An al Qaeda terrorist radicalized by the September 11 attacks was surreptitiously freed from Guantanamo Bay by the Biden administration while Americans were fixated on a Chinese surveillance balloon traveling across the nation.
Majid Khan, 42, was transferred to Belize on Thursday, according to a Pentagon statement. He had previously spent 16 years in CIA captivity.
He was a close personal buddy of al Qaeda leader Khalid Sheikh Mohammed who helped transport and give money to other prominent terrorists, according to the authorities. Additionally, Khan would have targeted US water reservoirs and petroleum stations per Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s plans.
Khan, the only legal resident of the United States detained at Guantanamo, claims to have transformed as a person and vows to uphold the law in Belize.
His release came as American authorities attempt to liberate two other al Qaeda militants, and only one week before a United Nations delegation visits the Cuban prison facility.
After serving his 10-year sentence in March 2022, Khan, who graduated from a Maryland high school before joining the terrorist group, began his new life in Belize on Thursday.
I have been given a second shot in life, and I plan to make the most of it, Khan said in a statement upon his release.
I have accepted responsibility for my actions and have made an effort to atone for the things I committed many years ago, he said.
“I keep pleading with God and the people I’ve harmed for forgiveness.” I sincerely apologize.
The world has evolved significantly in the last 20 years, and so have I, Khan said. I pledge to be a law-abiding, productive member of society for all of you, particularly the people of Belize.
“I appreciate your faith in me, and I promise not to disappoint. I’ll be a better speaker than I am with words.
Additionally, his legal team expressed gratitude to the Belizean government for “giving him an opportunity to start a new life.”
“Belize has done an outstanding job to prepare for his resettlement,” said Wells Dixon, a senior attorney for the Center for Constitutional Rights, in a statement. “Their success serves as a model for other countries to accept men who no one thinks should remain at Guantanamo, but who cannot return to their home countries for humanitarian reasons.”
According to NBC News, which cited two government sources, over 12 nations are claimed to have contacted the Biden administration in an attempt to rehouse Khan.
According to a senior State Department official, the administration considered other nations where Khan might be transferred, taking into account those that have positive relations with the US, have the resources to support him, can meet his medical and security needs, and have the political will to do so.
However, sources claim that once Belizean government representatives “asked all the correct questions,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken “personally became engaged” in the discussions.
At a meeting in September, he is alleged to have addressed the subject with the prime minister of Belize.
The Pentagon thanked the nation on Thursday when Khan was freed for helping with “ongoing US efforts focused on appropriately lowering the inmate population and eventually eliminating the Guantanamo Bay facility.”
However, American authorities continue to insist that Khan worked for al Qaeda directly under Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s direction (KSM).
When the September 11 attacks occurred, he was employed for a communications company that oversaw the Pentagon’s phone system. He said that these events “radicalized him.” He had graduated from a high school in a Baltimore suburb.
The next year, Khan went to Pakistan, where he allegedly joined al Qaeda and became KSM’s direct subordinate. KSM was the senior operational planner for the terrorist group and the primary mastermind of the September 11 attacks.
To carry out a devastating assault on the Marriott Hotel in Jakarta, Indonesia in 2003, KSM entrusted Khan with transferring other top al Qaeda leaders and supplying money, according to the papers acquired by NBC News.
Authorities claim that KSM then planned to use Khan to target US water reservoirs and gas stations.
He was brought to CIA black sites after his capture in Karachi in March 2003, where Khan claims he was subjected to extreme torture.
He testified in court in 2021 about being stripped nude, beaten, and spending extended periods of time tied up—either to a wall while crouching “like a dog” or to a beam with his arms up.
Khan said that once he consented to cooperate and provide all information, the torture intensified.
He said that at two different locations, he was purposefully placed in tubs of ice-cold water, one as a CIA interrogator counted down from 10 before pouring water into his mouth and nose.
He also described how, due to a lack of sleep, he had hallucinations in which he saw a cow and a huge lizard scurrying about in chains in his cell.
His story was brought up in a Senate Intelligence Committee report on the CIA’s practices from 2014, which said that when he refused to eat, his captors “injected” a puree of his meal via his anus.
When inmates refused to drink, the CIA would use a similar strategy and pump water into their rectums.
Khan said that “green garden hoses” were used to harm him.
They inserted one end into my rectum and hooked the other to the faucet before turning on the water, he said.
After those experiences, he said he lost control of his bowel movements, and he still has hemorrhoids now.
Khan described how doctors would ram a feeding tube down the back of his throat and up his nose while he was on a hunger strike.
A CIA agent used a plunger to push food into his stomach, which resulted in diarrhea and cramping.
Dianne Feinstein, the chairperson of the Senate Intelligence Committee, referred to the practice as torture.
Khan was one of 14 “high value prisoners” who were sent to Guantanamo Bay in 2006, according to an announcement by the then-President George W. Bush, to be tried by the military trial system.
In 2012, he entered a guilty plea to conspiring to kill, espionage, and “providing material support for terrorism.”
Khan was subsequently given “credit for the three years he spent collaborating with US officials” and given a 10-year prison term.
His sentence was to finish on March 1, 2022, but before he could be freed, officials had to locate a nation that would accept him. Federal law forbids the resettlement of Guantanamo Bay captives in the nation, notwithstanding the fact that he has relatives here.
According to Andy Worthington, a co-founder of the movement to close Guantanamo, prisoners who have been given the all-clear for release may stay in the facility for years as Washington searches for nations to accept them.
He said that detainees who have been granted transfer had few options for accelerating their release.
It shouldn’t be the case, he continued, that their release depends only on the whim of the US administration.
It’s an issue stemming from the fact that Guantanamo was built in a place where the law didn’t apply.
With Khan’s release, Guantanamo’s inmate population has decreased from a peak of 660 to only 34.
Twenty people are now eligible for relocation, including the Rabbani brothers Abdul Rahim and Mohammed Ahmed.
According to NBC News, they were both given the go-ahead to leave the prison facility in the next weeks.
According to allegations, Abdul, who is thought to be the elder brother, actively supported KSM from 1999 until his arrest in September 2002.
According to his US government prisoner biography, Abdul’s younger brother, Mohammed, recruited him to go to Afghanistan in 1998 to enroll in the Khaldan camp for basic weapons training, but Abdul was expelled from the camp for smoking.
After that, he went back to Karachi, Pakistan, where he started running al Qaeda safe houses. He was instrumental in smuggling people, supplies, and equipment from Afghanistan to Pakistan.
US authorities don’t think he had any particular knowledge of how al Qaeda operated.
Abdul was given the all-clear for release on May 13, 2021, after the Guantanamo Bay Periodic Review Board found that “continued law of war detention was no longer required to defend against a continuing serious danger to the security of the United States.”
Meanwhile, Mohammed, also known as Abu Badr, is charged with establishing safe houses for al Qaeda in Karachi. However, he has insisted that he was just a cab driver who was mistaken for someone else.
In October 2021, the decision to release him from Guantanamo was made.
In September 2002, both brothers were detained in Karachi and kept for many months in secret CIA facilities.
Mohammed was reportedly one of 17 captives who were unlawfully tortured at these secret detention facilities.
In a 2018 essay on his ordeal, he said that the pain of being hung while having his wrists chained over his head was so excruciating that he attempted to amputate his own hand.
He said in a Los Angeles Times article that “torture makes you go insane.” “Now and again, I notice myself going crazy again.”
“They utilize some kind of metal detecting gadget to execute a cavity check every time I am force-fed, every time I meet with my lawyer, and every time I visit a doctor.” In all those years, nothing has ever been discovered.
‘I have no notion what I am supposed to be concealing. It has no use.
But I can’t help but wonder whether the radiation it produces isn’t equivalent to my own personal Nagasaki or Hiroshima four, six, or eight times every day.
He wrote, “Maybe I’m being paranoid, but I sense something horrible is happening to me, deep down.”
He concluded, “There is no sunrise and no sunset.” “There is just hopelessness.”
One of the boys is reportedly quite ill right now, and authorities have been trying to move him in the hopes that his condition may get better.
Both of the brothers took part in protracted hunger strikes.
The statement is made only a few days before the first-ever visit by a United Nations expert to Guantanamo Bay.
Following her visit next week, Fionnuala Ni Aolain, a special UN correspondent on the promotion and preservation of human rights and fundamental freedoms while against terrorism, will offer her observations and suggestions.
Over the following three months, she will also speak with former Guantanamo captives and survivors of the September 11 attacks.
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