Reeducating Osama Bin Laden's Disciples

60 Minutes: Saudi Government Tries To Rehabilitate Former Guantanamo Prisoners, Jihadists

President Obama has ordered the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay closed and his new administration is close to figuring out what to do with the 240 inmates still held there. Some, like Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the self proclaimed mastermind of 9/11, will undoubtedly be put on trial for their lives.

But more than half the so-called detainees will probably never go before a jury because the U.S. government does not have a case that will stand up in court. So what happens when a prisoner is set free from Guantanamo?

As correspondent David Martin reports for 60 Minutes, more than 500 prisoners were released during the Bush administration and one of the largest contingents was from Saudi Arabia.

So 60 Minutes went to Saudi Arabia to see what happens when these young men come home to the country that gave us Osama bin Laden and the 9/11 hijackers. What 60 Minutes found is a rehabilitation program that attempts to make solid citizens out of holy warriors by convincing them bin Laden has it all wrong.



Each time the United States releases Saudis from Guantanamo, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia dispatches a Boeing 747 to Cuba to pick them up. It's all done in secret but 60 Minutes obtained footage from the Saudis documenting the trip home.

The prisoners step onto the aircraft slightly dazed, their shackles and blindfolds having just been removed. On the long flight home they are checked out by a medical team and logged into the Saudi legal system. So far, 117 Saudi men swept up in Afghanistan and Pakistan in the months after 9/11 have come home from Guantanamo.

One of them, Khalid al Jhani, was once a disciple of Osama bin Laden. "I've been involved in this jihad thing since I was young. I was believing that I have to help the Muslims and this the right way to do - to perform jihad," he told Martin.

Jhani first went to Afghanistan in the 1990s and was with bin Laden in the Tora Bora Mountains during al Qaeda's last stand against the Americans.

Jhani said he even met bin Laden at Tora Bora; he also told Martin bin Laden left Afghanistan one day before he left the region himself.

That experience left him with an entirely different opinion of bin Laden. "He said 'Well, I'm not going to let you down and you are not going to let us down.' But I saw that in Tora Bora that when he left, so he left everybody behind him, you know," Jhani explained.

"He changes his story," Martin remarked.

"I call him 'flip flop,'" Jhani replied, laughing.

Jhani was captured in Pakistan and ended up in Guantanamo with hundreds of other so-called enemy combatants. Four years later he went home to Saudi Arabia, where he became a prime example of how the government treats one-time holy warriors it no longer considers a threat.

"After one month they call me and said 'Ok - go on, get your car.' I said car? Okay," he told Martin. "All the people that [have] been released from Guantanamo, they give them car to you know, to help them get in the society."

Then he met personally with Prince Mohammed bin Nayif, the head of Saudi Internal Security, roughly the equivalent in the U.S. of an ex-con sitting down with the director of the FBI.

"I went to his office and said I want to get married. He said 'Okay, about how much is going to cost and we'll take care of it,'" Jhani recalled.

Not only did they give him a car and gave him money for his wedding, the government was also going to pay for his house, Jhani told Martin.

A top aide to Prince Nayif, Major General Yousef Mansour, says the money, which adds up to tens of million of dollars for all the former prisoners, is not a hand out but a hand up.

"We want to keep him busy," Mansour said.

"These are people the United States called the worst of the worst," Martin pointed out. "Why would you trust the worst of the worst?"

"Those, after all, are our kids," Mansour replied. "And are you gonna let them stay in jails forever?"

Some Saudis have been in Guantanamo for seven years and Dr. Abdul Rahman al Hadlaq believes the longer a man is held there the harder he is to treat.

"They come out of Guantanamo hating Americans?" Martin asked.

"In the beginning yes. In the beginning yes," Dr. Hadlaq replied.

Asked if there is evidence that Guantanamo has made these men more radical, Hadlaq told Martin, "I think so, yes. Because, in their journey you know from Afghanistan to Guantanamo, they faced a lot of torturing. It's so important to deal with this issue of torture. They really need rehabilitation. And I think will have been successful in easing this anger, which is so important."

Torture of course is a loaded word, but at the very least the treatment en route to Guantanamo was rough and provided the raw material for al Qaeda propaganda videos to drum up new recruits.

"They are trying to play on the emotions of those young guys, to let them get very angry and say 'We want to do something.' Then those al Qaeda guys, they will tell them, 'We have the answer. We will help you. Let's put your hand in our hand and do something to protect our brothers and sisters and our Muslim women,'" Hadlaq explained.

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