Former US Military Interrogator: Release al-Odaini from Gitmo

By Matthew Alexander, former U.S. Senior Military Interrogator

The importance of releasing Mohammed Hassan al-Odaini cannot be overstated.  This isn’t about one innocent man that a federal judge ordered released on May 26, 2010.  This is about who we are as Americans. As the judge ruled, the US government has:

kept a young man from Yemen in detention in Cuba from age eighteen to age twenty-six.  They have prevented him from seeing his family and denied him the opportunity to complete his studies and embark on a career. The evidence before the Court shows that holding Odaini in custody at such great cost to him has done nothing to make the United States more secure. There is no evidence that Odaini has any connection to Al Qaeda.

Mohammed Mohammed Hassan al-Odaini remains detained in Guantánamo despite being cleared for release.

What the judge didn’t say is that holding al-Odaini actually makes the United States less safe.  How?  When Americans live up to the accusations of Al Qaeda, namely that we don’t uphold the principles upon which our country was founded, we hand Al Qaeda a powerful recruiting tool.  Imagine an enemy holding an American citizen for eight years without charges and then, after admitting he is innocent, refusing to release him?  Compare the U.S. response to recent detentions of U.S. citizens in Iran and North Korea.

Our greatest leverage in fighting terrorism is our ability to dissuade vulnerable populations from turning to crime (terrorism) as a remedy for personal adversities.  When we abandon our principles in favor of indefinite detention without charge, and worse, for detention after proven innocence, we have shifted the balance to favor Al Qaeda’s recruiters and the result is that America is less safe.

Help me and Amnesty International in calling for the immediate release of Mohammed Mohammed Hassan al-Odaini.  Restore America’s strength by helping us return to the rule of law.  ‘Winning’ in this conflict is not defined by stopping terrorist attacks.  It’s defined by adherence to our values.  To release Odaini is to stand up for the basic principles of humanity – principles that are ingrained in our own Constitution.

Write-a-thon Series: Mohammed Mohammed Hassan Odaini

This posting is part of our Write-a-Thon Cases Series. For more information visit

Mohammed Mohammed Hassan Odaini © Private

Mohammed Mohammed Hassan Odaini © Private

Despite having been cleared for release more than four years ago, twenty-six-year-old Mohammed Mohammed Hassan Odaini remains detained in Guántanamo. Odaini was sent to the detention center at the U.S Naval Base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba in March 2002 along with fourteen other Yemeni nationals, all of whom were turned over by Pakistani police. In June 2005, U.S. authorities declared Odani suitable for release from Guantánamo. Yemeni authorities are prepared to take him back, however he continues to be detained without reason. He has not been interrogated for nearly two years and the reason for his continued detention is unclear.

Participate in this year’s Amnesty International annual Global Write-a-thon and help free Mohammed Mohammed Hassan Odaini by writing a letter on his behalf to the Commander of the Joint Task Force Guantánamo. Be one of the thousands of individuals asking why Odaini and fellow detainees remain detained despite being cleared for release. By putting pressure on the Commander now, we hope to help release Odaini and fellow Yemenis and enable them to go back to Yemen. Writing a letter could not only help Mr. Odaini but the other detainees currently being unlawfully held in Guantánamo.

By Morgan Brescia, AIUSA Campaign for Individuals at Risk