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The Washington Post’s Jihadist Op-Ed Contributor

9:45 AM, May 11, 2011 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
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As if to emphasize his point, Begg explains that the most popular book sold at the bookstore he ran in the UK was Abdullah Azzam’s Defence of the Muslim Lands. Azzam was a spiritual mentor to Osama bin Laden and influenced countless Muslims on their path to jihad.

A close read of Begg’s book also reveals that he (quite suspiciously) “visited the front line between the Taliban and Northern Alliance,” supposedly praised known al Qaeda commander Ibn Khattab as a “hero in the Muslim world” during an interrogation, trained at camps run by Jamaat-e-Islami (a Pakistani party that is known for both its extremism and its ties to al Qaeda), and was a “close friend” of Shaker Aamer.

In the UK and elsewhere, Aamer himself has built up quite a following. But American officials have refused to release him from Guantanamo because they have concluded that he was a “close associate” of Osama bin Laden who served al Qaeda in a variety of capacities. What, then, are we to make of Begg’s admission that Aamer “lived with me for a time in Kabul”?

The point is not to deduce guilt by association but instead to illustrate that by Begg’s own account he consorted with a constellation of nefarious actors (more than those listed here) and has extremist beliefs. There are more observations in this vein to be drawn from his book, which includes a forward written by the Washington Post’s own David Ignatius. The Post has consistently been unable to identify Begg as a jihadist with a disturbing past.  

Reason #3: The Department of Justice’s investigation failed to substantiate Begg’s claims of torture, and found that his damning confession at Gitmo was voluntarily given.

In his Washington Post op-ed, Begg writes: “Bin Laden did not incarcerate, torture, abuse and violate my body and dignity. He was in fact fighting the people who were doing this to me.” But there is no evidence that the Americans treated Begg in this manner either.

The Officer of the Inspector General at the DOJ investigated Begg’s claims of abuse at Guantanamo and found no evidence to back up his allegations. You can download a PDF copy of the OIG’s report here.  Begg has tried to use fictitious torture claims to explain away a damning confession he signed while held at Guantanamo. The confession was taken by FBI agents and criminal investigators – not the government-types who used coercive measures to extract intelligence from a small subset of detainees.

As the OIG report makes clear, several DOD investigations into Begg’s torture and abuse claims failed to find a shred of evidence to back up his tale. For example, on page 268 of the report we read:

According to an undated letter from the United States Principal Undersecretary of Defense to the British Embassy, the Department of Defense (DOD) conducted three investigations of Begg’s allegations of abuse and found no evidence to substantiate his claims.

Similarly, the OIG (see p. 276 of the report) “concluded that the evidence did not support the allegation that [FBI agents] coerced Begg into signing the statement.” The statement in question is Begg’s confession.

And what did Begg confess to, precisely? The full confession has not been released to the public. But on p. 275 of the OIG’s report we learn:

The OIG reviewed a copy of Begg’s signed statement dated February 13, 2003. The statement is eight single-spaced pages, signed by Begg, Bell, Harrelson, [note: Bell and Harrelson are the pseudonyms used for two FBI agents] and two DOD Criminal Investigative Division agents. Begg’s signed statement indicates, among other things, that Begg sympathized with the cause of al-Qaeda, attended terrorist training camps in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and England so that he could assist in waging global jihad against enemies of Islam, including Russia and India; associated with and assisted several prominent terrorists and supporters of terrorists and discussed potential terrorist acts with them; recruited young operatives for the global jihad; and provided financial support for terrorist training camps.

Far from being coerced into a phony confession, U.S. officials found Begg to be quite helpful. The OIG’s report reads (p. 268): “Many of the witnesses interviewed by the Army investigators said that Begg cooperated with military interrogators by assisting with translations, that Begg received comforts such as reading and writing materials, and that Begg never complained about mistreatment while he was at Bagram.”

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