(TheRedWire.com) – During the 2020 presidential election, then-Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said he would move to close Guantanamo Bay (Gitmo) if elected president. It was an issue former President Barack Obama wanted to address but couldn’t. On Monday, March 7, several media outlets reported the Biden administration was preparing to release the 911 terrorist known as the 20th hijacker.
On Tuesday, the administration followed through and released 46-year-old Mohammed al-Qahtani from the US terrorist detention camp. The government returned him to his home country of Saudi Arabia after determining he was no longer a significant threat to the United States, despite his desire to kill thousands of Americans just over 20 years ago. Shockingly, not one of the three evening news broadcasts mentioned Qahtani’s release from Gitmo.
Terrorist Released from Gitmo
US investigators believed Qahtani was supposed to board United Flight Airlines 93 on September 11, 2001. However, on August 4, weeks before the worst terrorist attack ever to hit America’s shores, Qahtani unsuccessfully tried to enter the United States. Four months later, the US military caught him at the Afghanistan-Pakistan border and sent him to the US naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in February 2002.
A military review board admitted Qahtani was severely tortured during detention in 2001 and cited severe mental health as a reason for his return to Saudi Arabia. In 2001, investigators told senior government officials the terrorist wasn’t cooperating in answering questions using simple conventional questioning methods. Between November 2002 and January 2003, the government authorized interrogators to use long isolation periods, sleep deprivation, prolonged exposure to cold, and humiliation to force Qahtani to talk.
The interrogation was supposedly so extreme Justice Department officials recommended against putting him on trial. Some top Bush officials said the torture was abusive, coercive, and unnecessary. Ultimately, the Bush administration dropped the charges against Qahtani. Still, he’s been in Gitmo for over 20 years.
US Puts Conditions on Release
In February, the review board said a condition for Qahtani’s release should include Saudi Arabia’s agreement to place him in the country’s rehabilitation program for jihadists. Not only would the 20th hijacker go through a reform program, but he would also receive care for his mental illnesses, including suicide attempts over the last several years. Department of Defense (DoD) officials said Qahtani suffers from schizophrenia and needs psychiatric care.
The US government still houses 38 detainees at Gitmo. The Biden administration recently authorized 19 of them to return to their home countries or resettle elsewhere. The DoD said seven of them will receive reviews soon. Ten still await military trials for their involvement in the 911 terrorist attacks.
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