30 January 2005

verbaling Mamdouh Habib

Australian's Long Path in U.S. Antiterrorism Maze
According to Australian intelligence, he went to Afghanistan and entered Qaeda camps. He completed basic training and an advanced course, including surveillance of urban public buildings, a senior Australian official said.

A few days before Sept. 11, 2001, Mr. Habib called his wife from Pakistan, Australian officials said this week. (Her phone was being monitored.) In the conversation, they said, Mr. Habib said something big was going to happen in America in the next few days.

But this phone call, which has not previously been reported, does not support the allegation that Mr. Habib had advance knowledge that planes were going to be flown into the World Trade Center or the Pentagon, another Australian official cautioned. Just about everyone in Kandahar and the Qaeda camps knew that something big was coming, he said. 'There was a buzz.'

American officials did not explain why they never brought charges. A Defense Department spokesman said of the release, 'This action allows our Australian allies to ensure that their citizens who previously engaged in or supported terrorist activities do not do so in the future.'

Australian officials declined to discuss what measures they were taking, beyond saying that Mr. Habib's passport would be revoked and that he would be closely monitored.

The circumstances of his release were uncertain until the last. On Wednesday, as Mr. Habib was preparing to leave Guantánamo, guards there terrified him by telling him he was being sent to Egypt, according to his lawyer. Mr. Habib had petitioned a federal judge to keep the United States from sending him back there. Not until Mr. Margulies arrived to accompany him to Australia did Mr. Habib know that he was indeed going home.

He arrived Friday afternoon.

'He's not in custody,' said the Australian attorney general, Philip Ruddock. 'He's at liberty.'

Attorney-General Ruddock has always contended that Habib is a terrorist. it's a new element to the story if the US was relying on Asutralia's intercept for evidence. If that evidence was not good enough for a military commission, where the prosecutor, not the commission, determines evidentiary questions, then it must be fairly slender evidence. If Ruddock was privy to that evidence then he has been consistently lying to parliament and people throughout the course of Habib's detention. It's what happens when you abandon ancient liberties in favour of silly laws justified by the supreme emergency idea. The US even kept Ruddock himself in the dark. When governments cock up in the dark, they tend not to want the lights on.

And there's one small footnote.

Freed Australian Returns From Guantanamo
The 48-year-old Egyptian-born former Sydney coffee shop owner wore an oversized white T-shirt shirt, rolled-up jeans and tennis shoes as he stepped down from a chartered Gulfstream G-550 jet with an American flag on its tail, walking behind his American lawyer Joe Margulies.

The CIA is reported to use a chartered Gulfstream to effect extraordinary renditions. Ruddock says Australia chartered this flight. Perhaps our great and powerful friends recommended the company. The charter company has a fairly dubious history. It looks like Habib may have flown home in the same plane the CIA used to move him to Egypt for torture.

Kim Beazley has a chance to start his long campaign of vigoorous opposition. The opposition and minor parties have a Senate majority until June.