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CNN Whitewashes Gitmo Detainee’s Career

1:59 PM, Aug 26, 2011 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
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According to a leaked JTF-GTMO threat assessment, dated April 15, 2008, Fayiz al Kandari was repeatedly identified as an important al Qaeda figure by high value detainees in U.S. custody. Top al Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah identified al Kandari “as a scholar” and told American officials that he taught “at the Islamic Institute in Kandahar where [al Kandari’s] responsibilities included making audio tapes in 2001.” The tapes likely included propaganda for al Qaeda.

JTF-GTMO concluded that al Kandari was “an al Qaeda propagandist who produced pamphlets, jihadist recruitment video and audio tapes, and wrote newspaper articles paying tribute to the 11 September 2001 hijackers.” (Al Kandari may have even had limited foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks, according to the leaked JTF-GTMO file.) One of the tapes was entitled, “Jihad, Your Way to Heaven.” Thousands of copies were, according to one captured jihadist, distributed in Kuwait. Other recordings, distributed online, encouraged recruits to fight in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Chechnya, and elsewhere.

Zubaydah, who was subjected to waterboarding and other so-called enhanced interrogation techniques, told U.S. officials that al Kandari received weapons trained in the Khalden terrorist training camp in 1997. (The reporting from Zubaydah appears to be dated in the years after he was subjected to controversial interrogation techniques in 2002. Some of the reporting, for instance, apparently comes from 2005.)

Al Kandari himself admitted at some point in custody that he knew Zubaydah, who allegedly helped facilitate al Kandari’s travel.

Another high value detainee who identified al Kandari is Hassan Ghul. Ghul is best known for his role in giving up crucial intelligence that ultimately led to Osama bin Laden’s demise. Namely, Ghul provided intelligence on bin Laden’s chief courier, who years later was followed to bin Laden’s safe house in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

Along with Zubaydah, Ghul identified al Kandari as “a scholar who brought many religious books with him to Khaldan.”

Still another high value detainee who identified al Kandari is Mohamedou Slahi. According to the JTF-GTMO file, Slahi “reported [al Kandari] is well known among other JTF-GTMO detainees as a religious advisor,” who “held speeches in al Qaeda training camps and at the front lines.” Slahi was one of al Qaeda’s recruiters for the 9/11 plot and was one of the few detainees held at Guantanamo who was subjected to a specially approved, and harsh, interrogation program.

A fourth important Guantanamo detainee who identified al Kandari is an Egyptian named Tariq Mahmud Ahmad Al Sawah. In a separate leaked JTF-GTMO file, dated September 30, 2008, U.S. intelligence analysts identified Sawah as an al Qaeda explosives expert who designed, among other deadly inventions, the prototype for the shoe-bomb used by Richard Reid in his failed December 2001 terrorist attack.  Sawah “continues to be a highly prolific source and has provided invaluable intelligence regarding explosives, al Qaeda, affiliated entities and their activities,” according to the JTF-GTMO threat assessment.

Sawah identified al Kandari as a “religious instructor” at al Qaeda’s al Farouq training camp. Al Kandari allegedly trained there at the same as several of the 9/11 hijackers.

Behind the wire, JTF-GTMO’s analysts concluded, al Kandari continued to provide “religious” instruction by issuing fatwas that promote “suicide and deadly attacks against JTF-GTMO personnel.”

A Whitewash  

There is still more to al Kandari’s story, but CNN could not find the time to report any of it The same can be said for the other Kuwaiti detainees (both current and former) mentioned in Fenton's piece. Instead, Fenton questioned whether al Kandari “might remain or become a threat today if freed from detention.”

JTF-GTMO, on the other hand, concluded that al Kandari would be a “high” risk to security if freed. The leaked threat assessment of al Kandari reads:

It is assessed detainee will rejoin extremist elements if transferred. Detainee will continue to use his religious background to seek a leadership position in the Islamic extremist community. Detainee will continue to recruit and mislead youth to follow a path of militant jihad which will place them in environments opposing U.S. and Coalition forces.

You wouldn’t know that, or much of anything about Fayiz al Kandari, if you only read CNN.com’s article.

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

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