Wrong jihadi, but rightly detained

No, they have not found another “wrongly arrested” prisoner in Guantanamo. Detainee Mustafa al-Aziz al-Shamiri wasn’t just some innocent cab driver in the wrong place at the wrong time.

But you might think that if you don’t read more than the headline:
Man held at Guantánamo for 13 years a case of mistaken identity, say officials.

Worse still, RawStory reprinted the same article with this headline:
Guantanamo prisoner has been held for 13 years despite being wrongfully arrested.

You do get closer to the truth when you open either link. The article opens: “Mustafa al-Aziz al-Shamiri was low-level Islamist foot soldier, not al-Qaida courier and trainer as had been believed.”

Note: It is legal to detain enemy soldiers during a war. That has always included foot soldiers.

All that’s happened is that he’s not as important as we thought he was. He’s still an admitted jihadi.

Some critics would, of course, want to imagine that his admission doesn’t count because it was made under duress. There are four problems with that. First, he wasn’t one of the two detainees who’d received the roughest treatment at Gitmo. He was never a CIA detainee at one of the “black sites.” He might have had his beard shaved off at Gitmo for six weeks, and possibly had his eight hours of sleep disrupted. Maybe they gave him cold cereal for breakfast instead of pancakes. Not pleasant, but not worth listening to all the fake outrage.

Second, look at his detainee file (as stolen from Wikileaks), and you’d see that he never confessed to what he was wrongly suspected of. It says, “Detainee has not acknowledged associations that have been documented through other sources.” So much for the “false confessions” scenario.

Third, he wasn’t just whisked off the street in Kabul. He was captured while fighting beside a bunch of other jihadis.

And fourth, his tribunal didn’t even mention the identity he was wrongly suspected of. He was properly detained on the basis of who he actually is.

Practically speaking, would he have been kept in Guantanamo for 14 years if we knew he was only a foot soldier?

Yes, probably so, but not because the government would have wanted to keep him. Had he been from Saudi Arabia instead of Yemen, he’d have been transferred to the Saudis’ jihadi rehabilitation program a few years ago. The Obama administration wanted such a program for detainees from Yemen, but that didn’t happen.

Other Yemenis at Gitmo had been released, but mostly only this year. It’s doubtful he’d have been among them.

So, we can tell the critics to put away their hankies.