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  1. #41
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    Shaker Aamer 'Beaten' in Latest Guantanamo Crackdown

    LONDON - British resident Shaker Aamer has reportedly been beaten at Guantánamo Bay, in evidence of a new crackdown on prisoners protesting their detention without charge.

    In new letters received by legal charity Reprieve, detainees reveal what one calls a new “standard procedure” of abuses at the prison. Emad Hassan, a Yemeni detained without charge since 2002, wrote that “an FCE [Forcible Cell Extraction] team has been brought in to beat the detainees […] On Sunday, Shaker ISN 239 was beaten when the medical people wanted to draw blood.” Mr Hassan adds that guards had beaten another detainee for nearly 2 hours.

    ‘Forcible Cell Extraction’ or ‘FCEing’ is the process by which a detainee is forced out of his cell by a group of armed guards, often before being taken to the force-feeding chair. Mr Aamer has previously described being beaten by the FCE team up to eight times a day.

    Mr Aamer, who has been cleared for release by both the Bush and Obama administrations, has been held for long periods of solitary confinement since 2005 and is in extremely poor health. An independent medical examination conducted earlier this year diagnosed him with severe post-traumatic stress, and recommended urgent psychiatric treatment and “reintegration into his family.”

    In June, former Foreign Secretary William Hague told Reprieve that UK officials were confident Mr Aamer had access to a "detainee welfare package” and that his health “remain[ed] stable.” In a letter sent this week, Reprieve director Clive Stafford Smith urged Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond to raise urgent questions with the US Government about these latest reports of mistreatment.

    Cori Crider, Strategic Director at Reprieve and a lawyer for Mr Aamer, said: “Just weeks ago, the UK Government dismissed our concerns about Shaker Aamer’s wellbeing, relying on US assurances about a so-called Guantanamo ‘welfare package.’ Now we hear that Shaker, already a seriously ill man, has been beaten. Phillip Hammond should seek answers from the US without delay about why, instead of simply releasing Shaker, it prefers to detain and abuse him.”


  2. #42
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    Obama Lawyers: Corporations May Be People Under Law, But Actual Humans In Gitmo Are Not

    Posted: 07/09/2014

    WASHINGTON -- After the Supreme Court ruled last month that for-profit corporations like Hobby Lobby should be considered "persons" under a law intended to protect religious liberties, the Obama administration said this week that Guantanamo detainees should not be.

    As "nonresident aliens outside the United States sovereign territory," Guantanamo detainees "are not protected person[s] within the meaning and scope" of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, Justice Department lawyers argued in a filing on Tuesday evening.

    The government lawyers were responding to an emergency request from attorneys for Guantanamo detainees asking a federal judge to allow their clients to pray communally during Ramadan, a month-long observance that is already underway. Lawyers with the human rights group Reprieve had pointed to the Supreme Court's recent decision in the Hobby Lobby case. They argued that ruling "makes clear that all persons -- human and corporate, citizen and foreigner, resident and alien -- enjoy the special religious free exercise protections of the RFRA."

    Justice Department lawyers disagreed, saying that the Supreme Court has "never addressed whether unprivileged enemy belligerents detained overseas during a period of ongoing hostilities are 'persons' to whom RFRA applies." Congress never intended that law to cover "enemy belligerents detained overseas," they wrote.

    Though RFRA was passed in 1993, long before detainees arrived in Guantanamo in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the government argued that "Congress did not intend to extend RFRA to Guantanamo Bay" and urged the lower court to rule that "RFRA does not apply to the actions of the military officials charged with detaining the unprivileged enemy belligerents at Guantanamo Bay."

    A lawyer for the detainees said the government needs to recognize that Guantanamo detainees are people, too.

    "It is staggering that the Obama administration is prepared to argue that Guantanamo prisoners aren't people, while accepting that corporations are," Cori Crider, an attorney for Reprieve, said in a statement. "I fail to see how the President can stand up and claim Guantánamo is a scandal while his lawyers call detainees non-persons in court. If the President is serious about closing this prison, he could start by recognizing that its inmates are people -- most of whom have been cleared by his own Government."

    Both sides will make their arguments before a federal judge in Washington on Thursday morning. Read the government's filing below.
    DOJ: Guantanamo Detainees Aren't 'Persons' Under The Law


  3. #43
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    By Asking For His Wallet Back, a Gitmo Detainee May Have Revealed US War Crimes

    By Jason Leopold
    July 10, 2014

    The Department of Defense (DOD) may be guilty of war crimes at Guantanamo Bay — but it's not because of water boarding or force feeding or indefinite detention without charge.

    It's because the military is stealing wallets.

    VICE News has learned that when detainees are released from the detention facility, the military refuses to return the money it seized from them upon their capture. The US argues that it keeps the money because it could be used to finance terrorism — but this would seem to contradict the US position that detainees transferred out of Gitmo aren't national security threats.

    It may seem like a stretch to characterize the military's policy of withholding cash from former Gitmo detainees as a war crime, especially when compared with torture. But the laws of war — also known as International Humanitarian Law, which the US says it upholds and applies to Guantanamo detainees — forbids pillaging. And several military and human rights legal experts told VICE News this is what the policy amounts to.

    “For more than 100 years, there has been a criminal prohibition in the laws of war over pillage,” said Gabor Rona, the international legal director for Human Rights First. “Most of the case law concerning pillage has to do with the obligation to return property to detainees upon their release. It could very well be a war crime."

    * * *

    The previously unknown “policy,” revealed here for the first time, applies to all captives regardless of whether they were wrongfully detained, have never been charged with a crime, or have prevailed in challenging the legality of their detention in habeas corpus proceedings, according to the DOD.

    In addition, the government’s policy appears to contradict the fact that the Secretary of Defense certifies that any detainee who is repatriated or transferred from Guantanamo no longer poses a threat to national security. The policy suggests that all detainees held at Guantanamo are terrorists by virtue of being imprisoned at Guantanamo, and that they therefore may engage in acts of terrorism once they leave even if they never have before.

    Details of the government’s policy surfaced in the little-known court case of Algerian national Djamel Ameziane, who last December was transferred back to Algeria after being detained at Gitmo for more than a decade. The 47-year-old had never been charged with a crime.

    Ameziane mounted a legal challenge against the US government earlier this year to try and retrieve money confiscated from him: about $1,270 he said he earned working in Canada, and a smaller amount of Afghan and Pakistani currency. He said in a sworn declaration that he is destitute and homeless, and needs the money to survive because the US transferred him to Algeria with nothing but the clothes on his back and a special Gitmo care package.

    “I don't have any money to rent an apartment, and the officials from various government agencies have explicitly indicated to me that they will offer me neither financial nor housing assistance, nor… any kind of assistance whatsoever,” Ameziane said.

    But the US said it couldn’t return Ameziane’s money, arguing in court documents filed in federal court in Washington, DC that doing so would pose a grave threat to national security and run contrary to the government’s policy. Joint Task Force Guantanamo “retains all money that was on a detainee’s person at the time of his capture,” Jay Alan Liotta, principal director for the Office of Rule of Law and Detainee Policy at the Defense Department, said in a sworn declaration. “The procedure to retain money associated with detainees is based on a strong national security interest in preventing these funds from being used in a manner that would adversely impact the safety and security of the United States.”

    Liotta, providing some rare insight into Guantanamo’s operations, noted in his declaration that all “departing detainees” receive a “travel package” consisting of “a Koran in the detainee’s language, a blanket, clothing, and several personal care items."

    “Specifically, the travel package includes two sets of clothing (pants and smocks), two pairs of underwear, prayer caps, socks, shower shoes, and slip-on shoes,” Liotta continued. “The package also contains a towel and washcloth, toothbrush, toothpaste, shaving cream, deodorant, shampoo, a razor, and a comb.”

    He added that although detainees may use money seized from them for “legitimate or benign purposes, such as to purchase food or clothing,” there’s a possibility that the money could also be used to “help finance terrorist activities” and as such is “as dangerous as a weapon.”

    “Due to the unprecedented and ongoing nature of the current conflict where money can be useful to a terrorist organization… the Department of Defense appropriately mitigates the threat that a detainee released from Guantanamo Bay may pose by removing from his possession any financial instruments or currency that might be used to adversely impact the safety and security of the United States,” Liotta said.

    The government’s rationale does not appear to make much sense.

    “We’re letting him go because he’s no longer a threat,” Rona said. “But we’re not giving back his money because he’s a threat.”

    UPDATE — July 21, 3:43pm ET: A federal judge ruled Monday that the US government is not legally obligated to return the money taken from former Gitmo detainee Djamel Ameziane when he was captured.

    * * *

    Eugene R. Fidell, who teaches military justice at Yale Law School, said the government’s position is "a complete scandal.”

    “I don’t know any district judges who wouldn’t be infuriated by this," he told VICE News. "International humanitarian law makes it perfectly clear that you have to return prisoners’ personal property at the time of release."

    DOD spokesman and Army Lieutenant Colonel Myles Caggins did not share a copy of the government’s policy with VICE News when we requested it. He also declined to respond to our questions — citing ongoing litigation — about how much money the US has seized from Guantanamo detainees over the past 12 years, what the US has done with the funds, and when the policy was enacted.

    Wells Dixon, an attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) who represents Ameziane, said he doesn’t believe such a government policy actually exists.

    “I don’t think that this so-called policy is an actual policy,” he told us. “I literally think this is something that was decided by a mid-level bureaucrat at DOD who believes that everyone held at Guantanamo is a threat to the US.”

    Dixon said he is seeking relief from the courts on Ameziane’s behalf through a post-transfer habeas corpus challenge, which would, if granted, upend the government’s policy. He has also invoked an Army regulation that implements certain international legal obligations governing the treatment of enemy prisoners of war, such as the return of property seized from a prisoner. But the government has argued that the Army regulation doesn’t apply to Ameziane.

    “What’s important here is that the government has held his money simply on the basis of his prior detention,” Dixon said. “It has nothing to do with his actual conduct. It has to do with the fact that he was held in Guantanamo and nothing to do with any of the allegations against him."

    * * *

    Rest of the article talks about Ameziane story and current and past administration response, and can be read here:


    PDF File: http://www.scribd.com/doc/233384778/Gitmo-Money

  4. #44
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    The Hague Treats War Criminals More Humanely Than Gitmo Treats Its Detainees

    By Jessica Schulberg

    "Safe. Humane. Legal. Transparent.” That’s how the U.S. government characterizes its prison at Guantánamo Bay. But in the twelve years that it has been in operation, Gitmo has become notoriously linked to torture, indefinite detention, and government secrecy.

    The U.S. has defended the prison's legality by saying that while at war with Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, they have the authority to detain people suspected of being members of either group. Under international law of war, it is legal to detain enemy combatants without charge because it is considered preferable to killing them. However, because the purpose of detention is strictly to remove combatants from the battlefield, the conditions of imprisonment cannot be punitive in nature. Common article III of the Geneva Conventions, which deals with conflicts involving non-state actors, forbids detention practices that are cruel, degrading, or humiliating.

    Non-punitive detention is possible, even in places that house some of the world’s most notorious people. The International Criminal Court at The Hague operates a detention center at The Hague, which holds accused war criminals as they await trial. ICC detainees have included accused Serbian genocidaire Slobodan Milošević and Congolese warlord Bosco Ntaganda. As explained on the detention center’s website, “If convicted of crimes under the jurisdiction of the ICC, they do not serve their sentences at the ICC Detention Centre, as it is not a facility made for the purposes of managing a regime of convicted prisoners; they are transferred to a prison outside of the Netherlands to serve their time.”

    Camp seven, the facility which holds the high-value detainees at Guantánamo, does not have a website, and details about conditions inside the camp are highly classified. In 2009, Admiral Patrick M. Walsh conducted a review of Guantánamo and compared Camp seven to a SuperMax prison—a facility specifically designed to punish convicted criminals.

    The legal requirements for the detention facilities at The Hague and at Guantánamo are identical, but the conditions of imprisonment are nothing alike.


  5. #45
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    The Torture Report Will Make It Harder for the Government to Prosecute Guantánamo Prisoners


    Innocent until proven guilty
    . It’s a basic tenet of American law, international law, and moral intuition. And with the presumption of innocence, a ban on pretrial punishment follows. On Tuesday, the Senate Intelligence Committee released a redacted summary of their report detailing the CIA’s enhanced interrogation program. Their findings confirm what should have been accepted as fact years ago: The prisoners held at Guantánamo Bay were punished to the fullest extent possible without a trial determining their guilt.

    Most of the prisoners at Guantánamo will never see a courtroom, but there are six men who are currently facing the death penalty if found guilty: Abd Al-Rahim Al-Nashiri, the alleged mastermind of the U.S.S. Cole bombing; and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Walid Bin-Attash, Ramzi Bin al-Shibh, Ammar Al-Baluchi, and Mustafa Al-Hawsawi, the fivedefendants charged with planning the September 11 attacks. All six men are included in the Senate report, and they were subject to CIA interrogation tactics that included rectal feeding, sleep deprivation, and waterboarding sessions that caused detainees to vomit and lose consciousness.

    While the fact that these men were tortured should surprise no one, the declassification of that information should ostensibly make it more difficult for the government to charge them with a crime, much less sentence them to death. Article 13 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) describes a prohibition against pretrial punishment. If an individual is punished before being found guilty of a crime, they are entitled to relief, which can range from a reduced sentence to complete dismissal of charges.

    There is no equivalent clause in the Military Commissions Act of 2009, the special set of laws governing Guantánamo trials. “When cutting and pasting from the UCMJ to create the Military Commissions Act, the government apparently attempted to take away the right to be free from pretrial punishment,” said Air Force Captain Michael Schwartz, a Judge Advocate General who represents Bin-Attash. “But the right still exists under both the U.S. Constitution and international law. In light of what we are seeing in the SSCI [Sentate Select Committee on Intelligence] report, Mr. Bin-Attash clearly is due significant relief from any sentence the military commission imposes. If the 9/11 trial were being tried under the UCMJ, it is highly unlikely that the death penalty would be available as a potential sentence in light of this now-confirmed evidence,” he added.

    There’s a strong precedent for Schwartz’s argument. In 2008, Susan J. Crawford, the convening authority of the military commissions, dismissed charges against Mohammed Al-Qahtani, who was initially included in the 9/11 case. The following year, Crawford, a lifelong Republican who has expressed sympathy for the tough choices the CIA was forced to make, explained her decision: "We tortured Qahtani … His treatment met the legal definition of torture. And that's why I did not refer the case" for prosecution.

    By 2009, it was obvious to anyone involved in the military commissions that Qahtani’s five co-defendants were tortured as well—but information about their torture remained classified until Tuesday, and has therefore largely been kept out their trial. “Mr. Bin-Attash was forced stand, awake, for 93 out of 97 hours. I couldn’t tell you that a few days ago or I’d face prosecution. Which is absurd, considering it’s my job to defend him. Part of defending him is getting the truth out,” said Schwartz.

    Even after the release of the Senate report, defense lawyers representing Guantánamo detainees are still obligated to stay silent about details of their clients’ torture which were not included in the report summary. On Wednesday, the Office of Military Commissions sent lawyers an email reminding them to “be vigilant regarding restrictions associated with other aspects not covered by this report.” A subsequent email read, “The release of yesterday's Exec Summary from the SSCI does not relieve us of our responsibilities to protect classified information. We must still adhere to current guidance, policies, and protocols until new guidance and polices are issued. The only change is the un-redacted information contained in the Exec Summary is unclassified and may be treated as such.”

    The executive summary is just 11 percent of the total report, which is over 6,000 pages long. Although the descriptions of torture in the summary are horrifying, they are likely only a small glimpse of the abuses committed by the CIA. “The main effect of the release of the redacted summary report is to demonstrate the importance of releasing the remainder of the report and the underlying documents [referenced in over 35,000 footnotes],” said James Connell, lawyer for 9/11 defendant Al-Baluchi. “For example, the Senate report summary acknowledges EITs [enhanced interrogation techniques] were used on Mr. Al-Baluchi for the first time. But it doesn’t describe what they are,” he added.

    So far, the Senate Intelligence Committee has been hesitant to share the full report with the defense lawyers, who are simultaneously pushing the prosecution (the U.S. government) to release the report in the discovery phase of the case. “There's no way that a Senate staffer should be able to see this information, but an active duty military officer with a Top Secret clearance representing a capital defendant can't,” said Schwartz. “A good portion of what was just released to the public is information that, just last week, military commissions prosecutors refused to provide to military defense lawyers with Top Secret clearances. So not only does the report reveal some of the truths of the CIA's torture program, it exposes one of the straw-man arguments prosecutors have been making on behalf of the CIA at Guantanamo's kangaroo court.”


    To read about the torture reports visit:


  6. #46
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    Held in a hell hole for 13 years without trial: Scandal of the Londoner locked in Guantanamo with no hope of justice

    • Shaker Aamer, 46, has been detained in Guantanamo Bay since 2001
    • He says he has been beaten and starved of food at US base in Cuba
    • Lawyers say he is still there because he will expose evidence of torture
    • Mr Aamer claims he was in the room when detainee was being abused
    • He moved to London from Saudi Arabia more than 20 years ago
    • Has four children with his British wife, who lives in Battersea, London
    • Aroused suspicion when he moved to Taliban-held Afghanistan with family

    The horrifying story of a London father incarcerated at Guantanamo Bay for 13 years can be told today.

    Amid global outrage at a US Senate report into the torture of terror suspects by the CIA, MPs last night demanded the immediate release of Shaker Aamer.

    The 46-year-old, who has been detained without trial or charge since November 2001, says he has been beaten and starved of sleep and food.

    Lawyers say he is still being held at the US base in Cuba only because intelligence officials fear he will expose more evidence of torture by the West.

    Mr Aamer claims he was in the room when a detainee called Ibn Sheikh al-Libi was being abused in the presence of British intelligence officers.

    If true, that would be extremely damaging for Washington and London, which used information given by al-Libi to justify the disastrous invasion of Iraq in 2003. Mr Aamer’s MP, Tory health minister Jane Ellison, told the Mail: ‘Shaker Aamer’s continued detention in Guantanamo Bay is unacceptable.

    ‘The UK Government has confirmed repeatedly that they want him released to the UK and the latest revelations serve to underline that Shaker Aamer should be immediately reunited with his family in Battersea.’ Incredibly, Mr Aamer, who moved to London from Saudi Arabia more than 20 years ago and has fathered four children by a British wife, was cleared for release as long ago as 2007.

    But his detention has been extended repeatedly by officials insisting he must go back to Saudi Arabia, not Britain.

    Mr Aamer aroused suspicion because he had moved to Taliban-held Afghanistan with his family and was arrested there in mysterious circumstances after the regime fell.

    However his supporters say nothing can justify his continued detention without trial.

    The father of these British children may be a bad man. Or he may be innocent. Yet NOTHING justifies holding him in a concrete hell for 13 years without trial

    Almost 13 years ago, when the barbarity of ‘Jihadi John’ was beyond our imagination, a series of photographs was published that shocked the world. Historians may judge that they did much to fuel the cataclysmic clash between fanatical Muslims and the West.

    What they depicted were the first inmates to be brought to the Kafkaesque gulag we have come to know as Guantanamo Bay.

    The images of wretched captives, kneeling with heads down, in metal cages and wearing the now infamous orange jumpsuits, illustrated, more powerfully than any words, the ruthlessness of America’s military machine.

    Camp X-Ray, the stifling hell-hole where prisoners were then held, has long since closed. Today it is a museum piece, overgrown with snake-infested tumbleweed. It has been superseded by a warren of air-conditioned, halogen-lit cell blocks built near by, where one of those early orange-clad detainees remains.

    To his wife and four children in Battersea, South London, Shaker Aamer, now 46, is a much-missed husband and father.

    To the blank-faced guards at Guantanamo, where he has languished longer than anyone, he is a dehumanised figure known simply as Detainee 239.

    The barbaric methods used by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency to try to prise information from detainees such as Aamer were laid bare this week in an explosive Senate report.

    Whether the CIA was instrumental in his alleged torture has always been unclear, though he claims that unidentified Americans, who may have been CIA agents, were present during his initial interrogation at Bagram airbase, Afghanistan, in December 2001.

    There, he says, he was forced to stay awake and starved for nine straight days. Freezing water was tipped over him, he claims, and he was then made to stand outside in bitter winter weather for 16 hours.

    He further alleges that he was bound in an excruciatingly painful ‘human knot’ position with his feet tied together and linked to his wrists, which were tied behind his back. He also claims that the soles of his feet were beaten and he was refused treatment for the terrible pain, and that he was humiliated by genital ‘searches’.

    Describing how he felt during these sessions, he said: ‘The worst thing about torture is that you don’t know how to think, what to do, how to feel. You know you have your mind but you don’t know how to react. It’s terrible.’

    The real scandal, however, is that Aamer — and let’s be brutally frank here, he could be a very bad man — has never been brought before any court of law or military tribunal and given the chance to clear his name.

    He stands accused by America of having fought against them with Al Qaeda, but regardless of his guilt or innocence — and given the chaos of Afghanistan in 2001, we may never know the truth — I would argue that it is indefensible to leave him rotting in a cell.

    Little wonder that, as I witnessed during my most recent visit to the detention facility, despair is his daily staple.

    Entombed for 22 hours each day, without even a pen or book for stimulation and in a cell so small that its white concrete walls are barely an arm-span apart, Aamer vents his desperation with behaviour that betrays his parlous state of mind.

    He will rise suddenly from the flimsy yoga mat on which he reclines for much of the day, and burst into loud song. Another Brick In The Wall, by Pink Floyd, and Bob Marley’s Get Up, Stand Up are current favourites.

    At other times he joins fellow prisoners in Camp V — where he is kept in solitary confinement as a punishment for his ‘non-compliant’ behaviour — in an outpouring of desperation.

    On my visit, when I stood just a few feet from Aamer’s cell door, I heard one of these collective protests and the chilling cacophony that echoed through the corridors still haunts me.

    It began with an eerie, cattle-like lowing. Then came a rhythmic volley of dull thuds — the sound of flesh and bone crashing into metal as the prisoners flung themselves, with every ounce of pent-up force, at the cell doors.

    This was the sound of despair, as I reflected later when I was permitted to spend a few claustrophobic minutes inside one of the cells where Detainee 239 will today mark his 4,683rd day of incarceration.

    Back in London, Aamer’s supporters are a diverse group ranging from his local Tory MP, Jane Ellison, to Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters, who became involved in the campaign to free Aamer after the London-based legal charity Reprieve forwarded him a letter from the prisoner containing lyrics to one of the Pink Floyd songs that bring him comfort.

    Last month, after a noisy demonstration outside the Commons, Aamer’s lawyers at Reprieve announced plans to sue the British Government for failing to secure his release at a time when the gates of the prison are finally opening for other long-term detainees.

    Last Saturday, six prisoners — four from Syria, plus a Palestinian and Tunisian — were freed (though as it was felt they couldn’t safely be repatriated, they were given sanctuary by Uruguay).

    A fortnight earlier, a Saudi national accused of being an Al Qaeda fighter was sent home.

    Like Aamer, they had all been at Guantanamo since 2002.

    It brings the number of detainees to be released this year to 19, fuelling speculation that Barack Obama is — very belatedly — scrambling to fulfil the first pledge he made after taking office in 2009: to empty Guantanamo and close down this shameful affront to Western values.

    It now retains just 136 of the 779 prisoners to have passed its bitterly ironic welcome sign — ‘Honour Bound To Defend Freedom’ — and more releases are said to be imminent.

    What, then, of Shaker Aamer? How did he end up in Guantanamo, and why are the Americans clinging on to him despite failing, after years of relentless interrogation — allegedly involving torture — to uncover even the slimmest evidence to bring him before a military commission?

    For centuries, British justice has been founded on the principle of habeas corpus — anyone who is imprisoned has a right to a fair trial at which charges laid against them can be tested before the courts.

    That Shaker Aamer has been denied this in America means that every day he remains incarcerated, he becomes a more potent symbol of Western repression of Muslims — a symbol of anti-Islamic oppression, lionised on fundamentalist websites visited by impressionable would-be jihadists.

    I have discovered, for example, that the notorious radical Islamic leader Mohammed Al-Arifi propagandised Aamer’s case during an Arabic TV broadcast on Guantanamo Bay.

    British hate-preacher Anjem Choudary also tweets about Aamer’s plight to his 21,000 followers.

    Cocooned inside the prison without recourse to the internet, radio or TV, Aamer is almost certainly oblivious to the fact that he is a powerful recruiting sergeant for the Islamist cause.

    So who is this man, and what is the truth about him?

    Aamer’s story begins in Mecca, burial place of the prophet Mohammed, where in 1968 he was born into a devout Muslim family.

    He trained as a nurse before leaving Saudi Arabia to study in the U.S. During the First Gulf War he worked as an interpreter for the American military. After the war, in 1991, he moved to London, translating for immigration lawyers.

    There he married Zin Siddique, whose father was the imam of Battersea mosque, and the couple had four children — Johina, 17, is the eldest and now campaigns vigorously for his release.

    In 2001, several months before the attack on the World Trade Centre, the family decamped to Afghanistan. The million-dollar question is why. If we believe U.S. intelligence, he was enlisted as personal interpreter to Osama Bin Laden, trained in guerrilla warfare, and led a band of Al Qaeda fighters in the Battle of Tora Bora in the Afghan mountains.

    Yet according to his father-in-law, Saeed Siddique, 71, his reasons for being in Afghanistan were purely philanthropic.

    ‘Shaker wanted to try living in an Islamic atmosphere but couldn’t return to Saudi Arabia because he had married a foreign national, which is forbidden,’ he told me over tea in a London cafe.

    ‘He wanted to see if there was a more peaceful life in Afghanistan (then controlled by the Taliban) and hoped to open a school there. The idea was that I would join them when they settled down.’

    Understandably, many will simply not believe his story, finding it impossible to accept that Aamer went to live in an alien country in the grip of fundamentalists on some kind of mercy mission.

    But in a way, what Shaker Aamer did or did not do is no longer the issue. As his MP Jane Ellison points out, the fact is he has not been allowed to defend himself against the allegations made by America, and has been allowed no trial.

    The Aamers travelled to Afghanistan with their friend Moazzam Begg — an Islamic bookshop owner from Birmingham, who would also be sent to Guantanamo Bay — and his family. (In October, Begg was at the centre of an intriguing drama at the Old Bailey, where Syria-related terrorism charges which had been made against him were dropped at the last minute after it emerged that he had assisted MI5 in the past.)

    When the two men arrived in Afghanistan in 2001, they soon discovered that the society they claimed they hoped to live in was rapidly disintegrating.

    By October of that year the Taliban were in full retreat, Aamer’s wife was heavily pregnant and they were eager to return to Britain, Reprieve founder Clive Stafford Smith told me. The Beggs, it’s claimed, felt likewise.

    Piling into a rickety camper van, the two families wound through the Khyber Pass and reached the border with Pakistan, by then patrolled by Afghan Northern Alliance fighters — enemies of the Taliban — looking out for suspicious fleeing foreigners to ‘sell’ to the Americans in return for a $5,000 bounty.

    Aamer and Begg’s story is that they sent their wives and children ahead of them across the border because the bounty hunters were only searching for men they could hand over for a price.

    But the pair’s attempts to evade capture did not last long. On December 21, 2001, Aamer was captured and handed to U.S. forces. Later, Begg met the same fate.

    The Americans held Aamer for almost two months at Bagram airbase, near Kabul. His rendition to Guantanamo Bay came on Valentine’s Day 2002.

    According to Mr Stafford Smith, however, the reason he still languishes in his cell has nothing to do with his much-disputed activities in Afghanistan.

    For Aamer has been formally cleared for release since 2009 by the Americans, but is trapped in an insidious Catch-22 situation: he will only be let go if he returns to his native Saudi Arabia rather than Britain, even though he has permanent residency status here and our government has publicly expressed its readiness to take him back.

    Since Aamer would undoubtedly disappear into a Saudi prison if he were to be returned home (for marrying a non-Saudi national, among other reasons), he is terrified of being sent there. He could also face a notorious de-radicalisation programme in the repressive country of his birth.

    Yet even this may not be what it seems. For the main reason he has been incarcerated all these years, says Mr Stafford Smith, is that both the American and British intelligence services fear he will blow the whistle — not only on the brutality he has allegedly endured, but the highly compromising scenes he witnessed involving other prisoners locked away with him.

    Given the appalling brutality documented in the Senate report this week, such revelations should hardly come as a great surprise. Aamer claims that British security officers were sometimes present when he was being subjected to brutal interrogation, including having his head repeatedly slammed against a cell wall.

    One particularly damning allegation could be behind America’s continuing refusal to release him. While he was being held at Bagram airbase, near Kabul, before his rendition to Guantanamo, he claims he was privy to a dark episode said to have been a significant factor in the U.S. invasion of Iraq, in 2003.

    Aamer says he was there when interrogators tortured a Libyan named Ibn al-Shiekh al Libi, who ‘confessed’ that Saddam Hussein’s henchmen had trained Al Qaeda to use chemical weapons.

    George W. Bush subsequently used this spurious claim to persuade allies — among them Tony Blair — that Saddam must be toppled. The stuff of conspiracy theories? Perhaps so

    Today, time has marched on and Aamer’s lawyer insists that his client — whose physical and mental deterioration was recently spelt out in an independent medical report (his diagnosed conditions range from anxiety and depression to failing eyesight and kidney damage) — no longer possesses the strength or will to fight the authorities of state.

    What is indisputable is that the 13 years have taken a terrible toll on Aamer’s family. Now 38, his wife Zin, whom he married in 1997, has found it increasingly hard to cope with the situation and the stresses it places on her.

    At a time when Britons are being brutally murdered by Islamic fanatics and the nation is braced in anticipation of the next atrocity, some may find it difficult to sympathise with a man whose past holds so many imponderable secrets, and who thought his London-born family would be better off under the pernicious Taliban. Having glimpsed the inhumanity of his daily existence, I am not among them.

    Whatever we might think of Detainee 239, it would surely be in everyone’s best interests for the U.S. to put him on trial — or allow him to return to Britain. For as long as he remains in that white-concrete cell, the evil jihadists have a ready-made recruiting sergeant.


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    Guantánamo Diary exposes brutality of US rendition and torture


    Memoir serialised by Guardian tells how Mohamedou Ould Slahi endured savage beatings, death threats and sexual humiliation

    The groundbreaking memoir of a current Guantánamo inmate that lays bare the harrowing details of the US rendition and torture programme from the perspective of one of its victims is to be published next week after a six-year battle for the manuscript to be declassified.Guantánamo Diary, the first book written by a still imprisoned detainee, is being published in 20 countries and has been serialised by the Guardian amid renewed calls by civil liberty campaigners for its author’s release.Mohamedou Ould Slahi describes a world tour of torture and humiliation that began in his native Mauritania more than 13 years ago and progressed through Jordan and Afghanistan before he was consigned to US detention in Guantánamo, Cuba, in August 2002 as prisoner number 760. US military officials told the Guardian this week that despite never being prosecuted and being cleared for release by a judge in 2010, he is unlikely to be released in the next year.The journal, which Slahi handwrote in English, details how he was subjected to sleep deprivation, death threats, sexual humiliation and intimations that his torturers would go after his mother.

    After enduring this, he was subjected to “additional interrogation techniques” personally approved by the then US defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld. He was blindfolded, forced to drink salt water, and then taken out to sea on a high-speed boat where he was beaten for three hours while immersed in ice.The end product of the torture, he writes, was lies. Slahi made a number of false confessions in an attempt to end the torment, telling interrogators he planned to blow up the CN Tower in Toronto. Asked if he was telling the truth, he replied: “I don’t care as long as you are pleased. So if you want to buy, I am selling.”

    Slahi’s manuscript was subjected to more than 2,500 redactions before declassification, ostensibly to protect classified information, but with the effect of preventing readers from learning the full story of his ordeal. The book is being published with all the censor’s marks in place, and the publishers – Canongate in the UK and Little, Brown in the US – hope they will be able to publish an uncensored edition when Slahi is eventually released.

    Although one federal court has ordered his release on the grounds that the evidence against him is thin and tainted by torture, Slahi has been languishing in a form of legal limbo since December 2012 after the justice department entangled the case in an unresolved appeal. Several US officials have indicated that he is unlikely to be released this year. One, who spoke to the Guardian on condition of anonymity as he had not been cleared to do so, said getting Slahi out of Guantánamo was not a priority. “Our focus is acutely on the individuals who have been approved for transfer,” he said. Slahi is not among them.

    Slahi describes the toll the abuse has taken on his body and mind: “I started to hallucinate and hear voices as clear as crystal. I heard my family in a casual familial conversation … I heard Qur’an readings in a heavenly voice. I heard music from my country. Later on the guards used these hallucinations and started talking with funny voices through the plumbing, encouraging me to hurt the guard and plot an escape. But I wasn’t misled by them, even though I played along.” ‘We heard somebody – maybe a genie!’ they used to say. ‘Yeah, but I ain’t listening to him,’ I responded … I was on the edge of losing my mind.”The American Civil Liberties Union has launched an online petition calling for Slahi’s release. Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU’s national security project, said: “Mohamedou Slahi is an innocent man whom the United States brutally tortured and has held unlawfully for over a decade. He doesn’t present a threat to the US and has never taken part in any hostilities against it.“We’re asking the government to put an end to Mohamedou’s years-long ordeal by not contesting his habeas case and releasing him without delay. We hope everyone moved by Mohamedou’s story of abuse and unlawful detention will join us in seeking his freedom.”The 44-year-old travelled twice to Afghanistan in the early 1990s. There, he swore allegiance to al-Qaida and joined the fight against the Soviet Union-backed regime in Kabul. He says he severed all connection with the group in 1992.

    ut after 9/11 he was detained on suspicion of being involved in an unsuccessful plot to bomb Los Angeles international airport while living in Canada in 1999. No evidence has been found to support the allegation, other than his own forced confessions. In 2004 a military lawyer refused to play any further part in the prosecution on the grounds that the evidence against him was the product of torture.The chief military commissions prosecutor in the mid-2000s, Air Force colonel Morris Davis, later said he could not find any offence with which to charge Slahi.The detainee’s lawyer, Nancy Hollander, said: “Mohamedou has never been charged with anything. The US has never charged him with a crime. There is no crime to charge him with. It’s not that they haven’t found the evidence against him – there isn’t evidence against him. He’s in what I would consider a horrible legal limbo, and it’s just tragic: he needs to go home.“Mohamedou’s book takes us into the heart of this man the US government tortured, and continues to torture with indefinite detention. We feel, smell, even taste the torture he endures in his voice and within his heart. It is a book everyone should read.”Publisher Jamie Byng said Slahi’s account was one of the most significant books Canongate would ever publish. “It’s a gracious, brutal, humbling, at times funny, but more often enraging, and ultimately heartbreaking testimony by a truly gifted writer. And all of his many international publishers hope that by bringing his story to the wider world we can play a part in ending his wrongful and barbaric imprisonment.”

    Slahi’s memoir is published on the heels of a landmark US Senate study into CIA torture, and arrives as Republicans in Washington have redoubled their efforts to block Barack Obama from fulfilling his vow to close Guantánamo. The president is determined to reduce the detention centre’s population during 2015: on Wednesday, five more detainees left Cuba for Oman and Estonia, the latest in a flurry of post-election transfers. This leaves 122 inmates at Guantánamo. Among them is Shaker Aamer, a Saudi-born British resident. David Cameron was expected to raise Aamer’s plight with Obama during talks in Washington on Friday.However, British ministers have raised his case at least 15 times in the last five years, according to statements to parliament. In the past, US diplomats have said privately that they are not convinced the British government is serious when it says it wished to see Aamer returned to the UK, where he could be reunited with his British wife and four children.Though his captors have long since ceased treating Slahi as a security threat – he is said to inform on other detainees, and lives in a separate facility where he is allowed to garden – the US insists it has legal justification to deprive the Mauritanian of his freedom. Lt Col Myles Caggins, a defense department spokesman, said: “We continue to detain Mohamedou Slahi under the Authorisation for the Use of Military Force of 2001 (AUMF) as informed by the laws of war. He has full access to federal court for review of his detention by United States district court via petition for writ of habeas corpus.”





    Guantanamo Prisoner Diary: 'We're Gonna Teach You About Great American Sex'

    Mauritanian national Mohamedou Ould Slahi has been held at Guantanamo for 12 years now without trial and despite a dearth of evidence. A diary he kept of his torture is now being published around the world. SPIEGEL presents some excerpts.

    Country roads and dirt tracks lead to Mohamedou Ould Slahi's former home in a small village near the capital city of Nouakchott. Children play football in front of the house, using two empty cola bottles as makeshift goals. Goats rummage through the trash foraging for anything edible. There are no street names in these parts; the houses are simply numbered.

    A 158 in Boudiane, Mauritania was Slahi's address until 14 years ago. Soon after that, he was assigned another number, when he became prisoner number 760 at Guantanamo, Cuba. Slahi has been held at the American prison for the past 12 years.He was accused of having been acquainted with the perpetrators of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and of having provided them with support and sending them to Afghanistan to receive training. He has also been accused of involvement in the Millennium Plot, the foiled terrorist attack targeting the Los Angeles International Airport. At least that's the claim made by Ahmed Ressam, the man arrested in late 1999 at the US-Canadian border with 60 kilograms of explosives in the trunk of his car.

    More than a decade later, though, these allegations have essentially collapsed. Sufficient evidence has never turned up, proper charges haven't been filed and Slahi, now 44, has never been put on trial. US District Court Judge James Robertson, who had to review the lawfulness of his detention in 2010, likewise found no evidence of Slahi's guilt nor, he said, could it be proven that Slahi had supported the 9/11 perpetrators. He ordered Slahi's release.Four days later, though, the American government appealed the decision and the case has since been remanded to a US District Court, where it is still pending. Neither Slahi, his family nor his lawyers know when and if he will ever be able to leave Guantanamo.'Don't Worry Mom, I'll Be Back Soon' There's a pavilion roof over the courtyard of the Slahi family's two-story house in Boudiane. Slahi's former bedroom is a bare room with windows facing the courtyard and mattresses that have been stacked up against the wall. Slahi's mother gave a SPIEGEL reporter a tour of the house in 2008."Mohamedou needs to finally come home," she said tearfully at the time. "He didn't do anything and he's my favorite son." Thanks to mediation efforts undertaken by the International Red Cross, she was able to speak to her son by phone twice a year. But Slahi's mother would never see him again. She died in March 2013."Don't worry mom, I'll be back soon," Slahi told her on Nov. 20, 2001 as police stood in front of the house to pick him up for questioning. He had just gotten out of the shower. He followed behind the officials, who had already interrogated him several times, in his gray Nissan.

    Mauritanian and FBI officials questioned him for days. Ramzi Binalshibh, the coordinator of the 9/11 attacks, had allegedly incriminated Slahi, saying that he had had contact with the Hamburg terror cell while studying electrical engineering on a scholarship in Duisburg. Slahi had, in fact, promoted jihad in the early 1990s in small German mosques and travelled himself to a training camp in Afghanistan in 1991. He had wanted to help the Mujahedeen in their fight against the Soviets, he later said. But he claimed he had had nothing to do with 9/11.'A Lot of Smoke and No Fire'After eight days, the Americans flew him to Jordan. In July 2002, they flew him from there to Afghanistan, and in August of the same year to Guantanamo. At the US prison camp, they considered him to be a big fish, a dangerous terrorist. The more insistent he became in refusing to confess, the greater the more suspicious his interlocuters became. Slahi, after all, had visited several suspect locations.

    Guantanamo's former chief prosecutor, Morris Davis, recalled ina 2013 interview with Slate: "In early 2007, we had a big meeting with the CIA, the FBI, the Department of Defense and the Department of Justice, and we got a briefing from the investigators who worked on the Slahi case, and their conclusion was there's a lot of smoke and no fire."In 2007, Davis resigned in protest over the methods used in handling prisoners at Guantanamo. US military lawyer Stuart Couch, who had been responsible for Slahi's prosecution, also withdrew from the team when he learned that the inmate had been tortured at Guantanamo. As a Christian, he wrote to his superiors at the time, he had the moral obligation to resign. In Slahi's case, he argued, the US had acted incorrectly in legal, ethical and moral terms.

    Weeks of TortureThen Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld approved Slahi's "special interrogation" program personally in August 2003. It included sexual abuse, sleep deprivation, extreme cold, a simulated kidnapping, a simulated execution on a boat and the threat that his mother would also be arrested and brought to Guantanamo.After weeks of torture, Slahi decided to give his torturers what they wanted: He began talking, implicating people he didn't know and delivering one false statement after the other. He was rewarded for it as well. Even today, Slahi is a privileged prisoner at Guantanamo, with a television and computer, and he's even allowed to grow his own herb garden. During the summer of 2005, he completed a 460-page Guantanamo Diary that he had written by hand. From the beginning, his hope was to someday publish it. He waited a decade. But on Tuesday, his writings are being published in book form around the world for the first time.

    The military administration had classified Slahi's notes as top secret, stamped with "noforn" ("no foreign nationals"), making them inaccessible to intelligence agencies in other countries. They remained stored at a secure site in Washington. For six years, Slahi's lawyers fought for their release on the basis of the Freedom of Information Act and in 2012, they finally succeeded. Names and other details had been blacked out, redactions that are reflected in the book as well.The book is the first comprehensive report given by a prisoner who is still being held at Guantanamo. His lawyer Nancy Hollander says it is also the first to provide details about the torture practices at the military prison. "Slahi provides us with a glimpse of life there," she says. "I hope this book will change some things and that he will finally be released."Mohamedou Ould Slahi wrote the following excerpts from his "Guantanamo Diary" during the summer of 2003.

    I was deprived of my comfort items, except for a thin iso-mat and a very thin, small, worn-out blanket. I was deprived of my books, which I owned, I was deprived of my Koran, I was deprived of my soap. I was deprived of my toothpaste and of the roll of toilet paper I had. The cell -- better, the box -- was cooled down to the point that I was shaking most of the time. I was forbidden from seeing the light of the day; every once in a while they gave me a rec-time at night to keep me from seeing or interacting with any detainees. I was living literally in terror. For the next 70 days, I wouldn't know the sweetness of sleeping: interrogation 24 hours a day, three and sometimes four shifts a day. I rarely got a day off.

    I don't remember sleeping one night quietly. "If you start to cooperate you'll have some sleep and hot meals," _________________ used to tell me repeatedly.Force Sex as a Torture Method"Then today, we're gonna teach you about great American sex. Get up!" said ________. I stood up in the same painful position as I had every day for about 70 days. I would rather follow the orders and reduce the pain that would be caused when the guards come to play; the guards used every contact opportunity to beat the hell out of the detainee."Detainee tried to resist," was the "gospel truth" they came up with, and guess who was going to be believed? "You're very smart, because if you don't stand up it's gonna be ugly," ____________.

    As soon as I stood up, the two _______ took off their blouses, and started to talk all kind of dirty stuff you can imagine, which I minded less. What hurt me most was them forcing me to take part in a sexual threesome in the most degrading manner. What many _______ don't realize is that men get hurt the same as women if they're forced to have sex, maybe more due to the traditional position of the man. Both _______ stuck on me, literally one on the front and the other older _______ stuck on my back rubbing ____ whole body on mine.At the same time they were talking dirty to me, and playing with my sexual parts. I am saving you here from quoting the disgusting and degrading talk I had to listen to from noon or before until 10 p.m.

    when they turned me over to _______, the new character you'll soon meet.To be fair and honest, the _______ didn't deprive me from my clothes at any time; everything happened with my uniform on. The senior _______________ was watching everything __________________________________________________ ___. I kept praying all the time."Stop the **** praying! You're having sex with American _______ and you're praying? What a hypocrite you are!" said ______________ angrily, entering the room.I refused to stop speaking my prayers, and after that, I was forbidden to perform my ritual prayers for about one year to come. I also was forbidden to fast during the sacred month of Ramadan October 2003, and fed by force. During this session I also refused to eat or to drink, although they offered me water every once in a while. "We must give you food and water; if you don't eat it's fine."I was just wishing to pass out so I didn't have to suffer, and that was really the main reason for my hunger strike; I knew people like these don't get impressed by hunger strikes. Of course they didn't want me to die, but they understand there are many steps before one dies. "You're not gonna die, we're gonna feed you up your ass," said ____________.

    I have never felt as violated in myself as I had since the DoD team started to torture me to get me admit to things I haven't done. (...)Humiliation, sexual harassment, fear and starvation was the order of the day until around 10 p.m. Interrogators made sure that I had no clue about the time, but nobody is perfect; their watches always revealed it. I would be using this mistake later, when they put me in dark isolation."I'm gonna send you to your cell now, and tomorrow you'll experience even worse," said _______ after consulting with ____ colleagues. I was happy to be relieved; I just wanted to have a break and be left alone.

    I was so worn out, and only God knew how I looked. But _______ lied to me; ____ just organized a psychological trick to hurt me more. I was far from being relieved. The D.O.C., which was fully cooperating when it came to torture, sent another escort team. As soon as I reached the doorstep __________________________ I fell face down, my legs refused to carry me, and every inch in my body was conspiring against me. The guards failed to make me stand up, so they had to drag me on the tips of my toes.

    The Boat TripSuddenly a commando team consisting of three soldiers and a German shepherd broke into our interrogation room. Everything happened quicker than you could think about it. __________ punched me violently, which made me fall face down on the floor."Motherfucker, I told you, you're gone!" said _____. His partner kept punching me everywhere, mainly on my face and my ribs. He, too, was masked from head to toe; he punched me the whole time without saying a word, because he didn't want to be recognized. The third man was not masked; he stayed at the door holding the dog's collar, ready to release it on me."Who told you to do that? You're hurting the detainee!" screamed _______, who was no less terrified than I was. _____ was the leader of the assailing guards, and he was executing _________________ orders.

    As to me, I couldn't digest the situation. My first thought was, They mistook me for somebody else. My second thought was to try to recognize my environment by looking around while one of the guards was squeezing my face against the floor. I saw the dog fighting to get loose. I saw _______ standing up, looking helplessly at the guards working on me. "Blindfold the Motherfucker, if he tries to look --"One of them hit me hard across the face, and quickly put the goggles on my eyes, ear muffs on my ears, and a small bag over my head. I couldn't tell who did what. They tightened the chains around my ankles and my wrists; afterwards, I started to bleed. All I could hear was _____ cursing, "F-this and F-that!" I didn't say a word, I was overwhelmingly surprised, I thought they were going to execute me.Thanks to the beating I wasn't able to stand, so _____ and the other guard dragged me out with my toes tracing the way and threw me in a truck, which immediately took off.

    The beating party would go on for the next three or four hours before they turned me over to another team that was going to use different torture techniques."Stop praying, Motherfucker, you're killing people," _____ said, and punched me hard on my mouth. My mouth and nose started to bleed, and my lips grew so big that I technically could not speak anymore. The colleague of _____ turned out to be one of my guards, ______________________________. _____ and __________ each took a side and started to punch me and smash me against the metal of the truck. One of the guys hit me so hard that my breath stopped and I was choking; I felt like I was breathing through my ribs.I almost suffocated without their knowledge. I was having a hard time breathing due to the head cover anyway, plus they hit me so many times on my ribs that I stopped breathing for a moment.Did I pass out? Maybe not; all I know is that I kept noticing _____ several times spraying Ammonia in my nose.

    The funny thing was that Mr. __ was at the same time my "lifesaver," as were all the guards I would be dealing with for the next year, or most of them. All of them were allowed to give me medication and first aid.After 10 to 15 minutes, the truck stopped at the beach, and my escorting team dragged me out of the truck and put me in a high-speed boat. __________________ never gave me a break; they kept hitting me and ________________________ in order to make them stab me. "You're killing people," said _____. I believe he was thinking out loud: He knew his was the most cowardly crime in the world, torturing a helpless detainee who completely went into submission and turned himself in. What a brave operation! _____ was trying to convince himself that he was doing the right thing.Inside the boat, _____ made me drink salt water, I believe it was directly from the ocean. It was so nasty I threw up.

    They would put any object in my mouth and shout, "Swallow, Motherfucker!", but I decided inside not to swallow the organ-damaging salt water, which choked me when they kept pouring it in my mouth. "Swallow, you idiot!" I contemplated quickly, and decided for the nasty, damaging water rather than death._____ and ____________ escorted me for about three hours in the high-speed boat. The goal of such a trip was, first, to torture the detainee and claim that "the detainee hurt himself during transport," and second, to make the detainee believe he was being transferred to some far, faraway secret prison. We detainees knew all of that; we had detainees reporting they had been flown around for four hours and found themselves in the same jail where they started. I knew from the beginning that I was going to be transferred to __________________ about a five-minute ride. _______ had a very bad reputation: just hearing the name gave me nausea.

    At a Secret SiteOver the next several days, I almost lost my mind. Their recipe for me went like this: I must be kidnapped from ______________ and put in a secret place. I must be made to believe I was on a far, faraway island. I must be informed by _____________ that my mom was captured and put in a special facility.In the secret place, the physical and psychological suffering must be at their highest extremes. I must not know the difference between day and night. I couldn't tell a thing about days going by or time passing; my time consisted of a crazy darkness all the time. My diet times were deliberately messed up.

    I was starved for long periods and then given food but not given time to eat."You have three minutes: Eat!" a guard would yell at me, and then after about half a minute he would grab the plate. "You're done!" And then it was the opposite extreme: I was given too much food and a guard came into my cell and forced me to eat all of it. When I said "I need water" because the food got stuck in my throat, he punished me by making me drink two 25-ounce water bottles."I can't drink," I said when my abdomen felt as if it was going to explode. But __________ screamed and threatened me, pushing me against the wall and raising his hand to hit me.

    I figured drinking would be better, and drank until I vomited.All the guards were masked with Halloween-like masks, and so were the Medics, and the guards were briefed that I was a high-level, smart-beyond-belief terrorist."You know who you are?" said ___________ friend. "You're a terrorist who helped kill 3,000 people!""Indeed I am!" I answered. I realized it was futile to discuss my case with a guard, especially when he knew nothing about me. The guards were all very hostile. They cursed, shouted, and constantly put me through rough military-like basic training. "Get up," "Walk to the bin hole." "Stop!" "Grab the ****!" "Eat." "You got two minutes!" "You're done!" "Give the **** back!" "Drink!" "You better drink the whole water bottle!" "Hurry up!" "Sit down!" "Don't sit down unless I say it!" "Search the piece of ****!".Most of the guards rarely attacked me physically, but ________ hit me once until I fell face-down on the floor, and whenever he and his associate grabbed me they held me very tight and made me run in the heavy chains: "Move!"No sleep was allowed. In order to enforce this, I was given 25-ounce water bottles at intervals of one to two hours, depending on the mood of the guards, 24 hours a day. The consequences were devastating.

    I couldn't close my eyes for 10 minutes because I was sitting most of the time on the bathroom. Later on, after the tension was relieved, I asked one of the guards, "Why the water diet? Why don't you just make me stay awake by standing up, like in _____________?"Psychologically it's devastating to make somebody stay awake on his own, without ordering him," said _______________. "Believe me, you haven't seen anything. We have put detainees naked under the shower for days, eating, pissing, and shitting in the shower!" he continued. Other guards told me about other torture methods that I wasn't really eager to know about.I was allowed to say three sentences: "Yes, sir!" "Need my interrogator!" and "Need the medics." Every once in a while the whole guard team stormed my cell, dragged me out, put me facing the wall, and threw out whatever was in my cell, shouting and cursing in order to humiliate me.

    It wasn't much: I was deprived from all comfort items that a detainee needs except for a mattress and a small, thin, worn-out blanket. For the first weeks I also had no shower, no laundry, no brushing. I almost developed bugs. I hated my smell.No sleep. Water diet. Every move behind my door made me stand up in a military-like position with my heart pounding like boiling water. My appetite was non-existent. I was waiting every minute on the next session of torture. I hoped I would die and go to heaven.

    A Turning Point and Fabrications"Obviously there is no way out with you guys," I addressed _________."I'm telling you how!" ____ responded.Now, thanks to the unbearable pain I was suffering, I had nothing to lose, and I allowed myself to say anything to satisfy my assailants. Session followed session since I called _______________."People are very happy with what you're saying," said ______________ after the first session. I answered all the questions he asked me with incriminating answers. I tried my best to make myself look as bad as I could, which is exactly the way you can make your interrogator happy.

    I made my mind up to spend the rest of my life in jail. You see most people can put up with being imprisoned unjustly, but nobody can bear agony day in and day out for the rest of his life.They dedicated the whole time until around Nov.10, 2003 to questioning me about Canada and Sept. 11; they didn't ask me a single question about Germany, where I really had the center of gravity of my life. Whenever they asked me about somebody in Canada I had some incriminating information about that person, even if I didn't know him. Whenever I thought about the words, "I don't know," I got nauseous, because I remembered the words of ______________, "All you have to say is, "I don't know, I don't remember, and we'll **** you!" Or __________ "We don't want to hear your denials anymore!" And so I erased these words from my dictionary. (...)
    So far, I have personally cost American taxpayers at least $1 million, and the counter is ticking higher every day. The other detainees are costing more or less the same. Under these circumstances, Americans need and have the right to know what the hell is going on.


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    9/11 trial on hold after Gitmo detainees accuse translator of being CIA torturer

    February 09, 2015

    A military judge halted a hearing at Guantanamo Bay on Monday when two detainees being tried in connection with the September 11 terror attacks said they recognized their translator from a secret CIA prison where they were formerly held. Moments into the proceedings – the first hearing in six months – Army Col. James L. Pohl recessed court after one defendant, then another, objected to their English-to-Arabic translator, journalists reported from Gitmo.

    “The problem is I cannot trust him because he was working at the black site with the CIA, and we know him from there,” defendant Ramzi Bin Al-Shibh said soon after Monday morning’s hearing began, according to the Miami Herald.

    Once Al-Shibh made the allegation, an attorney for co-defendant Walid bin Attash said her client wasvisibly shaken” upon seeing the man during Monday’s proceedings and raised the same objection.

    “My client relayed to me this morning that there is somebody in this courtroom who was participating in his illegal torture,”attorney Cheryl Bormann told Col. Pohl, according to Miami Herald reporter Carol Rosenberg.

    Monday’s hearing was the first for the Gitmo detainees since proceedings took a pause in August, and the first since the Senate Intelligence Committee released an executive summary of its years-in-the-making report on the CIA’s use of torture in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.

    Al-Shibh, 42, and Attash, 36, were captured in 2002 and 2003, respectively, and held by the CIA at a secret prison until being transferred to Gitmo in 2006.

    Both detainees appear in last year’s Senate report as being victims of harsh interrogation techniques [torutre] deployed by US investigators in an effort to elicit intelligence from suspected terrorists. According to the Senate’s analysis, US efforts to coerce detainees into providing information to authorities through torture proved to be largely unsuccessful.

    “I can tell you he was hung from his wrists for days on end, pursuant to page 117,” Bormann said of Attash, when asked by the Guardian about the report last year.

    When the Senate’s findings were released in December, attorneys for Bin Al-Shibh said their client should be tried separately from the other suspected 9/11 plotters now held at Gitmo, due to the "behavioral and psychological problems” he’s been afflicted with since the start of the CIA-sanctioned torture he’s endured. According to the Senate report, the detainee "exhibited behavioral and psychological problems, including visions, paranoia, insomnia and attempts at self-harm in captivity, andCIA psychologists linked [his] deteriorating mental state to isolation and inability to cope with his long-term detention."

    According to the Miami Herald, Col. Pohl excused the linguist during Monday’s hearing, effectively postponing proceedings until Wednesday. In the meantime, attorneys for the suspected terrorists may file papers with the court concerning the matter.

    The appearance of the alleged CIA black site attendee was either “the biggest coincidence ever” or part of the pattern of the infiltration of defense teams,” Bormann told the court, according to the Herald.

    Proceedings for the men halted in August after defense attorneys alleged the FBI had attempted to turn a security officer for Al Shibh into an informant. If convicted of terrorism, the defendants face the death penalty.



    Mikey dee: The CIA is the most dangerous terrorist organisation on the planet.

    steveG: Everyone conducting this trial is a CIA operative of some kind I'm sure. They'll probably use electronic balloting to come up with a verdict as well

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    New Guantánamo intelligence upends old ‘worst of the worst’ assumptions


    GUANTÁNAMO BAY NAVY BASE, CUBA The “Dirty 30” probably weren’t all Osama bin Laden bodyguards after all. The “Karachi 6” weren’t a cell of bombers plotting attacks in Pakistan for al-Qaida. An Afghan man captured 14 years ago as a suspected chemical weapons maker was confused for somebody else.

    An ongoing review shows the U.S. intelligence community has been debunking long-held myths about some of the “worst of the worst” at Guantánamo, some of them still held today. The retreat emerges in a series of unclassified prisoner profiles released by the Pentagon in recent years, snapshots of much larger dossiers the public cannot see, prepared for the Periodic Review Board examining the Pentagon’s “forever prisoner” population.

    Afghan Abdul Zahir is a case in point: U.S. Rangers captured him and some “suspicious items” in a July 11, 2002, raid on his home on suspicion of “involvement with chemical/biological weapons activity.” During George W. Bush’s presidency he was briefly charged with war crimes, accused of being an al-Qaida conspirator named Abdul Bari, a nickname used by Zahir as well. The parole board cleared him for release on July 11, 2016 — no trial necessary — after an intelligence assessment concluded he “was probably misidentified as the individual who had ties to al-Qaida weapons facilitation.”“They had the wrong guy the whole time,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Sterling Thomas, his defense attorney since 2010. “Abdul Zahir shared a name with a terrorist that they thought they were looking for. He unfortunately was further condemned by the fact that United States forces couldn’t distinguish between bomb-making materials and the salt, sugar and petroleum jelly he had nearby when he was wrongly arrested.”The new intelligence reports are not designed to help the panel decide a captive’s guilt or innocence. Rather they were prepared for representatives from the Departments of Defense, Justice, Homeland Security, State and the Director of National Intelligence to evaluate each captive, a process that has whittled the detainee population down to 61 today.

    In the instance of Zahir, the parole panel said the 44-year-old Afghan had a “limited role in Taliban structure and activities” and approved his release with “appropriate security assurances.” The State Department is pursuing a plan to resettle or repatriate him.“The National Counterterrorism Center compiles the detainee compendium consisting of a presentation of specific facts that includes information about the detainee and, where appropriate, notes inconsistent reporting,” said Army Lt. Col. Valerie Henderson, the Pentagon’s public affairs officer responsible for Guantánamo policy.The documents also offer a window into the wobbly world of early war-on-terror intelligence gathering and analysis where a suspicion built on circumstances of capture gelled into allegations of membership in a terror cell that on reflection more than a decade later probably didn’t exist.

    In a series of interviews, intelligence sources — including people who served at Guantánamo at the time — blamed bad intelligence on a combination of urgency to produce, ignorance about al-Qaida and Afghanistan at the prison’s inception and inexperience in the art of investigation and analysis.“It was clear early on that the intelligence was grossly wrong,” said Mark Fallon, a retired 30-year federal officer who between 2002 and 2004 was Special Agent in Charge of the Department of Defense’s Criminal Investigation Task Force. Most “weren’t battlefield captives,” he said, calling many “bounty babies” — men captured by Afghan warlords or Pakistani security forces and sent to Guantánamo “on the sketchiest bit of intelligence with nothing to corroborate.”Once they got to Guantánamo, he said, the task of discerning tidbit from truth was complicated by an Army leadership unskilled in military intelligence arguing that “you couldn’t coddle the enemy.” It was an era of since-documented manipulation of temperatures, sleep, diet and solitary confinement to get a captive talking at a time when Fallon’s team was advocating rapport building. Sleep deprivation only muddles memories, he said. So they ended up with “a lot of false information based on some pretty poor interrogations being done partly by military interrogators in that time frame.”

    Fallon was responsible for some interrogations and evaluating intelligence with an eye toward prosecution by military commission. Now, more than decade later, he is in the final stages of publishing a book of his criticisms and said in a recent interview that it’s no surprise that early prisoner profiles are imploding under Periodic Review Board scrutiny.“That’s why people are so successful doing cold case homicide cases,” he said. “People make decisions based on what they knew then. I don’t want to say that the facts changed. The facts grew. When you’re working cases, cases evolve. As you get additional facts, you interpret it differently.”The current director of intelligence at the prison, Navy Capt. Kathleen Hawk, declined repeated requests for an interview to discuss the state of intelligence gathering in light of the retreats from earlier profiles.In the early years, according to one analyst who worked there, Guantánamo’s Joint Intelligence Group was “looking for anything you can pin on these guys.” He still works in the U.S. intelligence community, and spoke to the Herald at length on condition he not be named.

    Analysts “weren’t making things up,” said the soldier-turned-civilian contractor who worked at the JIG for four years. “We were working overtime trying to figure out who we had, learning this culture as we go along.” The blended military-contractor unit was isolated, started off knowing more about Russia and Bosnia than Afghanistan and al-Qaida and was under pressure to help stop the next terror attack.“Everybody’s drinking the Kool-Aid. You see conspiracies everywhere,” said the analyst. The intelligence unit was “picking up on one or two things and holding on to it tightly like it was gospel.”That’s how it happened that, at Guantánamo, being captured with a cheap Casio watch on your wrist made you a terrorist.It worked this way: Analysts were told that an al-Qaida bomb-making course gave its graduates Casio F-91W or A159W models as gifts. Separately, it was understood that those models could be used as detonation devices. So possession of one became “an indicator of al-Qaida training in the manufacture of improvised explosive devices,” according to a 2006 intelligence unit Matrix of Threat Indicators for Enemy Combatants provided to the Herald in 2011 by WikiLeaks.

    “Absolutely ridiculous,” said the analyst, calling it “an awfully big leap.”Especially since a footnote in the very same matrix explained that “approximately one-third” of Guantánamo prisoners who were captured with that ubiquitous model of watch “have known connections to explosives.” Meaning two-thirds did not.“They would take any tidbit of information and use that. It’s what the psychologists call confirmation bias,” said Fallon of the early flawed intelligence. “If you are predisposed that that person never leaves Guantánamo, you make judgments and conclusions on those facts based on that predisposition. We were looking for corroborated information, not just a tidbit. That’s why you do investigations, not just interrogations, to corroborate that information.”There was also pressure to defend the use of Guantánamo.

    The “rush to justify the place as gathering ‘actionable intelligence’ ” — an expression that 2002-04 prison commander Army Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller favored in talking to reporters — did not “allow for more sober thoughtful analysis,” said Fallon.Fear of recidivism also infected the process. Some in the intelligence unit were reluctant to discredit earlier information, which could lead to an angry captive’s release. “If this guy wasn’t an enemy before, he is now,” said the former Guantánamo analyst, describing a genuine concern that clouded whether to question a prisoner’s intelligence profile.It was prescient, if beyond the scope of their jobs. A recent report from the National Director of Intelligence showed that, as of July 15, the U.S. intelligence community has concluded that 17.6 percent of former captives took part in terrorist or insurgent activities after their release. Most were let go from Guantánamo during the Bush years. It said that 30 of the confirmed 122 recidivists are dead and 25 were subsequently captured by presumably allied countries, meaning 67 recidivists were at large.The intelligence community found another 12.4 percent, or 86 former captives, were suspected of “returning to the battlefield,” as critics of release call it — 21 of them captured or dead, and 65 of them at large.

    Even by 2009, when an interagency task force dug through the remaining 240 detainee files, “we struggled at times to definitively identify detainees because of the multiple names they used. There were a few pretty complicated cases,” said then task force Director Matt Olsen, who went on to run the National Counterterrorism Center that today prepares prisoner profiles for the parole-style board.The 2009 review reached beyond Defense Department analysis to include material from the CIA and other agencies, he said. There were labels, like “worst of the worst,” Olsen said, some of them “myths” that would be debunked. “We started looking at the detainees and we realized these guys were not all the same.

    There were important differences among the detainees, the role they played and threat they posed.”“We had to dig into terms like ‘associated with al-Qaida,’ for example, to understand exactly what that meant from a threat perspective and whether those links were strong or tenuous.”One file that may have eluded 2009 understanding belonged to Mustafa al Shamiri. His leaked classified 2008 assessment cast the Yemeni as a “high risk” captive of consequence, a senior al-Qaida training camp trainer and guesthouse logistician. Olsen’s team declared him too dangerous to release — one of 48 indefinite detainees in the war on terror, a forever prisoner of the forever war.

    But the Periodic Review Board on Jan. 12 declared earlier intelligence “discredited.” Earlier intelligence analysts had confused him for someone of a similar name. Cleared for release, he is still at Guantánamo.The findings beg the question of who got it wrong, and when. Was it then, when the U.S. military was managing the intelligence assessments at Guantánamo? Or is it now with the National Counterterrorism Center combing through intelligence to build detainee dossiers?Cully Stimson, the Pentagon’s deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs in 2006 and 2007, recalls that the intelligence was at times puzzling enough that he’d go to Guantánamo to study material in the JIG’s evidence locker. Shelves of the prefab building in the Detention Center Zone were stacked with material that arrived on the cargo planes carrying the captives from Afghanistan — from wallets and wristwatches to notebooks and family photos.His job included recommending to then-Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England whether to release certain captives.

    A former prosecutor and defense lawyer, Stimson said he was delving deeper than written reports to try to distinguish tip from truth in a captive’s file.“The skeptical side of me says the scales are tipped in the favor of transfer and they’re going to do what they need to do bureaucratically to get it done,” says Stimson, discussing release decisions based on updated intelligence. “I would hate to think that people are shading or suppressing raw intelligence to the contrary. At the same time what I don’t know is if additional information has been developed over time that would lead a reasonable person to that conclusion. If that’s the case, then it is what it is.”The former intelligence analyst said it’s not that the Guantánamo intelligence shop didn’t have an inkling of errors in the early years. He recalled analysts writing assessments in a secure facility poking fun at one another. “How’s your kingpin over there?” But it was hard to be the spoiler who poked holes in a previous analyst’s pronouncements.Plus, according to Fallon, troops in Afghanistan sent captives to Cuba with “no effective screening mechanisms,” meaning analysts had to start from scratch trying to figure out who the U.S. held in the cages at Camp X-Ray. “Guantánamo became more of a dumping ground rather than a place, at least from my position, what we were told was supposed to be a facility for high-value targets for either intelligence or prosecution.”That’s how 30 early captives became known as “The Dirty 30” and a different half-dozen captives were called the “Karachi 6.”

    The intelligence unit was sorting files, and somebody tasked with finding bodyguards noticed the common capture of 30 men delivered by Pakistani security forces and so labeled them. But by the time the files leaked, in 2011, a review of prison and court records shows, the Bush administration had repatriated 10 of them, including a Moroccan profiled as a leader of the Dirty 30 in July 2003. Updated, unclassified profiles cast doubt on whether some still were bodyguards — or that aspect of the assessment has simply vanished.The leaked 2006 “Matrix of Threat Indicators” — basically a guide to assessing a detainee’s dangerousness — took as an act of faith the existence of a unit called the “Karachi 6,” six men captured on Sept. 11, 2002, and profiled as a would-be terrorist bombing cell.Then in December 2015, the intelligence community debunked the idea of the Karachi 6 in a series of intelligence profiles, including this one about Yemeni Ayub Salih.

    “We judge this label more accurately reflects the common circumstances of their arrest and that it is more likely the six Yemenis were elements of a large pool of Yemeni fighters that senior al-Qaida planners considered potentially available to support future operations. Our review of available intelligence indicates that he probably did not play a major role in terrorist operations, leading us to disagree with previous U.S. government assessments that he was involved in a 2002 plot to conduct an attack in Karachi, Pakistan.”The board process has also disclosed new information that may have eluded the prison’s intelligence unit. Even so that hasn’t always led to a captive’s release.That’s what happened in the instance of Saudi Mohammed al Qahtani, held as a forever prisoner and suspected would-be 20th hijacker in the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. The board declared him too dangerous to release but acknowledged something that his leaked 2008 prison profile declaring the “detainee is in good health” didn’t know, or didn’t include:The man who was subjected to such cruel interrogation at Guantánamo that he was disqualified from trial as an alleged 9/11 plotterhad a history of profound mental illness. His lawyers provided the panel with an affidavit from an American psychiatrist who treats U.S. war veterans saying that Qahtani had been sick since his childhood in Saudi Arabia. He suffered schizophrenia, major depression, a traumatic brain injury and had been hospitalized for it, according to the doctor, Emily Keram.



    Yemeni Moath al Alwi got to Guantánamo the week Camp X-Ray opened and was profiled seven years later as a veteran jihadist, combatant in the battle for Tora Bora and former Osama bin Laden bodyguard — a member of the “Dirty 30.” A July 2015 intelligence profile prepared for that file review said that, before his capture by Pakistani forces in December 2001, Alwi was “probably not” one of bin Laden’s bodyguards but concluded he was “an al-Qaida-affiliated fighter who spent time with” bin Laden’s security detail.

    Yemeni Shawki Balzuhair got to Guantánamo in 2002 and was held as a member of the Karachi 6. He “was probably awaiting a chance to return to Yemen when he was arrested” at a Karachi safehouse on Sept. 11, 2002, a new intelligence assessment wrote in January. He was cleared and remains at Guantánamo.

    Yemeni Mansoor al Dayfi got to Guantánamo less than a month after Camp X-Ray opened, and a 2008 profile called him an al-Qaida commander who knew about the 9/11 attacks before they happened. His July 2015 profile, however, described him as probably “a low-level fighter” and questioned whether he was a member of al-Qaida at all, and made no mention of foreknowledge of the Sept. 11 attacks. It concluded “he probably has exaggerated his involvement in and knowledge of terrorist activities during some of his interrogations.” He was released to Serbia in July.

    Yemeni Saeed Jarabh got to Guantánamo in February 2002 and was profiled at the prison in 2008 as a high-risk former bin Laden bodyguard. His 2015 profile made no mention of it, unlike other once-profiled bodyguards, and approved his release calling him “a low-level fighter” who “lacked a leadership position in al-Qaida or the Taliban.” He was cleared in March 2015 and sent to a rehabilitation program in the United Arab Emirates in October.

    Yemeni Hayl Maythali, another Karachi 6 captive, held at Guantánamo since October 2002, “probably acted briefly as a guard” at a bin Laden compound in Kandahar, but a March 7, 2006, reassessment retreated from Karachi terror cell membership. It said he “was probably awaiting a chance to return to Yemen when he was arrested” at a Karachi safe house, rather than being “part of an al-Qaida operational cell intended to support a future attack.” He was cleared and is at Guantánamo.

    Yemeni Said Nashir, whose lawyers call him Hani Saleh Rashid Abdullah, was held at Guantánamo as a member of the Karachi 6. A December 2015 assessment recast him as “probably intended by al-Qaida senior leaders to return to Yemen to support eventual attacks in Saudi Arabia.” But, it noted, he “may not have been witting of these plans.” The board has yet to decide whether to declare him too dangerous to release.

    Kuwaiti Fawzi al Odah got to Guantánamo in February 2002 and was profiled at the prison in 2008 as a bin Laden “associate” and one-time London-based “extremist recruiter and courier.” But a March 2014 intelligence assessment declared, “We lack confidence in statements from other detainees that [he] was closely associated with” bin Laden “or belonged to an al-Qaida cell in London.” The parole board approved his release four months later, noting the Kuwaiti’s “low level of training and lack of leadership in al-Qaida or the Taliban.” The board cleared him four months later, and he was repatriated the same year.

    Yemeni Mashur al Sabri got to Guantánamo in May 2002 and was profiled in 2008 as “a member of a Yemeni al-Qaida cell directly involved with the USS Cole attack.” A new assessment in 2014 said he “had ties to numerous extremists but probably did not play a significant role in terrorist operations.” As for al-Qaida’s Oct. 12, 2000, bombing of the warship off Aden, Yemen, that killed 17 sailors, “there is no indication [he] had foreknowledge of the attack.” He was sent to a rehabilitation program in Saudi Arabia in April.

    Yemeni Ayub Ali Salih got to Guantánamo in 2002 and was profiled as a member of the Karachi 6 terror cell, supposedly plotting attacks in Pakistan at his capture on Sept. 11, 2002. A reassessment dated December 2015 declared that based on “our review of available intelligence,” he “probably did not play a major role in terrorist operations, leading us to disagree with previous U.S. government assessment that he was involved in a 2002 plot to conduct attacks in Karachi, Pakistan.” He was cleared within months and sent to a rehabilitation program in the United Arab Emirates in October.

    Yemeni Mustafa al Shamiri got to Guantánamo in June 2002, and his 2008 prison profile cast him as a captive of consequence, a senior al-Qaida trainer and guesthouse logistician. When the board cleared him for release eight years later, it disclosed that earlier “derogatory prior assessment” of him had been “discredited” and he was little more than a “low-level fighter.” Whoever assembled his profile confused him for someone of a similar name. He’s still at Guantánamo.

    Afghan Abdul Zahir got to Guantánamo after his July 11, 2002, capture in a raid that targeted a man named “Abdul Bari,” who was “believed to be involved in the production and distribution of chemical or biological weapons for al-Qaida.” A 2015 profile did not discredit his ties to al-Qaida entirely but said the now 44-year-old Afghan was “probably misidentified as the individual who had ties to al-Qaida weapons facilitation activities.” One data point: At his capture, “U.S. forces recovered samples of unknown substances in the raid, including a white powder, that were initially believed to be chemical or biological agents, although other information later proved the samples to have been salt, sugar, and petroleum jelly.”


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    Shaker Aamer: Guantanamo is a stain on Obama's legacy

    Shaker Aamer says he endured torture by US authorities during his 14 years jailed in Guantanamo Bay detention centre.


    Doha, Qatar - Barack Obama's failure to shutter Guantanamo Bay was a stain on his legacy as US president, according to Shaker Aamer, a Saudi-born UK resident held at the infamous US detention centre for nearly 14 years without trial.

    Aamer was arrested in Afghanistan in 2001, but was never charged with a crime. He was released from the Cuba-based prison in October 2015 and has since lived with his wife and four children in Britain.

    Despite Obama's January 2009 executive order to close Guantanamo, he failed to do so throughout his eight years of presidency.
    Of the 240 prisoners who were there when Obama took office in 2009, 55 are still in Guantanamo, according to Human Rights First.
    As many as 19 have been cleared for release, while a mere three individuals from the remaining detainees have been convicted by a military commission.

    Overall, more than 780 people have been held in Guantanamo, and the prisoner population peaked at 684 people in June 2003.
    President-elect Donald Trump, who will take office on January 20, has already vowed to keep the prison open and lock up "more bad dudes".

    Al Jazeera spoke to Aamer about Obama's legacy, the effect of hunger strikes and his life after his release.

    Al Jazeera:
    Will the US shut down Guantanamo Bay?

    Shaker Aamer:
    Can they shut down Guantanamo? Yes. But first of all, people have to understand why they want to keep Guantanamo open. There's more to it than just politics or safety. If they close Guantanamo, what will tell the world about who's to blame for these 15 years when they put [away] all these people who didn't belong there?

    It's just about explaining to the people. We are talking about one of the most sophisticated intelligence services in the world. Guantanamo proved to the entire world that the CIA operates outside [the rules] of the [US] government. It's a government inside a government, and they operate outside the law. Who's willing to answer all these questions? Are they willing to answer them? No, they're not.

    People have to ask why it cannot be closed. It's about responsibilities and opening the books, answering questions to the whole world.

    First of all, they have to [answer these questions] to the Americans. The impact of what happened on Americans was great, on the way they live and their freedoms. And everything we suffered was because of "national security". I couldn't receive letters from my own kids because of "national security". I couldn't speak freely with my lawyer because of "national security".

    After all this, do you think they're going to close Guantanamo and then tell the world they've got only a handful of people that "we're trying to put on trial for the past 10 years and until now we cannot succeed"? Can the world accept that? No. That's why this scarecrow that is Guantanamo has to stay.

    Al Jazeera:
    Will you continue to fight for the closure of Guantanamo?

    It's about our futures. We are still suffering. They [governments] refuse to talk about it now. For [governments], it's normal because they didn't lose anything. But for me, I lost 14 years and I won't sacrifice them without benefiting today and tomorrow - and I'm not talking about personal compensation. They compensated us [financially], but without saying, "sorry".

    It's a lot bigger than me. It's not just because of the detainees. We are talking about a whole government, a whole system. They [the US government] lied to their own people just to let their soldiers accept torturing us. Can you imagine that they had to go to classes and show them movies about us? They had to make [guards and soldiers] believe they were defending freedom. For [a soldier] to accept all this, they had to brainwash them. Now we have to reverse everything to let them know that we are human beings and we haven't done anything.

    Al Jazeera:
    You have a reputation as having been a key protest leader while you were in Guantanamo Bay. How important were the hunger strikes and other protests within the prison walls?

    When someone launches a hunger strike, it means he is willing to lose his life for the cause. It is a peaceful tactic. They told the world we were trying to kill ourselves to serve al-Qaeda. It's amazing how they twisted logic.

    They were so brutal when they dealt with us [on hunger strike]. But a hunger strike was our peaceful means of telling the world: "Listen, if I'm guilty, put me on trial. If I'm innocent, send me home". We were hunger striking to gain some human rights. I swear to God, they treated us as less than cockroaches.

    Some of the guards would break down. Not once, not twice - 10, 20, 30 times. It's beautiful when you see this soldier become your friend; when they sacrifice their own job, their income, for you. Some of them refused to participate [in force-feeding], they were sent back from Guantanamo.

    Even though the US denies it, the hunger strike was effective. We gained some control. We changed the whole equation because of hunger strikes.

    Al Jazeera:
    What has life been like since your release?

    Aamer: I have no restrictions for me in any way - not written. But my phone is tapped; my house is being watched; there are cameras in front of my house all the time.

    My lawyer advised me to stay away from overseas phone calls. I refuse to talk to anybody because I'm worried about my family and my kids. I don't want to do anything, even go back for questioning. My wife is still not ready to take any more pressure or shock. It's so sad.

    At the same time, my wife worries every time there is a knock on the door. People in the UK are going to jail because they one time knew someone who is in Syria now. Imagine if I receive a phone call from someone who was in Guantanamo right now? Definitely, they are going to come knock on my door.

    That's why I'm free, but I'm not free. I'm being watched.

    When I came out, I found a different family, a different life, different kids. My kids are grown up. To build a strong relationship with them is not easy. It is hard. They are my kids, but they are not my kids. They are very good kids, very educated, very smart. They still see me as a little bit of a stranger.

    Al Jazeera:
    It appears that Obama's final presidential term will expire without the closure of Guantanamo Bay. What do you think that says about his legacy?

    Aamer: I remember when Obama received the Nobel Peace Prize [in 2009]. It was sad. I told [my lawyer], if people like Obama get this prize, it means nothing. Where is the peace he's implementing? At that time, we were roughly 300-something people [in Guantanamo].

    What peace did he bring to the world? The damage he did is worse than [former US President] George Bush. If Obama can get this prize, it's just an insult. That prize is nothing. It's just a decoration.

    For Obama, he wants to close it. I have no doubt, but I think he's too much of a coward. You cannot be a hero without being willing to sacrifice. He proved he's the biggest liar; he proved he's not a leader. The most basic thing he could have done is close Guantanamo. He could have brought so much [respect] back to America.


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    Is this speck in the Indian Ocean Britain's Guantanamo?

    Chilling questions raised over secretive island as more disturbing allegations emerge over UK's role in CIA torture

    • Journalists are banned from Diego Garcia - the 'Guantanamo of the east'
    • Even natives are only allowed to make one 'heritage visit' there each year
    • Island has been linked to U.S's shocking rendition and torture programme
    • But it was not mentioned once in the 500-page report into CIA torture
    • Blair government accused of allowing detainees to be transferred through island
    • Also accused of allowing prisoners to be detained and interrogated there
    • Jack Straw previously dismissed notion as stuff of 'conspiracy theories'
    • Officials says flight logs for period of rendition were damaged by water

    Lost in the vastness of the Indian Ocean, midway between East Africa and the southern tip of Asia, there is a footprint-shaped coral atoll where orange and blue coconut crabs scuttle across pristine white beaches and turtles wallow in the powder-blue lagoon.

    Though it is called Diego Garcia, after the 16th-century Portuguese mariner who supposedly discovered it, it was ceded to Britain following the Napoleonic Wars and has belonged to us ever since, proudly flying a palm tree-embossed Union flag and retaining its old-fashioned Post Office pillar-box.

    By rights, I ought to be sending this report to you from this remote and beautiful island, but regrettably that isn’t possible.

    For in 1966 it was leased by Britain to the United States, which has turned it into a vast military base — ‘the Guantanamo of the East’ — and in the 48 years since then, journalists have been banned from going there.

    Such is the cloak of secrecy surrounding Diego Garcia that a Time magazine executive once offered ‘a crate of the finest Bordeaux’ to the writer who filed the first despatch carrying the island’s dateline.

    Though one landed there very briefly, when the presidential plane on which he was travelling with George W. Bush made a refuelling stop, the wine has not been claimed.

    Even the native population, who were forcibly evicted during the late Sixties and early Seventies to make way for the American takeover — a shameful episode to which we’ll return — are allowed to make only one brief, strictly controlled ‘heritage visit’ each year.

    Ever eager to demonstrate their openness and commitment to free speech — values enshrined in their constitution — the U.S. still periodically admits reporters and photographers to Guantanamo, even though draconian censorship seriously restricts what they see. But the only publicly available pictures of Diego Garcia are distant aerial shots.

    So what are they so desperate to hide on this achingly beautiful outcrop — which the U.S. Navy, seemingly blind to the irony, has renamed ‘The Footprint to Freedom’? It is a question that has acquired fresh urgency with the release last week of the U.S Senate’s bombshell report on the CIA’s use of torture against suspected terrorists.

    Given the weight of evidence proving that Diego Garcia was — at the very least — a key staging post in the U.S. rendition and torture programme, it had been widely expected to feature in the dossier, thus exposing Britain’s involvement beyond doubt.

    That the island was not mentioned once in almost 500 heavily redacted pages has merely heightened suspicion of an MI6-orchestrated cover-up.

    It throws the spotlight back on the Blair government, which stands accused of tacitly allowing detainees either to be transferred through this far-flung British overseas territory during the early years of the War on Terror, or to be detained and interrogated there (or both) and covering up our involvement with a farrago of lies and deceit.

    The possibility that Britain might have allowed their home to become a secret torture site is deeply distressing to the displaced people of Diego Garcia — the majority of whom have now resettled in the West Sussex town of Crawley, for reasons I shall explain.

    ‘Our homeland should only be used for good purposes, not as a second Guantanamo Bay with no set of rules or laws like other countries,’ Allen Vincatassin, exiled president of the Chagos Islands, which include Diego Garcia, told me yesterday.

    It should indeed. In 2005, the then Foreign Secretary Jack Straw dismissed the notion that we might have been in league with the Americans over rendition — the secret transfer of terrorist prisoners to remote spots for interrogation — as the stuff of ‘conspiracy theories’.

    For that to be true, he told the Commons, both he and his U.S. counterpart, Condoleezza Rice, would need to have lied through their teeth.

    Two years later, during the dying days of his premiership, Tony Blair also declared himself ‘satisfied’ that the U.S. had never transferred detainees through any British territories. Rather inconveniently, after Blair left office, human rights groups uncovered incontrovertible proof that aircraft linked to the rendition — terrorist prisoner transfer — had indeed landed at Diego Garcia, forcing David Miliband, who had taken over at the Foreign Office, to admit that his predecessors had seriously misled us.

    According to Miliband, two planes, each carrying a single detainee, had stopped off there, in 2002. Straw’s mistake, he said, had been down to an ‘administrative error’. And Blair’s? We are still waiting for that one to be explained away. Meanwhile, discomforting new information has continued to emerge, strongly indicating that there is considerably more to concern us than a couple of rogue aircraft.

    The former UN expert on torture, Manfred Nowak, for example, claims to have ‘credible evidence’ that detainees were imprisoned in one of more than 650 featureless concrete buildings that have turned the base at Diego Garcia into a maze-like mini-city, with cinemas and restaurants, much like Guantanamo Bay.

    And Dick Marty, a Swiss senator who led a Council of Europe investigation into the CIA’s encroachment into European territory and airspace during the War on Terror, says a CIA source told him the British island had been used.

    Then there are the stories of the detainees themselves.

    Since they were blindfolded and forced to wear sound-proof earmuffs when being flown to the notorious ‘dark sites’ where they were brutally quizzed, they cannot be sure where they were.

    But some are now known to have been held below deck on sinister prison ships, and there is mounting evidence that these were anchored somewhere off Diego Garcia.

    Evidence has emerged that the so-called ‘American Taliban’ John Walker Lindh — a U.S. Muslim convert captured in Afghanistan in 2001 — was held on the USS Bataan, which has been serviced from the island’s naval base. Also, the USS Stockholm, deployed to Diego Garcia shortly before the War on Terror began, underwent extensive ‘modifications’ in 2004. Did they include a dungeon?

    Then there is the disquieting case of Abdelhakim Belhadj, the exiled Libyan dissident who was arrested and handed back to Colonel Gaddafi soon after the dictator’s notorious ‘deal in the desert’ with Blair.

    Belhadj also believes he may have been tortured on the island, and the embarrassing truth could yet emerge in his long-running civil action against the British government.

    Of course, the flight arrival and departure logs kept on Diego Garcia would go a long way to proving all this one way or the other.

    Yet the latest excuse trotted out by the Foreign Office is that the key documents, covering the period when the rendition programme was at its height, were badly damaged by water — presumably from rain leaking into the building where they are kept — in June this year.

    Smelling a rat, the London-based human rights organisation Reprieve scoured weather reports for that period and found it to have been unusually dry. The group’s legal director, Cori Crider, says the explanation is of ‘the dog ate my homework’ variety.

    For both Britain and America, all this could hardly come at a worse time. In 2016, the 50-year lease on Diego Garcia — which the U.S acquired in return for a $13 million discount on the Polaris nuclear missile system they sold to Britain — is due to expire.

    But the deal allows for a two-year window, during which the two countries can either agree to renegotiate the lease for a further 20 years or end it, and this month marks the start of that period. The Tories are reportedly keen for the Americans to stay.

    Labour have not stated their position, though certainly David Miliband, during his time at the Foreign Office, seems to have been very keen to make sure the evicted islanders never return, for he turned the archipelago into a huge marine conservation area, the size of France. This bans any commercial fishing, removing a key source of income for them.

    Emails revealing how he forced through this controversial plan — which also very conveniently tightens security in the surrounding ocean — against the advice of senior diplomats emerged just two months ago.

    It is further complicated by the Chagos Islanders themselves, still fighting gamely to return despite almost half a century in exile.

    The story behind their mass expulsion — which unaccountably escaped public attention at the time — is one of the most disgraceful episodes in recent British history. The ancestors of slaves shipped from Africa to harvest the abundant coconut groves during the late 19th century, and indentured Indian servants who worked for the plantation bosses, there is no doubting their long-standing allegiance to the islands.

    Yet for their own obscure reasons, the U.S. insisted that the British must forcibly remove every last one of the 2,000-plus inhabitants before delivering Diego Garcia to their hands.

    Had the world discovered that indigenous people had been purged from their homeland to make way for a military base, there would have been an outcry.

    So, ignoring the fact that they had been born and raised in long-established villages, and that many had never been off the islands, the British and Americans colluded to reclassify the Chagossians as mere ‘transient workers’ who had never really lived there at all.

    Those who happened to be away in 1968, when the islands were declared ‘closed’, were never allowed back.

    By 1971, amid harrowing scenes, the rest were crammed onto boats, and shipped hundreds of miles, either to Mauritius or the Seychelles. Their pet dogs were rounded up by the Americans and gassed.

    Now 44, Allen Vincatassin — who was just one when he was bundled from his concrete-built home — was among many whose families were broken up by this ghastly operation. As his mother and father weren’t married and were still in their mid-teens (it was common for Diego Garcia’s people to have children very young) they were sent to separate islands where they had ties.

    He went with his paternal grandparents to Mauritius, where they were abandoned, penniless, on the harbour with only the clothes on their backs. He wouldn’t see his mother again for 17 years.

    Mr Vincatassin later led a long campaign for Britain to grant the right of abode to the diaspora, which he eventually won.

    In 2002, the first group landed at Gatwick, and since Crawley was the nearest town, it was there — after spending several nights in the airport — that they were housed. Since then, hundreds more have arrived, bringing with them their wives and children, and their numbers have swelled to an astonishing 5,000 in Crawley alone.

    A few days ago, however, KPMG (one of the world’s biggest auditing and accounting firms) published the interim findings of a feasibility study commissioned by the government to determine whether it would be viable for them to return home after all these years. The conclusion was that it would, albeit on a small scale involving just a few hundred people to start with.

    Were they permitted to return to reclaim their villages — now barely visible beneath the coconut palms — Mr Vincatassin, as their elected leader, says they would gladly work for the Americans at the base, replacing the current Filipino workforce. So long, that is, as they weren’t an unwitting party to secret imprisonments and torture.

    Whatever deeds were perpetrated on Diego Garcia amid the fog of war that followed 9/11, we are now assured that the only prisoners held there in recent years are fishermen who dropped their nets in the conservation area and unruly contractors working on the base.

    Doubtless this is true. But until Britain and America finally lift the veil of secrecy that surrounds the Guantanamo of the East, the dark and disturbing questions will continue to linger over this remote paradise island.


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    Guantanamo Guard: ‘CIA Killed Prisoners and Made it Look like Suicide’


    A former Guantanamo Bay guard has spoken for the first time about what he claims was a CIA murder of detainees, covered up as a triple suicide.

    Army Staff Sergeant Joseph Hickman [pictured left] was on guard at the Cuban prison camp on the night they died, and calls the official version of events “impossible”.

    “They would have had to all three tie their hands and feet together, shove rags down their throats, put a mask over their face, made a noose, hung it from the ceiling on the side of the cellblock, jumped into the noose and hung themselves simultaneously,” the ex-Marine told Vice News in an explosive video interview.

    There had also been an inspection of the cellblock only a few hours earlier, Hickman said, and guards had found nothing detainees might use to make the nooses and rags.

    Hickman tried for years to put the nightmare of his time at Guantanamo behind him, but eventually he was forced to confront his past.

    He has now written a book, Murder at Camp Delta, which he hopes will be a step towards finding out the truth.

    “I was trying to put Guantanamo behind me. I didn’t want to remember it. It was like a bad dream I was trying to put in the past,” he said.Then I saw in news that another detainee had hung themself. I had to face it and see what really happened.”

    On the night of June 9, 2006, Hickman was on guard at Camp Delta when he says he saw a paddywagon return to high-security Alpha Block three separate times, each time picking up a prisoner and taking them out of the camp.

    He claims he watched the paddywagon take a left outside the checkpoint ACP Roosevelt, which he said would only lead to one of two places — the beach or Camp No, which we now know was a secret CIA holding facility.

    “Between 11pm and 11.30pm I witnessed the paddywagon come back to Camp Delta,” he said. “Instead of Camp 1, it went to the medical detainee clinic. About 10 minutes later, all the lights come on, like a stadium, and sirens are going off — it’s chaos.”

    The prisoners were dead.

    The three men were Salah Ahmed Al-Salami, 37, from Yemen, Mani Shaman Al-Utaybi, 30, from Saudi Arabia, and Yasser Talal Al-Zahrani, 22, also from Saudi Arabia.

    Al-Zahrani had been imprisoned at Guantanamo since he was captured at 17. None of the men had been charged with a crime.

    After their deaths, Rear Admiral Harry Harris took the unusual step of attacking them in his announcement of their apparent suicide.

    “They have no regard for life, either ours or their own,” he told Reuters. “I believe this was not an act of desperation, but an act of asymmetrical warfare waged against us.”

    But why would the authorities want to kill these men and make their deaths look like suicide?

    Hickman says it’s because the three were regular hunger strikers, who incited others to do the same.

    “They had a policy that if a detainee is hunger-striking, he cannot be interrogated,” said Hickman. “In 2006, they were doing roughly 200 interrogations a week, so any massive hunger-strike would, what they consider, cripple the intelligence value.

    Hickman questions how the inmates would have found the materials and escaped detection in order to hang themselves.

    “I believe the number-one mission in JTF-GTMO (Joint Task Force Guantanamo) at the time was, stop the hunger strikes at all costs.

    “I think you get rid of the people that provoked the hunger strikes and you get rid of the problem.

    “After the deaths there were no hunger strikes for a long period of time.”
    The ex-sergeant has spent the years since his time at the prison camp independently investigating what happened that night, and first approached the US Justice Department in 2009.

    His claims, and that of others from his team, were first reported by Harper’s Magazine in 2010, provoking a major backlash, in which authorities said Hickman would have been outside the perimeter and not even able to see the entrance to Alpha Block.

    There are many questions over what has gone on at the controversial facility, which still holds about 150 prisoners.

    It is considered illegal under human rights law to detain people without charge, and many people say the reality of Guantanamo is the opposite of its motto: “Safe, humane, legal, transparent.”

    Former inmates say the CIA regularly used torture techniques described in the recent Senate report when questioning them. They have alleged systematic abuse and former guard Brandon Neely said violence and degrading treatment was commonplace.

    Hickman rejoined the army after September 11, believing it was his duty to help. “I thought Guantanamo was needed, warfare was changing and we needed a safe place to hold and interrogate them.”

    The reality he discovered was very different.
    “They scare you when you get there; they tell you you can never talk about this, it’s a classified facility. Everyone’s afraid they’re going to get in trouble.”
    While Hickman has not named any alleged murderers in his book, he hopes that it will trigger a close investigation into what really went on.
    “I can’t name names. I keep it vague at the end for that reason,” he says. “I say it was murder, this is the reason why.”

    “In a cellblock where guards are ordered to check on detainees every four minutes.”


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    Guantanamo's Child - Omar Khadr

    Unprecedented access and an exclusive interview with Omar Khadr during his first days of freedom.

    07 Jun 2015

    At 15 Omar Khadr was held at the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. Now 28 years old, after 13 years locked away, he is finally able to speak about his experiences. He was branded as a terrorist and convicted as a murderer.

    "I don't wish people to love me, I don't wish people to hate me, I just wish for people to give me a chance," Khadr says.

    In 2002, during a military firefight, as a young teen, Khadr was alleged to have thrown a grenade at US troops in Afghanistan, killing one soldier. After a decade at the US-run detention camp, he was transferred to a maximum security facility in Canada.

    The Canadian national was released on bail on May 7, 2015 and is appealing his conviction.

    In his first full-length interview since his release, Khadr talks to Al jazeera's Witness about his arrest and subsequent detention and conditions at the controversial military prison.

    This Witness documentary, Guantanamo's Child - Omar Khadr, is a collaboration between Al Jazeera, White Pine Pictures, and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

    video: https://www.facebook.com/AJWitness/v...55660408330557

    Director: Patrick Reed; Co-director: Michelle Shephard; Producers: Patrick Reed, Michelle Shephard, Peter Raymont

    Documentary Filmmakers' View

    By Michelle Shephard and Patrick Reed

    For more than a decade, Omar Khadr, one of Guantanamo's youngest detainees has existed only as a caricature drawn and defined by others: victim, killer, child, detainee, political pawn, terrorist, pacifist.

    We had a simple goal in making this documentary - we wanted to tell his story by allowing him to tell his story.

    Neither of us wanted to make an activist film about Khadr, but rather bring to life the now 28-year-old man that has been used since he was 15 as a cause celebre to support post-9/11 campaigns on both the right and the left.

    But this was not a simple film to make.

    The Pentagon had blocked any access to Khadr for the decade he was held in Guantanamo Bay. That was not a surprise. Both the Bush and Obama administrations have tried to control the narrative of Guantanamo by silencing the detainees and imposing Orwellian restrictions on reporting from the base.

    What was surprising was our struggle to gain access to Khadr once he was transferred to Canada. The Canadian government refused repeated requests to interview him for two years, forcing us to finally take our case to the Federal Court. As the New York Times wrote in support of our constitutional challenge: "The public has waited long enough."

    We lost that case, but the wait finally ended with the dramatic words delivered by an Alberta judge who released him on bail May 7: "Mr Khadr, you're free to go."

    Khadr's history itself is compelling, but it is the larger context of his case that makes his story so important and involves the work we have both done over the years – Patrick with his films on now retired Lt.-Gen. Romeo Dallaire and child soldiers and Michelle, with her national security reporting since 9/11 that has including 26 trips to Guantanamo Bay.

    Omar Khadr is not only the youngest person ever convicted of a war crime in modern history, he is also the only person ever charged with "murder in violation of the laws of war"
    – despite the fact that hundreds have died in wars in Afghanistan and Iraq since 2001 and despite the fact it was never a war crime to kill a soldier in conflict until the US rewrote the laws of war after 9/11.

    It is very likely years from now that the US courts will overturn his Guantanamo conviction, which they have done in the case of other detainees.

    Khadr's story embodies so many issues we deal with today: citizenship and identity, the politics of fear and the neverending war on terror.

    Confronting our own biases can be hard and Omar Khadr's story forces us to do that.


    Last edited by islamirama; Feb-18-2018 at 09:07 AM.

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    Gitmo Judge Convicts U.S. General

    The Guantanamo Bay military tribunals on Wednesday won their first conviction without a plea deal since 2008. Only it wasn’t a terrorist who was convicted – it was a one-star Marine general sticking up for the rights of the accused to have a fair trial.

    In defending the principle that attorneys ought to be able to defend their clients free from government surveillance, Brigadier General John Baker was ruled in contempt of court and sentenced to 21 days in confinement. He also must pay a $1000 fine.

    Baker is a senior officer within in the highly controversial military commissions process: the Chief of Defense Counsel. Maj. Ben Sakrisson, the Pentagon spokesman for detentions, confirmed that Baker is being confined in his quarters – at Guantanamo Bay.

    “The military commissions are willing to put people in jail for defending the rule of law,” Jay Connell, who represents another Guantanamo detainee facing a military commission, told The Daily Beast. “If they’re willing to put a Marine general in jail for standing up for a client’s rights, they’re willing to do just anything.”

    Baker’s sentence Wednesday was first reported by Carol Rosenberg of the Miami Herald, the only reporter actually at Guantanamo and who saw the hearing. He outranks the judge who sentenced him, Air Force Colonel Vance Spath.

    The shocking development at Guantanamo, described as a “national disgrace and an embarrassment” by the executive director of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, came on the same day President Donald Trump publicly mulled detaining accused New York terror suspect Sayfullo Saipov at Guantanamo. (As a lawful permanent resident, Saipov is likely ineligible for a war-crimes trial under the 2009 Military Commission Act, which specified the court is for non-Americans, even if the Pentagon decided his alleged acts rose to the level of a war crime.)

    The path that led to Baker’s contempt confinement started with a group resignation and a clash with Spath.
    Earlier this month, three civilian attorneys for Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the accused bomber of the USS Cole in 2000, abruptly quit the death-penalty case. The attorneys said that they had significant reason to believe the government was listening in to their communications. Spath, the judge in the Nashiri case, barred them from discussing the issue with Nashiri, since it was classified. Nashiri had lost his lawyers without ever knowing exactly why.

    It is not the first time that concerns over government spying have rocked the Guantanamo military tribunals. In 2014, pre-trial hearings for the accused 9/11 co-conspirators snarled after defense attorneys revealed indications that the FBI had turned their technical adviser into a secret informant, prompting the judge in that case to prohibit monitoring attorney-client communications in November 2016. And in 2013, in the same case, the CIA cut the audio feed at the war court before an attorney discussed an aspect of the defendants’ confinement at undisclosed CIA “black site” prisons.”

    Baker supported the Nashiri attorneys’ decision to quit – and believed he, as chief defense counsel, had all sufficient authority to permit them to walk. Baker released them on October 11. But, facing the prospect of the Nashiri death-penalty commission snarling to a halt, Spath disagreed, and ordered them to return to Guantanamo.

    Instead, Baker showed up at the war court this week, without now ex-Nashiri attorney Rick Kammen and Kammen’s team. Spath instructed Baker to change his mind and instruct Kammen and the two other attorneys that they still represent Nashiri. Baker did not, believing that Spath lacked the authority to do so. On Wednesday, Spath held Baker in contempt and ordered him to 21 days’ confinement in his Guantanamo quarters.

    Connell, who represents 9/11 co-defendant Ammar al-Baluchi, said all this could have been avoided had the government simply not spied on the Nashiri team, “or allowed the defense counsel to discuss this issue with their client.” He added that Baker’s sentencing did not settle the issue of who in the military commissions process – a judge in a specific case, or the Chief of Defense Counsel – has final say over an attorney quitting.

    “It will come up again the next time someone tries to resign or otherwise leave the case,” Connell said. He did not know if other Guantanamo defense lawyers would resign in protest.

    Baker had a history of supporting unmonitored attorney communications, which are a bedrock principle of civilian trials. In June, shortly after learning of the suspected surveillance on the Nashiri lawyers, he advised defense attorneys “not to conduct any attorney-client meetings at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (GTMO), until they know with certainty that improper monitoring of such meetings is not occurring,” according to a letter obtained by the Miami Herald.

    “At present,” Baker continued, “I am not confident that the prohibition on improper monitoring of attorney-client meetings at GTMO as ordered by the commission is being followed.”

    It’s possible that Baker won’t serve out his sentence. Harvey Rishikov, the convening authority of the military commissions, “will determine whether to affirm, defer, suspend or disapprove the sentence in the next few days,” the Pentagon’s Sakrisson said.



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