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Canada's Gitmo Dilemma

Six detainees seek refugee status north of the border.

11:00 PM, Feb 4, 2009 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
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Another current Guantanamo detainee who reportedly wants to relocate to Canada is an Algerian named Hassan (Ahcene) Zumiri. Like Slahi, Zumiri was involved with Ressam, the would-be millennium bomber. Zumiri and Ressam were, according to the U.S. government's unclassified files, personal friends.

Ressam told U.S. authorities that Zumiri gave him $3,500 (Canadian) and a video camera just before he left Montreal for Vancouver in late 1999. It was in a Vancouver motel room that Ressam built his car bomb. Obviously, the money and camera are suspicious gifts. The U.S. government has alleged that the money was for financing Ressam's plot and the camera was to be used for surveillance of the LAX airport.

Suspiciously, Ressam would later recant his allegations against Zumiri in a letter to a U.S. district court judge. Ressam claimed that Zumiri had borrowed the money and the camera from him, and neither was intended for use in the LAX plot. Ressam claimed that he initially made the allegations against Zumiri because he was in "shock" and suffered from a "severe psychological disorder."

It is not clear what Ressam's motivation was for sending the letter. He did not deny that he and Zumiri had exchanged cash and the camera. He only denied that the exchange had anything to do with the millennium plot. Ressam also tried to distance Zumiri from terrorism, in general.

But, the U.S. government does not believe that Zumiri is an innocent who just happened to assist an al Qaeda terrorist at the wrong time. The government's unclassified files include a host of allegations concerning both Zumiri and his wife. Zumiri spent several years living in Canada, during which time he and his wife were allegedly involved in a variety of illicit activities, including credit card fraud. But the U.S. government charges these criminal activities were part of Zumiri's terrorist career. Zumiri allegedly traveled on fraudulent passports, stayed in various al Qaeda guest houses en route from Canada to Afghanistan, had ties to al Qaeda's Algerian affiliate, and trained in an al Qaeda and Taliban terrorist camp in Afghanistan.

Zumiri was eventually captured by Northern Alliance forces in the Tora Bora region of Afghanistan in December of 2001. Tora Bora was, of course, a terrorist stronghold. Al Qaeda and Taliban members were ordered to retreat to there after the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan began in late 2001.

Zumiri's wife was also detained at some point. According to the U.S. government's files, she had in her possession $13,000 and "a mini-computer containing [the] addresses/telephone information of al Qaeda figures." Zumiri denies knowing anything about his wife's curious pocket litter.

A third Guantanamo detainee who reportedly wants to live in Canada is Djamel Ameziane. Like Zemiri, Ameziane is a native Algerian who spent several years living in Canada in the 1990's and reportedly wants to return there should he be freed. The U.S. government's unclassified files for Ameziane do not include as many troubling allegations as the files on Slahi and Zemiri. However, the files on Ameziane do include some important allegations that Canadian officials should consider.

The U.S. government alleges that Ameziane met a Tunisian recruiter at a mosque in late 2000. This Tunisian gave Ameziane "1,200 to 1,500 Canadian Dollars and told him to go to a guest house in Kati Parwan, Afghanistan," the unclassified files note. The government's files note that Ameziane described "the majority of boarders in the house" as "Taliban fighters," who were waiting for "training or resting after returning from the front lines."

Not just anyone can gain admittance to a Taliban guesthouse. Usually, recruits need a certified Taliban or al Qaeda member to vouch for their commitment and to certify that they are, in fact, a jihadist. This is a standard security protocol that both the al Qaeda and the Taliban employ. It limits the ability of spies and enemies to infiltrate the terrorist network. And if one does make his way into the jihadists' safe houses, then the man who vouched for the spy must answer to his superiors for allowing an enemy into their ranks. This provides an additional level of security.