The Blog

Al Qaeda's Civil Liberties Union

A look at the other terrorists embraced by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's ACLU lawyers.

6:25 PM, Nov 17, 2009 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

Another former detainee featured in the short film is Bisher al Rawi. The ACLU's narrator tells us he was detained in Gambia for no good reason and he just wanted to "open a peanut factory." That's not true. Al Rawi was detained because of his close relationship with Abu Qatada--a known al Qaeda cleric who has inspired jihadists for years and has accurately been described as "Osama bin Laden's ambassador in Europe."

In a memo prepared for al Rawi's combatant status review tribunal (CSRT), the U.S. government alleged that al Rawi helped Abu Qatada remain on the lam while British authorities searched for him. During his CSRT hearing, al Rawi conceded that Qatada is his "friend," that he helped find an apartment for Qatada, that he helped translate for him, and even that he transferred money from Qatada to the al Qaeda cleric's father. This money, U.S. intelligence officials alleged, may have been used to fund Palestinian suicide bombings.

There can be no doubt that al Rawi revered Qatada. During his CSRT hearing, he had the following back and forth with a member of his tribunal:

[Tribunal Member] Did you consider Abu Qatada to have any Islamic authority or any authority to issue a Fatwa?

[Al Rawi] Yes. People would come and ask him all the time. I would translate for him.

[Tribunal Member] Did he ever issue a Fatwa or Jihad against the United States, the United Kingdom, or any of its coalition partners?

[Al Rawi] I don't believe he has. He approves and encourages people to go to Jihad (holy war). He has worse things to say about a country like Jordon or our part of the world, than he does about the West. However, he doesn't say good things about the West either.

Naturally, al Rawi tried to portray his close working relationship with Qatada in a benign light. Al Rawi claimed that the al Qaeda cleric did not approve of the September 11 attacks and that he did not know of Qatada's al Qaeda ties.

But al Rawi's denials ring hollow. Qatada's extremist connections have long been known, even if the British were slow to act on them. And during his interrogations and debriefings, al Rawi was apparently more forthcoming about his relationship with Qatada. One memo prepared at Gitmo notes that al Rawi "was aware that [Qatada] traveled to Afghanistan and speculated that he met with Osama bin Laden." Al Rawi also "considers himself a fundamentalist" and "felt at war with the United States" even while he lived in London, U.S. intelligence officials alleged. U.S. officials also concluded that al Rawi was part of Qatada's jihadist indoctrination and recruitment program. At the end of the day, al Rawi's fealty to Abu Qatada cannot be denied. Al Rawi has conceded as much.

There is something especially twisted about the ACLU's promotion of Abu Qatada's protégé. Just recently it came to light that British officials are worried about Qatada's enduring, malicious influence even from behind bars. But while UK officials are attempting to limit Qatada's ability to disseminate his propaganda, the ACLU has decided to broadcast his protégé's anti-American claims all over the Internet.

Begg and al Rawi are not the only conspicuous former Gitmo detainees shown in the ACLU's video.

At the beginning of the production, several men are standing together as the narrator proclaims them all innocent. One of the men is Binyam Mohamed, who has admitted to training in an al Qaeda terrorist camp. U.S. intelligence believes Mohamed was en route to America to take part in an al Qaeda operation in 2002 when he was captured. Mohamed was most likely going to assist al Qaeda operative Jose Padilla in attempting to bring down apartment buildings using natural gas lines. The plot was conceived by senior al Qaeda leaders, including KSM.

Binyam Mohamed has become something of a false martyr in the UK, where every one of his claims of abuse is amplified repeatedly by the press. Yet, his al Qaeda ties have consistently been downplayed. This pattern is repeated by the ACLU, which includes Mohamed among its count of Gitmo detainees who were wrongly imprisoned and tortured but says nothing of his known al Qaeda associations or putative desire to kill Americans.

For years, the ACLU and like-minded organizations have pushed for federal trials of al Qaeda terrorists. That wish, which was also Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's, was granted (in part) by the Obama administration last week. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the ACLU's five clients, all 9/11 conspirators, would be tried in New York.

"For over 200 years our nation has relied upon a faithful adherence to the rule of law," Holder said, implying that the trials were necessary in order to keep America true to her legal heritage. This is nonsense, of course, as the Obama administration could have easily tried the five in lawful military commissions. In fact, the administration decided to do just that in the cases of five other Guantanamo detainees.

There must be another reason for the announcement. Holder's words were likely intended to echo those that have been repeated time and again by far-leftist organizations such as the ACLU.

But the ACLU cannot tell the difference between us and our enemies--as its own propaganda shows.

Therefore, it does not bode well for America's counterterrorism efforts that the Obama administration is in agreement with al Qaeda's useful idiots.

Thomas Joscelyn is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.