WikiLeaks: Double Agent Bin Hamlili Double-Crossed the Taliban and the West

We’re honored to have Michael Busch dissecting the latest WikiLeaks document dump for Focal Points. This is the forty-ninth in the series.

Of all the Gitmo detainee assessments published thus far by WikiLeaks, none comes more ready-made for the big screen than that of Adil Hadi al-Jaza’ire Bin Hamlili. The Algerian terrorist’s story is the stuff of pulpy spy thrillers, replete with sociopathic violence, double-dealings and a mystery ending that will leave readers squirming in their seats.

Bin Hamlili’s personal narrative is a breathtaking account of a young man’s rearing on the battlefields of Afghanistan during the period of Russian occupation. It began with an epic, roundabout journey across North Africa, through the Middle East, and ultimately to Central Asia. Around 1986,

At approximately eleven years of age, detainee left Algeria and headed to Afghanistan with his father, his brother, detainee’s second cousin…and another associate names Abu Bakr Muhammad Boulghiti…Detainee’s father was committed to dawa (missionary work) and decided to go to Afghanistan to fight against the Soviet Union…

They travelled for three months across the desert through Burkina Faso to Mali where they stayed at a mosque for almost nine months. Their vehicle and all their goods were stolen by thieves and they were forced to obtain new passports and health cards from the United Nations (UN). His father told the UN representatives that they were Moroccans in order to obtain new identity cards. With their paperwork in order they continued on their way to Afghanistan via Mecca, Saudi Arabia.

Eventually, they were taken to a guesthouse of Osama bin Laden. Bin Hamlili was pressed into service immediately. “Detainee attended training at the nearby Sada, PK camp several times between 1986 and 1991…Detainee fought against the Soviets and the Soviet-backed Afghan regime beginning in 1986, at the age of eleven.” From there, bin Hamlili fought with a number of jihadi groups, ultimately leading the “Khalifa Group in Peshawar, a Takfir group established to engage militant combat in Algeria.”

The experience impacted bin Hamlili profoundly, leading him to ultimately embrace a fundamentalist ideology excessive by even extremist standards.

Detainee has admitted to killing another al-Qaida operative to enforce an extremist interpretation of Sharia law…Detainee murdered al-Qaida member Asadullah al-Sindhi and al-Sindhi’s wife in 1997. Al-Sindhi was [bin Laden’s] commercial representative to Pakistan and the brother of Abdallah al-Sindhi. Detainee’s Takfiri beliefs were his primary justification for this assassination. Detainee killed al-Sindhi because he married a woman within one month of her divorce, instead of waiting four months as required by Sharia, or Islamic law.

Far from suffering punishment at the hands of al Qaeda for the murder of bin Laden’s man in Pakistan, bin Hamlili rapidly rose to prominence in the organization, taking on increased responsibilities and building an impressive resume of murder and intrigue. He served as bin Laden’s courier to al Qaeda operatives, “arranging money transfers, procuring visas and identity cards, and performing other duties” for agents conducting terrorist operations. He reportedly became a close associate of Midhat al-Sayyid Umar, a “poison and explosives expert who helped train the perpetrators of the 2000 terrorist attack against the USS Cole in Yemen.” He is also believed by some to be “Abu Adil, the leader of a militant cell that was responsible for attacks on multiple civilian targets in Pakistan in 2002.” The list of alleged associations, acts of terror and other disturbing dealings goes on and on, becoming nearly monotonous until we learn that bin Hamlili was involved in an attempt

to transfer stolen nuclear material to al-Qaida, the Khalifa Group and the governments of Iraq and Sudan. In 1995, Muhammad Shah, a close associate of detainee (with whom detainee was captured), attempted to sell uranium and red mercury to detainee, al-Qaida senior military commander Abu Hafs al-Masri…the Iraqi government, and the Khalifa Group. The Khalifa Group also subsequently offered the red mercury to the Sudanese government.

No dummy, bin Hamlili “did not accept the offer and was not sure if the material was genuine.” As the report itself notes, “red mercury is a fictitious material advertised as a key ingredient in nuclear weapons, high explosives, and missile guidance systems. It has been associated with hoax attempts to sell the material.”

In any event, the most intriguing details offered by the report surround bin Hamlili’s role as a spy. The assessment reveals that bin Hamlili served the Taliban as an intelligence officer. Trouble is, the Taliban wasn’t the only government employing the Algerian in this capacity. The report notes that bin Hamlili was in fact a triple-agent, working simultaneously for the Canadian and British intel services as well, noting that “in December 2000 detainee was recruited as HUNINT source for the CSIS [Canadian intelligence] and the BSIS [British intelligence] because of his connections to members of various al-Qaida linked terrorist groups that operated in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Detainee was a HUMINT source until his capture by Pakistani authorities in June 2003.” Not only that, but the Americans came to believe that bin Hamlili was double-crossing both agencies: “the CIA, after numerous custodial interviews with detainee, found detainee to have withheld important information from the Canadian Secret Intelligence Service (CSIS) and British Secret Intelligence Service (BSIS) (for whom he served as a HUMINT source).”

Stop right there. If the report is correct to suggest that bin Hamlili was on the books of both CSIS and BSIS between 2000 and 2003, then serious questions need to be asked concerning the degree to which the British and Canadian governments were bankrolling the very crimes with which American authorities were charging bin Hamlili and detaining him at Guantanamo Bay. These questions, of course, were not asked by the report’s author. Instead, the report closes by reiterating the judgment that bin Hamlili posed a high risk to American security, and therefore needed to be detained indefinitely.

Except he wasn’t. Despite the fact that bin Hamlili “has made statements to [Gitmo] personnel indicating his intent to kill US citizens upon his eventual release,” he was returned to Algeria in 2010 in perhaps the creepiest twist to bin Hamlili’s tale. Where bin Hamlili is today is anyone’s guess. According to the Miami Herald, bin Hamlili was sent home with another Gitmo detainee, though the government’s announcement of the transfer “did not make clear whether the men went home as free men or were to be held by Algerian authorities for further trial or investigation.” The former scenario, given bin Hamlili’s history, is frightening enough.

But the latter possibility is equally disturbing. “Two other Algerians previously held at Guantanamo were granted asylum in France after their attornies argued successfully that the men feared a return to their homeland, which has struggled with militant Muslim extremist movements.” Given bin Hamlili’s membership and critical participation in precisely these movements, it wouldn’t be surprising to learn that he is currently being held in detention no more forgiving than that on offer at Guantanamo Bay, and no less reprehensible.