They’re Setting All The Terrorists Loose!

January 23, 2009

From today’s NY Times:

“The emergence of a former Guantánamo Bay detainee as the deputy leader of Al Qaeda’s Yemeni branch has underscored the potential complications in carrying out the executive order President Obama signed Thursday that the detention center be shut down within a year.

The militant, Said Ali al-Shihri, is suspected of involvement in a deadly bombing of the United States Embassy in Yemen’s capital, Sana, in September. He was released to Saudi Arabia in 2007 and passed through a Saudi rehabilitation program for former jihadists before resurfacing with Al Qaeda in Yemen.”

Apparently the rightwingosphere is having a field day with this – President Obama is going to let all the Terrorists loose and they’re going to rebuild the Army of Darkness.

To be frank, I’m not sure exactly how this is such a critique of Obama’s policies. First of all, Obama hasn’t done anything yet except to end torture, stop the military tribunals, and begin a long process of closing Guantanamo. We don’t know what the disposition is going to be of suspected terrorists that are currently at Guantanamo Bay. Second, al-Shihri was released under the Bush administration. He was released when all the Bush policies of “enhanced interrogation techniques” and secret prisons and military tribunals were in place. So whatever mistakes were made, they were made in spite of all the policies that the right says cannot be abandoned without leading to disaster. Apparently torture and no right to habeus corpus are no protection. Third, nobody in the Obama administration is calling for throwing the doors to Guantanamo open and letting everyone go.

I’d say more about this, but there’s nothing in the article (or anywhere else I’ve looked) to explain why al-Shahri was handed over to Saudi Arabia in the first place (it was the Saudis who let him go). Again, though, I don’t see how torturing or not torturing people or granting them due process would make any difference in cases like this. Presumably one could say that al-Shahri was let go because he couldn’t be tried in the courts, however (a) there’s no evidence that’s true; and (b) the Bush administration wasn’t worried about granting people legitimate trials, yet they let this guy go anyway.

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