Saudi Arabia Frees 1,500 'Sorry' Al Qaeda Terrorists

This is a rush transcript from "The Big Story With John Gibson and Heather Nauert," November 27, 2007. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

JOHN GIBSON, CO-HOST: It is the big outrage. Fifteen hundred terrorists are on the loose after Saudi Arabia sets them free. The United States just gave the kingdom big props for taking part in today's high-stakes summit to broker a peace between neighboring Israelis and Palestinians but the same country that is attempting to make the world a better place has just made the world a more dangerous place.

JAIME COLBY, GUEST CO-HOST: The homeland of Osama bin Laden and 16 of the 9/11 hijackers reportedly releasing more than a thousand terrorists and you will not believe the reason why. "Big Story" correspondent Douglas Kennedy has the stunning details. Douglas, say it ain't so.

DOUGLAS KENNEDY, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. You've heard of drug counseling. These guys got terrorist counseling and now the Saudis say they're ready to rejoin the world. It is a huge number of jailhouse conversions and some experts today are suspicious of Saudi Arabia.


KENNEDY (voice-over): The Saudi Arabian government gave them counseling. Now they say some 1,500 terrorists are reformed.

STEVE POMERANTZ, FORMER FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: My reaction is to be very, very skeptical.

KENNEDY: The Saudi government made the announcement yesterday after releasing the prisoners, all of whom at one point had been members of al Qaeda and had sworn allegiance to Usama bin Laden. Steve Pomerantz is the former chief of counterterrorism for the FBI and he calls the jailhouse conversions dubious.

POMERANTZ: People who hold this Islamist terrorist philosophy do it out of deeply held beliefs and to believe they can be changed by some superficial counseling is a very questionable concept to hold.

KENNEDY: The Saudis claim the prisoners had at one point espoused takfir, an ideology that justifies Muslims killing, stealing and lying from those who are not true believers, but according to the Saudis that was before they met with the Special Committee to Reform Jihadists in the Kingdom. A group of Saudi counselors that offers therapy to terrorists.

"The committee has met around 5,000 times to offer counseling to 3,200 people who are accused of embracing the takfir ideology. The committee has successfully completed reforming 1,500 people. The question for Pomerantz is, does reformed mean they will simply stop killing Saudis?

POMERANTZ: The Saudis have a long history of diverting terrorism from their own shores, from their own land, and deflecting them in other directions.

KENNEDY: The release comes just at the start of the Annapolis summit.

GEORGE W. BUSH, U.S. PRESIDENT: Thank you for coming.

KENNEDY: Middle East peace talks which the Saudis reluctantly agreed to, but which are not popular on the Saudi streets.

POMERANTZ: I don't think anything that happens in this realm is by accident or — or coincidence.


KENNEDY: He says the timing of the Annapolis Conference has been well-known, and the timing of the releases is absolutely under the control of the Saudis, so obviously he doubts, John and Jamie, that there was a coincidence here.

GIBSON: Yeah. Douglas, you're releasing all these terrorists. Do Jihadis really quit?

KENNEDY: We would like to think people can be reformed, but this is so many of the people that have been held in jail by Saudi Arabia. I mean, they talked to 3,200 people and they let go almost half of them.

GIBSON: Why isn't this a slap in the face to us?

KENNEDY: The real question is these guys say their ideology is takfir which means you can lie to anybody. How do we not know they are lying about their reformation?

COLBY: And punish nonbelievers with violence, as long as it's not in the kingdom.

KENNEDY: They're on their way to Iraq right now, in a bus.

GIBSON: Douglas Kennedy. Douglas, thank you.


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