WASHINGTON — Musab Omar Ali al-Mudwani, 36, sat in an all-white uniform with his head hunched over a folder of papers placed before him. A plastic sign reading “DETAINEE” marked his spot at the table. Sitting at his flanks were a military officer assigned to assist him and an attorney.
Each representative took a turn detailing their relationship with al-Mudwani since his arrival to Guantanamo in October 2002, as reporters watched from a videoconference room in the Pentagon. They used words like “generous” and “respectful” to describe him, and each account stressed a notion that he was “young and gullible” when he was “convinced” to flee Yemen and join al-Qaida to commit terrorist acts.
But before he could carry out any attacks, al-Mudwani was captured at an al-Qaida safe house on Sept. 11, 2002 by Pakistani forces in Karachi, Pakistan. Since his detention he has provided information on al-Qaida and was subsequently deemed a “low-level militant.”
The purpose of a Periodic Review Board is for officials from several agencies to weigh whether or not continued detention is necessary, or if a prisoner like al-Mudwani is eligible for transfer out of the facility to finish his sentence in a third-party country. It is essentially a parole hearing for POWs.
Unable to find a legislative path in the waning months of Obama’s presidency, the administration is shifting its strategy to shaving down Guantanamo’s prison population to numbers so low that maintaining the camp would be fiscally unjustifiable for Congress. At a press briefing in February, the president said that Guantanamo “drains military resources, with nearly $450 million spent last year alone to keep it running and more than $200 million in additional costs needed to keep it open going forward.”
The review boards now take place every Tuesday and Thursday to expedite the president’s goal of emptying out the camp. Members of the interagency panel come from the Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, Department of State, Joint Staff, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
Together they will review evidence and testimony from those speaking on al-Mudwani’s behalf to determine if he and dozens of other detainees are still a threat to national security. An announcement on his fate will likely come in the next month.
To date, there are 79 prisoners still in detention at Guantanamo. When President Obama first took office there were 242. (RELATED: Obama Administration Pushed Release Of High-Risk Bomb Makers From Guantanamo)
The administration plans to give every detainee an initial review board by fall of 2016.