Does Rehab for Terrorists Work?

"Underwear bomb" plotter released from Gitmo, went to 12-step terrorist rehab.

ByABC News
December 31, 2009, 5:40 PM

Jan. 1, 2010— -- The leader of the al Qaeda group that claimed responsibility for trying to blow up a U.S. airliner on Christmas Day was released from the Guantanamo Bay prison for terrorists on the condition that he be sent to a terrorist rehab center in Saudi Arabia.

The rehabilitation of terrorist Said Ali al-Shihri was an obvious failure and it now raises serious questions about the Obama administration's plan to send another 100 Yemeni prisoners from Gitmo to Saudi rehab camps in an effort to empty the Gitmo prison and close it down.

It has also put a spotlight on the rehab camps amid questions whether they really work, especially for hard core jihadists who get released from Gitmo.

In a country renowned for medieval forms of punishment – which include flogging and cutting off the hands of thieves – Saudi Arabia's 12-step program for terrorists looks like summer camp by comparison.

The rehabilitation program is intended to deprogram radicalized militants who have been convicted of terror-related offenses by offering psychological counseling, classes in more moderate forms of Islam, and alternative ways to vent their energy, including art therapy, swimming, and playing sports and video games.

The Saudis boast that since the program was implemented it has been 80 percent successful, with only 20 percent of inmates going on to commit crimes that result in their being "wanted, captured or killed in security incidents."

Some 3,000 prisoners have gone through the program since 2003 and there are about 1,000 inmates still enrolled, according to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.