Is the British government preparing to make one of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s alleged co-conspirators a millionaire? The Washington Post reports on the British payouts to former Gitmo detainees as part of an out-of-court lawsuit settlement:
According to British press reports, Binyam Mohamed, a detainee who claimed he was tortured and questioned with queries supplied by British intelligence, could receive up to $1.6 million. Government sources dismissed such figures as "guesses," refusing to confirm or deny amounts. Mohamed said that after his arrest in Pakistan he was transferred by the CIA to Morocco, where he said he was tortured, including having his genitals slashed with a razor.
Even if Binyam Mohamed will not receive precisely $1.6 million (and the Post reports some ambiguity on the exact amount), any amount close to that is absurd.
According to U.S. intelligence and military officials, Binyam Mohamed conspired with Jose Padilla – who is in a U.S. prison – to attack America in 2002. They were most likely going to set an apartment building on fire under the guidance of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other senior al Qaeda operatives. At a minimum, Mohamed has admitted that he was trained at al Qaeda’s notorious al Farouq training camp in pre-9/11 Afghanistan.
The details of Mohamed’s career prior to his detention in 2002, as set forth by U.S. officials, are freely available in documents found online. But the Post did not provide any of those details. The newspaper did find the space to mention that Mohamed claims “he was tortured, including having his genitals slashed with a razor.”
As I reported yesterday, there is absolutely no evidence to substantiate this claim. After Mohamed was transferred from CIA custody to Guantanamo, U.S. medical personnel evaluated Mohamed. They did not find any scarring on Mohamed’s genitalia, which there would be if he had been repeatedly cut over a period of 18 months, as he claims. Mohamed also never complained to the doctors at Gitmo about any of this.
So the Post doesn’t bother to tell its readers who Mohamed really is, as set forth in U.S. military and intelligence documents, but the paper does repeat Mohamed’s outrageous torture claim.
We are left with a surreal turn of events. Mohamed was recruited by al Qaeda, trained by al Qaeda, allegedly conspired with senior al Qaeda operatives to attack America in 2002, and then detained. Mohamed was charged by a military commission in 2008, but the Obama administration decided to transfer him to the UK instead of trying him. Now he may become a wealthy man based in large part on his phony torture tales.
If that is not bizarre enough, the Post reports that the British are also ready to compensate a current detainee at Guantanamo. He has been deemed too dangerous to outright release by both the Bush administration and the Obama administration, yet the British are ready to pay him, too.
The Post reports (emphasis added):
One of the 16 to be awarded compensation is still in Guantanamo. Saudi-born Shaker Aamer had not yet brought action against the British government but was expected to upon his eventual release from Guantanamo. The government preempted this, officials said, by agreeing with his attorneys on a financial settlement. Officials said his release from Guantanamo was not part of the settlement, though they said they continued to negotiate with the United States for his release.
Aamer is married to a British woman and has four children in Britain. An interagency task force set up by President Obama that reviewed the files of all Guantanamo detainees recommended that Aamer not be released. He previously rejected an offer to be repatriated to Saudi Arabia.
Incredibly, the Brits have preemptively surrendered to Aamer while he is still in custody. He hasn’t even initiated a lawsuit against the UK government yet, but they are ready to pay up.
Who is Shaker Aamer? The Post doesn’t say. He has, like the former Gitmo detainees who sued the British government, a significant fan base inside the UK. Human rights organizations, lawyers, and others have portrayed him as an oppressed innocent.
That’s not what the Obama administration found, however. The Post notes that President Obama’s own interagency task force determined he was too dangerous to release. That hasn’t stopped the Brits from continuing to lobby on his behalf.
The British approached the Bush administration about Aamer in 2007. At the time, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Detainee Affairs Sandra Hodgkinson described the intelligence accumulated against Aamer in an interview with the Associated Press.
Hodgkinson said that Aamer shared an apartment with Zacarias Moussaoui in London in the 1990s. Moussaoui was later scheduled to take part in either the September 11 attacks, or a similar follow-on plot, at the time of his arrest in August 2001. Aamer had also met with convicted shoe bomber Richard Reid, Hodgkinson said, and received a stipend directly from Osama bin Laden.
“He has been involved in a lot of significant terrorist plots,” Hodgkinson explained.
Documents prepared for Aamer’s hearings at Guantanamo further outline the allegations against him. Aamer “was an advisor to Osama bin Laden and organizer at Tora Bora, Kandahar and Kabul,” a memo produced for Aamer’s first administrative review board hearing reads. Aamer “was very close to Osama bin Laden and would ask him for advice.”
He also allegedly acted as a “special interpreter” for bin Laden and knew the terror master’s “former representative…in the United Kingdom.” This may be a reference to Abu Qatada, who has been one of Osama bin Laden's chief representatives in the UK for years.
U.S. intelligence officials believe that Aamer was a member of an al Qaeda cell in London and that he compiled an extensive dossier of terror prior to his detention. Aamer allegedly trained and fought in Bosnia (a jihadist hotspot in the 1990s) and Afghanistan.
This is the man who the Brits have decided to pay, even while he is still detained at Gitmo. All he had to do is claim he was tortured and the British folded.
Thomas Joscelyn is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.