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Reconnecting the Dots

3:14 PM, Mar 1, 2011 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
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In reality, al Qaeda and Taliban guesthouses are secure facilities that are used to send al Qaeda operatives to and from terrorist training camps and the frontlines for fighting. This has long been known in counterterrorism circles, but it took the courts some time to figure it out. And that process of figuring it out was greatly assisted by the D.C. Circuit Court, which has rightly concluded that a detainee’s stay at terrorist guesthouses is strong evidence that he was part of al Qaeda or the Taliban.

In other cases, district judges have weighed the government’s evidence in a manner that defies basic logic. In Mohammed al-Adahi v. Obama, for instance, the government presented evidence that a Guantanamo detainee had stayed in al Qaeda guesthouses, attended an al Qaeda training camp, and had ties to Osama bin Laden. District judge Gladys Kessler considered each piece of evidence in isolation, arguing that each individual piece of evidence did not justify al Adahi’s detention in and of itself, and therefore granted his habeas petition. The D.C. Circuit Court, in an opinion authored by Judge Randolph, rectified this by giving Judge Kessler a tutorial in “conditional probability analysis.” The D.C. Circuit Court explained “that although some events are independent (coin flips, for example), other events are dependent.” That is, if one event occurs, then this makes other events “more or less likely.”

Judge Randolph’s approach is called “connecting the dots.” In writing the D.C. Circuit Court’s opinion in al Adahi, therefore, Judge Randolph reconnected the dots, undoing the D.C. District Court’s dissembling.

Finally, the Times laments the case of five Uighur Gitmo detainees, who supposedly “are not enemies, let alone enemy combatants” but have declined to be resettled in the Pacific island nation of Palau “because they have no connection to the island.” The irony of the Uighurs’ decision to stay at Guantanamo instead of being freed in a tropical environment is lost on the Times. Perhaps, contrary to countless Times editorials, Guantanamo isn’t so bad after all. And the Times overlooks the fact that the Uighurs “have no connection” to mainland America either, but that is where their attorneys want them freed.

We’ve covered this ground numerous times before, so there is no need to recount all of the facts about who the Uighur detainees are again. Suffice it to say that they were trained by Abdul Haq, who the Obama administration designated a top al Qaeda terrorist. Haq has since succumbed to a Predator missile in northern Pakistan. But before his demise he could not have legally entered the United States. The Times, however, would have no problem with Haq’s trainees being freed in the U.S. since the Uighur’s appeal of a D.C. Circuit Court ruling “in no way threatens national security.”

Interestingly, the D.C. District Court opinion the Times defends does not recognize the importance of Abdul Haq and his training of the Uighur detainees – the key fact about them. (Full disclosure: I previously coauthored an amicus brief pointing out the Uighur detainees’ ties to known al Qaeda operatives.)

The Times would have readers believe that Judge Randolph is the villain here, standing in the way of the “vital judicial power to check undue use of executive power.” The truth is precisely the opposite.

Judge Randolph and the D.C. Circuit Court have checked the D.C. District Courts’ unreasonable approach to handling detainee matters.

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

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