Can Muslim terrorists be rehabilitated with kindness?

Should terrorists be treated with open arms and an open heart? The Obama Administration believes that Saudi Arabia is the ideal place to send dozens of Yeminis being held at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp.

On May 22, 2009, NOW on PBS partnered with Loki Films and best-selling author and journalist Robert Lacey to investigate the surprising success of Saudi Arabia’s approach to dealing with terrorists and extremists–without torture or water-boarding. Given extraordinary access to the Saudi Arabian Interior Ministry and its practices, Lacey visits terrorist rehabilitation camps that use “soft policing” tactics to be nice to the bad guys.

In the program we see the Saudis providing a private jumbo jet to bring inmates home from Guantanamo Bay, giving them a hero’s welcome, then sending them to a converted holiday resort for re-education. Then, the men are set free.

Is this rehab program working, and can we trust the Saudis to protect themselves–and us–against Islamic extremism in the future?

I guess we know the answer now: 25 former detainees from Guantanamo Camp camp returned to militancy after going through a rehabilitation program for al-Qaeda members in Saudi Arabia.

ABC NEWS The United States sent back around 120 Saudis from the detention camp at the U.S. naval base in Cuba, set up after the U.S. launched a “war on terror” following the September 11 attacks by mostly Saudi suicide hijackers sent by al Qaeda.

Saudi Arabia has put the returned prisoners along with other al Qaeda suspects through a rehabilitation program which includes religious re-education by clerics and financial help to start a new life. The scheme, which some 300 extremists have attended, is part of anti-terrorism efforts after al Qaeda staged attacks inside the kingdom from 2003-06. These were halted after scores of suspects were arrested with the help of foreign experts.

Around 11 Saudis from Guantanamo have gone to Yemen, an operating base for al Qaeda, while others have been jailed again or killed after attending the program, said Abdulrahman al-Hadlaq, Director General of the General Administration for Intellectual Security overseeing the rehabilitation.

He pinpointed strong personal ties among former prisoners but also tough U.S. tactics as the reason why some 20 percent of the returned Saudis relapsed into militancy compared to 9.5 percent of other participants in the rehabilitation program.

Saudi’s still think the Terrorist Rehabilitation Scheme has been a success, even though 2,000 teachers have been fired for their extremist views and 400 are in prison.

Despite the setback with Guantanamo prisoners, Saudi Arabia regards the rehabilitation scheme, which kicks in after militants have served a prison term, as a success.

More than 2,000 sympathizers of al Qaeda are still in prison in Saudi Arabia. Some 2,000 teachers have been removed from classrooms for their extremist views in the past five years while 400 teachers are in prison, Hadlaq said.

Terrorists leaving Rehab Camp to return to al-Qaeda

Saudi Arabia plans to build five more rehabilitation centers which will be able to accommodate 250 people each, he said. The expansion plans are partly to cope with the eventual release of 991 suspected al Qaeda militants whom the authorities said in October were awaiting trial for 30 attacks since 2003.

In July, a Saudi court sentenced one unnamed Islamist to death and handed out to others jail terms of up to 30 years in the first publicly reported trials since the arrests.

The Saudi Rehab camp was designed to ease them back into society and steer them away from a life of Islamic jihad. But as soon as they were released they headed to Yemen where they re-joined al-Qaeda. The results of their re-education became frighteningly apparent on Christmas Day with Northwest Flight 253 to Detroit.