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WASHINGTON – Even as the military and public outrage over President Obama’s decision to trade five top-level terror leaders held at the Guantanamo Bay prison for a soldier accused of desertion reverberated, a hearing was held by the U.S. Defense Department’s Periodic Review Board to consider release of another prisoner at the U.S. facility in Cuba.
“Even considering releasing yet another detainee would seem to show that the White House has learned nothing from the experience,” Clare Lopez, a top strategic policy and intelligence expert at the Center for Security Policy, told WND.
Lopez has spent much of her life on the front lines of the intelligence community fighting the likes of Taliban jihadi commander Fouzi Khalid Abdullah al-Awda.
“There is no excuse for even considering the release of jihadi fighters at this time, whose promises about leading peaceful civilian lives must be weighed against the Islamic commandment to lie to the infidel – as well as what is known of the significant recidivism rate for Gitmo detainees released earlier,” Lopez said Wednesday.
Awda has been held for 12 years at Gitmo, but he appeared via a video feed before a review board Wednesday in a northern Virginia office.
He insisted he went to Afghanistan to help with humanitarian efforts and “teach the Quran.”
The question was whether he should continue to be held at the U.S. prison for terror suspects or be handed over to Kuwait.
His attorney admitted there still would need to be security arrangements for Awda and that the U.S. government would need to have input.
But he said a year in a Kuwaiti prison, followed by periodically checking in with police, would allow him to reunite with his family.
Security analysts say he’s Awda is a threat because of his alleged involvement in training terrorists just before the 9/11 attack.
According to Defense Department officials and his official Guantanamo detainee profile, Awda traveled from his home in Kuwait to Afghanistan to train in terrorist camps and “possibly” fight alongside the Taliban and al-Qaida.
A government report on Awda notes he has refused to answer questions since 2007. It says that although officials are not confident he was close to Osama bin Laden, “were he to attempt to reengage in extremism, his most likely path would be through family members who are in contact with extremists in Kuwait, including his cousin, Adel Zamel Abd Al Mahsen Al Zamel … a former Guantanamo detainee who has attempted to communicate with [al-Awda] since his repatriation to Kuwait.”
Top intelligence officials say releasing the likes of Awda is yet another example of how the Obama administration disregards the safety of the citizens Obama took an oath to serve and protect.
WND reported recently that terror networks have advanced throughout the Mideast and Africa and grown exponentially in the last year alone.
“The whole point of Gitmo is to take jihadis off the battlefield and keep them off until the jihad wars are done,” Lopez told WND.
“Obviously, as the global jihad demonstrates – from Boko Haram in Nigeria to Ansar al-Shariah in Libya, Ansar Beit al-Maqdis in the Sinai, Al-Shabaab in Somalia, al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, to the Taliban, Haqqani network, HAMAS, Hezbollah, and Iran – the jihad wars are anything but over,” she said.
Lopez said the U.S. “remains at war with the forces of Islamic jihad that seek to destroy us.”
“Until we have defeated that enemy, release of jihadi prisoners is not only foolish, it is unnecessary under international rules of warfare,” she said.
Lawmakers say the five Guantanamo prisoners released over the weekend are high risk and were among the most sought-after detainees by Taliban leadership. There are now 149 detainees left at the U.S. prison in Cuba, which President Obama promised to close when he took office in 2009.
During his decade-plus in captivity, Awda has not been a passive prisoner. His personal representatives concede he’s been hostile, throwing “food and other items” and participating in hunger strikes. But they also say he has become much calmer in recent years, adding the initial adjustment to prison life “has not been easy.”