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Gitmo Fades As Recruiting Tool For Al Qaeda

President Obama still insists he will close Guantanamo Bay's terror prison because it's a "tremendous recruiting tool for Al Qaeda" -- but it's not much of a tool anymore, a Daily News analysis has found.

Terrorism experts agree with Obama that the blight of past abuses of Gitmo detainees once helped Islamists draw followers to join their radical anti-Western jihad by mentioning the U.S. prison camp in Cuba in its propaganda videos -- which are the most visible tool Al Qaeda and its allies use for recruitment.

But Al Qaeda has rarely complained about Guantanamo Bay since Obama pledged to shut it down on his first day in office a year ago, a meticulous scrubbing of *jihadi* propaganda has revealed.

"As soon as Obama said that, they didn't miss a beat -- they changed up their messaging and said it's not just about Gitmo, it's about Bagram, too," said IntelCenter director Ben Venzke, referring to the U.S. jail in Afghanistan.

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'American Al Qaeda' spokesman Adam Yahiye Gadahn in September 2009

Republicans have bashed Obama's plan to empty Gitmo and transfer its detainees to an empty maximum-security prison in Thomson, Ill.

But, Venzke predicted, "As soon as Illinois gets set up, guess what? (The propaganda) isn't going to be any different."

Obama said again this month that, "We will close Guantanamo prison, which has damaged our national security interests and become a tremendous recruiting tool for Al Qaeda."

"It's not quite as front and center as it was during the Bush administration," said Flashpoint Intelligence terror expert Evan Kohlmann. "But Gitmo is still a centerpiece in Al Qaeda's argument that nothing has changed in the U.S. since Obama's election."

You'd have to look hard to find Gitmo mentioned in recent public statements made by Osama Bin Laden and his ilk.

Al Qaeda griped about Gitmo 32 times in its propaganda messages over the past seven years, and its affiliate groups cited it 26 times, U.S. officials told The News. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the Yemen-based franchise, cited Gitmo -- where several of its leaders and operatives were once held -- as a reason for merging with Saudi Al Qaeda a year ago.

But "core" Al Qaeda -- Bin Laden's crew -- only brought up the camp four times last year, lumping it in with other prisons where they claim Muslims are held unjustly.

One was a chest-thumping 9/11 anniversary video last year, which starred a who's who of Al Qaeda.

"Americans have to understand that the important thing isn't whether our brothers are being held in Cuba, or in Afghanistan, in Diego Garcia, or in Belmarsh, in Michigan, or Montana or in Fort Leavenworth," ranted American Al Qaeda mouthpiece Adam Gadahn. "They are being held without right by unbelievers in God's divine law."

"There doesn't appear to be a noticeable shift away from Guantanamo in Al Qaeda propaganda," a U.S. counterterror official told The News. "Al Qaeda has, since the election of President Obama, argued that the continued use of Guantanamo to detain prisoners is evidence the new administration is untrustworthy."

Blowing his own self-imposed deadline to close the camp by now didn't help Obama politically, but the official said Gitmo has been deemphasized by the enemy.

Al Qaeda now simply argues that Obama "has failed in his pledge to close the facility and calling those promises 'void slogans,'" the counterterror official said.

  

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Brings to mind this parody: Obama Administration Disappointed by Latest Message from al-Qaeda (Click Image to Enlarge) http://optoons.blogspot.com/2010/01/obama-administration-disappointed-by...