One, bin Laden's "cook and driver"--Ibrahim al-Qosi. After spending 8 years at GITMO he underwent a military tribunal in 2010 and received only 2 additional years confinement, now he's out. Hey, he's just a cook, right? In today's news yes, but there was a time the government considered him a courier, accountant and jack-of-all-trades side man for the world's most-wanted terrorist. Is he reformed now? Who knows.
The other, a US-born Islamic religious lecturer with a PhD in computational biology who worked as a software engineer at several companies in the Washington DC area-- Ali al-Timimi. In 2005 Mr. Timimi was convicted of sedition among other crimes related to inciting jihad against America and received a life sentence plus 70 years. He was no doubt a cheerleader for the destruction of the west but unless there's something we don't know about he wasn't involved in directing any specific attacks.
So why is the guy who served loyally with UBL released while a guy who thinks he's doing the work of Allah by pointing out sins of the Great Satan via the Koran stashed away for life? Sure, one was a field sargent while the other had potential widespread influence, but it still seems a strange disparity. The judge in Timmi's trial even let him remain free on bond pending sentencing and expressed reluctance in proscribing the mandatory life sentence.
One motivation is of course rank post 9/11 fear. Charismatic Islamic scholars can have far-reaching influence as illustrated by another US-born religious person, Anwar Awlaki. Embarrassment might be another driver--recall Awlaki was once considered a moderate Muslim and even invited to the Pentagon to give seminars before ascending to number one on the presidential kill list. Tamimi reportedly had worked under contract to the military (with a security clearance) and had job connections around the Beltway.
Still, the disparity of sentencing makes one wonder whether the fear of Tamimi penetrated to a deeper level. Then again, lots of things in this War on Terror don't make sense, like the 180 degree change between how Iraq was described by the mainstream press in the 90s compared to today. Whatever the case, it's good to know the war is finally over. Whew! No need to even mention it during the upcoming election season.