As Americans focused on election results this week, the Obama administration quietly transferred Guantanamo detainee Fourzi Khalid Abdullah Al Awda to Kuwait, where he was reunited with his mother.
Dubbed the "forever detainee," Al Awda was one of the first to arrive at Guantanamo Bay in 2002. Subsequent military reviews by both the Bush and Obama administrations found that he was a member of Al Qaeda, a recruiter and a courier. But as part of the push to fast track and reduce the number of detainees, last summer a new assessment by the Periodic Review Board deemed Al Awda a low risk transfer.
The case is the latest to raise concerns that the administration is making ever- riskier releases, in pursuit of the ultimate goal of closing the prison camp.
"The Obama administration has accepted some level of risk in each of their 89 transfers. but now they're turning the dial even further to the right to accept even more risk," explained Cully Stimson, a former head of detainee affairs under President George W. Bush, and a senior national security fellow with the Heritage Foundation. "Because the president wants to fulfill his campaign pledge to close Guantanamo."
The Al Awda transfer came under scrutiny after an Islamist twitter account tweeted congratulations to his family before the Defense Department publicly confirmed in July that he would be allowed to leave.
The message was retweeted by Sanafi al-Nasr, a senior Al Qaeda operative in Syria,leading investigators to question how a well- known Islamist twitter user seemed to have inside information about sensitive Defense Department deliberations,
"It shows that they consider current detainees to still be in the fight, whether it's a propaganda fight or when they are released they could be integrating into the real fight, but either way, they consider them still part of the game against the U.S.," Thomas Joscelyn of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies told Fox News.
Joscelyn was the first to write about the Twitter time discrepancy in Al Awda’s case in the Long War Journal. "I think that one of the more surprising facts here is that current Guantanamo detainees are not cut off from the outside world and they haven't been for years,” he said. “In fact, current detainees from their cells in Guantanamo are able to communicate with the outside world, sometimes fairly frequently."
With 148 detainees remaining, a military source said the administration is determined to get the population below 100, believing it can successfully argue the rest should be held in a maximum security prison on U.S. soil.
But for Obama, losing the Senate to Republicans is creating a new hurdle.
"Now that they own the Senate, the problem gets twice as difficult because he would have to get congressional authorization to close it, both from the House and from the Senate and in today's circumstances, it's just not going to happen. Gitmo stays," said Fox News military analyst Retired Army General Bob Scales.
On Friday, in a Virginia federal court, terrorism charges will be formally brought against a Russian national who was held by the U.S. military in Afghanistan after a 2009 attack on a forward-operating base in Khowst province housing American military personnel and Afghan police officers.
The case of 55-year-old IIek Ilgiz Hamdulin is a test run for whether detainees held in Afghanistan can be successfully tried in federal courts, because the White House is unwilling to send new detainees to Guantanamo Bay for military trials.
Fox News has been told that over the last year, the administration has released some detainees held in U.S. custody in Afghanistan because there was not enough admissible evidence to bring them to a U.S. federal court and Guantanamo Bay was not an option.
Catherine Herridge is an award-winning Chief Intelligence correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC) based in Washington, D.C. She covers intelligence, the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security. Herridge joined FNC in 1996 as a London-based correspondent.