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Levin And Schumer Question Escape Of Al Qaeda Prisoners In Yemen

Senators Ask Administration for Explanation of the Escape of Convicted Al Qaeda Terrorists Who Attacked USS Cole from Yemeni Govt Prisons

Today, U.S. Senators Carl Levin and Chuck Schumer addressed the recent escape of Al Qaeda prisoners from a prison in Yemen, one of whom is the mastermind of the terrorist attacks on the USS Cole. Schumer is sending a letter to President Bush urging him to investigate this matter immediately by inspecting and evaluating all foreign prisons where Al Qaeda members are being held. The letter it is below:

February 7, 2006

The Honorable George W. Bush President The White House 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Bush:

I am writing to express my deeply held concern regarding the recent escape of Al Qaeda terrorists from Yemeni custody and the level of security at facilities holding Al Qaeda terrorists throughout the world. I, along with almost all Americans, fully support taking aggressive action to kill or capture terrorists all over the world before they can attack our nation, and strongly believe that terrorists responsible for killing Americans must be brought to swift and lasting justice. However, last weeks troubling events in Yemen would seem to indicate that in order to meet these goals, the United States must be more aggressive in verifying the competence and commitment of officials at foreign prisons to securely detain terrorist actors. In order to ensure that similar events are not repeated at other prisons, I urge you to direct the Departments of State, Justice, and Defense to begin immediate efforts to verify the security of any prison throughout the world charged with detaining Al Qaeda operatives.

As you know, last Friday 23 prisoners, including 13 Al Qaeda terrorists, escaped from a Yemeni jail, controlled by military intelligence, by digging a 460 foot long tunnel from the prison to the womens section of a nearby mosque. Among the escapees is Jamal alBadawi, who was convicted of organizing the bombing of the USS Cole. This escape is made even more disturbing by the fact that there is widespread suspicion that the escapees received aid from sympathetic officials. It is also extremely troubling that Badawi had already escaped Yemeni custody once, while awaiting trial in April of 2003.

In the face of these circumstances, it is impossible not to question the ability of foreign prisons to adequately secure and detain Al Qaeda operatives who may pose a significant danger to the United States and its citizens. In order to ensure that the United States is doing everything it can to catch these terrorists and ensure they remain behind bars without relying solely on foreign governments, I urge you to investigate this matter immediately by inspecting and evaluating every foreign facility responsible for detaining Al Qaeda operatives or other terrorists that present a danger to the United States and its allies.

I thank you for your time and attention to this important matter.


Charles E. Schumer
United States Senate