Archive for July, 2008

The Guantánamo Files: Additional Chapters Online – Escape to Pakistan (The Saudis)

The Guantanamo FilesI’ve just posted the fourth of 12 additional online chapters supplementing my book The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press/the University of Michigan Press). This chapter features stories that I could not include in the book, either for reasons of space (to keep the book at a manageable length) or, in some cases, because the information was not available at the time of writing.

This additional chapter complements Chapter 6 of The Guantánamo Files, looking at the stories of 22 Saudi prisoners not mentioned in the book. They were amongst the 250 or so prisoners (almost one-third of Guantánamo’s entire population) who were captured crossing from Afghanistan to Pakistan in December 2001. In the next online chapter I’ll be looking at the stories of the Yemenis captured at the same time.

This is an anniversary of sorts, as this is my 250th post since I first began blogging about Guantánamo last May, and I’m delighted to be able to report that, since I posted the last online chapter two months ago, the sins of the executive with regard to the “War on Terror” (indefinite imprisonment without charge or trial, and without an adequate screening process), as mandated by a spineless Congress, have been resolutely challenged by the judiciary.

Last month, fed up with the administration’s persistent refusal to grant the prisoners a fair hearing to ascertain whether there was, in fact, any reason to hold them, the Supreme Court, which had first granted the prisoners habeas corpus rights in June 2004, only to have them removed by Congress, reinstated their habeas corpus rights, but this time grounded them in the US Constitution, beyond the whims of the executive and the politicians.

Two weeks later, the Court of Appeals, examining the first of many cases that had been on hold pending the Supreme Court’s decision, ruled decisively in favor of a Chinese prisoner, Huzaifa Parhat, stating that the tribunal which determined that he was an “enemy combatant,” who could be held indefinitely, was “invalid,” and deriding the government’s evidence as being akin to the nonsense poetry of Lewis Carroll.

And today, in the Washington Post, an article about New Yorker journalist Jane Mayer’s forthcoming book, The Dark Side, explains why these verdicts are so important, dealing another blow to the validity of the tribunal process, and reinforcing what I discovered during my research for The Guantánamo Files: that the overwhelming majority of the prisoners were either innocent men or Taliban foot soldiers with no knowledge of al-Qaeda or the 9/11 attacks.

Mayer describes the findings of a classified CIA report which, as the Post describes it, was “prepared in the summer of 2002 by a senior CIA analyst who was invited to the prison camp in Cuba to help Defense Department officials grapple with a major problem: They were gleaning very little useful information from the roughly 600 detainees in custody at the time.” After studying the prisoners’ cases, the analyst concluded that a third of them “had no connection with terrorism whatsoever.” The article continues: “Many were essentially bystanders who had been swept up in dragnets or turned over to the US military by bounty hunters.” Mayer adds that, when the findings were reported to Major Gen. Michael Dunlavey, Guantánamo’s commander, Dunlavey “not only agreed with the assessment but suggested that an even higher percentage of detentions — up to half — were in error.”

Mayer also explains why no action was taken to free all these wrongly imprisoned men, laying the blame squarely on Vice President Dick Cheney’s senior counsel (and now Chief of Staff), David Addington. Describing Addington as “adamant and imperious” (as all who have studied his recent testimony before a subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee can confirm), Mayer quotes him as saying, “There will be no review. The president has determined that they are ALL enemy combatants. We are not going to revisit it.”

Keep David Addington in mind as you read this latest online chapter.

Note: The first three additional chapters are available here, here and here, and see the left-hand column for the other eight.

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK). To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed, and see here for my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, published in March 2009.

Scandal of Diego Garcia rendition flights strains US-UK relations

Diego GarciaThis has been a bad week for the British government, in relation to two of the running sores of its foreign policy, both centred on the Overseas Territory of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean.

Diego Garcia and the surrounding islands — known collectively as the Chagos Islands — were shamefully cleared of their existing population in the late 1960s, to make way for a US airbase on Diego Garcia itself. This was a manifestation of the “special relationship” between the UK and the US, which involved the old empire facilitating its successor’s global reach, in exchange for a significant discount on the UK’s Polaris nuclear missile programme.

Ever since, the exiled Chagossians have been attempting to regain access to their ancestral lands, but with limited success. Although successive British governments have toned down the racist rhetoric used at the time of the islanders’ forced removal — when official documents referred to them as “Tarzans or Men Fridays” — Diego Garcia and the Chagos Islands have remained at the forefront of a colonial mindset that has never quite been extirpated from the Foreign Office’s mentality.

Although the islanders won a stunning victory in the High Court in 2000, which ruled that their expulsion had been illegal, the government fought back in 2003, when Prime Minster Tony Blair invoked an ancient and archaic “royal prerogative” to strike down their claims once more. Although the court of appeal reversed this decision in May 2006, ruling that the islanders’ right to return was “one of the most fundamental liberties known to human beings,” it was clear that, in the struggle between a group of cruelly disposed islanders on the one hand, and the US military-industrial complex on the other, the Chagossians’ fight was far from over.

Last week, just after a party of Chagossians visited London to hear lawyers for the Foreign Office appealing in the House of Lords against the 2006 verdict and claiming, as the Guardian put it, that “[a]llowing the Chagossian islanders to go back to their Indian Ocean homes would be a ‘precarious and costly’ operation,” and that “the United States had said that it would also present an ‘unacceptable risk’ to its base on Diego Garcia,” David Miliband, the foreign secretary, delivered a short statement relating to the other scandal of Diego Garcia: its use for “extraordinary rendition” flights in the “War on Terror.”

After years of denials by the British government that rendition flights had passed through Diego Garcia, David Miliband admitted in February that he had just been informed by his US counterparts that, upon searching their records, they had discovered that two flights had stopped on Diego Garcia in 2002. “In both cases a US plane with a single detainee on board refuelled at the US facility in Diego Garcia,” Miliband said. “The detainees did not leave the plane, and the US Government has assured us that no US detainees have ever been held on Diego Garcia. US investigations show no record of any other rendition through Diego Garcia or any other Overseas Territory or through the UK itself since then.”

At the time, I noted that this appeared to be a sly form of damage limitation, as there was compelling evidence that, far from being used on just two occasions as a transit point, the island had actually housed a secret prison. Three examples will suffice for now, although it’s a safe bet that more revelations are forthcoming.

HambaliIn October 2003, Time magazine ran an exclusive feature by Simon Elegant focusing on the imprisonment of Hambali, a “high-value detainee,” who spent years in various secret CIA prisons — including Diego Garcia — until he was transferred to Guantánamo in September 2006. Other evidence came from Council of Europe investigator (and Swiss senator) Dick Marty, who reported in June 2006 that, having spoken to senior CIA officers during his research, he had “received concurring confirmations that United States agencies have used Diego Garcia, which is the international legal responsibility of the UK, in the ‘processing’ of high-value detainees.’”

The final piece of evidence came from inside the US administration itself, when Barry McCaffrey, a retired four-star US general, and currently a professor of international security studies at the West Point military academy, let slip on two occasions that Diego Garcia had housed a secret prison. In May 2004, he blithely declared, “We’re probably holding around 3,000 people, you know, Bagram air field, Diego Garcia, Guantánamo, 16 camps throughout Iraq,” and in December 2006 he slipped the leash again, saying, “They’re behind bars … we’ve got them on Diego Garcia, in Bagram air field, in Guantánamo.”

David Miliband’s statement last Thursday did nothing to suggest that the British government had any intention of pushing the matter further with its US allies, even though, as the sovereign power in charge of the islands, the ministers are unable to evade responsibility for what has taken place on Diego Garcia.

Rather feebly, the foreign secretary stated that, after sending a list of possible rendition flights that may have passed through British territory to the US authorities, “The United States Government confirmed that, with the exception of two cases related to Diego Garcia in 2002, there have been no other instances in which US intelligence flights landed in the United Kingdom, our Overseas Territories, or the Crown Dependencies, with a detainee on board since 11 September 2001.”

Reprieve, the legal action charity that has spent several years investigating “extraordinary rendition” and secret prisons, responded by pointing out that the British government “intentionally failed to ask the right questions of the US, and accepted implausible US assurances at face value,” noting that the Foreign Office had declined to ask the US government for the names of the prisoners transported via Diego Garcia in 2002, that it had failed to ask if any other rendition flights had passed through Diego Garcia, even if, as the US asserted, no other planes landed there, and had also failed to ask whether any other flights passed through UK territory en route to engaging in “extraordinary rendition,” which would make the UK complicit in the crime.

The British government faced a fresh barrage of criticism just three days later, when the Foreign Affairs Select Committee published its latest report (PDF) on the Overseas Territories. With reference to Diego Garcia, the Committee declared that “it is deplorable that previous US assurances about rendition flights have turned out to be false. The failure of the United States Administration to tell the truth resulted in the UK Government inadvertently misleading our Select Committee and the House of Commons. We intend to examine further the extent of UK supervision of US activities on Diego Garcia, including all flights and ships serviced from Diego Garcia.”

For good measure, the Committee also had harsh words about the government’s treatment of the Chagossians, noting, “We conclude that there is a strong moral case for the UK permitting and supporting a return … for the Chagossians. The FCO (Foreign Office) has argued that such a return would be unsustainable, but we find these arguments less than convincing.”

Under pressure on two fronts over Diego Garcia, it remains to be seen whether the government can once more worm its way out of trouble. Tory MP Andrew Tyrie, who chairs the all-party parliamentary group on extraordinary rendition, is keen not to let this happen. Speaking after the report was published, he chastised the foreign secretary for dismissing his concerns about “extraordinary rendition” when he first raised the issue last October. “The Foreign Secretary persistently gave me the brush-off. He said we could rely on US assurances,” Tyrie said, adding, “My allegations were correct. The Foreign Secretary’s brush-off was not just misplaced, it was a disgrace.”

Reprieve was even more blunt, stating, “This remains a transatlantic cover-up of epic proportions. While the British government seems content to accept whatever nonsense it is fed by its US allies, the sordid truth about Diego Garcia’s central role in the unjust rendition and detention of prisoners in the so-called ‘War on Terror’ cannot be hidden forever.”

Andy is the author of The Guantanamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK). To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed, and see here for my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, published in March 2009.

As published on Indymedia, CounterPunch and ZNet.

Repatriation as Russian Roulette: Will the Two Algerians Freed from Guantánamo Be Treated Fairly?

Flag/map of AlgeriaIt doesn’t take much investigation to discover that Algeria has a bleak human rights record, which is one of the reasons that, until last week, when 49-year old Mustafa Hamlili and 28-year old Abdul Raham Houari were freed from Guantánamo, no Algerian prisoners had been repatriated. This was in spite of the fact that at least ten of the 17 Algerians held in the prison have been cleared for release — some for around two years — after multiple military review boards determined that they no longer represented a threat to the US or its allies.

The Miami Herald reported that the US administration blamed the Algerian government for the delay in repatriating cleared Algerians from Guantánamo, citing a comment by Sandra Hodgkinson, the Defense Department deputy in charge of detainee affairs, who said earlier this year that the Algerian authorities “simply decided that they do not want to accept back any of the detainees from the United States.” Hodgkinson added that the Algerian government’s stance was “discouraging,” and claimed that, last summer, as the Herald described it, “Washington and Algiers agreed on [the] repatriation of a number of Algerians she would not quantify. Then the North African nation reversed course.”

Ahmed BelbachaThere is, undoubtedly, some truth to Hodgkinson’s claims, but it is not the whole story, as the case of another cleared prisoner, Ahmed Belbacha, demonstrates. A former football player in Algeria, who had been working for a government-owned oil company, Belbacha fled to the UK when Islamist militants threatened his life, and settled in the southern coastal town of Bournemouth, where he found steady employment and a group of close friends.

While waiting to see if his asylum claim was successful, Belbacha took a month’s vacation to visit Damascus, Tehran and an Afghan refugee camp in Pakistan, and it was while he was in Pakistan that he was seized by opportunistic soldiers and sold to US forces. When he was finally cleared for release from Guantánamo in February 2007, having been found not to pose a threat to the US or its allies — including the UK and Algeria — his return to the UK was refused by the British government, on the grounds that he was not technically a resident at the time of his capture (even though he had already spent two productive years in the UK).

His lawyers at the London-based legal action charity Reprieve were then obliged to mount a series of successful legal actions in the US courts to prevent his return to Algeria, where he is at risk not only from the terrorists who had previously threatened him, but also from the Algerian intelligence services, who, as one of his lawyers, Zachary Katznelson, explained last summer, “have told Reprieve that if Ahmed returns, they cannot ensure that he will be safe — from their own personnel.” Katznelson also said, “He says his cell in Guantánamo is like a grave and that although it sounds crazy he would rather stay in those conditions than go back to Algeria. The fact is that he is really, really scared about what might happen to him in Algeria.”

Sadly, while Ahmed Belbacha’s fears are genuine, and should, by law, be respected by the US administration, which is a signatory to international treaties preventing the return of foreign nationals to countries where they face the risk of torture, the administration has persistently demonstrated its determination to bypass its obligations by signing “memoranda of understanding” with abusive regimes including Libya, Tunisia and Jordan. For its part, Algeria has refused officially to sign a “memorandum of understanding,” but, as the case of Ahmed Belbacha shows, this has not prevented the US authorities from attempting to strike deals with the Algerian government.

Moreover, although the “memoranda of understanding” purport to guarantee humane treatment, they are clearly worthless. Last June, when two cleared Tunisians, Lotfi Lagha and Abdullah bin Omar, were repatriated, their “humane treatment” consisted of summary imprisonment, abuse, threats to rape bin Omar’s wife and daughters, and, finally, show trials based on false evidence obtained from other prisoners tortured in Tunisia, in which the two men received jail sentences of three and seven years.

The UK, too, has been involved in similar underhand activity, making equally worthless agreements with these same regimes in an attempt to rid itself of unwanted foreign nationals, who have never been charged with a crime, but who have been held in prison, or under draconian control orders, which amount to house arrest. This imprisonment without charge or trial is based on secret evidence, which has never been disclosed, but which, like the “evidence” against the Guantánamo prisoners, is often of dubious provenance. Where it has surfaced it has hinted at ineptitude on the part of the British intelligence services, or false information obtained from prisoners tortured in other countries, including Algeria.

Although a number of courts have intervened to prevent the repatriation of some of those held in Britain’s various Guantánamo-influenced forms of detention — to Libya, Jordan, and, in a few cases, Algeria — other Algerians have either failed to prevent their deportation in the courts, or have given up on the law entirely, bowing to the pressure exerted on them to force them to return “voluntarily” to the countries of their birth by doing just that. The results have been mixed, with some released, while others have been tried and sentenced for dubious terrorism-related offences (despite UK assurances to the contrary), but throughout this process the treatment appears to have been arbitrary, and it is for this reason that I chose the “Russian roulette” analogy in the heading of this article.

In Guantánamo, Ahmed Belbacha’s fear of repatriation is not unique. Several other cleared Algerian prisoners are also terrified of returning to the country of their birth, although their lawyers have not been obliged to take legal action, because the US administration has not, to date, attempted to send them home.

From what I understand, however, the two men repatriated last week had decided, unlike Ahmed Belbacha, that they preferred to take their chances with repatriation. No news has yet emerged from Algeria to indicate whether or not Mustafa Hamlili and Abdul Raham Houari were freed on their return, or whether — in the disturbing game of Russian roulette that confronts Algerians repatriated after facing allegations of impropriety, however groundless — they are, as you read this, facing ill-treatment, possible torture, show trials and further imprisonment. What is certain, however, is that neither man ever constituted a threat to either the United States or to Algeria.

The first, Abdul Raham Houari, who was just 21 years old when he was captured in Afghanistan, in November or December 2001, appears to be one of countless impressionable young men fired up by false hopes that Afghanistan would be an inspirational place for a young Muslim to visit. At a military review board hearing in December 2005, he denied an allegation that his travel had been funded by al-Qaeda, and explained that his journey to Pakistan had been facilitated by a Pakistani youth mosque, and that he had paid for his own travel. He also explained that, although he had stayed in a guest house in Bagram, Afghanistan, where he had been taught how to use a Kalashnikov, he had not engaged in hostilities against either the Northern Alliance or the United States. He added that he was injured while sleeping, when someone accidentally detonated a grenade, and that when he awoke he was in a vehicle near a hospital, and was then taken to the hospital, where he was later seized and transferred to Guantánamo.

All that can be gleaned of his behavior in Guantánamo comes from this same transcript, where it was alleged that his “[o]verall behavior has been generally non-compliant and aggressive,” and that he “has failed to comply with guards’ instructions on a number of occasions. He has been informed to keep his clothes on and has repeatedly ignored those orders and has stood in his cell naked.” A sign that this may have been less to do with deliberate insubordination, and more to do with a head injury and unaddressed mental health issues can be found in Houari’s reply. “I have never misbehaved while being a Detainee,” he said. “I am under medication for my head injury and I removed my clothes because I had a headache.”

The second man, Mustafa Hamlili, was, like at least 120 other prisoners in Guantánamo, seized in Pakistan, and not, as the administration has repeatedly alleged, on the battlefields of Afghanistan. 42 years old when he was dragged from his home, in a village near Peshawar, on May 25, 2002, the former university professor, who fought the Russians in Afghanistan, ran through his history in a dignified and eloquent manner during his tribunal at Guantánamo. Declaring his innocence, he explained, “For the last 15 years, I have not [had] any problems with anyone in my village. Anyone in my village can verify that. I am 45 and I am not going to do anything foolish. If I were going to do these things, I would have done them when I was younger. I am a Muslim. Islam is against all terrorism, violence and problems between people.”

According to the timeline of events described by Hamlili, he traveled to Pakistan from Saudi Arabia in 1987 and took up a job with the International Islamic Relief Organization, a large and well-funded Saudi charity, working in the Orphans’ Department and looking after a school until it closed in 1990. He then supported himself and his family by working as a welder and a honey seller for the next ten years, traveling to the Yemen from 1995-97, when he took the opportunity to study because he didn’t need a visa, and then returning to Pakistan.

He explained that from June to September 2001 he worked for the charity al-Wafa in Kandahar, digging wells and remodelling mosques, until the office closed. Dozens of prisoners at Guantánamo — all now released — were held because the US regarded al-Wafa as an organization that was associated with al-Qaeda and the Taliban, although Hamlili was not convinced by the associations suggested by the authorities, explaining that he “never suspected al-Wafa was a terrorist organization because they had blankets, medicine, hospitals, and equipment to repair roads.” He also told his tribunal that he began working with al-Wafa because “I was told there was a Saudi organization that was looking for employees,” adding, crucially, “The Arabs in Afghanistan didn’t want to work for al-Wafa because they considered it working for [the] Saudi government. I was proud to be working for a humanitarian organization.”

Throughout his tribunal, it was unclear what Hamlili had done to be designated as an “enemy combatant,” and his Personal Representative (the military officer appointed in place of a lawyer) duly spoke up on his behalf, saying, “The Pakistani police and the Americans confiscated his audiotapes and books but found nothing to connect him with any terrorist activities.”

Hamlili himself summed up his predicament when asked why he thought he was arrested. “From what I understand,” he said, “the Pakistani intelligence was under pressure from the Americans to deliver al-Qaeda operatives and other terrorists. The Pakistani intelligence arrested people (some were poor and innocent) so they could show Americans they were working with them. The Pakistani officer that arrested me said I had nothing to worry about. I would be released shortly since they were looking specifically for al-Qaeda members.” Shamefully, Hamlili’s story is far from unique, although other tales of opportunistic arrests were not always expressed as eloquently by other prisoners rounded up by the Pakistani authorities to “show Americans they were working with them.”

At the conclusion of his hearing, when asked, “Have you ever worked for al-Qaeda or supported them in any way?” Hamlili reinforced the case for his innocence by delivering the following stinging rebuke: “No, I would rather starve than work for that organization. They try to control you and do things to your religion.”

In his last known hearing, in July 2006, Hamlili maintained the dignity he had shown previously, speaking about the conditions in the prison that had led, the previous month, to three prisoners committing suicide. “What happened because of [the abuse of] the Koran and other things could have been avoided if you had consulted with senior detainees about some matters,” he said. “With my regret, the miscommunication and mistreatment created problems and uprising. I am sorry for the ones who killed themselves recently. If they were around me, the wise one, the senior, I would have stopped it from happening because it is against my religion. I ask God to fix things and take care of mankind.”

In conclusion, the following exchange, which touched on issues relating to his possible repatriation, contained a measured defense of his religion, and his position on extremism, which I hope has come to the attention of the Algerian authorities:

Presiding Officer: I realize that you denied a lot of the allegations against you in regards to al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Should you return to Algeria, what kind of assurances can the Board have that you are not going to return to this kind of activity again?

Detainee: If I wanted to be one of them, I would have worked for them before I got to this detention. I did not participate before and I will never do that in the future. I pray and fast; I read the Koran. I am a Muslim. I am a peaceful man. I like to do good things to people, which is what out prophets teach us. What’s happening now with these groups is not a representation of Islam because Islam is very clear. Islam religion is a humane religion. Islam teaches people to work together.

POSTSCRIPT: Abdul Raham Houari was also identified as Sofiane Haderbache (or Hadarbache), and in November 2012 the Associated Press reported, “An Algerian criminal court has acquitted a former detainee of the US facility in Guantánamo Bay of charges of belonging to a terrorist organization. Sofiane Hadarbache, 32, was originally tried and acquitted by an Algerian court in 2010 upon his release from Guantánamo, where he was taken after being turned over to US forces in Afghanistan. The prosecutor, who had asked for a 15-year sentence, successfully appealed for a retrial, but on Tuesday the court once again declared Hadarbache innocent of the charges of belonging to a terrorist group and using a fake passport. His lawyer, Hassiba Boumerdassi, says he suffered mental problems following a head injury received during a US airstrike in Afghanistan.”

Parts of this article are drawn from my book The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK). To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed, and see here for my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, published in March 2009.

As published on and CounterPunch. An edited version was published on the Huffington Post.

Note: The prisoners’ numbers (and variations on the spelling of their names) are as follows:

ISN 705: Mustafa Hamlili (Hamlily)
ISN 70: Abdul Raham Houari

See the following for articles about the 142 prisoners released from Guantánamo from June 2007 to January 2009, and the eleven prisoners released from February to June 2009, whose stories are covered in more detail than is available anywhere else –- either in print or on the Internet –- although many of them, of course, are also covered in The Guantánamo Files: June 2007 –- 2 Tunisians, 4 Yemenis (here, here and here); July 2007 –- 16 Saudis; August 2007 –- 1 Bahraini, 5 Afghans; September 2007 –- 16 Saudis; September 2007 –- 1 Mauritanian; September 2007 –- 1 Libyan, 1 Yemeni, 6 Afghans; November 2007 –- 3 Jordanians, 8 Afghans; November 2007 –- 14 Saudis; December 2007 –- 2 Sudanese; December 2007 –- 13 Afghans (here and here); December 2007 –- 3 British residents; December 2007 –- 10 Saudis; May 2008 –- 3 Sudanese, 1 Moroccan, 5 Afghans (here, here and here); July 2008 –- 1 Qatari, 1 United Arab Emirati, 1 Afghan; August 2008 –- 2 Algerians; September 2008 –- 1 Pakistani, 2 Afghans (here and here); September 2008 –- 1 Sudanese, 1 Algerian; November 2008 –- 1 Kazakh, 1 Somali, 1 Tajik; November 2008 –- 2 Algerians; November 2008 –- 1 Yemeni (Salim Hamdan) repatriated to serve out the last month of his sentence; December 2008 –- 3 Bosnian Algerians; January 2009 –- 1 Afghan, 1 Algerian, 4 Iraqis; February 2009 — 1 British resident (Binyam Mohamed); May 2009 — 1 Bosnian Algerian (Lakhdar Boumediene); June 2009 — 1 Chadian (Mohammed El-Gharani), 4 Uighurs, 1 Iraqi, 3 Saudis (here and here).

For other articles dealing with Belmarsh, control orders, deportation bail, deportation and extradition, see Deals with dictators undermined by British request for return of five Guantánamo detainees (August 2007), Britain’s Guantánamo: the troubling tale of Tunisian Belmarsh detainee Hedi Boudhiba, extradited, cleared and abandoned in Spain (August 2007), Guantánamo as house arrest: Britain’s law lords capitulate on control orders (November 2007), The Guantánamo Britons and Spain’s dubious extradition request (December 2007), Britain’s Guantánamo: control orders renewed, as one suspect is freed (February 2008), Spanish drop “inhuman” extradition request for Guantánamo Britons (March 2008), UK government deports 60 Iraqi Kurds; no one notices (March 2008), Abu Qatada: Law Lords and Government Endorse Torture (February 2009), Ex-Guantánamo prisoner refused entry into UK, held in deportation centre (February 2009), Home Secretary ignores Court decision, kidnaps bailed men and imprisons them in Belmarsh (February 2009), Britain’s insane secret terror evidence (March 2009).

David Gray complains about the use of music as torture in the “War on Terror”

David GrayOn BBC Radio 4’s The World Tonight, singer-songwriter David Gray spoke out against the use of music as torture by the US military.

Gray’s chart-topping song Babylon, played repeatedly at ear-piercing volume, is one of dozens of songs, by artists including Eminem, Bruce Springsteen, Rage Against the Machine and Britney Spears, that has been used by the US military as part of a package of “enhanced interrogation techniques,” intended to “break” prisoners held without charge or trial in the “War on Terror” — in Guantánamo, in Iraq, and in secret prisons run by the CIA.

The notorious As the Guardian recently explained, the use of Babylon first came to light “after Haj Ali, the hooded man in the notorious Abu Ghraib photographs, told of being stripped, handcuffed and forced to listen to a looped sample of Babylon, at a volume so high he feared that his head would burst.”

Complaining that the only part of the torture music story that gets noticed is its “novelty aspect” — which he compared to “Guantánamo[‘s] Greatest Hits” — Gray delivered a powerful indictment of the misappropriation of his and other artists’ music.

“What we’re talking about here is people in a darkened room, physically inhibited by handcuffs, bags over their heads and music blaring at them for 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” he told the BBC. “That is torture. That is nothing but torture. It doesn’t matter what the music is — it could be Tchaikovsky’s finest or it could be Barney the Dinosaur. It really doesn’t matter, it’s going to drive you completely nuts.” He added, “No-one wants to even think about it or discuss the fact that we’ve gone above and beyond all legal process and we’re torturing people.”

This is the second time that Gray has spoken out about the use of music as torture. Two weeks ago, he explained, “The moral niceties of whether they’re using my song or not are totally irrelevant. We are thinking below the level of the people we’re supposed to oppose, and it goes against our entire history and everything we claim to represent. It’s disgusting, really. Anything that draws attention to the scale of the horror and how low we’ve sunk is a good thing.”

Reprieve, the legal action charity that represents over 30 prisoners at Guantánamo, recently launched an initiative, Pull the Plug on Torture Music, encouraging artists to sign up to prevent the use of their music as part of the US military’s torture techniques, to insert a clause in their contracts preventing the misuse of their music, and, in general, to raise awareness of the issue by spreading the word and playing anti-torture gigs.

Others who have signed up for Reprieve’s initiative include Massive Attack (who recently hosted a series of Reprieve events at their Meltdown festival at London’s Southbank Centre), Alabama 3, Elbow, the Magic Numbers, Seize the Day, and Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine, who told Spin magazine in 2006, “The fact that our music has been co-opted in this barbaric way is really disgusting. If you’re at all familiar with the ideological teachings of the band and its support for human rights, that’s really hard to stand.”

Whether you like David Gray’s music or not should be irrelevant. He understands what’s really going on with the use of music as torture, and he’s been brave enough to raise his head above the parapet, which is not something that musicians are always prepared to do.

Andy is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK). To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed, and see here for my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, published in March 2009.

As published on Indymedia, DC Indymedia and NYC Indymedia.

Guantánamo Trials: Another Torture Victim Charged

Abdul Rahim al-NashiriThe wheels of injustice grind so slowly at Guantánamo that it’s probably a coincidence that charges were announced against another alleged terrorist just hours after the details were revealed of how comprehensively the government had been ridiculed for its “War on Terror” detention policy in the Court of Appeals in Washington. The public barely had time to register that, in throwing out the case against the innocent Chinese Muslim prisoner Huzaifa Parhat, the largely conservative court had compared the government’s evidence to a nonsense poem by Lewis Carroll, before the charges against Abdul Rahim al-Nashiri unexpectedly surfaced to supplant the story in the headlines.

A Saudi who was held in secret CIA custody from November 2002, when he was captured in the United Arab Emirates, until September 2006, when he was transferred to Guantánamo with 13 other “high-value detainees,” including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM), al-Nashiri is the 22nd prisoner to be put forward for trial by Military Commission at Guantánamo, and the seventh of the 14 “high-value detainees” to be charged.

In the charge sheet (PDF), al-Nashiri, who has previously been described as al-Qaeda’s operations chief in the Arabian peninsula, is accused of conspiracy, murder in violation of the rules of war, using treachery or perfidy, destruction of property in violation of the law of war, intentionally causing serious bodily injury, and terrorism. The charges relate in particular to his alleged role in the attacks on the USS The Sullivans and the USS Cole in 2000, and the French tanker Limburg in 2002. To increase the impact the announcement, moreover, the Pentagon indicated that it would be seeking the death penalty if he is convicted.

The problem with this otherwise seemingly valid pursuit of justice against a genuine terrorist is that al-Nashiri is one of three prisoners whose torture at the hands of CIA operatives has been publicly admitted. In February, the CIA’s director, Gen. Michael Hayden, told Congress that three “high-value detainees” were subjected to waterboarding in CIA custody: al-Nashiri, KSM (put forward for trial in February and arraigned last month), and Abu Zubaydah (who has not yet been charged, perhaps because of conflicts over his significance). Waterboarding is a form of controlled drowning, which the administration — Gen. Hayden included — refuses to acknowledge as torture, even though the torturers of the Spanish Inquisition had no hesitation in labeling it, unambiguously, as “tortura del agua.”

The French tanker Limburg after a terrorist attack in 2002Al-Nashiri may well be guilty of all the charges against him, but it’s noticeable that, at his tribunal in Guantánamo last year, he was one of only three “high-value detainees” (KSM and Abu Zubaydah were the others) to claim that he had made false allegations because he was tortured. He said that he made up stories tying him to the bombing of the USS Cole and confessed to involvement in several other plots — the attack on the Limburg (see photo), other plans to bomb American ships in the Gulf, a plan to hijack a plane and crash it into a ship, and claims that Osama bin Laden had a nuclear bomb — in order to get his captors to stop torturing him. “From the time I was arrested five years ago,” he said, “they have been torturing me. It happened during interviews. One time they tortured me one way, and another time they tortured me in a different way. I just said those things to make the people happy. They were very happy when I told them those things.”

The administration seems confident that it can exclude all mention of torture from the planned trials at Guantánamo, either by using evidence obtained by “clean teams” of FBI agents, who politely asked the prisoners to repeat what they had previously confessed under torture, or by allowing the government-appointed judges to use their discretion to pretend that the CIA’s secret prisons — and the torture that took place there — never existed.

In the real world, however, where evidence obtained through torture is inadmissible, it remains unclear whether the government’s attempts to set up an offshore judicial system for alleged terrorists, which openly mocks America’s core values, will ever be successful. It is now over six and a half years since the system of trials by Military Commission was introduced, which was conceived by Vice President Dick Cheney and his senior counsel (and now chief of staff) David Addington, and the government has yet to secure a clear victory.

The only verdict to date is in the case of the Australian David Hicks, who was repatriated to serve a nine-month sentence after accepting a plea bargain, in which he admitted providing “material support for terrorism,” in March 2007. Conveniently for the administration, this involved Hicks renouncing well-documented claims that he was tortured and abused in US custody. It also, however, involved Hicks receiving a sentence far shorter than that which prosecutors had first mooted — up to 20 years, according to some reports, which would have been comparable to the draconian sentence imposed in 2002 on John Walker Lindh, the “American Taliban” — which did nothing to reinforce the government’s long-cherished claims that Hicks was one of “the worst of the worst.”

And elsewhere, of course, as the Court of Appeals reminds us, the quality of the administration’s post-9/11 detention policies is most realistically compared to the nonsense spouted by an absurd character in a late nineteenth century English poem.

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK). To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed, and see here for my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, published in March 2009.

As published on the Huffington Post and CounterPunch.

Note: Al-Nashiri is also referred to as Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri.

See the following for a sequence of articles dealing with the stumbling progress of the Military Commissions: The reviled Military Commissions collapse (June 2007), A bad week at Guantánamo (Commissions revived, September 2007), The curse of the Military Commissions strikes the prosecutors (September 2007), A good week at Guantánamo (chief prosecutor resigns, October 2007), The story of Mohamed Jawad (October 2007), The story of Omar Khadr (November 2007), Guantánamo trials: where are the terrorists? (February 2008), Six in Guantánamo charged with 9/11 attacks: why now, and what about the torture? (February 2008), Guantánamo’s shambolic trials (ex-prosecutor turns, February 2008), Torture allegations dog Guantánamo trials (March 2008), African embassy bombing suspect charged (March 2008), The US military’s shameless propaganda over 9/11 trials (April 2008), Betrayals, backsliding and boycotts (May 2008), Fact Sheet: The 16 prisoners charged (May 2008), Four more charged, including Binyam Mohamed (June 2008), Afghan fantasist to face trial (June 2008), 9/11 trial defendants cry torture (June 2008), Folly and injustice (Salim Hamdan’s trial approved, July 2008), A critical overview of Salim Hamdan’s Guantánamo trial and the dubious verdict (August 2008), Salim Hamdan’s sentence signals the end of Guantánamo (August 2008), High Court rules against UK and US in case of Binyam Mohamed (August 2008), Controversy still plagues Guantánamo’s Military Commissions (September 2008), Another Insignificant Afghan Charged (September 2008), Seized at 15, Omar Khadr Turns 22 in Guantánamo (September 2008), Is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed Running the 9/11 Trials? (September 2008), two articles exploring the Commissions’ corrupt command structure (The Dark Heart of the Guantánamo Trials, and New Evidence of Systemic Bias in Guantánamo Trials, October 2008), Meltdown at the Guantánamo Trials (five trials dropped, October 2008), The collapse of Omar Khadr’s Guantánamo trial (October 2008), Corruption at Guantánamo (legal adviser faces military investigations, October 2008), An empty trial at Guantánamo (Ali Hamza al-Bahlul, October 2008), Life sentence for al-Qaeda propagandist fails to justify Guantánamo trials (al-Bahlul, November 2008), Guilt by Torture: Binyam Mohamed’s Transatlantic Quest for Justice (November 2008), 20 Reasons To Shut Down The Guantánamo Trials (profiles of all the prisoners charged, November 2008), How Guantánamo Can Be Closed: Advice for Barack Obama (November 2008), More Dubious Charges in the Guantánamo Trials (two Kuwaitis, November 2008), The End of Guantánamo (Salim Hamdan repatriated, November 2008), Torture, Preventive Detention and the Terror Trials at Guantánamo (December 2008), Is the 9/11 trial confession an al-Qaeda coup? (December 2008), The Dying Days of the Guantánamo Trials (January 2009), Former Guantánamo Prosecutor Condemns Chaotic Trials (Lt. Col. Vandeveld on Mohamed Jawad, January 2009), Torture taints the case of Mohamed Jawad (January 2009), Bush Era Ends with Guantánamo Trial Chief’s Torture Confession (Susan Crawford on Mohammed al-Qahtani, January 2009), Chaos and Lies: Why Obama Was Right to Halt The Guantánamo Trials (January 2009), Binyam Mohamed’s Plea Bargain: Trading Torture For Freedom (March 2009).

And for a sequence of articles dealing with the Obama administration’s response to the Military Commissions, see: Don’t Forget Guantánamo (February 2009), Who’s Running Guantánamo? (February 2009), The Talking Dog interviews Darrel Vandeveld, former Guantánamo prosecutor (February 2009), Obama’s First 100 Days: A Start On Guantánamo, But Not Enough (May 2009), Obama Returns To Bush Era On Guantánamo (May 2009), New Chief Prosecutor Appointed For Military Commissions At Guantánamo (May 2009), Pain At Guantánamo And Paralysis In Government (May 2009), My Message To Obama: Great Speech, But No Military Commissions and No “Preventive Detention” (May 2009), Guantánamo And The Many Failures Of US Politicians (May 2009), A Child At Guantánamo: The Unending Torment of Mohamed Jawad (June 2009), A Broken Circus: Guantánamo Trials Convene For One Day Of Chaos (June 2009), Obama Proposes Swift Execution of Alleged 9/11 Conspirators (June 2009), Obama’s Confusion Over Guantánamo Terror Trials (June 2009).

In addition, for a sequence of articles dealing with the use of torture by the CIA, on “high-value detainees,” and in the secret prisons, see: Guantánamo’s tangled web: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Majid Khan, dubious US convictions, and a dying man (July 2007), Jane Mayer on the CIA’s “black sites,” condemnation by the Red Cross, and Guantánamo’s “high-value” detainees (including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed) (August 2007), Waterboarding: two questions for Michael Hayden about three “high-value” detainees now in Guantánamo (February 2008), The Insignificance and Insanity of Abu Zubaydah: Ex-Guantánamo Prisoner Confirms FBI’s Doubts (April 2008), Secret Prison on Diego Garcia Confirmed: Six “High-Value” Guantánamo Prisoners Held, Plus “Ghost Prisoner” Mustafa Setmariam Nasar (August 2008), Will the Bush administration be held accountable for war crimes? (December 2008), The Ten Lies of Dick Cheney (Part One) and The Ten Lies of Dick Cheney (Part Two) (December 2008), Prosecuting the Bush Administration’s Torturers (March 2009), Abu Zubaydah: The Futility Of Torture and A Trail of Broken Lives (March 2009), Ten Terrible Truths About The CIA Torture Memos (Part One), Ten Terrible Truths About The CIA Torture Memos (Part Two), 9/11 Commission Director Philip Zelikow Condemns Bush Torture Program, Who Authorized The Torture of Abu Zubaydah?, CIA Torture Began In Afghanistan 8 Months before DoJ Approval, Even In Cheney’s Bleak World, The Al-Qaeda-Iraq Torture Story Is A New Low (all April 2009), Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi Has Died In A Libyan Prison, Dick Cheney And The Death Of Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, The “Suicide” Of Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi: Why The Media Silence?, Two Experts Cast Doubt On Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi’s “Suicide”, Lawrence Wilkerson Nails Cheney On Use Of Torture To Invade Iraq, In the Guardian: Death in Libya, betrayal by the West (in the Guardian here) (all May 2009), Lawrence Wilkerson Nails Cheney’s Iraq Lies Again (And Rumsfeld And The CIA), and WORLD EXCLUSIVE: New Revelations About The Torture Of Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi (June 2009).

For other stories discussing the use of torture in secret prisons, see: An unreported story from Guantánamo: the tale of Sanad al-Kazimi (August 2007), Rendered to Egypt for torture, Mohammed Saad Iqbal Madni is released from Guantánamo (September 2008), A History of Music Torture in the “War on Terror” (December 2008), Seven Years of Torture: Binyam Mohamed Tells His Story (March 2009), and also see the extensive Binyam Mohamed archive. And for other stories discussing torture at Guantánamo and/or in “conventional” US prisons in Afghanistan, see: The testimony of Guantánamo detainee Omar Deghayes: includes allegations of previously unreported murders in the US prison at Bagram airbase (August 2007), Guantánamo Transcripts: “Ghost” Prisoners Speak After Five And A Half Years, And “9/11 hijacker” Recants His Tortured Confession (September 2007), Former US interrogator Damien Corsetti recalls the torture of prisoners in Bagram and Abu Ghraib (December 2007), Sami al-Haj: the banned torture pictures of a journalist in Guantánamo (April 2008), Judge Orders Release of Guantánamo’s Forgotten Child (Mohammed El-Gharani, January 2009), Forgotten in Guantánamo: British Resident Shaker Aamer (March 2009).

Guantánamo as Alice in Wonderland

Alice in WonderlandSome of us have known for years that the US administration’s basis for holding prisoners without charge or trial in the “War on Terror” has more to do with a fantasy world in which nonsense masquerades as truth, logic is skewed, and nothing that is uttered remotely resembles evidence that would stand up in a court of law.

At the heart of this fantasy world are the Combatant Status Review Tribunals (CSRTs). Introduced in summer 2004, in a deliberate snub to the Supreme Court, which had just ruled that, contrary to the administration’s assertions, Guantánamo was run by the US and not by Cuba, and that the prisoners had the right to know why they were being held (under the “Great Writ” of habeas corpus, inherited from the British, and designed to prevent executive tyranny), the CSRTs were pale mockeries of the Geneva Conventions’ Article 5 battlefield tribunals, which were intended to separate soldiers from civilians swept up by accident in the heat of battle.

The battlefield tribunals, which the United States promoted and used in wars from Vietnam onwards, took place close to the time and place of capture, so that witnesses could reasonably be called, and enabled the US military, during the first Gulf War, to send home nearly a thousand men who would otherwise have been wrongly held as Prisoners of War.

Post-9/11, with the Geneva Conventions shredded by the administration, the prisoners at Guantánamo — “detainees” held as “enemy combatants” without rights — had to wait two and a half years until, in response to the Supreme Court’s ruling, the administration introduced the CSRTs, which were ostensibly empowered to call witnesses, but in reality did no such thing.

Far from the time and place of capture, the prisoners’ requests for outside witnesses were all refused (on the basis that the most powerful government in the world was unable to track them down, even if they were serving in the US-backed Afghan government). In addition, the prisoners were refused the right to legal representation, and were prey to secret evidence, which was not disclosed to them, and which was frequently nothing more than hearsay, spurious allegations furnished by bounty hunters selling innocent men or foot soldiers to the US military as “terrorists,” or blatantly false confessions obtained from other prisoners through the use of torture, coercion or bribery.

The disgraceful failings of the CSRTs have been analyzed in depth, in particular in a February 2006 report by the Seton Hall Law School (based on a series of “Unclassified Summaries of Evidence” released by the Pentagon in 2005), in my book The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (based on a detailed analysis of 8,000 pages of documents released by the Pentagon in 2006), and in statements made last year (here and here) by Lt. Col. Stephen Abraham, a veteran of US intelligence who worked on the CSRTs, and who concluded that the gathering of materials for use in the tribunals was severely flawed, consisting of intelligence “of a generalized nature — often outdated, often ‘generic,’ rarely specifically relating to the individual subjects of the CSRTs or to the circumstances related to those individuals’ status,” that “what purported to be specific statements of fact lacked even the most fundamental earmarks of objectively credible evidence,” and that the whole system was geared towards rubber-stamping the detainees’ prior designation as “enemy combatants.”

Until now, however, the tribunals’ failings had never been deconstructed by a US court, and certainly not with the acute savagery reserved for last week’s ruling in the case of Parhat v. Gates. As one of dozens of cases that had been stuck in a legal roadblock after the executive persuaded Congress to change the law to remove the prisoners’ habeas rights (a decision which was only finally reversed three weeks ago, when the Supreme Court granted the prisoners constitutional habeas corpus rights), the bare bones of the Parhat verdict, reported last week, were explosive enough. In a one-page ruling, the judges in the Court of Appeals in Washington — noticeably, two Republicans and a Democrat — “held invalid a decision of a Combatant Status Review Tribunal” that Huzaifa Parhat — one of 18 Uighurs (Muslims from an oppressed outpost of China), who are not even alleged to have raised arms against the US — was an “enemy combatant,” and “directed the government to release or transfer” him (or to hold a new tribunal “consistent with the Court’s opinion”).

Now that the full opinion (PDF) has been released, however, the damage to the administration’s credibility is even more pronounced. Tearing into the so-called evidence, the court reserved particular venom for the government’s claim that Parhat was an “enemy combatant” because he was “affiliated with forces associated with al-Qaeda and the Taliban.” The government’s verdict hinged on a claim that the camp in which the Uighurs had been living in Afghanistan (before it was bombed by US forces, forcing them to flee to Pakistan, where they were sold to the US military) was run by a man who ran a Uighur independence movement (the East Turkistan Independence Movement), which was allegedly “associated” with al-Qaeda and the Taliban, even though, as the judges noted, “no source document evidence was introduced to indicate … that the Detainee had actually joined ETIM.”

Furthermore, the judges scolded the government for its shoddy attempts to link ETIM to the Taliban and al-Qaeda, noting that, as the Afghan government, the Taliban had provided “housing” to a variety of groups, “which no doubt ranged from orphanages to terrorist organizations like al-Qaeda,” but that these groups were not all “‘associated’ with the Taliban in a sense that would make them enemy combatants,” and singled out for particular criticism a piece of exculpatory evidence — a claim by another Uighur that the camp actually predated the Taliban regime — which was excluded from Parhat’s CSRT.

They also took exception to the government’s claim that its “evidence” was reliable because it was repeated in a number of different classified documents, noting that the sources for this supposed “evidence” were both vague and impenetrable. They explained that descriptions of ETIM’s activities, and its purported relationship to al-Qaeda, were repeatedly described “as having ‘reportedly’ occurred, as being ‘said to’ or ‘reported to’ have happened, and as things that ‘may’ be true or are ‘suspected’ of having taken place. But in virtually every instance, the documents do not say who ‘reported’ or ‘said’ or ‘suspected’ those things … Because of those omissions, the Tribunal could not and this court cannot assess the reliability of the assertions in the documents. And because of this deficiency, those bare assertions cannot sustain the determination that Parhat is an enemy combatant.”

The judges also attacked an additional claim that the information would not have been included if it wasn’t reliable. “This comes perilously close to suggesting that whatever the government says must be treated as true,” the judges stated, “thus rendering superfluous both the role of the tribunal and the role that Congress assigned to this court,” when, having stripped the prisoners of their habeas rights, the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 allowed them the limited review that led, eventually, to the momentous decision in Parhat.

The judges also visited territory covered by Lt. Col. Abraham, demolishing “the government’s contention that it can prevail by submitting documents that read as if they were indictments or civil complaints” and that it can “simply assert as facts the elements required to prove that a detainee falls within the definition of enemy combatant,” noting that following this line of argument “would require the courts to rubber-stamp the government’s charges, in contravention of our understanding that Congress intended the court to engage in meaningful review of the record.”

In another line of attack, the judges noted that Parhat’s lawyers had argued that the Chinese government — the Uighurs’ only enemy, according to their many accounts at Guantánamo — was the source of some of the classified information used against him during his tribunal, which prompted Judge Merrick B. Garland to conclude, “Parhat has made a credible argument that — at least for some of the assertions — the common source is the Chinese government, which may be less than objective with respect to the Uighurs.”

In the most stunning passage, however — and the one that brings Lewis Carroll and the fantasies of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass into sharp focus — Judge Garland quoted from Carroll’s poem The Hunting of the Snark as another method of discrediting the government’s argument that its evidence was reliable because it was mentioned in three different classified documents. In one sentence, which, either by happy coincidence or deliberate design, shines an unwavering light on the post-9/11 fantasy world in which evidence can be conjured up out of nowhere, Judge Garland, who was joined in the unanimous opinion by Chief Judge David B. Sentelle and Judge Thomas B. Griffith, wrote, “Lewis Carroll notwithstanding, the fact the government has ‘said it thrice’ does not make an allegation true.”

Do you remember the trial at the end of Alice in Wonderland?

“Let the jury consider their verdict,” the King said, for about the twentieth time that day.

“No, no!” said the Queen. “Sentence first — verdict afterwards.”

“Stuff and nonsense!” said Alice loudly. “The idea of having the sentence first!”

“Hold your tongue!” said the Queen, turning purple.

“I won’t!” said Alice.

“Off with her head!” the Queen shouted at the top of her voice. Nobody moved.

“Who cares for you?” said Alice … “You’re nothing but a pack of cards!”

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK). To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed, and see here for my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, published in March 2009.

As published on, CounterPunch, the Huffington Post and AlterNet.

For a sequence of articles dealing with the Uighurs in Guantánamo, see: The Guantánamo whistleblower, a Libyan shopkeeper, some Chinese Muslims and a desperate government (July 2007), Guantánamo’s Uyghurs: Stranded in Albania (October 2007), Former Guantánamo detainee seeks asylum in Sweden (November 2007), A transcript of Sabin Willett’s speech in Stockholm (November 2007), Support for ex-Guantánamo detainee’s Swedish asylum claim (January 2008), A Chinese Muslim’s desperate plea from Guantánamo (March 2008), Former Guantánamo prisoner denied asylum in Sweden (June 2008), Six Years Late, Court Throws Out Guantánamo Case (June 2008), From Guantánamo to the United States: The Story of the Wrongly Imprisoned Uighurs (October 2008), Guantánamo Uyghurs’ resettlement prospects skewered by Justice Department lies (October 2008), A Pastor’s Plea for the Guantánamo Uyghurs (October 2008), Guantánamo: Justice Delayed or Justice Denied? (October 2008), Sabin Willett’s letter to the Justice Department (November 2008), Will Europe Take The Cleared Guantánamo Prisoners? (December 2008), A New Year Message to Barack Obama: Free the Guantánamo Uighurs (January 2009), Guantanamo’s refugees (February 2009), Bad News And Good News For The Guantánamo Uighurs (February 2009), and the stories in the additional chapters of The Guantánamo Files: Website Extras 1, Website Extras 6 and Website Extras 9.

For a sequence of articles dealing with the Guantánamo habeas cases, see: Guantánamo and the Supreme Court: the most important habeas corpus case in modern history and Guantánamo and the Supreme Court: What Happened? (both December 2007), The Supreme Court’s Guantánamo ruling: what does it mean? (June 2008), What’s Happening with the Guantánamo cases? (July 2008), Government Says Six Years Is Not Long Enough To Prepare Evidence (September 2008), Guilt By Torture: Binyam Mohamed’s Transatlantic Quest for Justice (November 2008), After 7 Years, Judge Orders Release of Guantánamo Kidnap Victims (November 2008), Is Robert Gates Guilty of Perjury in Guantánamo Torture Case? (December 2008), The Top Ten Judges of 2008 (January 2009), No End in Sight for the “Enemy Combatants” of Guantánamo (January 2009), Judge Orders Release of Guantánamo’s Forgotten Child (January 2009), How Cooking For The Taliban Gets You Life In Guantánamo (January 2009), Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics (February 2009), The Nobodies Formerly Known As Enemy Combatants (March 2009), Farce at Guantánamo, as cleared prisoner’s habeas petition is denied (April 2009), Obama’s First 100 Days: A Start On Guantánamo, But Not Enough (May 2009), Judge Condemns “Mosaic” Of Guantánamo Intelligence, And Unreliable Witnesses (May 2009), Pain At Guantánamo And Paralysis In Government (May 2009), Guantánamo: A Prison Built On Lies (May 2009), Free The Guantánamo Uighurs! (May 2009), Guantánamo And The Courts (Part One): Exposing The Bush Administration’s Lies (July 2009), Obama’s Failure To Deliver Justice To The Last Tajik In Guantánamo (July 2009), Obama And The Deadline For Closing Guantánamo: It’s Worse Than You Think (July 2009), How Judge Huvelle Humiliated The Government In Guantánamo Case (Mohamed Jawad, July 2009), As Judge Orders Release Of Tortured Guantánamo Prisoner, Government Refuses To Concede Defeat (Mohamed Jawad, July 2009), Guantánamo As Hotel California: You Can Check Out Any Time You Like, But You Can Never Leave (August 2009), Judge Orders Release From Guantánamo Of Kuwaiti Charity Worker (August 2009). Also see: Justice extends to Bagram, Guantánamo’s Dark Mirror (April 2009), Judge Rules That Afghan “Rendered” To Bagram In 2002 Has No Rights (July 2009).

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
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