Seen as a prelude to the White House honoring President Barack Obama’s pledge to shutter the controversial detention facility by January 22, Administration officials last week quietly repatriated twelve Guantanamo Bay detainees.
Among those released were six Yemenis, four Afghanis, and two Somalis, many of whom have been in American custody for the last eight years.
The decision to close Guantanamo–by transferring and trying in civilian court or repatriating detainees–was hailed by Democrats as the first and ultimately necessary step in dismantling the Bush-era detention policies, but has since been met with increasing public skepticism and softening support, with polls finding Americans opposing the closure by more than a 2-to-1 margin.
And with reports now confirming that two Gitmo prisoners were released into the custody of a failed state whose legitimacy the United Nations and our State Department refuse to acknowledge, this sense of apprehension promises to grow deeper still.
The two Somalis, Mohammed Sulaymon Barre and Ismael Arela, were entrusted into the custody of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) by Justice Department officials. A former British protectorate known locally as Somaliland received the pair and, according to local press accounts, immediately freed the former terror suspects.
At the time of his arrest in 2006, the Department of Defense identified Arela as a “courier between East Africa Al Qaeda (EEAQ) and Al Qaeda in Pakistan,” additionally maintaining he held a leadership role in an EEAQ-affiliated group known as the Somali Council of Islamic Courts. Arela was suspected of acquiring weapons and explosives and facilitating the entry of Al Qaeda members into Somalia by way of forging government documents.
Arela’s compatriot was suspected of supporting “forces engaged in hostilities against the United States” while operating an illegal money transfer operation from his home in Pakistan. A member of the Osama Bin Laden-linked al Wafa, a terrorist organization found on the State Department’s dubious Terrorist Exclusion List, and participant in a jihadist training camp in Afghanistan, Barre was found deserving of continued detention in 2005.
Still, Obama Administration officials released both Arela and Barre — and not into the custody of a stable government, but rather into an environment in which radical anti-American sentiment flourishes.
There is little doubt that Arela and Barre would be free of American custody were Americans appropriately apprised of their sordid past. Unfortunately, their repatriation was organized with the greatest of secrecy. But sleep safe at night, America, with the knowledge that President Obama will pacify his progressive base at all costs.
While Amateur Hour at the Obama White House will no doubt continue indefinitely, Americans can only hope these men–and indeed President Obama’s reckless future releasees–are not terrorist recidivists.