Former US Military Interrogator: Release al-Odaini from Gitmo

June 21, 2010

By Matthew Alexander, former U.S. Senior Military Interrogator

The importance of releasing Mohammed Hassan al-Odaini cannot be overstated.  This isn’t about one innocent man that a federal judge ordered released on May 26, 2010.  This is about who we are as Americans. As the judge ruled, the US government has:

kept a young man from Yemen in detention in Cuba from age eighteen to age twenty-six.  They have prevented him from seeing his family and denied him the opportunity to complete his studies and embark on a career. The evidence before the Court shows that holding Odaini in custody at such great cost to him has done nothing to make the United States more secure. There is no evidence that Odaini has any connection to Al Qaeda.

Mohammed Mohammed Hassan al-Odaini remains detained in Guantánamo despite being cleared for release.

What the judge didn’t say is that holding al-Odaini actually makes the United States less safe.  How?  When Americans live up to the accusations of Al Qaeda, namely that we don’t uphold the principles upon which our country was founded, we hand Al Qaeda a powerful recruiting tool.  Imagine an enemy holding an American citizen for eight years without charges and then, after admitting he is innocent, refusing to release him?  Compare the U.S. response to recent detentions of U.S. citizens in Iran and North Korea.

Our greatest leverage in fighting terrorism is our ability to dissuade vulnerable populations from turning to crime (terrorism) as a remedy for personal adversities.  When we abandon our principles in favor of indefinite detention without charge, and worse, for detention after proven innocence, we have shifted the balance to favor Al Qaeda’s recruiters and the result is that America is less safe.

Help me and Amnesty International in calling for the immediate release of Mohammed Mohammed Hassan al-Odaini.  Restore America’s strength by helping us return to the rule of law.  ‘Winning’ in this conflict is not defined by stopping terrorist attacks.  It’s defined by adherence to our values.  To release Odaini is to stand up for the basic principles of humanity – principles that are ingrained in our own Constitution.