Several Guantanamo Bay detainees to be released in Washington, D.C., suburbs, say sources
BY JAMES GORDON MEEK
NY Daily News
May 7, 2009
WASHINGTON - A large federal security operation is in place to keep tabs on several Guantanamo Bay inmates who may soon be released in Virginia, the Daily News has learned.
A half-dozen ethnic Chinese detainees known as Uyghurs will be flown by marshals from the U.S. naval base in Cuba to live in the Washington suburbs if lingering legal, logistical and political problems are ironed out, government officials said Thursday.
Some lawmakers and counter-terror officials worry about terrorists living next door. Northern Virginia was chosen because it has an Uyghur Muslim community that could help the ex-prisoners adjust.
"The potential release into the U.S. ... takes us into uncharted waters," a counterterror official told The News.
The Uyghurs were trained at an Afghan camp before 9/11, though the "widespread belief" is they were focused on fighting the Communist Chinese, not attacking America, the official said.
"That said, when you're dealing with people who trained in and participated in violent activities - people who've associated with Al Qaeda - security is obviously a concern and something the government is looking at carefully," the U.S. official added.
Most of the Uyghurs cleared for release, though considered the "least dangerous" of 17 still at Gitmo, were suspected operatives of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement. The Treasury Department lists its leader, Abdul Haq, as a member of Osama Bin Laden's Shura Council - Al Qaeda's board of directors.
"It's unsettling," said a second counterterror official.
The alleged Al Qaeda ties - which the Uyghurs' lawyers dispute - have alarmed GOP Reps. Frank Wolf, who represents the Virginia district where the Uyghurs will likely be resettled, and Pete King of Long Island, a Homeland Security Committee member.
Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd said the government "has no announcements" about any Gitmo detainees.
A "comprehensive" surveillance watch by FBI and Homeland Security agents will be activated once the Uyghurs arrive, four officials confirmed.
There is no set release date, but agencies are prepared to begin monitoring the Uyghurs any time President Obama green-lights their transfer, sources said.