Disconnecting the Dots, Part 2
The Obama administration should appeal a district judge’s habeas ruling.
7:40 PM, Jul 20, 2010 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
In short, Judge Kessler agreed with the government that Mohammed was recruited by al Qaeda at extremist mosques in London, traveled to Afghanistan with the assistance of al Qaeda’s recruiters, and stayed in an al Qaeda guesthouse in Afghanistan. Incredibly, in Judge Kessler’s mind, this somehow does not add up to Mohammed being a part of al Qaeda – as if he could travel half around the world under al Qaeda’s auspices for a reason other than serving al Qaeda.
The D.C. Circuit Court’s ruling in Al-Adahi provides a clear rebuke to Kessler’s reasoning. On behalf of the three-judge circuit court panel, U.S. Senior Circuit Judge A. Raymond Randolph wrote (emphasis added):
This parallels Mohammed’s case precisely. Mohammed was recruited by al Qaeda and then stayed in an al Qaeda guesthouse in Afghanistan. For Judge Kessler, this should have been “powerful” and “overwhelming” evidence indicating that Mohammed was a part of al Qaeda.
Third, Mohammed’s absurd cover story is strong evidence that he was hiding his nefarious activities. Judge Kessler writes:
Judge Kessler did not buy his story, finding it was “entirely implausible.” Of course it is. Judge Kessler went on to demonstrate, correctly, that Mohammed’s tale is just as ridiculous as it sounds at first blush. It does not survive any measure of scrutiny – no one knew anything about this mysterious Swedish woman, including Mohammed or his al Qaeda handlers.
But Judge Kessler missed an obvious point. In Al-Adahi, Judge Randolph noted it is a “well-settled principle that false exculpatory statements are evidence – often strong evidence – of guilt.”
According to memos prepared at Gitmo, Mohammed traveled to Pakistan on June 2, 2001, and continued on to Afghanistan shortly thereafter. He was detained by Pakistani officials in December 2001. What was Mohammed doing in Afghanistan for six months?
If U.S. intelligence officials used Judge Kessler’s methodology, they would be unable to conclude the obvious: that Mohammed was in Afghanistan as a part of al Qaeda. Mohammed cannot offer any other reasonable explanation for what he was doing in Afghanistan, and neither could Judge Kessler.
Fourth, Judge Kessler’s analysis of the evidence is highly speculative and accepts outrageous “torture” claims made by other detainees at face value.
The government did present evidence that Mohammed trained at al Qaeda’s notorious al Farouq camp and went on to fight alongside al Qaeda and Taliban forces. Judge Kessler dismissed this evidence, mostly for specious reasons.