Where is Omar Al-Farouq?

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Before I write about where Omar al-Farouq is, I should probably write a little about who Omar al-Farouq is.

Born in Kuwait in 1971, al-Farouq was once al-Qaeda's highest-ranking operative in Southeast Asia (according to coaches and to media polls!). Sometimes stories about him are hard to find in the English-language press because his last name has four popular English spellings: al-Farouq, al-Farouk, al-Faruq, and al-Farooq. He also has seven known aliases. Farookie-Dook-Dookie, Kooki Farooki, and Farookz of Hazzard are, unfortunately, not among them.

Al-Farouq's primary accomplishment, if you can call it an accomplishment, is that he's the matchmaker who turned the flirtation between al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiyah (the Indonesian Muslim terrorist group) into a full-on love affair. The offspring of the al-Qaeda-Jemaah Islamiyah romance include the bombing of 11 Indonesian churches on Christmas 2000, the October 2002 Bali nightclub bombings that killed 202 people, and, more than likely, a triple-restaurant bombing last month in Bali that killed at least 25 people.

In short, Omar al-Farouq is one of the worst of the worst. If you ever need to be reminded why the United States should be fighting fundamentalist Muslim terrorists, all you have to do is think of al-Farouq.

So where is Omar al-Farouq?

Indonesian authorities captured him in June 2002. Like good little War on TerrorTM allies, they handed him over to U.S. authorities. Once the United States got him, officials started interrogations. At first, he didn't say much. But after three of months of, how shall I put this, vigorous questioning, al-Farouq started spilling the (fava?) beans on his al-Qaeda compatriots.

Someone in the U.S. government was so pleased with the results of the interrogation that he or she leaked classified details of it to Time magazine. Time put al-Farouq on its Sept. 23, 2002, cover. The same issue had a story about a Baptist minister who sued to stop yoga from being taught in his kids' elementary school.

The story indicated that al-Farouq provided lots of information about other al-Qaeda operatives in Southeast Asia, their funding sources, and even pending plots. If you need yet another reason to loathe him, note that it was information from al-Farouq that prompted the first "orange" alert after we adopted that stupid color-coded threat-advisory system.

But the actual amount and quality of the information that al-Farouq provided (and that Time reported he provided) is in question. After all, less than two months after al-Farouq blew the covers of his fellow al-Qaedudes in Indonesia, they still managed to execute the large October 2002 Bali attack.

Al-Farouq remained in U.S. custody until July 10, 2005. That's when he and three other prisoners escaped from the American prison at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan.

How al-Farouq escaped is a mystery. According to Newsweek, prisoners at Bagram are held in wire cages in the middle of a warehouse floor, kinda like Hannibal Lecter. To escape, he would have had to break out of his cage, the fortified warehouse, and somehow get through a maze of razor-wire walls and pits, as well as a minefield, all while wearing a "Hey, look at me, I'm a prisoner" bright orange jumpsuit.

You'd think that when a top al-Qaeda suspect escapes from U.S. custody, U.S. officials might, oh, I don't know, TELL US! This is, after all, the administration of the self-proclaimed "accountability president." In fact, they did not tell us. When U.S. officials reported a Bagram escape in July, they referred to al-Farouq by the unknown alias Mahmoud Ahmad Mohammed. Al-Farouq's escape only became publicly known this month, thanks to the prisoner abuse trial of U.S. Army Sgt. Alan Driver. Driver's lawyers called al-Farouq as a witness, only to be told that he could not testify because he had escaped.

The Bush administration also withheld news of al-Farouq's escape from Indonesia. Understandably, Indonesians are now angry and worried. Indonesia was al-Farouq's old stomping ground, after all. With its more than 17,500 islands spread out across 3,000 miles of ocean, al-Farouq might wanna go back and pick up where he left off. If indeed he headed back to Indonesia, our failure to 'fess up gave al-Farouq a four-month head start on Indonesian security forces.

Just imagine if someone did that to us. We'd probably think twice before handing them any suspected terrorists in the future.