Al Qaeda Prisoner Swap: Was Sleeper Operative Released In Exchange For Americans?

Alleged sleeper Al Qaeda terrorist Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri was released as part of a prisoner swap to bring an American couple detained in Qatar home, according to a former U.S. diplomat.

The prisoner’s release from a maximum security federal prison in Colorado earlier this month is causing controversy because it comes after the Al Qaeda terrorist had been offered up in a possible prisoner swap. According to Richard Grenell — who worked on the case of Matthew and Grace Huang, held in Qatar for the mysterious death of their adoptive 8-year-old daughter — confirmed to Fox News that an offer was put on the table.

“There’s no disputing the fact. I don’t care what they say — the idea was floated,” Grenell said definitively on Monday.

Additionally, the Daily Beast confirms that the prisoner swap was floated in July of 2014 to the then-U.S. ambassador in Qatar by an individual acting on behalf of that country’s attorney general. Moreover, the publication states that two individuals with intimate knowledge of the case say the proposal was made shortly after five Taliban suspects were released in exchange for, Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who will be tried for desertion by the Army, according to Ret. Lt. Col. Tony Shaffer.

The prisoners were released to Qatar, where they would remain under surveillance until the end of this year. American officials believe they will potentially plot more attacks against the U.S.

Obama administration officials deny that there was a prisoner swap and Al-Marri — a graduate of Bradley University and U.S. citizen — was sent home because of “time served.”

“Al-Marri’s release happened as a matter of course, as a result of his court-imposed sentence being completed,” another administration official told the Daily Beast.

The Al Qaeda operative was sent to the U.S. by 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed to plot more attacks on U.S. soil, but authorities caught up with Al-Marri in 2001, when they found lectures from Osama bin Laden in his apartment.

Obama administration critics blame the president for setting a precedent with the Bergdahl swap, leading terrorists and countries abroad to think that they can force the hand of the U.S. to make concessions for American prisoners. One of Obama’s harshest critics, Rep. Duncan Hunter, wrote a letter to the House Armed Services Committee chairman, Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX).

“I believe we must examine the administration’s decision in the case of Al-Marri and determine if his release is connected to negotiations of any kind.”

The terrorist group ISIS has also demanded some of the most dangerous prisoners held by the U.S. to be released in exchange for American prisoners. The Obama administration rejects the accusations that they are making concessions to the terrorists. It has been a long-standing policy that the U.S. does not negotiate for prisoners held overseas.

Hunter accused the Obama administration of failing to pursue other means to gain the release of prisoners held around the globe, and relying on exchanges or releases of captives “which are often counter to U.S. security interests, for leverage in negotiations.”

At one time, Al-Marri was the only enemy combatant held on U.S. soil, which gave him the status of a soldier, not a regular criminal. The Al Qaeda prisoner has been a valuable source of intelligence, and authorities have been able to better understand his role in the terrorist organization, this stemming mostly from the controversial interrogation of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, which included waterboarding.

Do you think the Al Qaeda prisoner Al-Marri’s release was linked to the American prisoners in Qatar?

[Image via Peoria County Sheriff’s Office/Daily Beast]