Months after an Obama-created parole board rubber stamped the release of three Al Qaeda operatives with ties to Osama Bin Laden and the 9/11 attacks, it is freeing two more longtime captives from the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, including Bin Laden’s bodyguard. The bodyguard, a Yemeni named Sanad Yislam al-Kazimi, was once a “forever prisoner” too dangerous to ever be released from the top security compound. In fact, the same panel, known as the Periodic Review Board (PRB), that just determined he is not a threat, rejected his petition for release a few years ago, ruling that his detention remained necessary to protect against a continuing significant threat to the security of the United States. “In making this determination, the Board considered the detainee’s close and prolonged relationships with senior alQa’ida members, including after 9/11,” the PRB wrote in its assessment. “The Board also noted the detainee’s military training, his probable familial ties to al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), his history of violence and non-compliance toward the guards and interrogators, and his vague plans for post-detention life.”
That was in 2016, around five years after then President Barack Obama established the Military Commission’s parole board to review whether continued detention of certain individuals at Gitmo remains necessary. The PRB consists of one senior official from the departments of Defense, Homeland Security, Justice, and State as well as Joint Staff and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. The Gitmo parole process does not consider the legality of a prisoner’s detention under laws of war, but rather the threat posed by each detainee. Judicial Watch covers all the PRB hearings live via satellite video feed at the Pentagon and has traveled repeatedly to Gitmo to observe the military tribunal trials of 9/11 terrorists. This is hardly the first time the PRB reverses its own decision to release Gitmo captives, apparently as part of a Biden administration initiative to clear out the facility that houses the world’s most dangerous Islamic terrorists, including 9/11 masterminds Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM), Ramzi Binalshibh, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, and Mustafa Ahmed Adam al Hawsawi as well as USS Cole bomber Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri. The prison has around 37 detainees, down from a peak of nearly 700 in 2003.
Al-Kazimi has been incarcerated at Gitmo since 2004. He was a member of Al Qaeda who served about nine months as a bodyguard for Bin Laden in Afghanistan, according to his Department of Defense (DOD) profile, which also says he associated with the terrorist group’s senior figures. In 2002 al-Kazimi joined an Al Qaeda cell in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and was charged with smuggling explosives to use in an attack against American or British ships docked in the country, the DOD file states. He also served as a financial facilitator for the Yemen-based Al Qaeda branch and was likely aware the money he facilitated would be used for terrorist attacks. Al-Kazimi has “voiced extremist and anti-US sentiments” during his time at Gitmo, the military file says, and he has been highly non-compliant, committing repeated assaults against detention staff. His sons live in Yemen and have possibly joined Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), according to U.S. officials.
Besides al-Kazimi, this month the PRB also approved the release of Afghan Haroon al-Afghani, a commander that fought U.S. forces alongside Al Qaeda and the Taliban who was also previously denied release by the PRB. His DOD file says he served as a link between senior Al Qaeda members and other anti-coalition fighters and that he worked as a courier for Al Qaeda military commander Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi, provided logistics support to fighters aligned with Al Qaeda and collaborated on operational matters with leaders of other anti-coalition groups. In its September 2020 ruling the PRB wrote that al-Afghani’s detention remained necessary to protect against a continuing significant threat to the security of the United States. The document also says al-Afghani was not forthcoming about his pre-detention activities and refused to acknowledge prior admissions and Al Qaeda associations with high-level members. A year later the same panel reversed course, writing in this month’s release order that al-Afghani is no longer a threat citing his “lack of a leadership role in extremist organizations and his lack of a clear ideological basis for his prior conduct.” The PRB also considered support programs that evidently will help al-Afghani upon his release, specifically a laughable Afghan government project called “Life after Guantanamo.”