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The Real Moazzam Begg

1:01 PM, Feb 25, 2014 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
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After Begg’s release from Guantanamo, he penned a book in which he freely admitted that he was a jihadist. He admitted connections to all sort of al Qaeda characters in the book. Begg also helped spread jihadist propaganda, including that of Anwar al Awlaki, who was eventually killed in a U.S. drone stroke. Begg even became the poster boy for a short-lived first-person shooter game in which players would be able to blast their way out Guantanamo, killing virtual American soldiers in the process. (Public outrage in the U.S. led the company behind the video game to halt production.)    

None of this stopped Begg from becoming a rock star among anti-Gitmo activists and lawyers. A few activists here and there, such as Amnesty International’s Gita Saghal and Salman Rushdie, objected to the alliance with Begg. But their calls were by and large ignored.

When the ACLU wanted to produce a video showing the supposed horrors of Guantanamo, it made Begg its star witness.

When Osama bin Laden was killed, the Washington Post solicited an op-ed from Begg, who taunted the U.S. by arguing that the al Qaeda master made America “tremble.”

And when the Obama administration sought to build additional support for resettling detainees in Europe, Begg was seen as an ally. A leaked January 14, 2010, State Department cable describes Begg’s “barnstorming” tour throughout Europe and reads:

Mr. Begg is doing our work for us, and his articulate, reasoned presentation makes for a convincing argument. It is ironic that after four years of imprisonment and alleged torture, Moazzam Begg is delivering the same demarche to [Government of Luxembourg] as we are: please consider accepting GTMO detainees for resettlement. Despite Begg's optimism, the Prime and Foreign Ministers continue to publicly state that the [Government of Luxembourg] supports the closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility and stands ready to assist from a financial and logistical perspective, but cannot accept detainees for resettlement.

Few people have bothered to investigate Begg’s story, to weigh the evidence and consider whether or not he was telling the truth. His post-Guantanamo activism on behalf of known al Qaeda actors has been similarly ignored.

It is unlikely that that any of this will change even if Begg is convicted of new terrorism charges.

Begg’s story is the one so many want to believe.

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

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