Archive for October, 2008

Andy Worthington: Talking Torture at the Medical Foundation

The Guantanamo FilesOn October 2, I was honoured to deliver a seminar at the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture. A registered charity established in 1985, the Medical Foundation, which has four centres — in London, Manchester, Newcastle and Glasgow — has dealt with more than 45,000 referrals from torture survivors in its 23-year history. Clients have come from almost 100 countries, with significant numbers from Sri Lanka, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan and Iran.

The topic of the seminar was “Stories from Guantánamo,” and it gave me the opportunity to run through a condensed history of Guantánamo, as related in my book The Guantánamo Files, specifically looking at how it came about that a regime of torture was introduced at Guantánamo. Primarily, this was because those who ended up there — mainly a mix of innocent men and Taliban foot soldiers — had no “intelligence” to provide, but were regarded as having been trained to resist interrogation by al-Qaeda.

The full talk, which was filmed, was about 45 minutes in length, and a short excerpt, dealing with an allied topic, the CIA’s programme of “extraordinary rendition” and torture in secret prisons, which led to the transfer into Guantánamo of between 60 and 80 of the 779 prisoners who have been held at the prison throughout its history, is available on the front page of the Medical Foundation’s website.

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.

The farcical Guantánamo trials: charges dropped against Binyam Mohamed and four other prisoners

The Guantanamo Files“Guantánamo’s bleak farce” is the title of an article I wrote for the Guardian’s “Comment is free” section today, in which I looked at the significance of the Pentagon’s announcement that it had dropped “war crimes” charges against five prisoners facing trial by Military Commission at Guantánamo (the novel system of trials for “terror suspects” that was conceived by Vice President Dick Cheney and his close advisers in November 2001), including British resident Binyam Mohamed.

While this should have been cause for celebration, the Pentagon’s announcement was tempered by an extraordinary footnote: a disturbing claim that the charges would be reinstated in a month’s time. I’ll be writing more about this in the days to come, but please read the article for an explanation of why the decision to drop the charges was precipitated by the resignation a month ago of Lt. Col. Darrel Vandeveld, the prosecutor in these cases, and what it reveals about the chaos and desperation that stalks the corridors of the Pentagon.

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.

Omar Khadr: The Guantánamo Files

Omar KhadrWhen is a child not a child? Apparently, when he is Omar Khadr, a 15-year old Canadian who was shot in the back after a firefight in Afghanistan in July 2002. Omar has been in US custody ever since, first at a prison at Bagram airbase in Afghanistan, and for the last six years in Guantánamo. Disturbingly, he has never received any treatment befitting his status as a juvenile — someone under the age of 18 when the crime they are accused of committing took place — even though the United States is a signatory to the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, which stipulates that juvenile prisoners “require special protection.” The Optional Protocol specifically recognizes “the special needs of those children who are particularly vulnerable to recruitment or use in hostilities”, and requires its signatories to promote “the physical and psychosocial rehabilitation and social reintegration of children who are victims of armed conflict.”

Shamefully, the United States is not the only country to turn its back on the Optional Protocol in the case of Omar Khadr. As his lawyers never tire of pointing out, Omar is the only citizen of a Western country still held at Guantánamo, in part because the Canadian government has persistently failed to exert sufficient pressure on the US authorities to secure his return to Canada. This is particularly shocking, because, as well as also being a signatory to the Optional Protocol, the Canadian government has been a pioneer when it comes to the rehabilitation of child soldiers from other countries (Sierra Leone, for example).

Sadly, Canada’s disregard for Omar’s fate stems largely from his family background. His father, who was killed in a firefight in Pakistan in October 2003, was a fundraiser for the mujahideen who had fought the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, and was also close to Osama bin Laden, and he regularly ferried his entire family — his wife, his daughter and his four sons, including Omar — to Afghanistan and Pakistan as they were growing up. Nevertheless, the rules on the treatment of juveniles are clear, and they do not include opt-out clauses based on condemning children for the sins (or perceived sins of their family). In fact, the opposite is true, as the Protocol’s recognition of “the special needs of those children who are particularly vulnerable to recruitment or use in hostilities” demonstrates.

In Canada’s defense, it is obviously difficult to secure the release of prisoners, like Omar, who are regarded as so significant by the US administration that they have been put forward for trial by Military Commission (the much-criticized system of trials for “terror suspects” that was conceived in the Office of Vice President Dick Cheney in November 2001). Even so, it took the Canadian government many years to fulfil its most basic obligations to Omar, by sending officials to visit him in Guantánamo on “welfare visits.”

At first, as was revealed this summer, the Canadians who visited Omar in Guantánamo were largely unconcerned with his welfare. As the result of a decision in May by the Supreme Court of Canada and a decision in June by the Federal Court of Canada, videotapes were released showing his interrogation by representatives of Canada’s Air Force Office of Special Investigations, who visited Omar in February 2003, when he was just 16.

Omar Khadr during his interrogation in 2003The release of the tapes was a PR disaster for the Canadian government, as they showed Omar displaying his wounds, weeping uncontrollably and pulling at his hair in despair, while the interrogators remained largely indifferent to his suffering, quizzing him about his father and al-Qaeda, and noting afterwards that his allegations of torture at the US prison in Bagram, which have subsequently been verified by numerous sources, “did not ring true.”

The Canadian “welfare visits”

Two weeks ago, however, the Canadian government was shown in a more positive light when Michelle Shephard of the Toronto Star wrote an article drawing on reports of eight “welfare visits” by representatives of the government’s Foreign Affairs Department — one in 2006, two in 2007, and five this year — which were made public by Omar’s Canadian lawyers, Dennis Edney and Nathan Whitling, as part of their lawsuit against the federal government, and were aimed at forcing the government to demand Omar’s repatriation.

As Shephard reported, Omar’s “incarceration in 2006 and 2007 was some of the worst he faced,” as he was isolated in Camps 5 and 6, modeled on blocks in maximum-security prisons on the US mainland, As a result, his lawyers “worried he was suicidal.” Shorn of interaction with other people, and of any kind of emotional, psychiatric or medical support, he had become paranoid, believing that his American lawyers were working for the US government.

He also complained about the quality of the food (a recurring complaint), and about health problems that were not being addressed, including the authorities’ refusal to give him sunglasses, even though he is blind in his left eye because of shrapnel, and his vision is “gradually deteriorating in his right eye because of a piece of shrapnel embedded in the eye’s membrane,” and stated that he “would like to see the interrogators again because they give him books, magazines, crayons, movies etc.” Although he also recognized that there was “a risk in meeting with the interrogators” because “they can exploit information they get out of him,” he regularly referred to the privileges —  “whole piles of chips; candies etc.” — that prisoners who were cooperating in their interrogations received.

He also stated that he “feels the guards hate him,” and, in a sign that the lack of psychiatric care was having a profound effect on him, reported that “he sleeps a lot but it is messed up. He sleeps during the day and is awake during the night. He still has nightmares about the events in Afghanistan and his father.” In a sign of the severity of his isolation, a member of staff, whose name was redacted, “suggested that the [Canadian] Prime Minister inquire about Omar’s solitary confinement with President Bush.”

By the time of a visit in August 2007, Omar’s situation had clearly improved, as he had been moved to Camp 4, the only part of the prison with communal facilities, where the privileged prisoners slept five to a room, the doors to their “pods” were open in the daytime, and they were allowed two hours of recreation every day. The visitor noted that Omar had “been sleeping well since he has been doing more activities,” but he still complained of medical neglect, and it was also obvious that he was still not receiving psychiatric support, as he stated that the nightmares were returning, and that they “were identical as before: Captivity, running, trauma of Afghanistan. He dreams of his father as well.”

Throughout the rest of the visits, from November 2007 to June 2008, the reports include examples of a handful of privileges that clearly meant a lot to Omar. He had become an avid reader, for example, and thought that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was “the best book he had ever read.” There were also poignant interludes, such as the time that the screens were taken off the perimeter fence during Hurricane Noel, and the prisoners “could see their surroundings, the hills and the ocean.” “I could even see cars moving around, it was great,” Omar said, adding, “this is really a very beautiful place.”

There were also clear examples of his immaturity — pre-trial hearings for his Military Commission were taking place at this time, but he found them “boring” — and many moments of pointless obstruction on the part of the authorities, such as when he was prohibited from keeping “flexible pens in his cell” (unlike the prisoners who were cooperating in their interrogations), so that he could not “write and draw when he wants to.” In addition, the visitor in March this year remarked on her inability to understand why he was prevented from having, “inter alia, a pillow, an extra blanket, Velcro shoes, [an] Origami book and sheets, flexible pens and a warm covering for court,” where, it was noted, the room was “freezing cold.” A partial — and stupefying — reply came in April, when the visitor was told that “pillows were only handed out as incentives for detainees being interrogated and that since Mr. Khadr had lawyers and was no longer subject to interrogation, he was not eligible for one.”

Above all, however, what leaps out from the reports is the fact that Omar’s desire for education is not being met by the authorities. Although his Canadian visitors were regularly bringing him books on English, Math and Science, he was often struggling to study without supervision. The only classes belatedly provided (for prisoners in Camp 4 only) were basic English (which was useless for Omar) and classes in Arabic and Pashto, but as the visitor in April noted, “Although there is a classroom … there are currently no teachers.”

What the Guantánamo doctors proposed

But while these are fascinating reports, what has not been remarked upon is another document, filed alongside the reports of the “welfare visits” on the Star’s Omar Khadr page, which serves as a succinct condemnation of the administration’s policies towards juvenile prisoners at Guantánamo — not just Omar, but the 21 other prisoners that the Pentagon’s own records reveal were also juveniles at the time of their capture. Entitled “Recommended Course of Action for Reception and Detention of Individuals Under 18 Years of Age,” this document (PDF), dated 14 January 2003, was put together by four doctors at Guantánamo, and was clearly an adaptation of an earlier document, as it includes passages deleted or amended by the authors, relating to its specific use at Guantánamo.

The doctors’ document began by noting, “All efforts should be made to keep those in the pediatric age range [those under 18] from undergoing detention at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba,” and pointing out, “People less than age 18 years are emotionally, psychologically, and physically dynamic and complex. If it is determined that they must be detained, then all aspects of their transport, in-processing, and detainment should be specific for this age group.” They added, as a stark warning, “Exposure of pediatric detainees to adult detainees will have a high likelihood of producing physical, emotional, and psychological damage to the pediatric detainee. As such, all activities of the pediatric detainee, prior to and including detention, should be isolated by sight and sound from the adult population of detainees.”

The rest of the seven-page document spells out these requirements in painstaking detail. Several sections are of particular interest: one which explains “Residence Specifications,” and others laying out the educational and nutritional needs of juvenile prisoners. The doctors advised, for example, that juvenile prisoners should be provided with “a primary living space with a minimum space of 20ft by 30ft,” that their beds should have a thick mattress, several sheets and two blankets, that an “open, outside recreation area,” measuring at least 50ft by 50ft, should be “easily accessed from the primary living space area,” and that they “should be allowed to play in the recreation area a minimum 3 hours per day.” They added that, if more than one juvenile is held, “Limited, closely observed interaction … would likely be allowed.”

When it came to the educational needs of juvenile prisoners, the doctors advised that a “designated educator should be assigned to each pediatric detainee for a minimum of 4-6 hours per day for educational pursuits,” and that, outside these times, a psychiatric technician should be assigned “to assist in socialization and other constructive activities.” They also advised that interpreters should be available 24 hours a day, and that they should be “present on site to maximize communication and to minimize confusion of the pediatric detainee to his/her circumstances,” and also advised that a pediatrician or family physician, a pediatric psychiatrist/psychologist, a social worker (“experienced with children”), an audiologist, a speech therapist, a development paediatrician and an occupational/physical therapist might also need to be available, and concluded that all personnel “should refrain from wearing military uniforms and utilize appropriate civilian attire.”

And finally, the doctors advised that a nutritionist “should be available for evaluation of each pediatric patient and implementation of a nutritional plan,” and that a “minimum of three well balanced meals and two snacks should be made available to all paediatric detainees daily in order to facilitate normal growth and development.”

“These are not children”

Clearly, as is demonstrated by Omar’s history in Guantanamo, the doctors’ recommendations were ignored by those higher up the chain of command, despite their obvious enthusiasm for the plans. As they wrote at the very start of the document, under the heading, “Objective”, their assumption was that the “Recommended Course of Action” would become a “SecDef directive” (a directive from Donald Rumsfeld, the Secretary of Defense). Although they noted that their advice regarding educational programs was “more onerous than GCIII [the Geneva Conventions] requires for pediatric detainees fifteen and above,” because “GCIII only pertains to children under the age of fifteen,” they can have had no idea that, with the exception of three Afghans aged between 11 and 14 at the time of capture, who were given some kind of appropriate treatment before their release in January 2004, none of the other juveniles received any benefit from their advice.

As far as the administration was concerned, the age of the Guantánamo prisoners was completely irrelevant. This was confirmed by Donald Rumsfeld at a press conference in May 2003, after the story first broke that juveniles were held at Guantánamo, when he stated, “This constant refrain of ‘the juveniles,’ as though there’s a hundred children in there — these are not children,” and General Richard Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, added that they “may be juveniles, but they’re not on the Little League team anywhere. They’re on a major league team, and it’s a terrorist team, and they’re in Guantánamo for a very good reason — for our safety, for your safety.”

Today, as two of the former juveniles — Omar Khadr and the Afghan Mohamed Jawad — face trials by Military Commission, the administration’s disregard for the Geneva Conventions remains as clear as ever — and its disdain for the Optional Protocol, with its requirement to rehabilitate children caught up in war, is so pronounced that it has never even been mentioned. Instead, the gulf between the doctors’ recommendations and the administration’s actions demonstrates, with an appalling clarity, what happens when a rogue administration, devoted to unfettered executive power, refuses to be bound by the law.

What makes this conclusion particularly bleak is that Omar, described by the military as “non-radicalized” and a “good kid,” has stated that he is “in Guantánamo because of his family,” and that he “wants to train for a job which will allow him to play a useful role in society by helping others,” but has also “expressed concerns about having spent his formative years (in reference primarily to his time in Guantánamo Bay) surrounded by only adults, some of whom he saw as good and some as bad.” Or, as another military figure put it, “extended detention in Guantánamo [runs] the risk of turning him into a radical.”

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 exclusively on the website of the Future of Freedom Foundation.

A Pastor’s Plea for the Guantánamo Uyghurs

Alone in GuantanamoThe story of the Uyghurs in Guantánamo — innocent men caught up in the chaos of the Afghan invasion in late 2001 — has long been a prevalent theme in accounts of the arbitrary injustice of the Bush administration’s post-9/11 detention policies. Last week, Judge Ricardo Urbina, recognizing that their continued detention was unconstitutional, ordered the men’s release into the United States. The ruling was appealed by the government — and another ruling is expected soon — but in the meantime community leaders in Tallahassee, Florida, who put together a resettlement plan for three of the men, have been talking about their reasons for doing so.

The following is the text of a sermon delivered by Brant S. Copeland, the Pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Tallahassee, on September 7, 2008, which rather movingly explains, with reference to the Bible, why religious communities are required to help those in need. I can only hope that it will be made available to the appeal court judges who will decide the Uyghurs’ fate.

Pastor Copeland’s Sermon

Ever hear of Uyghurs? If the answer is “No,” don’t feel bad. Neither had I until a few weeks ago.

Uyghurs are an ethnic group who live in what is now the Xinjiang region of China — way up in the northwest of that vast country with Mongolia to the east, Russia to the north, and Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, and India to the west. Uyghur country is sparsely populated. It’s mostly deserts and mountains. I think it’s fair so say that most Americans have never heard of it.

Uyghurs speak Turkic, and most of them are Sufi Muslims — have been since the 13th century. Like their neighbors in Tibet, the Uyghurs have been persecuted by the Chinese government for decades, but unlike the Tibetans, they don’t have a spiritual leader like to Dalai Lama to tell their story and keep their plight in the international headlines.

The US State Department officially lists Uyghurs as the victims of state persecution on account of their religion, and that status is a sticking point in Chinese-American relations.

Now this is a sermon, not a social studies talk, and in any case I’ve told you just about everything I know about Uyghurs. Now I’d like you to meet a few Uyghurs — in your imagination at least. Each has a slightly different story, but I’ve learned enough to give you a general picture.

Turn your calendar back to the year 2001. Having fled China to escape persecution, some Uyghur men were living in a refugee camp in the mountains of Afghanistan — the Tora Bora mountain range, to be precise. It seems they were in that settlement on September 11, 2001, when, far away, in cities they had never heard of called New York and Washington, D.C., planes crashed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

We all remember what followed: The declaration of a “War on Terror”; the invasion of Afghanistan; the hunt for Osama bin Laden and the bombing of the Tora Bora caves.

The men in this story made their way across snow-covered peaks into Pakistan, where they hoped to find refuge. Some local tribesmen took them in, fed them a feast, and then betrayed them. They turned them over to the military authorities in order to collect the $5,000 bounty per person the Americans were paying for allies of Osama bin Laden.  The problem is, these Uyghurs had never heard of Osama bin Laden.

Twenty -two Uyghur men were caught in that snare and were eventually hooded, shackled, and flown to the US prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

That was seven years ago, and they’ve been there ever since. They’re not “terrorists.”  What they are is refugees who were caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. They’re certainly not “the worst of the worst,” as we were once told was the case with all the prisoners at Guantánamo. What they are, in Biblical terms, is the “least of the least.”

There are now seventeen Uyghur men being held in Guantánamo. I’ve told you a bit of their story because there’s a chance that in October a federal judge in Washington D.C. will be ordering their release –- or, in legal terms, their “parole.” If that should happen, these Uyghurs will have no place to go. Return to China is impossible, and it appears no other nation in the world will risk China’s displeasure by showing hospitality to Uyghurs.

The volunteer attorneys who represent these men are hoping that there might be some communities around the country who would agree to take a few of them in — give them housing, find them jobs, teach them the skills they will need to make new lives in the country that has imprisoned them for so long.

A few weeks ago I was approached by someone close to these men’s case and asked if I thought Tallahassee might be a place where three of these Uyghur men might find hospitality. “I’m asking you,” this person said, “because I’ve heard of the First Presbyterian Church and thought that if any congregation would be willing to work on a project like this, it would be yours.”

I thought about that. I thought about the welcome our session gave to the family of John Spenkelink, back in 1979, when Florida reinstituted the death penalty and John’s family needed somewhere to hold John’s funeral. I remembered the time refugees from El Salvador occupied our chapel, living there during Holy Week to raise awareness of their nation’s plight. I thought of the Vietnamese families we have embraced through the years and of the folks fleeing Hurricanes Katrina and Rita three years ago. I remembered all that Cajun food being cooked in our kitchen, and how I didn’t eat anywhere else for a whole week.

More than that, I remembered how the faith communities of Tallahassee pulled together to minister to those 700 Katrina victims who found themselves in Tallahassee. I remembered sitting around the table with Christian pastors and clergy from Temple Israel and Masjid Al-Nahl, one of the two local mosques, planning pastoral care for the folks at the Red Cross Center. I thought about the conversations I’ve been having with colleagues in the organization called “Tallahassee Interfaith Clergy,” which is co-chaired by me and Rabbi Jack Romberg.

I put all that together in my head and I told that person, “Yes. I think the congregations of Tallahassee would be up to that challenge.”

In the past few days the momentum has been picking up. I sent out an e-mail to my ministerial colleagues explaining the situation. Every time I check my e-mail I get another message saying, “Yes, we’ll help.” We’re talking with a local Presbyterian pastor who worked for three years resettling refugees up in northern Virginia. He’s an expert. He says he’ll show us how it’s done.

And as we worship the triune God this morning, a conversation is taking place with the governing body at a local mosque. “If you’ll take the lead,” we’re telling the Muslim community, “the other faith communities in Tallahassee will help. We’ll stand with you, and together we’ll follow God’s call.”

I said this was a sermon, and it is. It’s a commentary on today’s reading from Romans.  I didn’t know it at the time, but all week long the Holy Spirit has been writing my sermon for me, putting into context these words from the Apostle Paul.

Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not covet” and any other commandment are summed up in this word, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

For Christians, the meaning of the word “neighbor” is found not in a dictionary, but in a story. You know that story well — the parable of the Good Samaritan. Neighbors, that story implies, are not just the folks who live nearby; they’re the folks whose need cries out from a ditch on the road to Jericho, or from a Red Cross Service Center, or even from a prison on Guantánamo Bay.

Seldom does that cry arise at a convenient time, and it almost always involves crossing some kind of boundary. That’s the nature of “neighbor” in the Christian tradition. Jews and Muslims have different traditions, but I suspect they would arrive at much the same conclusion when it comes to the story I’ve been telling you.

A patriot might say that what our nation has done to these men is shameful, and ought to be put right in order to restore our nation’s honor. A prophet might say that they have suffered a great injustice. A Christian might well agree with both the patriot and the prophet, but when it comes right down to it, these men are simply our neighbors, and Christ commands us to love our neighbors.

The story of these Uyghur refugees is far from finished. The congregations of Tallahassee will be writing the next chapters. Let us pray that when their story is told to our children, they will give thanks to God for our faithful response to God’s call.

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.

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), Guantánamo as Alice in Wonderland (July 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), 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.

Guantánamo Uyghurs’ resettlement prospects skewered by Justice Department lies

A prisoner at GuantanamoGuantánamo is full of bleak stories. How could it fail to be, when it is a vast failed experiment, a “terror prison” that contains few terrorists, a place where innocent men and foot soldiers from someone else’s war — never adequately screened to determine whether they actually constituted a threat to the United States — have been held for nearly seven years without charge or trial?

At present, some of Guantánamo’s bleakest stories are those of the Uyghurs (or Uighurs), refugees from Chinese oppression, who had sheltered in Afghanistan, and were seized and sold to US forces as they sought refuge in Pakistan after the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001.

Last week, I told the story of the Uyghurs in Guantánamo, after the government admitted that it had no reason to regard them as “enemy combatants,” and Judge Ricardo Urbina, in the District Court in Washington D.C., ruled that their continued imprisonment was therefore unconstitutional, and that, because they cannot be returned to China, and no other country can be persuaded to take them, they should be released to the care of communities in Washington D.C. and Tallahassee, Florida, who submitted detailed plans for their welfare to the court.

For one proud moment, it looked as if justice would be done, but the Uyghurs were then hurled back into limbo, as the government appealed Judge Urbina’s ruling, shamelessly resuscitating its own long-discredited claims that the Uyghurs were “a danger to the public,” who had “admitted receiving weapons training at a military training camp.” Three appeals court judges granted the government a temporary stay, though with the hopeful caveat that it “should not be construed in any way as a ruling on the merits” of the government’s request.

Since the appeal, it has become apparent that the government’s stooges in the Justice Department are intent on keeping the Uyghurs in Guantánamo, as their false claims about the men have skewered the State Department’s chances of finding a third country to take them. As William Glaberson reported in the New York Times, an administration official, speaking anonymously, said that the State Department’s position was that the Justice Department’s appeal had “compromised diplomatic efforts” to persuade a third country to take the men. “Based on what they were saying in the brief, it made it impossible to conduct negotiations,” the official said.

Although the Justice Department refused to comment, Clint Williamson, the State Department’s ambassador-at-large for war crimes, who has fruitlessly been attempting to negotiate resettlement plans with other countries for several years, explained how the government’s bullish and unsubstantiated statements had scuppered his chances of finding a last minute solution to the problem. Speaking to the Times, he said, “I was scheduled to depart on another round of negotiations early this week. It was impossible to resolve some concerns we had about going forward at the time. As a result I canceled the trip.”

Tallahassee, FloridaA decision on the government’s appeal is expected soon, but in the meantime the Uyghurs’ supporters in Tallahassee are still hoping that Judge Urbina’s ruling will be upheld. On October 1, 19 religious leaders –- 16 Christians, a Rabbi and two Muslims — issued a statement, in which they declared their support for “an inter-faith effort to resettle three of the Uyghur prisoners currently held in federal custody at the facility in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba,” and pledged that, “Should these men be paroled, we will offer our personal welcome and support, and will urge the faith communities with whom we are associated to offer spiritual, financial, and practical assistance for their resettlement and incorporation into the Tallahassee community.”

In a detailed plan, the Steering Committee of the Tallahassee Uyghur Resettlement Plan — a mixture of religious leaders and sympathetic professionals — arranged to locate an apartment for the men, secured them jobs in a local restaurant, arranged for English lessons and medical and psychiatric support, and raised money to fund the plan through a network already established to provide support to victims of Hurricane Katrina.

All of this was credited with helping persuade Judge Urbina that resettling the Uyghurs in the United States was feasible, and when Carol Rosenberg spoke to community leaders for the Miami Herald this week, she found that sympathy for the Uyghurs was widespread. Noting that their supporters “liken their plight to that of the Tibetans, without the benefit of a celebrity like the Dalai Lama to tell their story,” Rosenberg spoke to Brant Copeland, the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Tallahassee and a member of the Steering Committee. Copeland delivered an extraordinary sermon about the Uyghurs to his congregation last month (available here), describing their story and extolling the virtues of compassion, and he explained the Committee’s statement of support as follows:

It’s a pro-Jesus statement. Regardless of one’s political opinion, these are folks who were caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, and they have been so unjustly imprisoned for seven years. This issue cuts across all the political agendas. It’s a pro-compassion statement. And a pro-Mohammed statement and a pro-Moses statement.

Rosenberg also spoke to civil rights attorney Kent Spriggs, who has represented several Afghan prisoners in Guantánamo. It was Spriggs who introduced the plan to community leaders in Tallahassee, explaining the Uyghurs’ story to Salah Bakhashwin, who spread the word through the city’s 3,000-member Muslim community. A Saudi by birth, Bakhashwin came to America at the age of 17, and told Rosenberg that he was “weary of the ‘guilt-by-association’ atmosphere toward Muslims that followed the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.” He added, ”We’re going to show the people of Tallahassee and Florida what happens when people of faith come together for the community good.” Another Saudi-born Tallahassee resident — a massage therapist — took on the role as leader of the host community, and when he told a Turkish-American businessman about it, the man guaranteed the Uyghurs jobs at his Italian restaurant chain. Another local, of Pakistani origin, found them an apartment near Tallahassee’s main mosque.

Rosenberg also spoke to other religious leaders. The Reverend John Lown, of the Lafayette Presbyterian Church, explained that he would “model the absorption program after his ’90s experience with the Northern Virginia Council of Churches resettling Bosnians and Ukrainians,” and Rabbi Jack Romberg, of the Reform movement’s Temple Israel, explained, “If indeed these people are found to be harmless, it’s only just that we find a way to take them in, get them on their feet and up and running as people who function in the community.” Rosenberg left the final word to Naeem Harris, the Imam of Tallahassee’s main mosque, who “has now embraced the idea that he will serve as spiritual leader” for the three Uyghurs. “Look at the good that can come from it,” Harris explained. “This can be an opportunity to show a lot of non-Muslims the real religion of Islam.”

To my eyes, the Tallahassee Uyghur Resettlement Plan is a glorious example of American generosity: a group of diverse individuals, acutely aware of their own background as immigrants and of the charitable obligations of their various religions, coming together to help a new group of immigrants in need. But I recall, of course, that the decision about the Uyghurs’ future rests not with the community leaders in Tallahassee or Washington D.C., but with judges who may be less in touch with their own roots as immigrants, and who may have forgotten that their own ancestors once fled injustice and persecution for the promise of America.

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.

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), Guantánamo as Alice in Wonderland (July 2008), From Guantánamo to the United States: The Story of the Wrongly Imprisoned Uighurs (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).

The trail of torture: White House approval for CIA torture and the case of Binyam Mohamed

The White House“The trail of torture” is the title of an article I wrote for the Guardian’s “Comment is free” section today, in which I looked at yesterday’s revelation in the Washington Post that torture techniques, including waterboarding, had been approved for use by the CIA in two previously undisclosed secret memos issued by the White House in 2003 and 2004 .

I had been asked to examine what effect — if any — this would have on attempts either in the USA or elsewhere to bring the administration to account for “war crimes,” but this was, essentially, an opportunity to explain how the administration continues to defy reality, still insisting that it does not torture while attempting to justify holding prisoners at Guantánamo — or, like Binyam Mohamed, putting them forward for trial by Military Commission — even when these attempts involve ever more convoluted manoeuvres to avoid having to admit that any of these men were tortured.

Andy Worthington was the Communications Manager for Reprieve, the legal action charity whose lawyers represent 30 prisoners in Guantánamo, in 2008, and 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.

US Justice Department drops “dirty bomb plot” allegation against Binyam Mohamed

Binyam MohamedAs the Washington Post reported yesterday, the US Justice Department has dropped the key allegation against British resident and Guantánamo prisoner Binyam Mohamed — that he was involved, with American citizen Jose Padilla, in a plot to detonate a “dirty bomb” in a US city.

For over three years, Binyam’s lawyers at Reprieve, the London-based legal action charity, have been arguing that the allegations against Binyam were extracted through the use of torture — in Morocco, where Binyam was tortured for 18 months, after being rendered by the CIA, and at the CIA’s own “Dark Prison,” near Kabul, where he was held for four or five months from January 2004, before his transfer to the US military prison at Bagram airbase, and his eventual arrival at Guantánamo in September 2004.

As Binyam explained to Reprieve’s Director, Clive Stafford Smith, during the meetings at Guantánamo that first established what had happened to him after he was seized in Pakistan in April 2002, his torturers in Morocco insisted — in spite of his protests that he had only recently converted to Islam and did not speak Arabic — that he knew some of the big names in al-Qaeda:

Some of the time they said that some big people in al-Qaeda were talking about me. Some of the time they told me that the US had a story they wanted from me and it was their job to get it. They talked about Jose Padilla and they said I was going to testify against him and big people. They named Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abu Zubaydah and Ibn Sheikh al-Libi. I was meant to be working with these people, giving them ideas like the dirty bomb. It is hard to pin down the exact story, because what they wanted changed all the time. First in Morocco it changed, then when I was in the Dark Prison, then in Bagram and again in Guantánamo Bay.

Binyam explained that, between the savage beatings and the razor cuts to his penis, his torturers “would tell me what to say.” He added that even towards the end of his time in Morocco, they were still “training me what to say,” and one of them told him, “We’re going to change your brain.”

As it happens, one of the confessions that was tortured out of Binyam is so ludicrous that it was soon dropped, but not before Clive Stafford Smith had learnt of it and had been able to use it to demonstrate the extent to which it indicated that all of Binyam’s “confessions” were untrustworthy. As he explained in his book Bad Men: Guantánamo Bay and the Secret Prisons, “[T]he US authorities insisted that Padilla and Binyam had dinner with various high-up members of al-Qaeda the night before Padilla was to fly off to America. According to their theory the dinner party had to have been on the evening of 3 April in Karachi … Binyam was meant to have dined with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abu Zubaydah, Sheikh al-Libi, Ramzi bin al-Shibh and Jose Padilla.” What made the scenario “absurd,” as Stafford Smith pointed out, was that “two of the conspirators were already in US custody at the time — Abu Zubaydah was seized six days before, on 28 March 2002, and al-Libi had been held since November 2001.”

Binyam’s lawyers have long maintained that the charges against him would not stand up to independent scrutiny in a courtroom, and this is indeed what has happened. After June’s ruling by the US Supreme Court — that the prisoners have constitutional habeas corpus rights (the right to ask a judge why they are being held) — the District Court in Washington D.C. established a timeline for the government to submit factual returns stating their reasons for holding the prisoners.

When Binyam’s case came up for habeas review last month, Judge Emmet G. Sullivan ordered the government to release any exculpatory evidence in its possession by October 6. The evidence in question — 42 documents provided to the US administration by the British government — is not the only undisclosed evidence in US hands, but Judge Sullivan was able to order these particular documents to be released because their existence had already been confirmed this summer, during an extraordinary judicial review of Binyam’s case in the British High Court.

In the judicial review, Lord Justice Thomas and Mr. Justice Lloyd Jones ruled that the evidence in the possession of the British government was “not only necessary but essential for [Binyam’s] defence,” and explained that there were three reasons why David Miliband, the British Foreign Secretary, was “under a duty” to disclose the information “in confidence” to Binyam’s lawyers: firstly, because the Foreign Secretary had not made the documents available to them (and had, instead, handed them directly to the US government); secondly, because the US authorities had also refused to provide them to Binyam’s lawyers; and thirdly, because the Foreign Secretary had accepted that Binyam had “established an arguable case” that, until his transfer to Guantánamo, “he was subject to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by or on behalf of the United States,” and was also “subject to torture during such detention by or on behalf of the United States.”

Despite this ruling, the judges then gave the government the opportunity to respond by filing a Public Interest Immunity Certificate, which they did, claiming that disclosing the evidence would cause unprecedented damage to the relationship between the British and American intelligence services. This part of Binyam’s story has not yet concluded. This week the judges have met again to consider whether the government’s claims trump Binyam’s need to have evidence released that backs up his case that he was rendered and tortured.

But while the British side of the story has not yet reached a conclusion, the British government’s 42 documents have ended up having far more of an impact in the US, where it was Judge Sullivan’s demand for their disclosure that prompted the Justice Department to drop the main charges against Binyam — the “dirty bomb plot” and other outrageous claims that he was planning to blow up apartment buildings and release cyanide gas into US nightclubs. Speaking to the Washington Post, Clive Stafford Smith said, “It’s no coincidence that this happened when the judge ordered discovery.” He proceeded to explain that the government had only released seven of the 42 documents, which were all heavily redacted, and added, “It’s clear they think that by dropping the allegations they can avoid having to turn over the documents.” He insisted, however, that Binyam’s legal team would pursue the case in federal court until all the documents are disclosed.

Despite this story’s Transatlantic twists and turns, what’s most remarkable about it is the fact that the “dirty bomb plot” allegation has survived for so long, as it has been clear, almost from the moment that Binyam was seized, that the plot never even existed. Speaking in June 2002, Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy to US defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, admitted that “there was not an actual plan” to set off a radioactive device in America, that Padilla had not begun trying to acquire materials, and that intelligence officials had stated that his research had not gone beyond surfing the internet.

Jose PadillaAnd yet, Padilla was labeled an “enemy combatant,” and was held for three and half years in complete isolation in a military brig on the US mainland, until the US courts got close to his case. At that point, the “bomb plot” disappeared like a mirage, all mention of Padilla’s three and a half years of torture was prohibited, and he was dropped into the federal court system to face extremely vague charges of “material support for terrorism,” which, nevertheless, led to a conviction and a 17-year sentence in January.

In Binyam’s case, it took another three years for the “dirty bomb plot” to be discarded, but even though the Justice Department has capitulated, there is, as yet, no sign that the Defense Department is also prepared to drop the charges. The DoD, rather than the DoJ, oversees the Military Commissions at Guantánamo (the system of trials for “terror suspects” that was conceived by Vice President Dick Cheney and his close advisers in November 2001), and, as I have recently reported in detail, everything about them suggests that they work in a parallel reality, where exculpatory evidence is an inconvenient obstacle to their sole aim: securing convictions at all costs.

It is, of course, hard to believe that the charges against Binyam can survive the Justice Department’s craven capitulation, but, when approached by the Washington Post, a spokesman for the Office of Military Commissions said only that Binyam’s case was “under review.”

In conclusion, then, it is perhaps worth recalling the words of Lt. Col. Darrel Vandeveld, the self-confessed “conformist” and prosecutor in seven cases before the Military Commissions (including that of Binyam Mohamed), who quit his job on September 24, complaining that potentially exculpatory evidence was not provided to the defense lawyers, and that the Commissions system was “not served by having someone who may be innocent be convicted of the crime.”

Lt. Col. Vandeveld was referring to the Afghan prisoner Mohamed Jawad, but he could just as well have been referring to Binyam Mohamed, and I can only hope that his wonderfully lucid explanation of why he was compelled to leave his job, which he provided in an email exchange with the Los Angeles Times just a few days ago, will strike at the heart of the Commissions’ corrupt processes. “I don’t know how else the creeping rot of the commissions and the politics that fostered and continued to surround them could be exposed to the curative powers of the sunlight,” he said. “I care not for myself; our enemies deserve nothing less than what we would expect from them were the situations reversed. More than anything, I hope we can rediscover some of our American values.”

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 Antiwar.com, AlterNet, CounterPunch and the Huffington Post.

For a sequence of articles relating to Binyam Mohamed, see the following: Guantánamo: Torture victim Binyam Mohamed sues British government for evidence (May 2008), Binyam Mohamed’s letter from Guantánamo to Gordon Brown (May 2008), Guantánamo trials: critical judge sacked, British torture victim charged (June 2008), Binyam Mohamed: UK court grants judicial review over torture allegations, as US files official charges (June 2008), Binyam Mohamed’s judicial review: judges grill British agent and question fairness of Guantánamo trials (August 2008), High Court rules against UK and US in case of Guantánamo torture victim Binyam Mohamed (August 2008), In a plea from Guantánamo, Binyam Mohamed talks of “betrayal” by the UK (September 2008), Meltdown at the Guantánamo Trials (October 2008), Guilt By Torture: Binyam Mohamed’s Transatlantic Quest for Justice (November 2008), A History of Music Torture in the “War on Terror” (December 2008), Is Robert Gates Guilty of Perjury in Guantánamo Torture Case? (December 2008), British torture victim Binyam Mohamed to be released from Guantánamo (January 2009), Don’t Forget Guantánamo (February 2009), The betrayal of British torture victim Binyam Mohamed (February 2009), Hiding Torture And Freeing Binyam Mohamed From Guantánamo (February 2009), Binyam Mohamed’s Coming Home From Guantánamo, As Torture Allegations Mount (February 2009), Binyam Mohamed’s statement on his release from Guantánamo (February 2009), Who Is Binyam Mohamed, the British resident released from Guantánamo? (February 2009), Seven Years of Torture: Binyam Mohamed Tells His Story (March 2009), Binyam Mohamed’s Plea Bargain: Trading Torture For Freedom (March 2009), Guantánamo, Bagram and the “Dark Prison”: Binyam Mohamed talks to Moazzam Begg (March 2009), Obama’s First 100 Days: Mixed Messages On Torture (includes the Jeppesen lawsuit, May 2009), UK Government Lies Exposed; Spy Visited Binyam Mohamed In Morocco (May 2009), Daily Mail Pulls Story About Binyam Mohamed And British Spy (May 2009), Government Bans Testimony On Binyam Mohamed And The British Spy (May 2009), More twists in the tale of Binyam Mohamed (in the Guardian, May 2009), Did Hillary Clinton Threaten UK Over Binyam Mohamed Torture Disclosure? (May 2009), Outsourcing torture to foreign climes (in the Guardian, May 2009), Binyam Mohamed: Was Muhammad Salih’s Death In Guantánamo Suicide? (June 2009), Miliband Shows Leadership, Reveals Nothing About Torture To Parliamentary Committee (June 2009).

Newly released Guantánamo manual confirms use of banned techniques

The US flag at GuantanamoPublished on the website of the new documentary Torturing Democracy, and immediately reported by psychoanalyst and psychologist Stephen Soldz, the Standard Operating Procedure for SERE interrogations at Guantánamo — based on the counter-interrogation techniques taught by the US military at its SERE schools (Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape) — is not quite the smoking gun some of us would have hoped for.

There is, for example, no mention of religious humiliation, sexual humiliation, the use of loud music and noise, and the manipulation of national flags for psychological effect, even though all of these were used at Guantánamo, and are, moreover, part of the most confrontational level of SERE training, known as Level C. As Jane Mayer explained in The Experiment, her devastating exposé of the SERE techniques in the New Yorker in 2005, Level C SERE training “includes a grueling exercise in which trainees endure days of physical and psychological hardship inside a mock prisoner-of-war camp.”

Shorn of reference to these techniques, which I describe at length in my book The Guantánamo Files (even though their origins in the SERE program had not been confirmed at the time of writing), the newly released SERE SOP only tells part of what happened at Guantánamo during the reign of terror of Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, who notoriously exported his malign vision to Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

It is, however, still of interest, as it explicitly states that the “tactics and techniques … used at SERE school to ‘break’ SERE detainees” are “appropriate for use in real-world interrogations” and “can be used to break real detainees during interrogation operations,” and includes detailed explanations of the use of controlled physical violence, forced nudity, hooding and various stress positions, which are all prohibited in the Army Field Manual.

Perhaps most significantly, it is explicitly stated, in bold capitals, that “All stress positions are restricted to a maximum time of ten minutes and a logbook entry is required,” even though, at the time the SOP was introduced, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld approved a separate set of techniques, subject to further approval by an “interrogator group director,” which went further than the SERE techniques exposed in this newly released SOP.

As well as forced nudity and hooding, the techniques approved by Rumsfeld included isolation for up to 30 days, sensory deprivation, 20-hour interrogations, removal of comfort and religious items, forced grooming, playing on prisoners’ phobias, such as a fear of dogs, to induce stress, and, crucially, the use of stress positions for up to four hours, far more than the ten-minute limit set by the SERE instructors. Moreover, Rumsfeld added a notorious hand-written footnote — “I stand for 8-10 hours. Why is standing limited to four hours?” — which, as I noted in The Guantánamo Files, indicated that he “had no idea of the pain that results from enforced stress positions, as opposed to standing freely at a lectern for ten hours a day, which was his preferred method of working.”

The text of the newly released SOP, marked “For Official Use Only” and dated 10 December 2002, is reproduced below (minor corrections are included in square brackets):

JTF GTMO “SERE” INTERROGATION STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURE

Subj: GUIDELINES FOR EMPLOYING “SERE” TECHNIQUES D[U]RING DETAINEE INTERROGATIONS

Ref: (a) FASO DETACHMENT BRUNSWICK INSTRUCTION 3305.3D

1. Purpose. This SOP document promulgates procedures to be followed by I I P-GTMO personnel engaged in interrogation operations on detained persons. The premise behind this is that the interrogation tactics used at U.S. military SERE schools are appropriate for use in real-world interrogations. These tactics and techniques are used at SERE school to “break” SERE detainees. The same tactics and techniques can be used to break real detainees during interrogation operations.

The basis for this document is the SOP used at the U.S. Navy SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape) school in Brunswick, Maine and is defined by reference (a).

Note that all tactics are strictly non-lethal.

STRICT COMPLIANCE WITH THE GUIDELINES LAID OUT IN THIS DOCUMENT IS MA[N]DATORY!

2. Training. All interrogators will undergo training by certified SERE instructors prior to being approved for use of any of the techniques described in this document.

3. Scope. Applicable to military and civilian interrogators assigned to JTF-GTMO, Cuba.

TED K. MOSS
Lt Col, USAF

INTERROGATION TACTICS

1. GENERAL STATEMENT

a. This document describes in detail the interrogation tactics authorized for use in detainee interrogation operations at JTF-GTMO and the safety precautions that must be used to prevent injuries. The tactics are the same as those used in U.S. military SERE schools.

b. ANY PHYSICAL CONTACT NOT EXPRESSLY AUTHORIZED HEREIN IS PROHIBITED.

c. INTERROGATION TACTICS FOLLOWED BY: ******* MAY ONLY BE USED BY THOSE INTERROGATORS DESIGNATED IN WRITING BY THE ICE CHIEF.

2. INTERROGATION SAFETY

a. Approved interrogation tactics are found in Sections 3-6.

b. Additional safeguards are as follows:

1. Detainee behavior and reactions are continuously observed and evaluated by the interrogator.

2. Both the detainee’s and the interrogators behavior are monitored by the Watch Officer.

3. IT IS CRITICAL THAT INTERROGATORS DO [NOT] “CROSS THE LINE” WHEN UTILIZING THE TACTICS DESCRIBED BELOW. Therefore, verbal coded messages or nonverbal signals will be used by the Watch Officer (or other interrogators) when giving instructions to adjust interrogation procedure. For example, two kicks on the door indicated the interrogator should discontinue the current approach and move on to another approach. The statement, “Stop wasting time with this pig,” means to discontinue the current training tactic and take a break.

3. DEGRADATION TACTICS

a. SHOULDER SLAP. The shoulder slap is a moderate to hard, glancing blow to the back of the shoulder with an open hand. It is used as an irritant.

b. INSULT SLAP. *****

(1) The insult slap is used to shock and intimidate the detainee. The slap is aimed at the detainee’s cheek only. Contact will be made only with the fingers in the open hand position and the fingers will be slightly spread and relaxed. The slap will be initiated no more than 12-14 inches (or one shoulder width) from the detainee’s face.

To ensure this distance is not exceeded and to preclude any tendency to wind up or uppercut, the slap will be initiated with the slap hand contacting the detainee’s body on the top of the shoulder. The target area is slightly below the cheekbone, away from the eyes and ears. Extreme care must be taken not to strike the lower jaw. Slaps aimed at the ears, mouth, nose eyes or throat are prohibited.

(2) Uninterrupted or consecutive slaps are prohibited because the detainee will duck or dodge the slap, creating possibility for an injury. Experience has shown that after a second slap, the effectiveness of the slap tactic is significantly reduced. Interrogators will cease using the slap if detainee begins ducking. At this point, a threatened slap with the hand will achieve the same purpose as a slap. Blows with the back of the hand, fists, elbows, feet and knees are prohibited. Insult slaps are only to be used by those interrogators designated in writing by the ICE CHIEF.

c. STOMACH SLAP. ******

(1) As with the insult slap, the stomach slap is used to shock and intimidate the detainee. The tactic is delivered with the back of the bare hand. The slap will be directed towards the center of the abdomen. The detainee will not be struck in the solar plexus, ribs, sides, and kidneys or below the navel. The slap will not be performed against the bare skin. Slaps will be initiated with the interrogator’s upper arm parallel to his/her body, extending the striking hand in a swinging motion to the target area. Detainees will be either facing or to the side of the interrogator when the slap is administered.

(2) Uninterrupted or consecutive slaps are prohibited. Blows to the stomach with the hand, fist, knees or elbows are permitted.

d. STRIPPING

(1) Stripping consists of forceful removal of detainees’ clothing. In addition to degradation of the detainee, shipping can be used to demonstrate the omnipotence of the captor or to debilitate the detainee. Interrogator personnel tear clothing from detainees by firmly pulling downward against buttoned buttons and seams. Tearing motions shall be downward to prevent pulling the detainee off balance.

4. PHYSICAL DEBILITATION TACTICS

a. STRESS POSITIONS. Stress positions are used to punish detainees. ALL STRESS POSITIONS ARE RESTRICTED TO A MAXIMUM TIME OF TEN MINUTES AND A LOGBOOK ENTRY IS REQUIRED. An interrogator/guard will remain with detainees during use of stress positions. The authorized positions are:

(1) Head Rest/Index Finger position – Detainee is placed with forehead or fingers against the wall, then the detainee’s legs are backed out to the point that the detainee’s leaning weight is brought to bear on fingers or head.

(2) Kneeling position – Administered by placing detainee on knees and having him lean backward on heels and hold hands extended to the sides or front, palms upward. Light weights such as small rocks, may be placed in the detainee’ s upturned palms. The detainee will not be placed in a position facing the sun or floodlights.

(3) Worship-the-Gods – The detainee is placed on knees with head and torso arched back, with arms either folded across the chest or extended to the side or front. The detainee will not be placed in a position facing the sun or floodlights.

(4) Sitting Position – The detainee is placed with his back against a wall, tree or post; thighs are horizontal, lower legs are vertical with feet flat on floor or ground as though sitting in a chair. Arms may be extended to sides horizontally, palms up and boots on.

(5) Standing position – While standing, the detainee is required to extend arms either to the sides

5. ISOLATION AND MONOPOLIZATION OF PERCEPTION TACTICS

a. HOODING

(1) Hoods are lightweight fabric sacks large enough to fit loosely over a detainee’s head and permit unrestricted breathing.

(2) Hooding is used to isolate detainees. Individually hooded detainees may be moved provided an interrogator/guard leads the detainee. Detainees may not be left standing alone with the hood on. They must be placed either on their stomachs, kneeling, or sitting. Detainee medical limitations must be considered.

6. DEMONSTRATED OMNIPOTENCE TACTICS

a. MANHANDLING. Manhandling consists of pulling or pushing a detainee. It is used as an irritant and to direct the detainee to specific locations. Detainees must be handcuffed and must grasp their trousers near mid-thigh with both hands. The interrogator firmly grasps detainee’s clothing and then moves the detainee at a walking pace. The interrogator must maintain positive control of the detainee. The detainee is not released until the interrogator is positive the detainee has regained balance.

b. WALLING. ***** Walling consists of placing a detainee forcibly against a specially constructed wall. Walling will only be performed in designated areas where specially constructed walls have been built. Walling is used to physically intimidate a detainee. The interrogator must ensure the wall is smooth, firm, and free of any projections. If conducted outside, footing area must be solid and free of objects that could cause detainee or interrogator to lose their balance. A detainee can be taken to the wall a maximum of three times per shift. Walling is done by firmly grasping the front of the detainee’s clothing high on each side of the collar„ ensuring the top of the clothing is open. Care should be taken to ensure detainees with long hair do not get their hair tangled into the folds of clothes being grasped by the interrogator. To avoid bruising the detainee, roll hands under folds of clothing material and ensure only the backs of the hands contact detainee’s chest. Maintain this grip throughout, never allowing the detainee to be propelled uncontrollably. Ensure only the broad part of the shoulders contact the surface of the wall. Grip the detainee’s clothing firmly enough so the collar acts as a restrictive constraint to preclude the detainee’s head from contacting the wall does this. If the detainee’s head inadvertently touches the wall, walling will be ceased immediately. Walling is to be used by those interrogators designated in writing by the ICE CHIEF.

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.

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

The Guantanamo FilesI’ve just posted the fifth 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.

For the majority of the prisoners, it is the first time that their stories have been presented in public, and although my information is generally limited to what has been made available by the Pentagon, it remains a serious indictment of the US administration that, nearly seven years after their capture, their stories are coming to light for the first time.

This additional chapter complements Chapter 6 of The Guantánamo Files, looking at the stories of 20 Yemeni prisoners not mentioned in the book. They were amongst the 250 or so prisoners (almost a third of Guantánamo’s entire population) who were captured crossing from Afghanistan to Pakistan in December 2001. This chapter also complements the previous online chapter, in which I looked at the stories of the Saudis captured at the same time.

In many ways it is more significant than the previous chapter, because, although the circumstances in which the Saudis and the Yemenis were captured are remarkably similar — and both groups were a mixture of Taliban foot soldiers (unconnected to 9/11 or al-Qaeda) and innocent men (humanitarian aid workers, missionaries, and others in the wrong place at the wrong time) — the majority of the Yemenis are still languishing at Guantánamo, while the majority of the Saudis have been repatriated to take part in a successful rehabilitation program.

This is also an anniversary of sorts, as this is my 300th post since I first began blogging about Guantánamo last May. My thanks, as ever, to my readers, and to the various websites who support my work — in particular, Antiwar.com, the Huffington Post, CounterPunch, AlterNet, Cageprisoners and ZNet. If you’re new to the site, an introduction to what it’s all about is here, and you can also navigate via “Categories” in the right-hand column. If you like what you see, please sign up for the RSS feed in the left-hand column, tell your friends, buy the book, and feel free to send me comments.

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

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.

New Evidence of Systemic Bias in Guantánamo Trials

Andy Worthington, author of The Guantánamo Files, continues his analysis of the corrupt command structure of the Military Commissions at Guantánamo, with new information from Maj. David Frakt, one of the Commissions’ military defense lawyers.

In the last three weeks, two events have occurred that have dealt what should have been a knockout blow to the Military Commissions at Guantánamo, the system of trials for “terror suspects” — outside of the US court system and the US military’s own judicial system — that was created by Vice President Dick Cheney and his close advisers (in particular, his legal counsel David Addington) in November 2001.

On September 24, Lt. Col. Darrel Vandeveld, the prosecutor in the case of Mohamed Jawad (an Afghan accused of throwing a grenade at a jeep containing two US soldiers and an Afghan interpreter), resigned, expressing his frustration and disappointment that “potentially exculpatory evidence” had “not been provided” to Jawad’s defense team, and on September 19 Brig. Gen. Hartmann, the Commissions’ legal adviser, was “reassigned” after three Commission judges — all US military officers, appointed by the government — had disqualified him from two trials (and one post-trial review) because of his transparent pro-prosecution bias. This was particularly worrying, because his job description — as laid down in the Military Commissions Act of 2006, which revived the Commissions after the Supreme Court ruled them illegal — stipulated that he was required to “remain neutral and unbiased.”

Last week, following further analysis — including important work by law professor Scott Horton –- I wrote a detailed article, The Dark Heart of the Guantánamo Trials, in which I drew on examples of pro-prosecution bias on the part of Hartmann’s boss, Susan Crawford, the Commissions’ Convening Authority, and traced this systemic bias up the chain of command, via the Pentagon’s General Counsel, to Dick Cheney and David Addington, the creators of the entire Commission process. Cheney and Addington’s zeal for unfettered executive power indicated, in no uncertain terms, that the impartiality of both Hartmann and Crawford was nothing more than a cloak to disguise the Commissions’ naked political aims: securing convictions in a rigged system designed to prevent acquittals.

As the Washington Post recently explained, the Convening Authority is “required to exercise a neutral role in the commissions, overseeing but not dictating the work of prosecutors and allocating resources to both the prosecution and defense,” but a clear example of Crawford’s pro-prosecution bias was revealed by Col. Morris Davis, the Commissions’ former chief prosecutor, who resigned in October 2007, primarily because of political interference in the process.

Writing in the Los Angeles Times last December, Davis wrote that Crawford, unlike her predecessor Maj. Gen. John Altenburg, whose staff had “kept its distance from the prosecution to preserve its impartiality,” had overstepped her administrative role, and “had her staff assessing evidence before the filing of charges, directing the prosecution’s pre-trial preparation of cases” and “drafting charges against those who were accused and assigning prosecutors to cases.” Davis’ stark conclusion — that “Intermingling convening authority and prosecutor roles perpetuates the perception of a rigged process stacked against the accused” — was unerringly accurate, but with Hartmann shielding her from criticism (and taking all the flak himself), Crawford has so far avoided calls for her resignation, even though, as Scott Horton pointed out in February, she is “a Cheney protégée,” and is, moreover, “particularly close to Cheney’s chief of staff David Addington.”

Shortly after my article about the corrupt command structure of the Commissions was published, I received an enlightening email from Maj. David Frakt, Mohamed Jawad’s military defense lawyer, which provided additional details confirming the bias of both Brig. Gen. Hartmann and Susan Crawford.

More criticism of Brig. Gen. Hartmann

Brig. Gen. Thoams HartmannMaj. Frakt was kind enough to point out that “Hartmann was fired,” and that “his claim that he was promoted is nonsense.” He cited testimony by Hartmann in Jawad’s case on June 19, and in a subsequent affidavit, in which he stated that he had three different duties as legal adviser: he was responsible for logistics, planning and resources, he was the supervisor of the prosecution, and he was the legal adviser. As Maj. Frakt explained, “His promotion consisted of removing two of those three duties. He is now responsible only for logistics, planning and resources.”

He added that most of this work is done by the Commissions Support Group (CSG) at Guantánamo, headed by Brig. Gen. Zanetti, who testified in a hearing on Jawad’s case in August that “Hartmann had tried to have the CSG assigned to his ‘command’ even though he was in Washington and lawyers do not generally command anything,” and confirmed that Hartmann “was definitely trying to take charge of the whole process.” I found Zanetti’s comment that “lawyers do not generally command anything” (as paraphrased by Maj. Frakt) to be particularly telling, as it reflects the way in which lawyers (Addington, John Yoo, Alberto Gonzales) have actually played crucial roles in driving the cruelest manifestations of the administration’s “War on Terror” policies.

Maj. Frakt also drew my attention to other examples of Hartmann’s overreach: in particular, a timeline for the trials that he created in November 2007, and reports about the ways in which he had briefed commanders at Guantánamo on his plans, both of which exceeded his remit as an impartial adviser.

According to Capt. Patrick McCarthy, the Staff Judge Advocate of Joint Task Force Guantánamo, who made a deposition in Jawad’s case on June 30 at Maj. Frakt’s request, Hartmann (who, he said, was “remarkably aggressive” to him during meetings at Guantánamo) briefed him in November 2007 on “a plan for a way forward on the number of cases that would be charged in each month.” He explained, “He has a large foldout chart that’s probably three or three and a half, four feet long. It’s a well-known chart and it has on that chart the kind of lay down of how many cases will be proceeding and sort of monthly times as they will proceed.”

Hartmann admitted the existence of this timeline during the hearing on June 19, and as Maj. Frakt demonstrated in a motion to dismiss in August, when he compared the dates on Hartmann’s chart with the dates the prisoners were actually charged he realized that they were remarkably similar. “It is easy to come up with a sinister explanation for the congruence of the chart and the scheduling order,” he wrote, adding, “It is hard to come up with an innocent one.”

Capt. McCarthy also testified that, as well as being bullying and dismissive to himself and, it seemed, every other officer below the rank of General or Admiral at Guantánamo, Hartmann had held several secure video teleconferences with the commanders at Guantánamo, and two face-to-face meetings, which, it appeared, were also part of his mission to “brief” commanders on how and when the trials would proceed, rather than allowing these issues to be developed by the prosecutors. As McCarthy described it, Hartmann “would closely identify himself with prosecutorial efforts,” was “involved at a level of detail that no other general or flag officer that I’ve ever worked for or with has ever been involved at,” and gave the impression that he was “responsible for moving forward with military commissions in all respects.”

More disturbing revelations about the Convening Authority

Susan Crawford, the Military Commissions' Convening AuthorityMaj. Frakt also revealed more disturbing details about Susan Crawford’s role. After revisiting the August ruling of Col. Stephen Henley, the judge in Jawad’s case, who disqualified Hartmann for a second time, and “ordered that the defense be given an opportunity to submit matters in extenuation and mitigation, and that Crawford reconsider her referral decision and either ratify the earlier decision or take other appropriate action without further input from Hartmann,” Maj. Frakt explained that in early September “the prosecutors sought reconsideration of the judge’s ruling, filing a brief which included an affidavit from Hartmann and an affidavit from Crawford herself.”

This is enormously significant, as it provides another concrete example of Crawford’s interference, to add to Col. Davis’ account, and it is made all the more disturbing by Maj. Frakt’s subsequent explanation of how Hartmann and Crawford seemed to connive to sway the judge’s opinion. Their argument, he wrote, centered on claims that Crawford “had not been misled by Hartmann’s recommendation that the case against Jawad be referred as non-capital,” which, as he pointed out, “was misleading because it suggested that capital punishment was an option, when it was not an authorized punishment for the offenses with which Jawad is charged.” The end result, he noted, was that “The brief filed by the government severely distorted the facts.”

Despite this, Col. Henley amended his ruling the next day, authorizing Hartmann to review the matters submitted by the defense and to supplement his original pre-trial advice. Maj. Frakt was appalled. He had been denied the opportunity to respond (as he stated, he was “supposed to get one week to respond to filings from the opposing party”), and he immediately filed a motion “pointing out the factual errors in the government brief and protesting this action, including the fact that the judge acted without input from the defense.” Most importantly, he “requested that Crawford be disqualified since she had made herself a witness in a contested matter before the commission.” He noted, however, that “The judge never responded.”

In addition, Maj. Frakt explained that, although he knew that it was “completely futile” to submit a request for reconsideration, he nevertheless “put together a detailed memorandum explaining the evidentiary, factual and legal deficiencies in the case and detailing the extensive mitigating and extenuating circumstances,” which he submitted on September 15. He also included letters from concerned citizens, a petition urging Crawford to drop the case, and various legal documents, but explained that, although he “repeatedly requested a personal audience” with Crawford, “she refused to meet with me, citing a policy of not having ex parte communications with either party.” Cutting once more to the heart of the problem — Crawford’s thinly-veiled bias — Maj. Frakt added, “This is utter nonsense. She is not a judge and is specifically authorized to discuss matters with either party.”

Mohamed Jawad and the fog of “war crimes”

Moreover, Hartmann’s departure has clearly done nothing to stem Crawford’s enthusiasm for referring charges without paying any heed to arguments made by the defense, and in this she seems to have the full support of Hartmann’s replacement, Col. Mike Chapman. Maj. Frakt explained that on September 22 (Chapman’s first day as legal adviser) he issued a new pre-trial advice to Crawford — “chock full of misleading characterizations of the facts and misstatements of the law,” as Maj. Frakt put it — in response to his submissions, in which he stated that there was “no merit to the defense arguments.” The following day, as Maj. Frakt proceeded to explain, “Crawford ‘ratified’ her referral decision and confirmed that she wanted the case to go forward.” However, while this appears to be another example of Crawford’s predetermined inflexibility, which leads me to wonder if anything could persuade her not to go forward with the cases before her, Jawad, at least, appears to have some support from the judge in his case.

On September 24, Col. Henley issued three rulings on motions to dismiss that were filed in May and June, and Maj. Frakt explained that, although he “declined to dismiss the charges,” he “came very close.” Essentially, as Maj. Frakt described it, Col. Henley “ruled that the government had offered no persuasive authority for their legal position on the meaning of the elements of ‘murder in violation of the law of war’” (the offense Jawad is accused of committing, even though no one died in the grenade attack). According to the government, Jawad’s status as an “unlawful combatant” or “unprivileged belligerent” (variants on the familiar label of “enemy combatant”) is all that is required to prove that his acts were “in violation of the law of war.”

This is actually nonsense, and Maj. Frakt proceeded to explain that a violation of the law of war should actually mean that there was “something in the nature of the act allegedly committed by Jawad that violated the law of war (e.g. an illegal weapon was used, or protected persons were targeted).” He added, “Because Jawad is accused of using a lawful weapon to attack lawful targets (uniformed enemy soldiers) there is no independent violation of the law of war.”

Col. Henley seemed to agree, but he “declined to dismiss the case because he said he did not know what evidence the government had and would give them a chance to prove their case,” although he added that if the prosecution “didn’t have any facts that would tend to prove a violation of the law of war, then they had an independent ethical obligation to go to the Convening Authority and ask her to dismiss the charges.”

He then ordered the government to provide a “bill of particulars” (a statement of facts detailing how the prosecution would prove the elements of the offense), but as Maj. Frakt described it, this document “simply rehashed the government’s prior stance that the violation of the law of war consisted of not being a lawful combatant and wearing civilian clothes to blend in with the local population.”  Pointing out the absurdity of this position, he explained, “The government states he is an unlawful combatant because he was not a member of a regular army in military uniform, but then claims his violation of the law of war was wearing civilian clothes.” He added, “I have noted several times that Jawad was part of the local population. He is an Afghan citizen.”

Quite how this absurd trial will pan out remains to be seen, but if there is hope for Mohamed Jawad, the same cannot be said for the Commissions in general, which are suffering from inbuilt problems that cannot be remedied by the dismissal of either the legal adviser to the Convening Authority or the Convening Authority herself — although the accumulating evidence certainly suggests that, like Brig. Gen. Hartmann, Susan Crawford should be removed from her post.

Enshrining political manipulation

Several legal scholars have been noting these problems for some time. In August, for example, Professor Gregory S. McNeal, a former academic consultant to the Commissions’ chief prosecutor, wrote that the structure and rules for the Commissions, as crafted by the Department of Defense, “allowed for political manipulation of nearly all aspects of the trials.”

One of the major flaws identified by McNeal was the nature of the Convening Authority’s role. In the courts-martial system, from which the Commissions are vaguely derived, the Convening Authority is a military commander, who is presumed to be capable of “unbiased and apolitical decision-making.” In the Military Commissions Act, however, it is stated that Military Commissions “may be convened by the Secretary of Defense or by any officer or official of the United States designated by the Secretary for that purpose”; in other words, that civilians, like Susan Crawford, can be brought in to deliberately exert the “undue command influence” with which both she, and her legal adviser, have repeatedly been identified.

In my opinion, this is a crucial distinction, deliberately tailored by the administration to allow a puppet of the executive to fulfil her master’s commands, and it explains, I think, why there will be no justice at Guantánamo until the whole system is dismantled and the trials are moved to the US mainland, where judges are free to throw out risible and/or rigged charges like those against Mohamed Jawad, and to grapple, independently, with the problems they will undoubtedly face in prosecuting the handful of genuinely dangerous individuals at Guantánamo in a court that can claim legitimacy.

Until this time comes, I am thankful to Maj. Frakt for sharing his insights with me, and I will continue to expose the “undue command influence” that poisons Dick Cheney and David Addington’s ill-conceived, quasi-legal system of show trials.

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 Antiwar.com and the Huffington Post.

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), USS Cole bombing suspect charged (July 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), 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).

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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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