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The Obama Administration’s Troubling Amnesia Regarding Germany

What was the president thinking when he asked the Germans to take prisoners from Guantanamo?

by
John Rosenthal

Bio

June 22, 2009 - 12:03 am
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The Obama administration is reportedly still trying to convince Germany to accept Guantánamo detainees who have been cleared for release. An earlier attempt to get Germany to accept some or all of the famous Uighur detainees failed. This was presumably due to German reluctance to offend China, which wants the men repatriated to face terror charges. In the meantime, the German Interior Ministry has made clear that Germany will only accept detainees who have some “connection” to Germany.

Now the Obama administration has proposed two detainees who are supposed to have such a “connection.” According to a report in the German news magazine Focus, one of the two men is a Tunisian who entered Germany illegally in 1996 and applied for asylum under an assumed name. Focus reports that the man lived in Frankfurt and was known to the local police as a drug-dealer and petty criminal. Faced with expulsion, he left Germany for Pakistan in 1999. The man is supposed to have received weapons training at an al-Qaeda camp in Afghanistan. The German news magazine Der Spiegel identifies him as Rafiq Bin Bashir al-Hami.

The second man is reportedly a Syrian national and he has an even more interesting résumé than the first. Focus reports that he appears in a 2001 al-Qaeda video, in which he presents himself as a candidate for “martyrdom.” Der Spiegel identifies the man as Abd Al Rahim Abdul Rassak Janko. Der Spiegel adds that the video in question was found in Afghanistan in the ruins of the house of al-Qaeda military chief Mohammed Atef and that Janko appears in the video “alongside” none other than Ramzi Binalshibh, one of the principal facilitators of the 9/11 attacks. Der Spiegel cites the information provided by American envoy Daniel Fried to German authorities as the source for its report.

In declassified hearings conducted at Guantánamo, Janko has admitted to having made such a video, but claims to have done so under duress. (For the hearing transcripts, see here, pp. 3620-3633; and here, pp. 23143-23158.) In the declassified portion of Janko’s Guantánamo files, there is no mention, however, of his having had contact with Binalshibh. Janko has also admitted to receiving arms training in an al-Qaeda camp.

It is not clear from the Focus and Spiegel reports what Janko’s connection to Germany is supposed to be. Apart from a statement by the detainee that he once visited the German Embassy (in the United Arab Emirates) to seek asylum, there is no mention of Germany in the declassified portion of Janko’s Guantánamo files. There is, however, a tantalizing allusion to claims that Janko once met with a not-further-identified “Western” intelligence agency. (See here, p. 572.)

Here, in any case, are some other persons with known connections to Germany:

Mohammed Atta

Hamburg cell member, 9/11 plot leader, 9/11 suicide pilot.

According to Germany’s leading daily Die Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (January 12, 2003), German domestic intelligence had Atta and other members of the Hamburg cell under observation beginning as early as 1999.

Ziad Jarrah

Hamburg cell member and 9/11 suicide pilot.

Marwan Al-Shehhi

Hamburg cell member and 9/11 suicide pilot.

Ramzi Binalshibh

Hamburg cell member and chief facilitator of the 9/11 attacks from German soil.

According to a 2003 Spanish indictment, German intelligence had Binalshibh under surveillance as late as July 2001, when he traveled from Hamburg to Tarragona in order to meet with Atta and make final preparations for the 9/11 attacks. (See Juzgado Central de Instruccion no.005, Madrid, Sumario (Proc. Ordinario) 0000035 /2001 E, p. 322.)

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