THE RELEASE OF DANGEROUS DETAINEES FROM GUANTANAMO BAY; Congressional Record Vol. 156, No. 15
(Extensions of Remarks - February 02, 2010)

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[Extensions of Remarks]
[Pages E129-E131]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]




         THE RELEASE OF DANGEROUS DETAINEES FROM GUANTANAMO BAY

                                 ______
                                 

                           HON. FRANK R. WOLF

                              of virginia

                    in the house of representatives

                       Tuesday, February 2, 2010

  Mr. WOLF. Madam Speaker, I submit for the Record a letter that I 
received earlier today from Deputy National Security Adviser John 
Brennan in response to my many letters to him and the President on the 
release of dangerous detainees from Guantanamo Bay to unstable 
countries. In Mr. Brennan's letter, he confirms that detainee 
recidivism has dramatically grown from 13 to 20 percent over the last 
year. The administration has been suppressing this information for many 
months and I have urged the White House on several occasions to release 
it to the public.

[[Page E130]]

  He also challenges my concerns about the release of a detainee named 
Ayman Batarfi, who is connected to Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda's 
anthrax program. I also submit for the record a response to Mr. 
Brennan's letter by Mr. Thomas Joscelyn that was published on The 
Weekly Standard's Web site.

                                              The White House,

                                 Washington, DC, February 1, 2010.
       Dear Representative Wolf: I am writing in response to 
     questions you have raised in letters to the President on 
     November 2, 2009, November 5, 2009, November 12, 2009, 
     December 18, 2009, December 29, 2009, and January 12, 2010, 
     as well as during a briefing I provided to Members of the 
     House of Representatives on January 13, 2010. In particular, 
     you have posed questions relating to the closure of the 
     detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay and the 
     Administration's counterterrorism efforts in Yemen. Let me 
     take this opportunity to address these issues in greater 
     detail.
       The professional assessment of our military commanders and 
     civilian leaders at the Department of Defense is that closing 
     the detention facilities at Guantanamo is a national security 
     imperative in the war against al-Qa'ida. Secretary Gates, 
     Admiral Mullen, and General Petraeus have all stated that 
     closing Guantanamo will help our troops by eliminating a 
     potent recruiting tool. All three officials prosecuted this 
     war under the previous Administration and continue to do so 
     today.
       With respect to detainees transferred abroad, this 
     Administration has instituted the most robust review process 
     ever applied to detainees at Guantanamo, including halting 
     the ``stove-piping'' of classified information and requiring 
     unanimous interagency decisions prior to every transfer. On 
     January 22, 2009, the President signed Executive Order 13492, 
     directing the consolidation of information from all agencies 
     relating to Guantanamo detainees. As a result, Federal 
     agencies for the first time have unprecedented access to a 
     wide range of classified information collected from across 
     the government.
       The Executive Order also directed a comprehensive 
     interagency review of all individuals at Guantanamo. To 
     implement this directive, a task force was established with 
     more than 60 career prosecutors, agents, analysts, and 
     attorneys from across the government, including civilian, 
     military, and intelligence officials. Every decision to 
     transfer a detainee to a foreign country during this 
     Administration has been made unanimously by all agencies 
     involved with the review process after a full assessment of 
     intelligence and threat information. This includes the 
     Department of Defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the 
     Office of the Director of National Intelligence, as well as 
     the Departments of State, Justice, and Homeland Security.
       A critical factor in considering the transfer of detainees 
     abroad relates to security conditions in the receiving 
     country. The situation in Yemen presents significant 
     challenges in this respect, and as a result, we have been 
     deliberate about transferring detainees there. The previous 
     Administration transferred 13 detainees to Yemen, and this 
     Administration has repatriated 7 to date. Although more than 
     90 Yemeni detainees remain at Guantanamo, the Administration 
     temporarily suspended repatriations to Yemen earlier this 
     month because of the specific security conditions and threat 
     environment in that country.
       During the briefing on January 13, you made allegations 
     that one detainee repatriated to Yemen had been involved in 
     weapons of mass destruction. As it has done in every case, 
     the task force thoroughly reviewed all information available 
     to the government about this individual and concluded that 
     there is no basis for the assertions you made during this 
     session. I am attaching a classified addendum to this letter 
     that addresses your concerns directly.
       We believe that significant improvements to the detainee 
     review process have contributed to significant improvements 
     in the results. According to the most recent report to 
     Congress pursuant to section 319 of the Supplemental 
     Appropriations Act of 2009, the Intelligence Community 
     assesses that 20 percent of detainees transferred from 
     Guantanamo are confirmed or suspected of recidivist activity. 
     This figure includes 9.6 percent of former detainees who are 
     confirmed recidivists and 10.4 percent of former detainees 
     who the Intelligence Community suspects, but is not certain, 
     may have engaged in recidivist activities. I want to 
     underscore the fact that all of these cases relate to 
     detainees released during the previous Administration and 
     under the prior detainee review process. The report 
     indicates no confirmed or suspected recidivists among 
     detainees transferred during this Administration, although 
     we recognize the ongoing risk that detainees could engage 
     in such activity.
       The Administration has worked aggressively since President 
     Obama's inauguration to fully support Yemeni stability. 
     Although previous punitive policies left Yemen with little 
     U.S. financial and military support, this Administration is 
     attempting to correct this problem by significantly 
     increasing our financial and military support to the 
     Government of Yemen. In addition to assisting Yemen in 
     countering al-Qa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula, we are 
     examining political and fiscal reforms to improve the 
     security conditions in Yemen and ensure that gains are 
     lasting.
       These issues are among the most challenging we face as a 
     nation, and the Administration is committed to executing a 
     careful and comprehensive approach that promotes the national 
     security of the United States. I look forward to working with 
     you in the future on these and other issues.
           Sincerely,
                                                  John O. Brennan,
             Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and 
     Counterterrorism.
                                  ____


                [From the Weekly Standard, Feb. 2, 2010]

                      Brennan Is Wrong on Batarfi

                          (By Thomas Joscelyn)

       Jake Tapper of ABC News has obtained a copy of a letter 
     John Brennan, the assistant to President Obama for homeland 
     security and counterterrorism, sent to congressional leaders 
     Monday night. Brennan defends the administration's efforts to 
     close Guantanamo in the letter. While conceding that the 
     number of former detainees who are ``confirmed'' or 
     ``suspected'' of returning to terrorism has risen to 20 
     percent, Brennan says that all of the recidivists were 
     released during the Bush years. Brennan goes on to argue that 
     the Obama administration has made ``significant improvements 
     to the detainee review process,'' implying that it is being 
     more careful in determining which detainees can be 
     transferred or released than its predecessor.
       In the middle of his letter, Brennan inserts this curious 
     paragraph: During the briefing on January 13, Representative 
     Wolf made allegations that one detainee repatriated to Yemen 
     had been involved in weapons of mass destruction. As it has 
     done in every case, the task force thoroughly reviewed all 
     information available to the government about this individual 
     and concluded that there is no basis for the assertions 
     Representative Wolf made during this session. I am attaching 
     a classified addendum to this letter that addresses these 
     concerns directly.
       Brennan is referring to a Yemeni named Ayman Batarfi, who 
     the administration repatriated to Yemen in December of last 
     year. (I've written about Batarfi previously. See, for 
     example, here and here.)
       Brennan's characterization of Batarfi is surely wrong. 
     Congressman Wolf got it right. And you don't need classified 
     information to see that Wolf has the better of the argument.
       The key is Batarfi's involvement in al Qaeda's efforts to 
     develop anthrax. Intelligence authorities at Guantanamo 
     consistently and repeatedly found that Batarfi played a role 
     in al Qaeda's anthrax program while working for al Wafa--a 
     ``charity'' that is really a front for al Qaeda. (Al Wafa has 
     been designated an al Qaeda entity by both the U.S. and the 
     UN.) During a hearing at Gitmo, Batarfi conceded he worked 
     for al Wafa.
       An October 31, 2005 memo prepared for Batarfi's first 
     administrative review board (ARB) hearing at Gitmo says 
     Batarfi ``met a Malaysian microbiologist in Kandahar at the 
     Haji Habbash guesthouse'' in mid-August 2001. ``The 
     microbiologist wanted to equip a lab and train the Afghans to 
     test blood.'' The authors of the memo added: ``The same 
     microbiologist was involved in developing anthrax for al 
     Qaeda.''
       A November 28, 2006 memo contains the same allegations.
       So does a December 28, 2007 memo, which adds (see the 
     bottom of the page here and the top of the page here) that 
     Batarfi ``told another al Wafa employee to purchase four to 
     five thousand United States Dollars worth of medical 
     equipment for that individual''--that is, ``the 
     microbiologist who was involved in developing anthrax for al 
     Qaeda.''
       The same December 28, 2007 memo also includes this 
     sentence, in reference to Batarfi: ``The detainee was 
     identified as being a past participant in Al Qaeda's anthrax 
     program and as having ties to al Qaeda.''
       Thus, on one hand, we have John Brennan's claim that 
     ``there is no basis for the assertions'' that Congressman 
     Wolf made about Batarfi's involvement in al Qaeda's WMD 
     efforts and, on the other hand, we have the three memos 
     written by authorities at Guantanamo over the span of more 
     than two years.
       Each of those three memos references Batarfi's involvement 
     in al Qaeda's anthrax program.
       There is more.
       The U.S. government's unclassified files on Batarfi discuss 
     his ties to a ``Malaysian microbiologist'' who was involved 
     in trying to produce anthrax for al Qaeda. This individual is 
     not named in the files, but is most likely al Qaeda's anthrax 
     scientist, Yazid Sufaat.
       Sufaat's background makes it clear why Gitmo officials were 
     so troubled by Batarfi's ties to him.
       Sufaat hosted two 9/11 hijackers at an apartment in 
     Malaysia during the week they attended a key terrorist 
     meeting. Sufaat also played host to Zacarias Moussaoui, who 
     was scheduled to take part in the 9/11 attacks or a similar 
     follow-on plot prior to his arrest in August 2001.
       Sufaat was recruited to run al Qaeda's anthrax program by a 
     top al Qaeda operative named Hambali, who is currently a 
     high-value detainee being held at Guantanamo. Hambali 
     introduced Sufaat to al Qaeda's number two, Ayman al 
     Zawahiri. Zawahiri wanted to jumpstart al Qaeda's program for 
     developing anthrax and asked Hambali for assistance in 
     finding a suitable scientist.

[[Page E131]]

       Sufaat fit the bill. In 1987, he graduated from California 
     State University at Sacramento with a bachelors degree in 
     biological sciences and a minor in chemistry. In 2001, Sufaat 
     put his degree to work for al Qaeda. The 9/11 Commission 
     found that he spent ``several months attempting to cultivate 
     anthrax for al Qaeda in a laboratory he helped set up near 
     the Kandahar airport,'' which was then a key facility 
     controlled by Osama bin Laden.
       Batarfi met Sufaat during this time period.
       During one of Batarfi's ARB hearings, the following 
     allegation was read aloud: ``In mid-August 2001, [Batarfi] 
     met a Malaysian microbiologist in Kandahar at the Hap Habbash 
     guesthouse. This microbiologist wanted to equip a lab and 
     train the Afghans to test blood.''
       Batarfi did not deny the allegation, instead he offered 
     this answer: ``He was a student, he was not a microbiologist. 
     He wanted to complete his studies and he asked me [for help]. 
     He was only here for four months and had wanted to learn from 
     the people in the hospital how to used (sic) blood-testing 
     equipment. He asked me if he could purchase this medical 
     equipment from Pakistan because in Afghanistan there were not 
     any facilities to purchase it. I told him we could purchase 
     it through [the] al Wafa Office and donate it to the hospital 
     instead of you getting the money from yourself.''
       One of the board members then asked, ``What kind of medical 
     equipment?'' Batarfi responded: ``It was [a] centrifuge, anti 
     placenta for blood groupings; it was [an] autoclave for blood 
     spacement. It was very simple equipment. He said it was 
     approximately $5000.''
       Later, during that same ARB session, the following 
     allegation was read: ``The Detainee told another al Wafa 
     volunteer to purchase four to five thousand United States 
     Dollars worth of medical equipment for the Malaysian 
     microbiologist.''
       Again, Batarfi responded: ``. . . I told the Malaysian 
     microbiologist, if you want to purchase the $5000 worth of 
     items for the lab it is better to purchase it through al Wafa 
     and you give the money to Afghanistan to me and then send it 
     to Pakistan because it is unsafe.''
       Note that Batarfi did not deny meeting with the ``Malaysian 
     microbiologist,'' who is most likely Sufaat, or that he 
     authorized al Wafa's purchase of lab equipment for him. 
     Instead, he claimed that the microbiologist was only a 
     ``student'' who ``wanted to complete his studies.'' Moreover, 
     Batarfi said the equipment was for supposedly innocuous 
     blood-testing.
       But Sufaat was no student at the time. Sufaat had graduated 
     from California State years earlier. And al Qaeda tasked 
     Sufaat with finding a way to manufacture anthrax, which is 
     not an assignment that would be given to a mere student. 
     Batarfi's ties to Sufaat are particularly troubling because, 
     after the September 11 attacks, U.S. authorities found that 
     al Qaeda's biological and chemical weapons programs were far 
     more advanced than previously suspected. It is certainly 
     plausible, if not likely given the allegations made against 
     Batarfi while he was at Gitmo, that the equipment Batarfi 
     agreed to purchase for Sufaat was part of this program--
     possibly to test blood for anthrax infections.
       Batarfi was aware of how serious the allegations concerning 
     Sufaat were. During the same hearing, Batarfi protested:
       ``They put my case with the Malaysian guy because he was a 
     microbiologist. But now I found they claim he was [in the] 
     anthrax field. So I did not know anything about this charge. 
     He was a student who did not complete his studies and he was 
     in Afghanistan for only four months to work with the 
     technicians about the lab test.''
       Thus, Batarfi's own testimony indicates he met with and 
     approved the purchase of equipment for al Qaeda's anthrax 
     scientist. Batarfi's denials were only tailored to convey his 
     own supposed ignorance of what was really going on. But there 
     is no reason we should take Batarfi's excuses at face value. 
     Batarfi's denials are tissue-thin.
       Indeed, Batarfi made a number of similar admissions in the 
     context of hollow denials during his hearings at Gitmo. 
     Batarfi admitted he purchased cyanide, but claimed it was for 
     dental fillings. He admitted he worked for al Wafa, but 
     claimed the al Qaeda-designated charity wasn't really an al 
     Qaeda front. Batarfi admitted that he met with bin Laden in 
     the Tora Bora Mountains in November 2001. But, Batarfi 
     claimed, he sent a letter to someone (he does not say to 
     whom) asking to meet with the ``head of the mountain'' and, 
     somewhat magically, just happened to get a face-to-face sit 
     down with the world's most wanted terrorist--at Tora Bora, in 
     November of 2001--you know, when the whole world was looking 
     for him. This was the second time Batarfi claims to have 
     accidentally met bin Laden. The first time came at a funeral 
     in Kabul when, again, bin Laden just happened upon the scene. 
     Batarfi also admitted he stayed at various al Qaeda and 
     Taliban guesthouses, but says he didn't realize they were 
     facilities associated with Osama bin Laden at the time. 
     Finally, Batarfi met the Taliban's health minister in 2001 
     because, well, that's just the sort of thing an al Wafa 
     employee would do.
       The bottom line is this: Congressman Wolf has good reasons 
     to think Batarfi was involved in al Qaeda's anthrax program. 
     Brennan says he has a classified assessment showing 
     otherwise. The Obama administration should release it, so we 
     can see how the detainee task force reached this conclusion. 
     Did the task force take Batarfi's empty denials at face 
     value?
       In the meantime, there is plenty of evidence in the 
     unclassified files, which are freely available online, 
     showing that Brennan is wrong.

                          ____________________