WASHINGTON — An American detained by U.S. forces was carrying thumb drives containing files on how to make bombs plus administrative spreadsheets describing work he did for the Islamic State group at the time he surrendered in Syria last year, according to documents the U.S. government filed in federal court.
The government’s justification for holding the detainee without charge, contained in more than 150 pages filed late Wednesday, is loaded with details about the still-unidentified man, who is married and has a 3-year-old daughter. Yet it raises more questions about why he was in Syria. He has told U.S. authorities that he was kidnapped and imprisoned by IS and had press credentials to do freelance writing about the conflict.
The case has sparked debate about the government’s legal right to hold enemy combatants linked with IS under congressionally approved war powers written after the Sept. 11 attacks as well as the constitutional rights afforded every American citizen.
The government’s court filing provides a detailed itinerary of the detainee’s travels across the world, including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Turkey and Syria — and the United States where he went to college in Louisiana.
The FBI interviewed someone who met the detainee in New Orleans in July 2005 when he was a college student. The associate described the detainee’s behavior at the time as “wild and typical of a college student” and that he engaged in drinking, partying, gambling and marijuana use. The associate said the detainee did not work but received “a sizable amount of money from the Saudi Arabian government each month” and that his “mother was very wealthy.”
The associate also said that in about 2005 or 2006, the detainee lived briefly in Covington, Louisiana, where he also went to casinos and strip clubs. After an argument with friends about not repaying money he used to gamble, the detainee left Louisiana and returned to Saudi Arabia — he has dual citizenship there.
According to the government, the detainee signed up to be an IS fighter in 2014 during a visit to Syria, attended one of the militant’s training camps and later worked various jobs, including distributing vehicles to members of IS and guarding an oil field under IS control.
The detainee was captured around Sept. 11, 2017, by U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces at a checkpoint. He said he had been walking for two days. The SDF said all the land within two days’ walk of the screening checkpoint was controlled by IS.
The detainee identified himself as “daesh,” which is another name for IS, and told the SDF “that he wanted to turn himself in and speak to the Americans,” the court filing said. The SDF took him into custody and handed him over to U.S. forces.
The filing says that when he surrendered, he was carrying $4,200 and a global positioning device. The thumb drives also contained information about how to interrogate captives as well as other how-to manuals for an IS fighter, according to the…