Byline: Bill Gertz, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
A detainee released from the prison at Guantanamo Bay three years ago is blamed for a deadly suicide bombing in Iraq, highlighting the danger of releasing hard-bitten terrorists from the U.S. facility in Cuba.
Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell confirmed that Abdallah Salih al-Ajmi, who was held at Guantanamo for more than 3 1/2 years, likely carried out the suicide bombing last month in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul.
The Pentagon plans to ask the Kuwaiti government to determine how the terrorist released to them in 2005 was able to carry out the Mosul bombing, Mr. Morrell said.
Civil liberties groups and some congressional lawmakers have called for the Bush administration to close the Guantanamo prison, saying that holding unconventional conflict combatants there is inhumane and unconstitutional. Some critics have compared the Guantanamo prison to the notorious Soviet gulag political prison-camps system.
Douglas Feith, a former undersecretary of defense for policy, said al-Ajmi's case highlights the difficulty of holding detainees during the war on terrorism. The Pentagon had used three criteria for holding terrorists prisoner in Cuba: their intelligence value, whether they could be prosecuted, and the danger they posed. "If you had someone who was moderately dangerous, we tried to mitigate the danger with an agreement from the home country," he said.
Al-Ajmi was "obviously somebody who was judged to be considered somewhat dangerous but that there was a sense you could mitigate the danger with an agreement," he said.
The suicide attack by the former detainee shows the difficulty of holding terrorists.
"There is a serious problem here in that the law was developed for a conventional conflict and we're dealing with an unconventional conflict," Mr. Feith said. "You don't want to let extremely dangerous people go, but holding people until the war is over has obvious problems."
Rep. Peter Hoekstra, Michigan Republican and ranking member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said the attack by al-Ajmi "demonstrates the difficulty of the detainees in Gitmo."
"Once again a detainee may have been given the benefit of the doubt, released, and returned to the battlefield and attacked innocent people and our troops. These are dangerous people," Mr. Hoekstra said.
Mr. Morrell said it is not certain that the man named al-Ajmi, who conducted one of several terrorist bombings in Mosul, was the former detainee or whether another person with the same name carried out the car bombing.
If proved that al-Ajmi was the former detainee, "sadly it will not be the only case of terrorists who have been released or transferred from that facility going on to commit attacks again."
"In the instances where there have been transferred detainees who have returned to the battlefield, we obviously have to address that with the receiving government," Mr. Morrell said. "In this case, we will be discussing the matter with the Kuwaitis. …