Obama Will Send Detainee Back to Yemen

In 2002, a 17-year-old Yemeni man named Mohammed Odaini took shelter one night at a guesthouse in Faisalabad, Pakistan. The U.S. intelligence community believed it had also been frequented by Abu Zubaydah. Odaini was captured in a raid by U.S. troops and sent to Guantanamo Bay.

Eight years later, the Obama administration has decided to send him home, according to a senior U.S. official. Odaini won his habeas case late last month; the judge presiding over his case ripped into the U.S. government for holding him on the thinnest of evidence.

Evidence that Odaini is considered to be low threat comes, ironically, from the government today: it would not have given clearance to release him to problem-ridden Yemen had the CIA and the DIA not signed off.

The bad news is that the U.S. held somebody for eight years without much cause.  Still, this marks a measure of justice, though badly delayed. 

In December, after Faisal Shahzad Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab attempted to explode a bomb in Times Square on a plane bound for Detroit, Obama suspended detainee transfers to Yemen. That suspension stays in place. Odaini's release was ordered by the court; it was not voluntary; and that is how the administration will justify the exception.


Presented by

Marc Ambinder is an Atlantic contributing editor. He is also a senior contributor at Defense One, a contributing editor at GQ, and a regular contributor at The Week.

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