at least 14 of the 117 Saudis released from Guantanamo Bay, have returned to terrorist activities. There are still 22 Saudis at Guantanamo Bay, along with about 201 other hard core terrorists. Saudi Arabia said it would either rehabilitate, or keep jailed, those released from Guantanamo Bay. Thus the admission that 14 of these men returned to terrorism (and 11 are still on the loose) was embarrassing.

But overall, the rehab program has been a success. Many young men who were leaning towards a life of terrorism, responded to some good attitude adjustment. But this reminds the Saudis that the hard core will just go through the motions. The Saudis continue to have problems with "rehabilitated" terrorists returning to terror. But they consider it an acceptable cost, compared to the large number of men they persuade to give up terrorism (and often become an informer.)

The problem with the 223 remaining Guantanamo prisoners is that, if the prison is shut down (which the newly elected U.S. government promised to do), you have to send these guys somewhere. There is a lot of opposition to sending some prisoners back to their own country, because these guys are often wanted there for terrorist activity. But there is fear, among American officials, that these terrorists might be tortured or executed if prosecuted in their homelands. Other nations, including the United States, are unwilling to take these terrorist suspects. If 14 percent of them revert to terrorism, whoever approved letting in someone who carried out a terrorist act, would be in big political trouble. Sending the terror suspects to U.S. prisons is an uncertain solution, as the U.S. legal system is vulnerable to exploitation by terrorist suspects, and they could be freed, within the United States.

Some believe that Saudi Arabia, the homeland of many Arab Islamic terrorists, and much of the theology driving groups like al Qaeda, has developed ways to deal with the problem. The Saudis have arrested several thousand terrorist suspects, and released or rehabilitated most of them, in the last six years. But Saudi Arabia is a very different kind of place than the rest of the world. Since 2003, Saudi Arabia has foiled over a dozen attacks, mainly on oil facilities or foreigners working in the kingdom. While Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy, the royal family spreads the wealth around, thus most Saudis are opposed to al Qaeda attempts to damage the oil production and shipment facilities.

Saudi counter-terror efforts have to keep in mind that many Saudis support the idea that Islam is under attack (if only culturally) by the West, and that it's generally OK to kill non-Moslems abroad. Before 2003, Saudi Arabia tended to leave Islamic radicals alone as long as they did no harm in the kingdom. It's reverting to this, as an Islamic terrorist can live in the kingdom as long as they promise to behave. But that does not prevent these men from supporting terrorism elsewhere. Many other countries, particularly in Europe, are willing to operate this way. Terrorism supporters in these sanctuaries provide money and recruits for places where terrorists can operate more openly (Somalia, Sudan, Eritrea, Afghanistan, Yemen and Pakistan.)

The U.S. Department of Defense has kept secret its data on the released terrorism suspects who returned to killing, because knowledge of who they know is back at it, would reveal what they know and how they came to know it. The American counter-terror officials are desperate to guard their secrets, since secrecy about what you know, and how you know it, is crucial in tracking down and catching terrorists.

 

 


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