The LWOT: Gitmo Habeas Petition Granted, Bin Laden Threatens Americans

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AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images

Judge orders Guantánamo detainee released

In a two-sentence ruling given on Monday, U.S. District Judge James Robertson granted the habeas corpus petition and thus ordered the release of Mohamedou Salahi, who was arrested in Mauritania in 2001 and has been held as an enemy combatant at Guantánamo Bay for eight years. Robertson said he would explain his decision in a later statement.

The 9/11 Commission report describes Salahi, the 34th detainee ordered released on a habeas petition, as a high-level al Qaeda operative who advised three of the 9/11 hijackers when they were living in Germany before the attacks. An internal military investigation found Salahi was abused by U.S. officers at Gitmo — threatened with death by drowning and subjected to sleep deprivation. President Barack Obama’s administration is expected to appeal Robertson’s ruling.

Osama bin Laden warns United States not to execute 9/11 plotters

In a short audio tape played on al Jazeera on Thursday, Osama bin Laden said that if the United States executes Khalid Sheikh Mohammed — the self-professed mastermind of the 9/11 attacks — and his associates, al Qaeda will summarily kill any Americans it captures.

"The White House has expressed its desire to execute them. The day America makes that decision will be the day it has issued a death sentence for any one of you that is taken captive," bin Laden says, as translated in the New York Times. "Equal treatment is only fair. War is a back-and-forth."

The Obama administration is currently deciding where to try the detainees.

The New Yorker‘s Mayer fisks Thiessen

Jane Mayer — a New Yorker staff writer and the author of The Dark Side, a history of the legal war on terror in the George W. Bush administration (plus, for the record, my former boss) — reviews Marc Thiessen’s memoir Courting Disaster. She contends that the former Bush speechwriter’s account distorts the record to the point of disfigurement, and ultimately concludes that the book agitates for the creation of an independent commission to determine what really happened inside Guantánamo Bay — and the White House:

Thiessen’s effort to rewrite the history of the C.I.A.’s interrogation program comes not long after a Presidential race in which both the Republican and the Democratic nominees agreed that state-sponsored cruelty had damaged and dishonored America. The publication of "Courting Disaster" suggests that Obama’s avowed determination "to look forward, not back" has laid the recent past open to partisan reinterpretation. By holding no one accountable for past abuse, and by convening no commission on what did and didn’t protect the country, President Obama has left the telling of this dark chapter in American history to those who most want to whitewash it.

Sen. Graham distributes memo on framework for military commissions

On Tuesday, the Washington Post reported that Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has finished writing a legal framework for military commissions for the remaining Gitmo detainees and has circulated the draft legislation around the Hill and the White House. White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel has been working with Graham to create a bipartisan compromise on detainee trials — including contentious decisions on whether or how to allow indefinite detention and whether or how to create legislation regarding detainees’ habeas corpus petitions.

Saudi Arabia arrests 113 in connection with plot to bomb oil facilities

The Saudi Arabian government reported that it has arrested 113 alleged members of al Qaeda over a plot to bomb oil and security facilities. The country, the world’s largest oil producer, has headed off dozens of al Qaeda or other terrorist attacks over the years. It said the cells were connected with al Qaeda in Yemen.

Britain says 2012 London Olympics pose a terror threat

In one of three annual reports on security and counterterrorism released this week, Britain’s Home Office said the 2012 summer games, to be held in London, pose a major security threat — including the possibility of terrorists using high-speed boats to travel on the Thames or emulating the Mumbai attacks. Another report said that recent military efforts in Afghanistan and Pakistan had mitigated the threat from the Taliban and al Qaeda while the threat from terrorism grows in countries like Yemen and in Northern Africa. One further report described concerns over chemical, nuclear, and biological weapons. 

Trials and Tribulations

  • On Tuesday, Libya released three imprisoned leaders of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, a jihadist organization, in exchange for LIFG’s help in fighting al Qaeda.
  • Judge Baltasar Garzón of Spain — famed for his indictment of Osama bin Laden and investigation of Bush administration lawyers including John Yoo — might be indicted for abuse of power.
  • The United States has arranged for Georgia to accept three Gitmo detainees, leaving 185 remaining in the detention facility. Two Uighur detainees arrived in Switzerland this week.
  • Five Algerian men suspected of plotting a terror attack went on trial in Spain.
  • The Obama administration has named a new chief judicial officer to head the Office of Military Commissions, as the Obama White House gears up for its first Gitmo trials later this year.
  • The United States is considering expanding the prison at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan to act as a second detention facility, beyond Gitmo, for international terrorism subjects.
  • The investigation into the destruction of videotapes showing the "enhanced interrogation" of detainees by the CIA is nearing a conclusion.
  • The United States will allow India to interrogate David Headley, a U.S. man who pleaded guilty to helping to plan the 2008 Mumbai attacks.
Annie Lowrey is assistant editor at FP.