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Clarification to This Article
This article quoted a hearing transcript in which an officer at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility said he believed that Dahabshiil, a money-transfer company employing detainee Mohammed Sulaymon Barre, "was used to transfer money for terrorism." The article pointed out that the allegations involving Dahabshiil were later dropped from the government's summary of evidence. After publication, an attorney for Dahabshiil said in a letter to The Post that the firm has "never been the subject of any investigation in relation to alleged terrorist funding" and that it "has no involvement whatsoever with money laundering or the funding or of terrorist organizations and ..... places the highest importance on money laundering compliance." Dahabshiil should have been given an opportunity to comment for the article.

4 Cases Illustrate Guantanamo Quandaries

President Obama is expected to sign an executive order that would close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, within the next year. Yet his administration faces a slew of legal and diplomatic hurdles, and if the effort stumbles, it could bring steep political costs.

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By Peter Finn
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, February 16, 2009

In their summary of evidence against Mohammed Sulaymon Barre, a Somali detained at Guantanamo Bay, military investigators allege that he spent several years at Osama bin Laden's compound in Sudan. But other military documents place him in Pakistan during the same period.

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One hearing at Guantanamo cited his employment for a money-transfer company with links to terrorism financing. Another file drops any mention of such links.

Barre is one of approximately 245 detainees at the military prison in Cuba whose fate the Obama administration must decide in coming months. Teams of government lawyers are sorting through complex, and often flawed, case histories as they work toward President Obama's commitment to close the facility within a year.

Much of the government's evidence remains classified, but documents in Barre's case, and a handful of others, underscore the daunting legal, diplomatic, security and political challenges.

As officials try to decide who can be released and who can be charged, they face a series of murky questions: what to do when the evidence is contradictory or tainted by allegations of torture; whether to press charges in military or federal court; what to do if prisoners are deemed dangerous but there is little or no evidence against them that would stand up in court; and where to send prisoners who might be killed or tortured if they are returned home.

Answering those questions, said current and former officials, is a massive undertaking that has been hampered by a lack of cooperation among agencies and by records that are physically scattered and lacking key details.

It is "a tough, unenviable task with imperfect solutions," said Sarah E. Mendelson, director of the human rights and security initiative at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the author of a report on closing Guantanamo Bay. "But they need to get fully underway now," she said, reviewing files, marshaling evidence and finding countries willing to take those detainees who can be released.

Approximately 60 detainees who have been cleared for release by the Bush administration remain at the camp. An additional 21 detainees are facing charges before military commissions and are almost certain to face trial in federal court, courts-martial or some new version of the current system of military commissions.

Nearly 60 others could be prosecuted, the Pentagon has said, although many legal experts say that is unrealistic because of a lack of evidence and other problems.

That leaves the fate of roughly 100 prisoners unclear. A Pentagon spokesman said the department would not discuss the cases of individual detainees.

Bush administration officials have insisted that among the detainees are any number of al-Qaeda leaders, their financiers and facilitators, and high-level members of the Taliban.

"If you release the hard-core al-Qaeda terrorists that are held at Guantanamo, I think they go back into the business of trying to kill more Americans and mount further mass-casualty attacks," former vice president Richard B. Cheney said in a recent interview with Politico. "If you turn them loose and they go kill more Americans, who's responsible for that?"


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