STEVE INSKEEP, host:
It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Steve Inskeep.
We're reporting today on hundreds of secret documents that reveal new information about detainees at the Guantanamo Bay Prison in Cuba. The Guantanamo files were leaked last year to the website WikiLeaks. An anonymous source obtained the documents from WikiLeaks and then passed them to the New York Times, and the newspaper shared them with us. We're reporting on the findings this morning as well as later today, on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.
And right now, we'll focus on one former detainee. He is now training rebel forces in Libya. NPR's Dina Temple-Raston has our story.
DINA TEMPLE-RASTON: His name is Sufian Qumu. And what makes Qumu different from other rebels fighting against Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi is that he spent nearly six years in Guantanamo Bay Prison. He was one of hundreds of terrorist suspects held there by the U.S. He was picked up in Pakistan, arrived at Guantanamo in early 2002, and was released to the Libyan government in late 2007.
According to the secret documents, officials who investigated Qumu at the time thought he'd pose a risk to the U.S., and its allies, in the future. They rated that probability as medium to high. But four years ago, they released him to Libyan government, anyway. This year, Qumu reappeared in Libya, training anti-government forces in Benghazi.
Qumu is battle-tested. The only things that were known publicly about Qumu before were that he was a Libyan tank commander, and that he had worked in some capacity for one of Osama bin Laden's companies in Sudan. The secret documents tell us more.
They come from the Pentagon's Joint Task Force at Guantanamo, and they contain thousands of pages of assessments - spanning from 2002 to 2009 - that tried to determine how dangerous particular detainees actually were. The documents suggest that Qumu had a first-rate terrorism resume, stretching back more than 20 years - a resume that includes training at two al-Qaida camps; joining the Taliban to fight both the Soviets and the Northern Alliance; and even following Osama bin Laden to Sudan, to drive trucks for one of his companies there.
Intelligence sources have declined to comment on the record about the documents directly, and the Obama administration said it was unfortunate that NPR and the New York Times decided to publish the classified Guantanamo documents.
Included in this trove of leaked documents is a lengthy file on Qumu. It says he was forced to leave Sudan sometime in 1997. And from there, he allegedly went directly to Pakistan and received additional training in an al-Qaida camp. U.S. intelligence reports cited in his file say his name appeared on a hard drive that listed al-Qaida employees and their monthly wages. People who appear on al-Qaida's payroll are considered hard-core members.
Now that Qumu has turned up in Libya, U.S. intelligence is trying to figure out if he still has those connections. And these documents are likely to add to the debate about people like Qumu already under way in Washington.
Senator JAMES INHOFE (Republican, Oklahoma): There have been several reports about the presence of al-Qaida among the rebels, among those with whom we are associated. What are your thoughts about that?
TEMPLE-RASTON: That's Senator James Inhofe, Republican of Oklahoma, during congressional hearings earlier this month. He was questioning the head of the U.S.-European Command, Admiral James Stavridis, who answered this way.
Admiral JAMES STAVRIDIS (Supreme Allied Commander, Europe): Sir, we're as you can imagine, we're examining very closely the content, composition, the personalities, who are the leaders in these opposition forces.
TEMPLE-RASTON: Stavridis said early intelligence reports suggest that the rebels are responsible men and women focused on toppling Gadhafi. But at the same time, he warned, terrorist groups could try to take advantage.
Adm. STAVRIDIS: We have seen flickers in the intelligence of potential al-Qaida, Hezbollah. But at this point, I don't have detail sufficient to say that there's a significant al-Qaida presence, or any other terrorist presence in and among these folks.
TEMPLE-RASTON: Experts say it would naive to think that al-Qaida isn't playing some role in the fighting in Libya. The question is: Is it 2 percent, or 20 percent, or 80 percent?
Bruce Riedel is a former CIA officer now at the Brookings Institution.
Mr. BRUCE RIEDEL (Senior Fellow, Middle East and South Asia, Brookings Institution): If they're 2 percent, it's not that big a problem. If they're 20 percent, it is starts to become a problem. And if they are 80 percent...
TEMPLE-RASTON: Then that's a serious issue. Intelligence officials tell NPR that they've yet to nail down that number. Now that details about Qumu's past have been revealed in these documents, you have to ask: How is it that he managed to get out of Guantanamo in the first place? The answer is, politics.
U.S. officials tell NPR that Gadhafi asked them to turn over Qumu almost four years ago. It was part of a good-faith gesture to show Islamists in Libya that Gadhafi honestly intended to reconcile with them. And the U.S. agreed to hand him over to Libyan authorities in 2007.
Gadhafi released Qumu last summer, just in time for him to join Libya's rebellion.
Dina Temple-Raston, NPR News.
INSKEEP: And you can study these documents for yourself. We've got a database, where you can read some of the documents, at npr.org.