When it rains, it pours. The controversy over the release of five hardened Taliban prisoners to secure the return of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who by all accounts walked away from his U.S. military unit in 2009, is if anything growing. And yet word has materialized that the Obama administration is considering removing the shackles from yet another prisoner at Guantanamo Bay.
As noted by Fox News:
Fouzi Khalid Abdullah al-Awda appeared via a video feed before a review board Wednesday morning in northern Virginia, often smiling as his private counsel Eric Lewis made the case for his release.
Al-Awda has been held prisoner for 12 years. According to Defense Department officials and his official Guantanamo detainee profile, he traveled from his home in Kuwait to Afghanistan just before the 9/11 attacks to train in terrorist camps, and “possibly” fight alongside the Taliban and Al Qaeda.
Al-Awda maintains he only went to Afghanistan for “humanitarian reasons to provide alms for the poor and to teach the Koran.”
With the release of the five Taliban bigwigs over the weekend, the prison population at Guantanamo is down to 149 detainees. Ridding the facility of the remainder of captives would help the president salvage a promise he made via a signing statement early in his first term to close the prison.
Al-Awda’s attorney has argued that his client poses “no continuing significant security threat to the United States.” That may well be, but Obama needs to appreciate that the optics of such a move while emotions over the Bergdahl exchange are still running high could further damage his already battered reputation.
The periodic review board overseeing the case now has 30 days to make a determination. If it decides al-Awda should not be released, he will appear before another review board in December.