In a bizarre postscript to the 2001 jailing in Yemen of three Philadelphians who'd gone there for Islamic studies, two of them received unexpected e-mails from the Yemeni colonel who interrogated them.
Five days after Sayfullaah Al-Amriykiy and Anwar Whittaker returned to their Philadelphia homes, Al-Amriykiy received an email dated Nov. 3, 2001:
"It's me Mohammed Ali, the officer interogate [sic] you at the PSO [Political Security Organization] in Yemen. I'm so sorry for what happened to yuo [sic] and the nice guy Anwar."
Al-Amriykiy saved Ali's e-mail and four others sent between 2001-2004 to prove that he had been imprisoned.
In a Dec. 19, 2003, e-mail, Ali wrote that he had been in the U.S., but couldn't call or e-mail "because all the period was completely programmed and I was very busy all the time."
In a March 25, 2004, e-mail, Ali asked to borrow $6,000, which he promised to pay back in 18 months.
In his response, Al-Amriykiy told Ali he didn't have $6,000 but was considering writing a book about being locked up in Yemen and needed his help.
At the time, Oprah Winfrey was interviewing U.S. citizens who had been locked in Baghdad prisons. So Al-Amriykiy tried to contact the celebrity talk show host and asked Ali if he'd come on the show with him and Whittaker, if it could be arranged. ("The Oprah Winfrey Show" never responded.)
In the same e-mail, Al-Amriykiy, who said he once worked undercover for Burns Security, asked Ali for information for his book: the history of the Political Security Organization and the role it plays in Yemen; permission to use Ali's name and rank; photos of the PSO's entrance gate.
Ali declined, noting, "I can't because the matter is sinsitive [sic] little bit. As you know a place like our organization."
In a May 8, 2004, e-mail, Ali confided: "I'm thinking of getting married to U.S. lady and live in the states for somedays to be able to buy a house in [Sana'a] and buy a good car and come back to my lovely country because I know that there is gonna be a problem in bringing up and teaching Islam aspects to my kids in the states."
After asking Al-Amriykiy what he thought of his plan, Ali made a request: "Can you send me a visa"? *