GUANTANAMO BAY NAVY BASE, Cuba -- A well-behaving “forever prisoner” — who was once thought to be “American Taliban” John Walker Lindh’s field commander — didn’t show up at his parole hearing Monday.
Salem bin Kanad, in his late 30s, was the fifth of Guantánamo’s 154 captives to have his plea for release heard by a Periodic Review Board and the first to boycott the actual session.
A Pentagon spokesman, Army Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale, said Kanad “chose not to participate” and “elected not to be represented by private counsel.” He did not elaborate.
So two officers assigned to Kanad’s read a statement that described him as a cooperative captive who is allowed to live in the detention center’s prisoner-of-war-style lock-up, Camp 6. He has at times been chosen as a prison camp block leader, according to the statement, and aspires “to return to a normal, productive life in Saudi Arabia” with his auto-dealer father and siblings who “have no identified extremist affiliation.”
Curiously, a U.S. intelligence profile of the prisoner, drawn up in January, described him not as a Saudi but a Yemeni with family ties in both countries, notably to Osama bin Laden’s ancestral South Yemen Hadramawt region, home to a powerful al-Qaida franchise.
“The robust presence of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in [Kanad’s] home region of Hadramawt,” it said, “probably would encourage his reengagement in extremist activities if he were repatriated to Yemen.”
According to Kanad’s leaked 2008 prison intelligence assessment, he got to Guantánamo in the first days of the prison camps, when captives were kept at Camp X-Ray. He was profiled as a jihadist field commander of a Taliban-affiliated Arab Brigade that resisted the late-2001 U.S. coalition invasion.
He was among some of the earliest Northern Alliance captives, the profile said, and was shot in the chest and legs during a prisoner uprising outside Mazar-e-Sharif in which CIA agent John “Mike” Spann was killed.
In a detail not mentioned in Monday’s profile of the prisoner, the 2008 assessment had Lindh identifying Kanad as a commander known as Abu Usama Tabuki, from Saudi Arabia. It was unclear if that aspect of Lindh’s interrogation was later discredited or considered no longer relevant 13 years after his capture.
Lindh, 33, is serving a 20-year federal prison sentence in Terra Haute, Ind., from a guilty plea for aiding the Taliban during the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan. His release date is May 23, 2019.