A recently released Guantanamo Bay intelligence assessment indicates that a member of Yemen's Political Security Organization (PSO) was an active member of al-Qaida and used his government position to transport terrorists around the world.
The leaked report, from Sept. 24, 2008, also contends that Abd al Salam al Hilah, who has been a detainee since 2004, had ties to some of the most high-ranking al-Qaida operatives, including Ayman al Zawahiri. It adds that he "had foreknowledge of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the 2000 attack on the UK Embassy in Sanaa ... the 2000 attack on the USS Cole, a planned attack on the US or British Embassy in Sanaa that was to occur in October 2002, and probably the 11 September 2001 terrorist attack."
The PSO is characterized in the file as Yemen's "primary state security apparatus, an independent agency which reports directly to" President Ali Abdullah Saleh. However, according to Hilah, the PSO and Yemeni government are filled with al-Qaida sympathizers "who facilitated the travel of al Qaida members and other extremists by providing false passports and purchasing airline tickets."
Though one analyst dismissed these findings as being part of Yemen's policy of deporting terrorists, Hilah said that PSO members actively supported al-Qaida. These members, along with other high-ranking officials in the Yemeni government, had been providing false documents and safe passage out of Yemen for terrorist operatives since 1996 "under the guise of deportation."
The PSO's deputy chief, direction, transportation commander and another officer were implicated in the intelligence report as al-Qaida accomplices. Additionally, Ali Muhsin, an influential Yemeni general who assisted in President Saleh's rise to power, was said to be aware of these arrangements.
According to the leaked report, Hilah also knew of an alleged meeting between the Yemeni government and al-Qaida in which the two groups conspired to attack American and British targets prior to the American invasion of Iraq. Hilah "has knowledge of an April or May 2002 meeting, where members of the Yemeni parliament met with al-Qaida members to plan retaliatory car bomb attacks on the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's (NATO) Headquarters in Brussels…if the US attacked Iraq," the report said.
In the 2008 assessment, Hilah was characterized as a "high risk" detainee. He was also considered to be of "high intelligence value" and wanted for further questioning about 9/11 and the alleged ties between Yemeni government officials and al-Qaida.