Guantanamo spies should have been avoided

Mona Charen

This ought to shut up our European detractors who’ve been screaming that we are torturing prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. Not only do we provide the inmates there with medical care, surgery, dentistry, reading matter, familiar and religiously permitted foods, copies of the Koran and religious services — we’ve also provided spies. Two, at least — and counting — to judge from news reports.
The first is Capt. James Yee, 35, who served as a Muslim chaplain at Guantanamo. Yee is a Chinese American who was raised a Lutheran but converted to Islam while in the military. After converting, he resigned his commission and traveled to Syria, where he remained for four years to pursue the study of Islam and Arabic. When he returned, he rejoined the Army and was assigned to Guantanamo, where he counseled detainees and conducted Friday services.
Both the Pentagon and the State Department boasted of his appointment. He claimed to believe that violence was un-Islamic. Whether that was a cover or a sincerely held belief will now be probed in a court martial.
The Washington Times reports the military is considering a number of charges against Yee, including sedition, aiding the enemy, espionage and failure to obey a general order. In his possession, U.S. officials discovered a number of classified documents, including a list of detainees and the names of U.S. personnel at Guantanamo. The list of prisoners is a closely guarded secret and would be most valuable to Al Qaeda. The names of U.S. personnel stationed there, if handed over to terrorists, could make the service members’ families vulnerable.
Before the shock of that revelation wore off, the Air Force announced that Ahmad al Halabi, 24, a translator at Guantanamo, had also been arrested and charged with spying for Syria and Qatar. Halabi moved to the United States with his parents when he was a teenager. According to military sources, Halabi attempted to deliver two notes and a laptop computer with 180 e-mails from prisoners to an enemy of the United States. He also allegedly attempted to download materials from a classified military computer to his laptop, including sketches, photographs and blueprints of the Guantanamo facility. Halabi and Yee knew one another, though it is not yet known whether they were part of a spy ring.
The Los Angeles Times reports that more arrests may be imminent.
How is it possible that a man who spends four years in Syria is not more closely scrutinized by the United States military? Syria routinely appears on the State Department’s list of terror-sponsoring nations. The notorious Bekka Valley in Lebanon — nest of the world’s most vile terrorists — is a protectorate of the Syrian state.
It turns out that the military relies for chaplain referrals on several American Islamic groups with questionable loyalties. One is the Graduate School of Islamic Social Sciences, which has been raided by the Justice Department for suspected ties to Al Qaeda! Another group is called the American Muslim Armed Forces and Veterans Affairs Council (it sponsored Yee). The AMAFVAC is in turn linked with the American Muslim Foundation, another target of the Justice Department’s sweep.
Abdurahman Alamoudi, founder of the American Muslim Foundation, is a well-known sympathizer and supporter of Hamas.
The Pentagon also reportedly relies on the Islamic Society of North America. One of its board members is Siraj Wahhaj, a character witness for “blind Sheik” Omar Abdel Rahman, who was convicted in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
Wahhaj was also an unindicted co-conspirator in an attempt to blow up New York monuments in 1995.
Does this mean there are no loyal American Muslims?
Obviously not. But it does suggest that simple common sense should dictate caution on the part of our government. Check twice about the affiliations of domestic Islamic groups. Some are totally sane and patriotic. But others are not.
Islam is widely infected with the radical virus. Wahhabism and Khomeinism exert wide appeal right now, and those Muslims who oppose these radical movements are understandably frightened and cowed.
We are always at pains to prove how open-minded and accepting we are as a nation — which is fine, to a point. But we cannot permit political correctness to keep us from self-preservation.

Mona Charen writes for Creators Syndicate.