On Feb. 15, on the recommendation of its Peace & Justice Commission, the Berkeley (Calif.) City Council is set to vote on a resolution to invite "one or two cleared" Guantanamo Bay detainees to resettle in Berkeley.
Peace & Justice Commissioner Rita Maran told me that the idea was to invite to Berkeley "the kind of people you'd like to have living next door to you or dating your cousin."
While the resolution doesn't name the one or two detainees, her panel presented material that cites two -- Russian-born Ravil Mingazov and Algerian-born Djamel Ameziane -- whom it claims have been "cleared." The resolution also asserts that "cleared" detainees have been determined to "pose no threat to the United States." Where they got that information, I do not know.
Given that the Director of National Intelligence reported in December that 25 percent of released Gitmo detainees have been confirmed or suspected of engaging in terrorism, the commission's assertion would not be reassuring, if it were true.
As Thomas Joscelyn, senior fellow for the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, observed, "There's an entire mythology" about detainees being exonerated, when they've simply won conditional releases or habeas corpus petitions.
President Obama's own task force looked into Guantanamo's 240 detainees in 2009. While it approved some transfers and conditional releases, Joscelyn noted, "They didn't find any innocent goat herders."
Here's another warning sign: resume makeovers. (Remember Osama bin Laden's "cook"? Ahmed Ghailani was convicted for his role in the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in Africa.) The Center for Constitutional Rights lists Ameziane's interests as "reading mystery novels and French fashion magazines for men." He's a chef, the group explains, who worked in Vienna, but was forced to migrate to Montreal and then to -- the culinary capital of? -- Afghanistan.
Unclassified U.S. documents tie Ameziane to a Tunisian recruiter who bankrolled Ameziane's trek to an Afghan guesthouse, where the majority of boarders were Taliban fighters. As Joscelyn wrote in the Daily Standard, to "gain admittance to a Taliban guesthouse ... recruits need a certified Taliban or al Qaeda member to vouch for their commitment" to jihad.
Has Ameziane been cleared by U.S. authorities? Not that I can find.
Even though the Berkeley commission documents say he was "cleared," Maran explained, "We were using those two people as examples only."
The city, she added, would offer to resettle only detainees who were shown to have been cleared.