From Accuracy in Media’s Cliff Kincaid.
Al-Jazeera is spinning the newly released “Guantanamo files,” saying they show that dozens of enemy combatants detained at the U.S. facility at Guantanamo Bay were innocent. But that’s not what the previously secret documents say about one high-profile detainee, Sami al-Hajj, an Al-Jazeera journalist released from Guantanamo after legal intervention by his Soros-funded lawyer and protests from human rights and press freedom groups.
The controversial allegations against this former “enemy combatant,” as detailed in this document, are being denounced by al-Hajj’s lawyer as “false and discredited allegations.”
But they show that U.S. officials suspected high-level cooperation between Al-Jazeera and al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations. The charges also raise serious questions about why officials of the Obama Administration are currently praising the channel and cooperating with it.
The document says about Sami Muheidine Mohamed al-Haj, known as Sami al-Hajj and Prisoner 345, “His involvement as a money courier, involvement in the transfer of weapons and leadership position within the Muslim Brotherhood, along with his numerous connections made through Al-Jazeera and his pro-jihadist propaganda activities, illustrates his intelligence value.”
The detailed Department of Defense document, posted by WikiLeaks, is designated, “SECRET / / NOFORN / / 20330404DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE HEADQUARTERS, JOINT TASK FORCE GUANTANAMO U.S. NAVAL STATION, GUANTANAMO BAY, CUBA APO AE 09360”
Dated April 4, 2008, it recommends continued detention under Department of Defense control for the “Guantanamo Detainee” and is signed by U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Mark H. Buzby. Incredibly, however, al-Hajj was released only about a month later.
After the leak of this secret prisoner document, Al-Hajj was quick to appear on Al-Jazeera English, which is desperately seeking access to U.S. media markets, to once again proclaim his innocence. He says U.S. interrogators repeatedly asked about a link between Al-Jazeera and al-Qaeda.
Al-Hajj says he is happy that his file and others have been released by WikiLeaks. But the document appears to rely on interviews, interrogations, intelligence sources, and foreign intelligence services that cannot be dismissed out of hand. It’s true that some information is presented in the form of accusations that have not necessarily been verified. But other information is presented in an official manner and as a matter of fact.
It bluntly describes al-Hajj as a member of al-Qaeda and a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. What’s more, the documents include information indicating that Al-Jazeera had a “relationship” with al-Qaeda dating back to 1997 and that the channel was involved in Muslim Brotherhood operations targeting the U.S.
The specific charges about al-Hajj are more controversial and have been disputed. It says, “Detainee was believed to be a money courier for the UBL [Osama bin Laden] network…” It cites a foreign government service as saying that the detainee “was a personal acquaintance of UBL.”
“Detainee is reportedly a leader in the Muslim Brotherhood’s Shura council and was involved in plans and operations to distribute weapons, to include Stinger missiles, and financial support to a foreign government service,” it goes on. “It is assessed that detainee worked directly with Taliban Supreme commander Mullah Muhammad Omar to procure the missiles.”
In a nutshell, the document alleges that the U.S. was a target of this terrorist network through banking activities that could potentially launder money for terrorist activities. It says, “Detainee traveled to Qatar to meet with the head of al-Jazeera and Yusef al-Karadavi (a main proponent of the Muslim Brotherhood) to discuss creating a banking system controlled by the ‘brothers’ in European countries, the US, and Canada.” The “brothers” is a term used to describe members of the Muslim Brotherhood, the same group now poised to take power in Egypt after the “revolution” fed by Al-Jazeera’s incendiary coverage.
The name, “Yusef al-Karadavi” appears to be Yusuf al-Qaradawi, an Al-Jazeera Arabic personality known for his anti-American and anti-Israel views. He is considered the inspiration for the Muslim Brotherhood.
Whether al-Hajj actually met with him or not, Qatar sponsors and funds Al-Jazeera and hosted al-Qaradawi until his recent triumphant return to Egypt.
Not surprisingly, the 11-page document shows that the Department of Defense believed that al-Hajj could provide evidence of “Al-Jazeera associations with al-Qaida leaders and activities in support of Islamic militant groups,” as well as information about the Muslim Brotherhood “and its links to extremism.” The document confirms his status as an “enemy combatant” with a “high risk” to the U.S. and of “high intelligence value.”
Al-Hajj, of course, claims he was wrongly detained. The allegations against him were “baseless,” Al-Jazeera claimed on his behalf. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), Reporters Without Borders and Amnesty International had urged his release. He now covers human rights issues for the channel.
It has never been clear why he was released from Guantanamo. “With no explanation, U.S. military officials last May  flew him to his native Khartoum, and handed him over to Sudanese authorities,” noted Time magazine.
However, speculation has been that the transfer was made, after six years in custody, for foreign policy reasons having to do with U.S. relations with the Sudan, his native country. The bad publicity over holding a “journalist” in the terrorist detention facility could have been another reason.
His British lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, has a lot of clout, having been a former “Soros Senior Fellow” associated with the controversial left-wing billionaire, George Soros. Smith visited al-Hajj at Guantanamo in 2006. “His interrogators wanted only to turn him into an informant against Al Jazeera,” Smith claimed at the time.
Smith’s task, as a recipient of a “Soros Justice Fellowship,” was to “organize a coalition to promote enforcement of constitutional and human rights in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (home of a U.S. military base and prison); to produce a best-practices manual for litigating the cases before military commissions; and to write about a selection of Guantanamo prisoners.”
But it doesn’t seem to matter for Al-Jazeera whether the charges are true or not. The channel defended Al-Jazeera reporter Tayseer Alouni, who was charged, convicted and sentenced to prison in Spain for being an agent of Al-Qaeda. Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon alleged that Tayseer Alouni was involved with an al-Qaeda terror cell that helped plan the 9/11 attacks on the U.S. He had been a correspondent for Al-Jazeera in Afghanistan before the U.S. invasion after 9/11.
The New York Times did not spin the documents in the same way as Al-Jazeera. It reported, “The documents show that a major reason a Sudanese cameraman for Al Jazeera, Sami al-Hajj, was held at Guantanamo for six years was for questioning about the television network’s ‘training program, telecommunications equipment, and newsgathering operations in Chechnya, Kosovo, and Afghanistan,’ including contacts with terrorist groups. While Mr. Hajj insisted he was just a journalist, his file says he helped Islamic extremist groups courier money and obtain Stinger missiles and cites the United Arab Emirates’ claim that he was a Qaeda member. He was released in 2008 and returned to work for Al Jazeera.”
His “file” is absolute dynamite at a time when Al-Jazeera is currying favor with the U.S. media establishment.
Even the Times’ description is insufficient, however, for it fails to note that other sections of the 11-page document on the Al-Jazeera correspondent indicate that U.S. military authorities were extremely interested in the channel’s “newsgathering operations” because they were accurately perceived as a front for al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups. After all, as the document notes, it was a matter of special interest how the channel was obtaining videos of Osama bin Laden, sponsor of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
“During his employment with UBC and al-Jazeera,” the document says, “he made numerous contacts with high-level extremists to include leaders of al-Qaida and the Taliban.” The UBC was the United Beverage Company, based in Qatar and linked by U.S. officials to Islamist activities.