If you have only read British press reports about Guantanamo detainee Binyam Mohamed, what Thomas Joscelyn wrote about him this morning in The Weekly Standard will be news to you:
Mohamed was then reportedly introduced to top al Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah. By early 2002, the two were traveling between al Qaeda safehouses. The U.S. government alleges that Mohamed then met Jose Padilla and two other plotters, both of whom are currently detained at Guantánamo, at a madrassa. Zubaydah and another top al Qaeda lieutenant, Abdul Hadi al Iraqi, allegedly directed the four of them “to receive training on building remote-controlled detonation devices for explosives.”
At some point, Padilla and Mohamed traveled to a guesthouse in Lahore, Pakistan, where they “reviewed instructions on a computer … on how to make an improvised ‘dirty bomb.'” To the extent that the allegations against Mohamed have gotten any real press, it is this one that has garnered the attention. Media accounts have often highlighted the fact that Padilla and Mohamed were once thought to be plotting a “dirty bomb” attack, but that the allegation was dropped, making it seem as if they were not really planning a strike on American soil.
Indeed, all of the charges against Mohamed were dropped last year at Guantánamo. But this does not mean that he is innocent. As some press accounts have noted, the charges were most likely dropped for procedural reasons and because of the controversy surrounding his detention. According to U.S. government files, Padilla and Mohamed were considering a variety of attack scenarios.
Zubaydah, Padilla, and Mohamed allegedly discussed the feasibility of the “dirty bomb plot.” But Zubaydah moved on to the possibility of “blowing up gas tankers and spraying people with cyanide in nightclubs.” Zubaydah, according to the government, stressed that the purpose of these attacks would be to help “free the prisoners in Cuba.” That is, Zubaydah wanted to use terrorist attacks to force the U.S. government to free the detainees at Guantánamo.
According to the summary-of-evidence memo prepared for Mohamed’s combatant status review tribunal at Guantánamo, Mohamed was an active participant in the plotting. He proposed “the idea of attacking subway trains in the United States.” But al Qaeda’s military chief, Saif al Adel, and the purported 9/11 mastermind, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM), had a different idea. Al Adel and KSM allegedly told Binyam that he and Padilla would target “high-rise apartment buildings that utilized natural gas for its heat and also targeting gas stations.” Padilla and Mohamed were supposed to rent an apartment and use the building’s natural gas “to detonate an explosion that would collapse all of the floors above.”
As Joscelyn also explains, Binyam Mohamed trained at al Farouq where some of the 9/11 hijackers trained. In addition, Osama bin Laden “lectured Binyam Mohamed and other trainees about the importance of conducting operations against the United States.”