Did the Bush-Cheney administration’s excessive trust in Saudi ‘art therapy’ make us less safe?

Accused terrorists Mohammed Al Ghazali and Said Ali al Shari (left) appear in a fundraising video (video still, CBS News)

Accused terrorists Mohammed Al Ghazali and Said Ali al Shari (left) appear in a fundraising video (video still, CBS News)

In the frenzied hours and days after 9/11, only one kind of person was allowed to get on an international flight and leave the U.S. while our airspace was closed. What kind of person? Saudis. Including Saudis who were related to the chief suspect in the attacks: Osama bin Laden. As the New York Times reported in 2005, these special people even received FBI escorts to their chartered flights (but apparently, no interrogations.) And while it was practically illegal to criticize the Bush administration for it at the time, given the authoritarian mood the country immediately kicked into, some Americans wondered just what hold the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia had on our president. The Bush family has long business and personal ties to the Saudis, including the bin Ladens and as president, George W. had a habit of holding hands with Crown Prince Abdullah, while another of the princes, Bandar, was nicknamed “Bandar Bush” because of his tightness with the fam.


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US President George W. Bush (L) holds hands with Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah while walking past some blue bonnets at his Crawford ranch 25 April 2005. Bush intends to ask Abdullah to boost his country's oil production in hopes of driving down soaring oil and US gas prices, senior administration officials said. AFP PHOTO/Jim WATSON

Fast forward to 2007. The Bush-Cheney administration, haveing spent the preceding years scaring the bejeezus out of Americans and convincing a majority of the country to go along with things like indefinite detention and torture, suddenly decided to change policies. Now, George W.Bush wanted to close Guantanamo Bay prison. Now, he began releasing prisoners. Two of those released prisoners were sent to Saudi Arabia, where they were given “art therapy” before being released. One of them wound up in Yemen, where now, it is believed, he had a hand in planning the terror exploits of the infamous “undiebomber.” Now, I’m not saying the Bush-Cheney regime should be blamed for the attempted attack on flight 253 … the blame, of course, goes to the terorists … but if I were to begin thinking like a Republican in 2010, I might ask why the Bush-Cheney administration consistently chose to trust the Saudis, whose citizens made up 15 of the 19 men who hijacked our airplanes on 9/11, with America’s security? And if I were to begin speaking like a Cheney, I might ask whether the Bush-Cheney policy of offering freedom and “art therapy” to terrorists make us less safe … As Steve Benen of the Washington Monthly puts it, Republicans should be careful what fights they wish for, lest they be forced to confront some unpleasant realities of their own.

From ABC News’ Brian Ross:

One of the four leaders allegedly behind the al Qaeda plot to blow up a Northwest Airlines passenger jet over Detroit was released by the U.S. from the Guantanamo prison in November 2007, according to American officials and Department of Defense documents. Al Qaeda claimed responsibility for the Northwest bombing in a Monday statement that vowed more attacks on Americans.

American officials agreed to send the terrorist from Guantanamo to Saudi Arabia, where he entered into an “art therapy rehabilitation program” and was set free, according to U.S. and Saudi officials. ABC News described his enrollment in the art therapy program in a January report.

The Saudi national has since emerged in leadership roles in Yemen, according to U.S. officials and the men’s own statements on al Qaeda propaganda tapes.

Way to keep us safe, Bush-Cheney team. I’m not sure even Erick Erickson at RedState could spin you guys out of this one, although I have no doubt he’ll try… while he’s at it, he might want to develop some counterintuitive talking points for this:

“I would remind the American public that the apparent leaders of the al Qaeda cell in Yemen were 2 terrorists who were released by Vice President Cheney in secret. I think there’s a level of accountability that has to be levied personally on the vice president,” [Democratic Congressman Eric] Massa said in an interview. “He is personally responsible for that.”

Oh, and the Bush-Cheney State Department via the U.S. Embassy in London, was the one who issued a multiple entry visa to undiebomber Umar Farouk Abdulmullatab, in June of 2008.

Happy politicking!

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