Archive for April, 2011

More Judicial Interference on Guantánamo

Last week, in my article, How the Supreme Court Gave Up on Guantánamo, I explained how, given the option of addressing complaints made by prisoners in Guantánamo regarding the basis of their ongoing detention, the Supreme Court chose not to, leaving the final decisions regarding the prisoners not in the hands of the District Court in Washington D.C., which has recommended, in 38 of the 59 cases decided, that the prisoners should be released, but in the hands of the D.C. Circuit Court.

This is alarming, because the Circuit Court has made a point of issuing rulings defending unfettered executive power, and, most importantly, of redefining the detention standard required to justify the ongoing imprisonment of the Guantánamo prisoners in the government’s favor, ruling that evidence of some sort of involvement in the “command structure” of al-Qaeda and/or the Taliban is far too strict, and that all the government should be required to do is to present any information that even remotely suggests that the prisoners in question were involved, in any way, with al-Qaeda and/or the Taliban.

In addition, the most notorious judge in the Circuit, Judge A. Raymond Randolph, who approved every measure relating to Guantánamo under President Bush that was subsequently overturned by the Supreme Court, and who, outrageously, is now effectively in charge of detainee policy, has made a point of criticizing the Supreme Court for its decision in June 2008, in Boumediene v. Bush, to grant the prisoners constitutionally guaranteed habeas corpus rights. As the New York Times reported in February:

In a speech called “The Guantánamo Mess” last fall [delivered to the right-wing Heritage Foundation], he said that the justices were wrong to [give the prisoners habeas rights] and all but expressed contempt for the holding. As the basis for the speech’s title, he compared the justices who reached it to characters in The Great Gatsby. “They were careless people,” he read. “They smashed things up … and let other people clean up the mess they had made.”

Alarmingly, Judge Randolph is not the only judge in the Circuit to openly criticize the Supreme Court for creating a law that the Circuit Court judges are obliged to follow, but which, it appears, they are deliberately subverting for political reasons.

On Friday April 8, when the Circuit Court, predictably, turned down an appeal by a Yemeni prisoner, Yasein Esmail, who had lost his habeas petition last April, one of the judges, Senior Judge Laurence H. Silberman, “one of the most conservative jurists in the federal system,” according to SCOTUSblog, filed a two-page concurring opinion (PDF, pp. 6-7), in which he criticized the Supreme Court and the Justice Department, and sounded a klaxon of alarm about the perceived dangerousness of the prisoners at Guantánamo, which was a perfect fit with the right-wing hysteria of the last nine years, even though it has no grounding whatsoever in reality.

In his extraordinary legal outburst, Judge Silberman — after declaring that he found Esmail’s story “phonier than a $4 bill” — issued the following alarming declaration about the perceived difference between dangerous people being released in the criminal justice system (because proof of guilt cannot be established) and prisoners from Guantánamo being released:

In the typical criminal case, a good judge will vote to overturn a conviction if the prosecutor lacked sufficient evidence, even when the judge is virtually certain that the defendant committed the crime. That can mean that a thoroughly bad person is released onto our streets, but I need not explain why our criminal justice system treats that risk as one we all believe, or should believe, is justified.

When we are dealing with detainees, candor obliges me to admit that one can not help but be conscious of the infinitely greater downside risk to our country, and its people, of an order releasing a detainee who is likely to return to terrorism.

What is particularly depressing about these passages is that, while Judge Silberman is correct to defend the criminal justice system’s adherence to the law, he thoroughly betrays those principles by treating the Guantánamo prisoners as some kind of exceptional beings beyond the law, super-terrorists who would wreak havoc on America in an instant, when, to be honest, someone like Yasein Ismael, a foot soldier for the Taliban, is not someone “likely to return to terrorism,” as he was never involved in terrorism in the first place.

Instead, he is one of many men at Guantánamo — including the majority of those who have lost their habeas petitions — who continue to suffer what should be slanderous or libelous comments about them because the Bush administration’s “War on Terror” was founded on the absurd notion that the international terrorists of al-Qaeda were the same as the Taliban, the government of Afghanistan at the time of the US-led invasion in October 2001. It is true that the Taliban’s military included foreign foot soldiers trained in camps associated with al-Qaeda, but it is absurd to regard these men as terrorists, when they were clearly soldiers, and should, all along, have been held as prisoners of war, protected by the Geneva Conventions, while the handful of men accused of involvement with acts of terrorism should have been tried in federal court.

Such is the hysteria regarding Guantánamo, however, that judges like Judge Silberman regard it as legitimate to let it infect their very notions of justice.

After this outburst, Judge Silberman proceeded to criticize the Justice Department, stating that the opinions described above mean that “there are powerful reasons for the government to rely on our opinion in Al-Adahi v. Obama [the case of a Yemeni judged to be an al-Qaeda sympathizer because he took his sister to Afghanistan to marry someone allegedly connected to terrorism], which persuasively explains that in a habeas corpus proceeding the preponderance of evidence standard that the government assumes binds it, is unnecessary — and moreover, unrealistic.”

Reinforcing this notion that very little evidence should be required to detain the terrorists of his imagination, Judge Silberman added that he doubted that any of his colleagues would grant a petition if it even appeared to be “somewhat likely” that the prisoner in question was “an al-Qaeda adherent or an active supporter.”

Judge Silberman then criticized the Supreme Court, snidely noting that the decisions made by he and his colleagues on this “somewhat likely” basis would stand “[u]nless, of course, the Supreme Court were to adopt the preponderance of the evidence standard (which it is unlikely to do — taking a case might obligate it to assume direct responsibility for the consequences of Boumediene v. Bush).”

This was a specific attack on the Supreme Court’s refusal to establish the detention standards required, leaving those decisions to the lower courts, and Judge Silberman clearly identified with the “mess” alluded to by Judge Randolph in his speech to the Heritage Foundation last fall.

The only salvation in this otherwise persistent assault on the executive, the Justice Department, the District Court and the Supreme Court, fueled by right-wing paranoia about the dangers posed by every single Guantánamo prisoner, came in Judge Silberman’s final words, when, suddenly, he shone a light on the overall failure of the habeas system to secure justice, writing:

Of course, if it turns out that regardless of our decisions the executive branch does not release winning petitioners because no other country will accept them and they will not be released into the United States, then the whole process leads to virtual advisory opinions. It becomes a charade prompted by the Supreme Court’s defiant — if only theoretical — assertion of judicial supremacy, sustained by posturing on the part of the Justice Department, and providing litigation exercise for the detainee bar.

Again, this was a savage attack on the Supreme Court, but it was also a sound analysis of all the roadblocks in the litigation — including the opposition by the executive, the Circuit Court and Congress to the release into the US of the Uighurs (Muslims from China, seized by mistake and cleared for release under President Bush, but unable to return home because of the risk of torture). As such it was so unexpected, after all the venom that had come before, that it took a while for observers to realize that, in this description of the charade maintained by all parties — including the executive branch and the Justice Department — was an unusual opportunity to strengthen the Uighurs’ ongoing appeal to the Supreme Court to allow them to live on the US mainland.

This, ironically, was in spite of the fact that it was the Circuit Court that had prevented them from coming to the US in February 2009, ruling that it was an immigration matter that was not for judges to decide, and handing responsibility to the executive branch, with depressing results for the Uighurs, when President Obama threw out a plan by White House counsel Greg Craig to bring a handful of the Uighurs to live in the US.

Last Tuesday, lawyers for the Uighurs duly filed a new plea to the Supreme Court (PDF), incorporating Judge Silberman’s comments, and arguing that they show that “the habeas jurisdiction recognized by this Court in Boumediene has essentially been nullified.”

I wish them success, and am glad that there was some hope to be extracted from Judge Silberman’s outburst, but in general it remains profoundly depressing that judges in the Circuit Court are approaching the Guantánamo litigation through a prism of paranoia and distortion, in which the lies and deceptions of the “War on Terror” are intact, and insignificant foot soldiers remain slandered as terrorist masterminds, and are used as an excuse to pretend that the normal rules of the law do not apply.

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) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Digg and YouTube). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in July 2010, details about the new documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, on tour in the UK throughout 2011, and available on DVD here — or here for the US), my definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all my articles, and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.

As published exclusively on the website of the Future of Freedom Foundation.

US Intelligence Veteran Defends Bradley Manning and WikiLeaks

The story of Pfc Bradley Manning, the young US Army intelligence analyst allegedly responsible for leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks, continues to act as a magnet for supporters worldwide, who are appalled by the accounts of his solitary confinement, and the humiliation to which he has recently been subjected, which has involved him sleeping naked at night, and having to stand naked outside his call during cell inspections in the morning, even though the alleged basis for this humiliation — that he is at risk of committing suicide — has been disproved by the miltary’s own records, in which his alleged propensity to commit suicide has been repeatedly challenged.

While sympathizing fully with Pfc Manning’s plight, I do hope that those supporting him will also realize that the humiliation to which he is being subjected, and its probable intent — to make him produce false confessions about his relationship with Julian Assange of WikiLeaks — is not unique, as it echoes the conditions in which prisoners in the “War on Terror” — at Guantánamo and elsewhere, including, in three instances, on the US mainland — were held by the Bush administration, whose detention also involved torture and abuse, and the creation of circumstances in which confessions would be produced, whether they were true or not.

This was part of a disgraceful policy that has not come to an end under President Obama, as Guantánamo is still open, and 172 men are held there, with the administration, Congress and the courts having all conspired to prevent the release of any of them (even though 89 of them have been cleared for release). In addition, at Bagram in Afghanistan, there are still men held who were seized up to nine years ago in other countries, and were rendered to Bagram (after a tour of a variety of secret CIA prisons), where they remain in a legal black hole.

While I encourage readers to spare a thought for those still held in Guantánamo and Bagram, I reiterate that I understand the significance of Bradley Manning’s plight, as it is unaccepable that the ill-treatment of such a prominent prisoner is continuing, despite international outrage, just as it is unacceptable that he has not yet been put forward for trial, as he has now been held for nearly a year, since his initial arrest in Kuwait last May.

In an important update to Manning’s story, the website The Western Front recently interviewed Evan Knappenberger, an Iraq War veteran and former Army intelligence specialist, who graduated from the same intelligence school as Manning, and who has some important insights: firstly, about how dehumanizing it was working as an intel analyst in Iraq, and how, at the same time, when it came to having access to classified documents on the Defense Department’s online network, “Army security is [or was] like a Band-Aid on a sunken chest wound.”

Knappenberger also explains how the leaking of information by Manning (if indeed it was him) “has raised consciousness quite a bit of the true nature of what’s going on,” adding that he is appalled by the military’s obsession with classifying as secret everything that takes place in its wars, and how he is also appalled that Manning, as a whistleblower, should have rights and protections that are denied to him, and also regards his treatment as a disgrace.

This is a powerful interview, and I do hope that you have the time to read it, and also to circulate it to others.

Manning Peer Sheds Light on WikiLeaks: Former military intel analyst shares his thoughts on the motive of alleged leaks
By Will Graff, The Western Front, April 15, 2011

Former military intel analyst shares his thoughts on the motive of alleged leaks.

The alleged leaker, intelligence specialist Private First Class Bradley Manning, is now in Quantico military prison in Virginia, where he has been held in solitary confinement since his arrest in July 2010. On April 10, nearly 300 top legal scholars, authors and experts signed a letter condemning his treatment as torture.

Evan Knappenberger, an Iraq War veteran and former intelligence specialist in the Army, graduated from the same intelligence school as Bradley Manning in May 2004 and was given secret clearance.

Knappenberger is now a junior at Western majoring in mathematics. He was interviewed last week for a PBS Frontline documentary about WikiLeaks, Manning and military information security. The Western Front interviewed Knappenberger about his experience in the military and his connection to WikiLeaks.

The Western Front: What  is your connection to Bradley Manning?

Evan Knappenberger: Well, I have a couple connections to Bradley. The first is that we both went to the same intelligence school. We went to the same basic training company, pretty much an identical track all the way through.

They have [Manning’s] chat logs with the guy who turned him in. He talks about why he [leaked the documents]. He says on those chat logs that it’s out of principle. He didn’t like what he saw in Iraq. He talks about the collateral murder video, watching civilians get killed by American soldiers pretty much unprovoked. He had a change of heart, I think, that’s why he says he decided to release all these documents — if in fact, it was him that did it.

I was involved in torture in Iraq. Part of an intel analyst’s job is “targeting.” You take a human being and put him on a piece of paper, distill his life into one piece of paper. You’ve got a grid coordinate of where he lives and a little box that says what to do with him: kill, capture, detain, exploit, source — you know, there’s different things you can do with him. When I worked in “targeting,” it was having people killed.

The thing that gets me about that is I don’t think anybody who’s aware of what’s going on can do that work for very long without having a major problem come up. Most of the guys I went through intel school with, who went to Iraq with me, are either dead, killed themselves, are in a long-term care institution or completely disabled. I’m actually 50 percent disabled via PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), mostly because of the stuff that happened.

The Western Front: What kind of access did you have here and in Iraq?

Evan Knappenberger: Army security is like a Band-Aid on a sunken chest wound. I remember when I was training, before I had my clearance even, they were talking about diplomatic cables. It was a big scandal at Fort Huachuca [in Arizona], with all these kids from analyst school. Somebody said [in the cables] Sadaam wanted to negotiate and was willing to agree to peace terms before we invaded, and Bush said no. And this wasn’t very widely known. Somehow it came across on a cable at Fort Huachuca, and everybody at the fort knew about it.

It’s interesting the access we had. I did the briefing for a two-star general every morning for a year. So I had secret and top-secret information readily available. The funny thing is, Western’s password system they have here on all these computers is better security than the Army had on their secret computers.

There are 2 million people, many of them not U.S. citizens, with access to SIPRNet [Secret Internet Protocol Router Network, the Department of Defense’s largest network for the exchange of classified information and messages]. There are 1,400 government agencies with SIPR websites. It’s not that secret.

The Western Front: Do you think private military contractors play a role in this?

Evan Knappenberger: Oh yeah. I worked in a place called a SCIF [Secret Compartmentalized Information Facility] and almost anybody, if they spoke English, could get in there. It wasn’t hard at all.

Every military base has [a SCIF]. There’s one in Bellingham, too. It’s by the airport. The only security they have at the SCIFs I worked at was one guy on duty at a desk. They had barbed wire you could literally step right over.

We basically gave [the Iraqi army] SIPRNet. It’s not official, but if you’ve got a secret Internet computer sitting there with a wire running across from the American side of the base, with no guard, you’re basically giving them access.

Then in every Iraqi division command post, you have a SIPRNet computer, with all the stuff Bradley Manning leaked and massive amounts more.

I could look up FBI files on the SIPRNet. In fact, I was reading Hunter Thompson’s Hell’s Angels book, and I was like “this sounds cool,” and I looked up all the Hell’s Angels.

We looked up the JFK assassination, I couldn’t find anything on that. It was kind of a game, but, yeah, that’s the SIPRNet. You’ve got access to every so-called sensitive piece of information.

You’ve basically got us sitting there in an Iraqi division command post, and to make it all better, the U.S. Army put one guard guy there to guard it. They would switch us off every 12 hours with another guy. If he gets up to go to the bathroom, the SIPRNet is just sitting there. All you need is knowledge of the English language and knowledge of how to use Internet Explorer.

The Western Front: Is all the information Bradley Manning leaked on those computers under the same security?

Evan Knappenberger: He has top-secret clearance, and it’s a little better. It’s like there’s one more door you have to go through to get to the top-secret computers, maybe. Sometimes there is and sometimes there isn’t.

The Western Front: What do you think the release of these documents and WikiLeaks have accomplished?

Evan Knappenberger: I think it has raised consciousness quite a bit of the true nature of what’s going on. Anybody now can go see the daily incident log of what happened in Iraq. What WikiLeaks did, what all of this did, is give real credibility to people who want to tell the truth. You can corroborate stories.

The Western Front: What do you think the attacks on WikiLeaks and Manning’s imprisonment say about freedom in the United States?

Evan Knappenberger: The fact we think we can classify everything that goes on in a war is ridiculous. And the fact that the press really doesn’t have the freedom to report on the military is ridiculous.

The second part of it is Bradley Manning and his treatment. If he was in any other government agency or private agency, he’d be considered a whistleblower. He’d have protections, but he’s not. It shows the gap of human rights in our military.

If he was anybody else, he’d be covered under the whistleblower protections or the freedom of speech. If a reporter gets classified information and publishes it, it’s not a crime. WikiLeaks is a reporting agency, so they should be covered under that. And anybody that works for them, i.e. Bradley Manning, should be covered under that, too.

The Western Front: What should people know about Bradley Manning and why should they care about this issue?

Evan Knappenberger: This is an American citizen. He’s an all-American kid. Born and raised in Oklahoma. If the constitutional rights don’t apply to him, it should scare everybody. Even if you don’t agree with what he allegedly did, you still have the obligation to care about the fact that he hasn’t been afforded his trial and he’s been treated with cruel and unusual punishment. Even if you’re against freedom of the press in this case, you still have the obligation to care about the kid. He’s being tortured.

It has been almost a year. They wake him up every five minutes. He’s stripped naked every day. The lights have been on in his cell 24/7 for a year. He gets one visitor a week. He can’t exercise in his cell, gets an hour a day to walk around a larger cell with no bed in it for exercise. Every human rights organization in the world has condemned his treatment as torture. That should scare the shit out of us because he’s not some Islamic fundamentalist who talks about Jihad, he’s an American kid, modern guy, who listens to pop music and happens to be gay.

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) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Digg and YouTube). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in July 2010, details about the new documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, on tour in the UK throughout 2011, and available on DVD here — or here for the US), my definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all my articles, and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.

Syria: On Independence Day, Calls for Freedom and Protests About the Torture of Activists and Journalists

Last month, as brave human rights activists in Damascus held protests calling for the release of political prisoners, picking up on the revolutionary movements sweeping the Middle East, and challenging the iron rule of the Ba’ath party and the emergency laws that have been in place since 1963, I picked up on the story, publishing an article, Revolution in the Middle East: Brave Protestors in Syria Call for Freedom, and then following up with another, entitled, Political Prisoners in Syria: An Urgent Crisis Now!, after many of the activists were themselves seized and imprisoned. Even so, a revolutionary spark had been ignited, and protests then began taking place in towns and cities throughut Syria, as I reported in another article, perhaps hopefully entitled, Syria: Amazingly, The Next Crucible of Revolution in the Middle East?.

Since then — just three weeks ago — I confess that I have not had time to follow the story as closely as I was doing, although it is clear that the movement for radical reform, and an end to the hated emergency laws, has not come to an end. In an attempt to quell the continuing dissent, which has led to the deaths of at least 200 protestors, President Bashar al-Assad sacked the entire Cabinet two weeks ago (a largely cosmetic gesture that failed to placate the protestors, as power is concentrated in the President’s hands), and, on Friday, while protests involving thousands of people took place in a number of towns and cities in the north of Syria, promised to release hundreds of those detained in the last month, with the exception of those involved in “criminal acts.”

The announcement, which does not yet appear to have led to the release of anyone, was followed by a promise on Saturday to bring the emergency laws to an end within a week, but it is uncertain whether the President is committed to genuine change, or is just trying to disarm the protestors with words, Within hours, as Al-Jazeera reported, “About 2,000 protesters staged a sit-in in the suburb of Douma, demanding the release of relatives arrested on Friday during a major day of nationwide protests, activists said,” and the official SANA news agency also reported that around 2,000 people demonstrated in the volatile southern city of Daraa, calling for freedom.

Protestors continued to demonstrate today (Sunday) — ironically, on Syria’s Independence Day, which commemorates the departure of the last French soldiers 65 years ago. As Al-Jazeera explained, “The Damascus Declaration, an opposition umbrella group, called for peaceful protests in all Syrian cities and abroad to ‘bolster Syria’s popular uprising and ensure its continuity,’” and “Other activists also called for protests through social network sites.”

In addition, President al-Assad’s promise to free prisoners came on the same day that Human Rights Watch issued a news release describing the arbitrary detention of hundreds of protestors (and some journalists), who were seized in a variety of towns and cities across the country. Human Rights Watch secured the testimony of released prisoners, who told them about the widespread use of torture at the hands of the mukhabarat, the feared secret police, and the result is an important article that can only encourage those interested in justice, fairness and human rights to continue supporting the efforts of the Syrian people — including the long-oppressed Kurdish minority — to either topple the al-Assad regime, or to force it to undergo an unprecedented process of reform.

Syria: Rampant Torture of Protesters
Activists and Journalists Also Arrested and Mistreated
Human Rights Watch, April 15, 2011

Syrian security and intelligence services have arbitrarily detained hundreds of protesters across the country, subjecting them to torture and ill-treatment, since anti-government demonstrations began in mid-March 2011, Human Rights Watch said today. The security and intelligence services, commonly referred to as mukhabarat, have also arrested lawyers, activists, and journalists who endorsed or promoted the protests, Human Rights Watch said.

Syrian authorities should immediately stop the use of torture and free arbitrarily detained demonstrators, activists, and journalists, Human Rights Watch said. The government of President Bashar al-Asad should order prompt and impartial investigations into serious abuses against detainees and ensure all those responsible are brought to justice.

“There can be no real reforms in Syria while security forces abuse people with impunity,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “President al-Asad needs to rein in his security services and hold them to account for arbitrary arrests and torture.”

Human Rights Watch interviewed 19 people who had been detained in Daraa, Damascus, Douma, al-Tal, Homs, and Banyas, as well as several families of detainees. Those interviewed who had been detained included two women and three teenagers, ages 16 and 17. Human Rights Watch also collected information from Syrian activists about dozens of people detained in Daraa and Banyas, and reviewed the footage of some detainees released from Daraa, whose bodies appeared to have marks from torture. Those interviewed were held by various branches of mukhabarat, including state security (Amn al-Dawla), political security (Amn al-Siyasi), and military security (Amn al-Askari).

All but two of the detainees arrested during the protests told Human Rights Watch that mukhabarat officers beat them while arresting them and in detention, and that they witnessed dozens of other detainees being beaten or heard screams of people being beaten. In addition to the three children interviewed by Human Rights Watch, witnesses reported seeing children detained and beaten in the facilities where they were held.

Many told Human Rights Watch that they and other detainees were subjected to other forms of torture, including electro-shock devices, cables, and whips. Most also said they were held in overcrowded cells, and many were deprived of sleep, food, and water – in some cases, for several days. Some said they were blindfolded and handcuffed the entire time.

Most detainees interviewed by Human Rights Watch reported being forced to sign confessions without being allowed to read them, as well as pledges not to participate in future protests. Some also had to provide detailed personal information about themselves and their families, including family members’ addresses and places of employment. None were allowed to have any contact with relatives or lawyers while in detention, and their families were not informed of their whereabouts.

Most were released after several days with no charges against them, while others were released on bail with charges pending. The number of people who remain in detention is impossible to verify, but several individuals told Human Rights Watch that a number of people from their communities who had been arrested during the protests had not returned and that their families had no information about their fate or whereabouts.

Beatings, Torture in Detention

Many of those interviewed shortly after their release still had traces of bruises on their faces and heads. One, a 17-year-old, could hardly move — he needed assistance sitting down and standing up. Human Rights Watch reviewed video footage showing evidence of severe beatings on the face and arms of another child, described in the footage as a 12-year-old from Douma, a town near Damascus.

A protester detained on March 25 after taking part in a protest in al-Tal, also near Damascus, said the security services beat him and put him in a bus with five or six other detainees and drove them to Damascus. He said he was first taken to the Palestine Branch of Military Intelligence and later to a branch of State Security on Baghdad Street:

[At State Security,] they lined us up in the corridor along the wall, and beat us. Then they dragged us to the basement — I lost consciousness for some time, they beat me very hard on my head. They first kept all 17 of us in one room, and took [us] out for interrogations from there — they beat us with a cable, and accused us of being Israeli and Lebanese spies. I was hooded at the time.

Another protester arrested during the same protest told Human Rights Watch that he was brutally beaten and tortured by three mukhabarat agencies: State Security, Political Security, and the Palestine Branch of Military Intelligence. He described his ill-treatment at the hands of Political Security, where he spent four days:

The security personnel took us out for interrogations in a room in front of the cell. We constantly heard the sounds of whipping and screams from that room. When they took me in, they put me face down on the floor, and started beating me with a cable on the soles of my feet, my legs and back. They were asking, “Why did you go to the demonstration? Who paid you to go? Who made you go?” They just wanted me to confess to something, did not matter what.

Another protester from al-Tal also reported that officers of the Palestine Branch of Military Intelligence used electric shock to torture him and others detained with him:

They beat us in the courtyard, and then took us into the basement. It was a big room, with about a hundred detainees in it, from different towns. They stripped us down to our underwear and poured cold water on us, beat us with cables, and shocked us with electric batons — those were cylindrical sticks that looked like a torch, they pressed them toward our arms and stomachs, each time for three to four seconds. The low-ranking soldiers did the beatings, and higher officers used the electro-shock devices. They were in uniforms, but without identifying signs.

A lawyer detained by State Security in Damascus told Human Rights Watch that he shared a cell with two detainees who were tortured with electro-shock devices, and another whose legs and feet were beaten so badly that he could not move. After one interrogation session, security personnel brought him back to the cell, hung him by his hands, and prohibited his cellmates from giving him food or water, or even talking to him. One detainee recalled a cellmate who had been beaten so badly on the soles of his feet that his toenails had fallen out. Another detained in a State Security facility in Damascus estimated that he heard approximately 30 people being beaten one Friday night after the security forces had brought in a new batch of protesters.

Protesters detained in other parts of the country reported similar experiences. A man detained during protests on April 1 in Douma told Human Rights Watch that a group of about 10 security officers beat him on the head until he collapsed and then dragged him into a bus with about a dozen other protesters, all badly beaten and bleeding. He said:

They took us to State Security in Damascus — I knew this place. They brought some 10 or 15 buses full of protesters from Douma there. They dragged me and others into the basement, and beat us there with sticks, accusing us of being terrorists. They also used electric batons on us — these are black and blue cylindrical sticks with a button that releases electric shocks on one end. They pressed them on the back side of our necks, and shocked us for a few seconds. It was incredibly painful.

A 17-year-old detained in the coastal town of Banyas described his ordeal during his five-day detention at a local branch of Military Security:

When we got to Military Security, they put us in a small cell … They kept us there with no food from Friday, when they arrested us, until Monday. They gave us one bottle of water after we all begged for water. The guards would say “share,” and some of us didn’t get to drink because it was not enough. They interrogated me five times, once each day. During the interrogations, they would beat me. I think it was with sticks and with whips but I don’t even know, I couldn’t see anything. They beat me on my head, on my back, on my shoulders. They especially beat me on my face. With every word, they would beat me. They asked me why I was trying to destroy the regime, if I was a terrorist from Israel.

Two witnesses who were detained in a facility on Baghdad Street in Damascus reported hearing a woman scream as if in pain and cry in their facility, but they never saw her.

Forced Confessions

Most of those detained following protests told Human Rights Watch that they were forced to sign and put their fingerprints on papers without being allowed to read the document. A teenager from Douma detained for two days by the mukhabarat — he was blindfolded and so did not know which security branch — told Human Rights Watch:

I asked, “What is this paper?” and one of the security men grabbed my head, and pushed my mouth open, and the other one squeezed my tongue with something that felt like pliers and started pulling it. And when I refused to sign it, one of the interrogators took a hammer and started pounding on my toes. In the cell, they also beat me on the face with their Kalashnikovs [AK-47 assault rifles].

Another detainee, a non-Syrian Arab, told Human Rights Watch that he signed and put his fingerprints on a piece of paper after each day of interrogation: “I never saw what I signed,” he said. “My eyes were blindfolded. And I was afraid so I did not even dare ask read it.” A Western detainee recalled that the security services made him sign two pieces of paper but would not let him read them.

Activists and Journalists

Syria’s security services have also arbitrarily arrested and tortured activists, writers, and journalists who have reported on or expressed support for the anti-government protests, detaining at least seven local and international journalists since protests began on March 16.

A Syrian writer described how security services “kidnapped” him off the street in Damascus after he spoke about Syrian protests and the government response in the media. “I saw a white unmarked van on the street, and when I came directly beside it, the sliding door opened and three big men grabbed me,” he told Human Rights Watch. “They did not say anything to me, just grabbed me.” On the way to what he later learned was a State Security building, his captors beat and kicked him. During interrogation they also beat him: “They brought a whip and started to beat my shoulders, legs and arms. They were cursing me and accusing me of things.”

A non-Syrian Arab journalist told Human Rights Watch that he was beaten during interrogation.

State Security also arrested one of the lawyers who represented the protesters detained at the March 16 demonstration calling for the release of political activists. He spent a week at the State Security detention facility in Damascus, where the security personnel on several occasions beat, threatened, and humiliated him. He spent most of his time handcuffed and hooded. Before being transferred into a cell, he was held for four days in an unheated corridor, apparently because the cells were jammed. The lawyer said that throughout his detention he heard sounds of beatings and screams of other detainees.

“By silencing those who write about events, Syrian authorities hope to hide their brutality,” Stork said. “But their crackdown on journalists and activists only highlights their criminal behavior.”

Detention Conditions

All former detainees interviewed by Human Rights Watch described appalling detention conditions, with grossly overcrowded cells where at times detainees could only sleep in turns and suffered various forms of humiliation and verbal abuse. One person detained at State Security in Damascus said he shared a 30-square meter cell with about 75 other people.

Several told Human Rights Watch that they were put in small solitary confinement cells about 1 by 1.5 meters — too small even to lie down. Officers sometimes forced two or even three detainees into these cells. One person detained in Damascus said that he shared a cell that was about half a meter by 1.75 meters with another person for four days. “When we slept we had to coordinate our movements to turn,” he said. Another protester detained at a State Security facility on Bagdad Street in Damascus said that he shared a cell about three-quarters of a meter by 1.8 meters with two other men:

We spent four days there, although at that time we couldn’t tell — there were no windows, an electric lamp was on all the time, and we lost track … We could only sleep in turns — one person could lie down, and then the other two had to stand.

“Throwing peaceful protesters in dungeons, beating them, denying them access to the outside world, will only increase the chasm between Syria’s rulers and its people,” Stork said. “The terrible torture methods of the mukhabarat need to become a relic of the past.”

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) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Digg and YouTube). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in July 2010, details about the new documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, on tour in the UK throughout 2011, and available on DVD here — or here for the US), my definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all my articles, and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.

Voices from Bagram: Prisoners Speak in Their Detainee Review Boards (Part Two of Three)

This is the sixth article in “Bagram Week” here at Andy Worthington (although I freely acknowedge that the original seven-day schedule has slipped), with seven articles in total exploring what is happening at the main US prison in Afghanistan through reports, analyses of review boards, and the voices of the prisoners themselves, and ongoing updates to the definitive annotated Bagram prisoner list.

This is the second of three articles telling, for the first time, stories — in the prisoners’ own words, albeit in a heavily redacted format — from the US prison at Bagram airbase (now replaced by a new building, called the Detention Facility at Parwan). The stories come from the Detainee Review Boards at Bagram, established by President Obama in 2009, and are taken from documents obtained by the ACLU through FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requests, in which the Pentagon not only released documents providing summaries of the review boards’ conclusions (which I began analyzing here), but also released 58 documents relating to specific prisoners.

These 58 documents contain more information than the brief summaries — the Commander’s Final Decision Memo, a Memo from the DRB President to the Commander or the Deputy Commander, a DRB Report of Findings and Recommendations, and, most importantly, a Summary of the DRB Hearing, which, between redactions, usually contains some of the allegations against the prisoners, which are otherwise unknown, and some of the prisoners’ own statements and their responses to questions from the panel.

Below, following the first part of this three-part series, are 20 more stories from these documents — of prisoners recommended for release, for transfer to the Afghan authorities for prosecution, or for release under a rehabilitation program, or for continued detention at Bagram/Parwan — these various choices being a refined version of the unilateral reworking of the Geneva Conventions under President Bush that has not been adequately addressed under President Obama (see my articles The Black Hole of Bagram, What is Obama Doing at Bagram? (Part One): Torture and the “Black Prison” and What is Obama Doing at Bagram? (Part Two): Executive Detention, Rendition, Review Boards, Released Prisoners and Trials.

The last 20 stories will be covered in an article to follow. Individually, the stories these documents are not always revealing — although in some cases they clearly are — but cumulatively they help to provide an overview of the entire process, and, unfortunately, echo the problems with the tribunals at Guantánamo on which they were modelled.

20 Stories from Bagram

ISN 3782: Nek Marjan

At a Detainee Review Board on June 5, 2010, it was explained that 2 out of 3 board members found that internment was necessary to mitigate the threat posed by Nek Marjan (also identified as Shah Wazir), who was assessed to be “a part of or a substantial supporter of insurgent forces opposing Coalition Forces,” even though, alarmingly, it was also noted, “Notwithstanding the majority vote, the evidence was so weak that one board member found no internment criteria.”

In a statement at his hearing, he said:

My name is Nek Marjan, son of [redacted]. I lived in Sukart. Sukart is in … Khost province. There is no Taliban in my village … I do not know any Taliban at all. I don’t know of any Taliban in my village. I have not ever done anything to help Taliban because I barely can take care of my family. I don’t have time to help the Taliban … I’ve never had anyone in my village come to my house that has attacked CF [Coalition Forces].

He also said:

I am accused of being Taliban and a Taliban commander and none of this is true. [I do] not store anything for the Taliban in my house. My house is for my wife and children only. I’m not against coalition forces or government. I’m a poor person making a living driving a cab. You can verify this by anybody in my village. Someone paid money to the police to detain me … Before I started driving taxi I had a retail shop and I was living there. You can ask anybody about me. Anything they say will be the truth about me. The US is improving our country, making roads, schools and hospitals. Why would I do anything to the US? I like the coalition forces. I have never been involved with attacks against coalition forces. There might be two reasons I’m here, if someone paid money to keep me here, or somebody has animosities toward me.

And:

Of course I have enemies; my father was killed by our enemies. The three enemies I speak of specifically are [redacted], they are my enemies who killed my father. They killed my cousin for marrying a woman they did not approve of.

ISN 3799: Nawar Khan

At a Detainee Review Board on June 7, 2010, the board members found that Nawar Khan did not meet the criteria for internment, because there was “a lack of credible evidence” against him, and a more senior figure then ordered his release.

In the analysis of the supposed reasons for his detention, it was stated, “The following items were found in the detainee’s compound: laptop computer, bolt-action rifle, seven rounds of ammunition, SIM card. The following items were found at the place of capture: ID card, cell phone, calling cards, bold-action rifle, small pocket litter.”

Clearly, however, this had nothing to do with Nawar Khan, as he explained:

I am a poor person. All the stuff you accuse me of I wasn’t involved … I don’t know anything about anything that was found. I am a farmer … I don’t know whose items that were captured belong to. I am tired of the dispute. I’m just a farmer and land is an important thing for me. It’s up to the board for your decision to make.

He also said:

I have had a brother killed by Coalition Forces. There was fighting going on between two tribes because they were arguing about who owned the mountain. They had people bring them drinking water up to the mountains because they were fighting with each other. My brother went by himself to provide water for a nomad tribe because they paid [him] money. When [he] was coming back, the Coalition Forces shot him. I don’t know if he ran from them or somebody told something against him, but they shot him. My brother went to the fight without saying anything to our parents. He did something wrong and God punished him for that. I don’t blame anybody, and I don’t have any bad feelings towards anyone. My brother died maybe two or three years before my capture.

And, perhaps demonstrating how difficult his life was in general, he also said, “Since I have been here, I have been treated very good. I am happy. I learned some Pashtu training. I am in farming class too.”

ISN 3820: Bismullah

At a Detainee Review Board on September 24, 2009, the board recommended that he should be transferred to the Afghan authorities for criminal prosecution. The exact circumstances of his capture were not spelled out, but it was clear that he was seized in connection with explosives held in a compound, as, in response to questions that were not included in the transcript, he said:

  • No, I was not in the compound with the explosives.
  • I did not know that the Taliban kept or held weapons there.
  • The compound is about a 30-minute walk.
  • The Taliban never approached my brother.

In a statement, he also said:

Four people were detained when I was captured with my family. I am innocent. I am a farmer. We have no hostility. We are a peaceful people. I have no one to support my family. We have not done anything violent. My father was there but they released him because he was not able to walk. We would live in the city away from violence but we do not have the money. We need your help … I am innocent. Detain and arrest people only involved in violent acts.

ISN 3822: Abdul Janan

At a Detainee Review Board on September 24, 2009, the board recommended that he should be transferred to the Afghan authorities for criminal prosecution. According to the US authorities, “He supports the Taliban and associated forces” and “was observed fleeing from an IED factory with eight other individuals,” but in a statement, Abdul Janan said, “I teach children and I am innocent.” He added, “My name is ‘Janan’, ‘Mullah Janan.’”

In response to specific questions about the circumstances of his capture, which were not included in the transcript, he said:

  • I do not know whose motorcycle that was. I was not riding one. I was at my house all day long.
  • I do not know whose phone was recovered the night I was captured. I do not know how explosives ended up on the clothes that I was wearing. The clothes I originally had on got dirty and the family that I was staying with gave me fresh clothes to put on so that I could pray and [so] that they could be washed.
  • I have a wife and children. I learned my lesson from this; and if I am released, I will live a peaceful and free life … If I get released, I will live my life as a mullah.
  • A water pump accident caused me to lose my fingers.

In a final statement to the board, he said, “I have nothing else to say other than I am worried about my family.”

ISN 3823: Sadullah

At a Detainee Review Board on September 24, 2009, the board recommended that he should be transferred to the Afghan authorities for criminal prosecution, although it was unclear why, as all the allegations were redacted, and all that remained were his assertions that he was seized at his home, and that US forces found nothing incriminating:

  • We are a very poor people. If you have any proof, then don’t release me. I am a farmer. You can ask anyone and they will say that I am not involved in this. There is an old saying, “If you are not a thief, then you are not scared of the king.” I was brought here as an innocent person.
  • Yes, I do have a brother named [redacted]. We were captured together at my home. I do not know anyone by name of [redacted].
  • I do not know a man by the name [redacted]. My father was there with me when I was captured, but they did not take him.

In a final statement, he said, “I am an innocent man. You found nothing at my house when it was searched. [Showing feet to members] I have calluses on my feet from farming. I am from a big village.”

ISN 3824: Idris

At a Detainee Review Board on September 24, 2009, the board recommended that he should be transferred to the Afghan authorities for criminal prosecution. In hand-written notes on a rare “Unclassified Summary” included with the documentation, it was claimed that he “AttenDeD [sic] a jihad tRaNiNg [sic] camp,” filmed an attack on a vehicle, and participated in an attack.

In his defense, he made the following statement, which, I must admit, I cannot entirely understand:

All of my friends received a job and I was left in my village without one. The Taliban told me I was smart and gave me money to fight. When I was captured, I wasn’t beaten or mistreated so I knew that the Taliban deceived me. I never fought or trained with the Taliban.

He also said:

  • If I get out, I will try to find a job with a friend.
  • I am 20 years old. I am going to look for a job to generate money and income. If I was going to go back to the Taliban, why would I tell you I was with the Taliban? I was very scared during the bombing.
  • I did not attend a training camp.

ISN 3825: Khalilullah

At a Detainee Review Board on September 24, 2009, the board concluded that he did “not meet the criteria for internment,” and a senior officer approved his release without conditions. The basis of his capture was not officially explained, but in a statement Khalilullah was able to explain, “I am innocent. I have not done anything. I am only a teacher. I have no connections to those groups whatsoever.”

He also said:

  • I am in prison, so I don’t know of the current government. I am a teacher of the Qu’ran.
  • I have no connection with jihadists. I am not familiar with the jihadists in the Khowst Province. I think that proper planning by the Afghanistan government would get jihad out of this country.

ISN 3829: Bakhtyar

At a Detainee Review Board on September 24, 2009, the board recommended that he should be transferred to the Afghan authorities for criminal prosecution. Although the allegations against him were not spelled out, it was clear that they involved claims that he was involved in some sort of insurgent movement because he had transported weapons, as the following passage shows:

Those weapons in the photo are not mine. I just transported the weapons from the village to the mosque. I hand carried the weapons. I transported them for money but I did not get paid. If I get released, I will be a farmer on my father’s land and raise my brothers. I will not carry weapons for them again nor walk with them.

Who “they” were was not explained, although elsewhere he said, perhaps confusingly, “There is no Taliban or jihad movement in my area.” It was perhaps more significant when he said, “I do not know who is supporting the Taliban in my area.” What was also clear, however, as Bakhtyar himself pointed out, is that he was a poor, uneducated man who needed money:

  • I don’t have an education. If you can read the charges, then I can explain them one by one.
  • I am the oldest son of my family and I need to raise my brothers because my father is dead.

ISN 3839: Mohammad Azim

At a Detainee Review Board on October 1, 2009, the board recommended that he should be transferred to the Afghan authorities for criminal prosecution. In an “Unclassified Summary,” it was stated that he “was in possession of approximately 2050 voter cards, with his fingerprints on 442 of them,” although another charge was redacted.

In a statement, and in response to questions, Azim said:

  • I graduated from school and then I was working for the government of Afghanistan. How could I be a Taliban member? The reporting that you have on me was from one of my enemies.
  • I am from the Ebad village. [Redacted ] is one of the vllagers and he works for the Taliban.
  • I was working on the election for Afghanistan. I made cards so that women could vote. This task was given to me by the district. I previously had been working to improve the country.
  • I do have a car and it is a gray station wagon. I was asked to go to NDS [the Afghan National Directorate of Security] and they said that I was not guilty of anything. I was detained for 4 days. I have a cousin that reported to NDS because I burned his hay and that is why I was arrested. The person that accused me is working for NDS and that is why I was arrested.

In a final statement, he said, “I am innocent. You can ask the mayor of our district or the school about me.”

ISN 3845: Sher Agha (Dil Awar)

At a Detainee Review Board on June 5, 2010, the board recommended that he should be transferred to the Afghan authorities for participation in a reconciliation or reintegration program, but a more senior figure then ordered his release instead.

The allegations against him were that “he was found with an SD card, which contained propaganda videos and images,” and also that a computer was found at the compound where he was captured, However, in response he not only said that his name was “Dil Awar,” and not Sher Agha, but also explained that he had worked at a motorcycle dealership for 19 years before he was detained, that he had been invited to the compound where he was captured, and that the computer was not his. He also stated:

I got the SD card/memory chip from a bizarre [sic]. I put these pictures on the SD card. I don’t know where the propaganda videos of exploding coalition forces vehicles on my SD card came from. I bought the memory card used and didn’t know what was on the card before when I bought it.

In the detailed account of his review board hearing, he also said:

  • I have never supported the Taliban with anything.
  • I don’t make that much money to help anybody, only enough to help my family.
  • I have not planned or executed any attacks against the coalition forces.
  • I do not have enemies, but some people may be trying to make money.
  • I don’t know who would say I was taking part in Taliban activities.
  • I am well liked in my village. I don’t know of anyone who dislikes me.

He also provided the explanation of why he had a photo of himself with a weapon:

I took the pictures because I wanted a picture of me with the weapon. People take pictures with lots of different things, so what is so wrong with me taking a picture with a weapon?

He also said, “I am happy with coalition forces; they are all right. The Taliban are not so good. I don’t know if there are Taliban in the area I’m from.”

In his review board hearing, an Afghan civilian witness was also called, who corroborated his account, stating the following:

  • I am from Ghazni province, Khalati village, it’s my hometown.
  • I am the lead elder of the village and I farm.
  • I know the detainee, he is my neighbor. I’ve never heard of him being called another name but Dil Awar. I’ve known him since he was a little baby.
  • He worked at the motorcycle dealer.
  • He was visiting some relatives for Laundy [?] and then coalition forces arrested him. I don’t know why he was arrested.
  • I’ve never seen or heard of him being involved in anti-coalition activities.
  • He is not a member of any terrorist group that I’ve heard of.
  • If he was part of any of those terrorist groups I would never have come to testify on his behalf.
  • If you release him, then I will make sure he doesn’t do anything wrong and I will keep an eye on him.
  • If you release Dil Awar, please don’t release him to the Afghan government because his father is poor and doesn’t have enough money to bribe to get him released from the Afghan government.

Dil Awar’s father also made a statement:

[He] has been here for about 19 montns. I am very old, and I sold my property because I wasn’t able to keep it up. Now I don’t have any money and I am really old and will probably be dying soon. Please release my son because I want to be buried with his hands. My son’s kids were crying for their father before I came here and want their father back. The Mullah here came here because he’s going to vouch for Dil Awar. I’m not saying you guys are guilty for holding him here. I know someone must have said something about him and that’s why he’s being detained here. Please let me stay in place of my son here so he can go back and take care of his family. I can’t support his family because I am poor and have no money. Thank you for letting me make a statement.

ISN 3877: Shamsuddin Ul-Rahman

At a Detainee Review Board on September 24, 2009, the board recommended that Ul-Rahman, a lumber driver, should be transferred to the Afghan authorities for criminal prosecution. What he was alleged to have done was not made clear, although it seemed to involve a claim that he was involved in distributing threatening “night letters” from the Taliban to people in his village, and also that his name was mentioned on a Taliban radio transmission.

As he said:

I have not seen “night letters” in all of my life. Everyone in my village hates the Taliban. Every Taliban is my enemy because they killed my uncle. I do not know why my name was mentioned on a Taliban radio when I was captured. If I was released, I would bring my whole family to Kabul so that I can work and they can go to good schools.

He also said:

I am a poor man and my children have no one to take care of them. I am not Taliban and these are wrong accusations against me. I just want to go and take care of my kids. I am glad that America is here in Afghanistan because the overall pay has gone up. When I was captured, they searched my home and nothing was found. I will always prefer to have my family over Taliban. My uncle was with the government and, when the Taliban found out, they killed him. I hate the Taliban because of this. I.am happy with the Americans and I just want to be with my family.

ISN 3932: Bahram Jan

At a Detainee Review Board on October 1, 2009, the board recommended that he should be transferred to the Afghan authorities for criminal prosecution. Although the allegations against him were not made clear, it was apparent that they involved a claim that he was involved in handling materials to be used in an IED attack, although he refuted the claim:

I have a mental problem and I forget things. The IED materials are not mine. The explosive materials were given to me to take care of. The explosives were in a box and I did not know what was inside the box. The reporting on me was false.

He also said:

  • I have always been cooperative.
  • I buy and sell flowers. If I am released I would sell goods. I was threatened by the Taliban to cooperate.
  • I’m a poor person, you should capture the Taliban. US is always very nice and I will help and cooperate if I am paid.

ISN 3938: Abdullah

At a Detainee Review Board on October 1, 2009, the board recommended that he should be transferred to the Afghan authorities for criminal prosecution. The allegations against him were not spelled out, but involved a claim that he had been involved with explosives, although he denied it:

I am a mullah of two families. The book was an address book to family members. I have never touched explosives and I am a poor person. [Redacted] is a mullah.

He also said:

  • If this is an accusation, then that is different than proof. If you have proof, then you can hang me.
  • If you are keeping me for being a mullah, then that is not a crime. You can keep me for 100 years, but I have never touched explosives.

ISN 3939: Noor Alam

At a Detainee Review Board on October 1, 2009, the board recommended that he should be transferred to the Afghan authorities for criminal prosecution. As usual, the allegations were not spelled out, although a heavily redacted “Unclassified Summary” included the words, “cell member.” In his defense, he stated:

I am a land owner and a carpenter. I know nothing of politics. I was caught by Taliban and they said that the infidels were coming and then they left me in the car and I was caught by US forces.

He also said, “[Redacted], a Taliban member, is my sister-in-law’s son. [Redacted] is my brother-in-law. [Redacted] was kicked out of the village by the elders.” He added, “I did not provide water for Taliban forces.”

ISN 3952: Jai Gul

At a Detainee Review Board on October 15, 2009, the board concluded that he did “not meet the criteria for internment,” and a senior officer approved his release without conditions. Unfortunately, the redactions in the document mean that there is no clue as to what he was alleged to have done, just the following statements by Gul himself:

  • I am a poor man. I was happy when America and the Coalition Forces came to Afghanistan. I am a small farmer and I was waiting on Spring to come.
  • My village is called Wurzana Kalay. I know nothing of Taliban there because I have not seen them. I am busy with my own work and I am poor. My younger brother is a very bad and hated person in my village.
  • If I were released, I would go to my garden and plant seedlings and take care of it. I would be enough to feed and provide for my family.

In the saddest passage, he spoke about how well he had been treated, which, I think, showed up the desperation of his life before imprisonment:

Everything is good here but the detainees. The food, guards, and everything is good but the detainees are loud and bang on the cages because some of them are on strike. I get treated better here than I ever did at home. I have never received good treatment like this in my whole life. I try to be nice.

He also spoke about the abuse he received on capture, saying, “When I was detained, the American Army hit me,” which prompted a US Captain, perhaps acting as his representative, to ask “that the board inquire deeper into the abuse of the detainee at the time of capture,” and Jai Gul made the following statements to questions that were then asked:

  • The army guard at capture hit me when I told him that I did not do anything wrong. He slapped the right side of my face and it caused my head to hit the wall. [The detainee lifted his right hand and placed it on his right cheek and simulated a motion that looked like his head was hitting a wall].
  • I do not remember what the guard looked like because I was dizzy and bleeding after I got hit.

At the end of the hearing, he said, “Please help me because there is no one to feed my family and they have no source of income.”

ISN 3990: Abdul Samad

At a Detainee Review Board on June 9, 2010, the board concluded that he should continue to be held at Parwan. From the information presented, it was obvious that he was seized in a compound in which there was a large amount of material that US forces thought significant, including “spools or copper wiring, car batteries and battery chargers, remote controls, electrical tape and clips with trip wires, ammunition, two frag-grenades, and multiple blasting caps with some caps found in the Detainee’s pocket, three cell phones-one cell phone found [redacted], three walkie-talkies, 14 SIM cards, inventories of nefarious materials, ledgers, and Jihad poetry.” Also found were an “RPK machine gun, with used ammunition,” plus “part of ‘Stars and Stripes’ newspaper, a DVD, and a used bandolier.”

However, Abdul Samad claimed that he had no knowledge of any of it, except his school books. “There were four of us detained, my two uncles and one cousin,” he said, adding, “I am an honest person. These things that you have read to me I do not have. The only things that are mine are my store [school?] books. I am a student and I am not involved with IEDs at all. I do not have anything else to say, feel free to ask me questions.”

ISN 3995: Hajji Agha Jan

At a Detainee Review Board on June 7, 2010, the board recommended that he should be transferred to the Afghan authorities for participation in a reconciliation or reintegration program. In the documentation, it was stated that on capture, the following items were seized: “six hard drives, one laptop computer, nine SIM cards, loose papers, business cards, telephone directories, 1630 Afghani, 1690 Pakistani Rupees, 20 US dollars, camcorder with tape, still camera and case, Polaroid camera with scope, four ID books, five ID cards, three Afghanistan passports indicating numerous trips to Pakistan, airline ticket. receipt book, photo album, phone book, and audio cassette.” It was also noted, “Detainee’s computer and hard drives contained anti-coalition propaganda. Detainee claimed in his last Detainee Review Board hearing that his son was responsible for these materials.”

In a detailed statement, in which he protested his innocence, and also seemed to suggest that he had been robbed at the time of his capture, he said:

The allegation[s] that I’ve heard here are entirely false. If there is any proof, then, of course, I am guilt[y]. But there is no truth to these allegations. While I am making my statements my witnesses hear me and listen to me. I am a businessman. I don’t need to be involved in these activities. Of course, I have telephones. That doesn’t mean that I am part of the Taliban. I don’t know how to operate a computer. I bought it for my sons, for their education. There is nothing on the computer against the government or against the coalition forces. If you have any proof from outside my house, if someone in the village said something, I will take responsibility for that. You will not find anyone in the village who will accuse me of these things. While I have been detained in the facility, I have not cause[d] any problems or been involved in any detainee reports (DR’s). At the time of the search, I left $28,500 US dollars with my passports and some other business cards. How come they only mentioned 20 US dollars? Any witnesses that will testify against me, or any documents against me, I have a right to know about them. I am a businessman. I don’t hide anything from the board. Anyone who knows me knows that I am an innocent man, I [am] not involved in any activities against the government, nor do I have any ties to the Taliban.

During questions from board members, he not only dealt with questions about people regarded with suspicion by US forces, whom he admitting knowing but not being close to, but also answered questions about his computer as follows:

I can’t tell if that is my computer. I don’t know how to run a computer. I know that it is a computer, but I can’t identify it … It’s common in Afghanistan now to find videos of beheadings and IED explosions in the bazaar. Maybe my kids bought them just for fun. I myself am not involved. I didn’t buy them. I have never been against the government or the coalition forces. I’m a well-liked businessman, and I have nothing to do with those kinds of videos.

Speaking further of his sons and his work, he said:

I have ten sons, all of which live with me. They all use the same laptop. I don’t know how to work the computer, so I don’t know how to keep track of what they are doing on it. My sons are not dangerous people. They are my kids. In the area where I live, there is no Taliban. I live in the middle of the city for the last sixteen years. I live in Sahino, and there is not Taliban influence. If I were released, I would just continue with my businesses. I have some house[s], shops and lands. I own about 2,500 acres of land. I am not in favor of those who want to destroy the country. I am in favor of those who build the country. I am in favor of the government, the Coalition Forces, and American Forces. I have farmers and supervisors who take care of my land. I lease my lands to other people, and they grow grain and wheat on it. I do not personally work on the land. I am not a farmer. I have a brother-in-law in [redacted], who takes care of leasing the lands to people.

Speaking of Pakistan, he said:

I have made some trips to Pakistan because I have a cooking oil factory there. I go there to take care of business. Also, sometimes when someone in my family gets sick, I take them to Pakistan for treatment. I do business in Dubai involving cooking oil, dry milk and sugar.

In a final statement, after witnesses had also spoken on his behalf, he said:

I have been detained here for almost a year. What is the reason for my detainment here? I have no ties with the Taliban. I have never been in favor of the Taliban. I have never lied in the previous interrogation and I will never lie in any future interrogation.

ISN 3997: Ajmal Shamsher

At a Detainee Review Board on June 9, 2010, the board concluded that he did “not meet the criteria for internment,” and a senior officer approved his release without conditions. In the documentation, it was stated that he had been seized on April 22, 2009, but the exact allegations against him were not spelled out. However, he told the board, “I have a land dispute with a guy and he is the one who made the false report,” explained that “My brother, his son, his five daughters, my two wives, and seven children live with me,” and made the following statement:

My name is Ajmal. My dad’s name is [redacted]. I was a member of the local security team … I was driving for the Government of Afghanistan and I worked all my life to reconcile the differences between people in different parts. When I was driving for the Government I had the Taliban actually threaten to kill me. With all these threats why do you guys think that I am a member of the Taliban? If they are trying to kill me why would I try to be a part of them and support them? This is a proven fact that I have never been part of the Taliban. The Taliban burned my truck trying to kill me. Whoever reported to you that I am a bad person is against peace and reconciliation … They are my enemies and have made false reports about me. As I told you before, if the oil, diesel and spare parts for my truck are considered explosives than these are the only ones I have. The Taliban is out to kill me.

Witnesses also spoke on his behalf.

ISN 4112: Rahmat Wali

At a Detainee Review Board on September 17, 2009, the board recommended that he should be transferred to the Afghan authorities for criminal prosecution. In a rare “Unclassified Summary” included with the documentation, it was stated that he “was captured [redacted] weapons network and its commander,” but there were no further clues as to what he was accused of. He reportedly “stated that he is glad that the Americans came because now we have good schools for his children,” adding that “he had never been involved with the Taliban coming from Pakistan to Afghanistan,” and “that he was afraid of the Taliban and Haqqani Network [an independent insurgent group, under veteran warlord and former mujahideen commander Maulvi Jalaluddin Haqqani, which is closely aligned with the Taliban].” There is no further information, however, as no one on the board asked him any questions.

ISN 4122: Abdul Ghani

At a Detainee Review Board on October 8, 2009, the board concluded that he did “not meet the criteria for internment,” and a senior officer approved his release without conditions. He was evidently a teacher, as the following statement reveals:

I’m not a Taliban member and have no association with them. My nephew was with me going to a wedding. I stayed the night in Deh Chopan [redacted]. I don’t understand why I’m here. I’m from a sub district in Zabol. I have lived there for 10 years. I’m a teacher and after my students pass five grades I teach them religion as well.

After explaining that the “Taliban are not in the district itself but in the mountains,” and that, “If released, I would go back to teaching,” he also explained that he was captured with two others, who had both been released. As he said, “[Redacted] is my friend and was released as well as my brother.”

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) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Digg and YouTube). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in July 2010, details about the new documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, on tour in the UK throughout 2011, and available on DVD here — or here for the US), my definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all my articles, and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.

As published exclusively on Cageprisoners.

The New Yorker’s Hendrik Hertzberg Criticizes Obama for Failure to Close Guantánamo, or to Call for Accountability for Torture

In case readers missed it, I’m cross-posting below (wth my own links) an article about Guantánamo — and accountability for torture — written by Hendrik Hertzberg, a senior editor at the New Yorker, and a man described, on Wikipedia, as the New Yorker‘s “principal political commentator,” and by Forbes, in a survey of the 25 Most Influential Liberals In The US Media in 2009, as having been “[f]oremost among a tribe of opinion writers that waged a form of moral war against the Bush administration.”

This is an important article, in which Hertzberg contrasts Guantánamo unfavorably with how the United States treated prisoners of war in the Second World War, describing how a “relative handful of shackled, isolated prisoners has somehow been permitted to engender a miasma of popular fear and political cowardice that contrasts shamefully with the matter-of-fact courage of an earlier and simpler time.” In addition, when writing about how Obama’s promise to close Guantánamo has not come to pass, he correctly identifies the reasons as “a combination of political nihilism on the part of Republicans, political ineptitude on the part of his own Administration, and political fecklessness on the part of the people’s representatives on Capitol Hill.”

Crucially, however, Hertzberg recommends that Obama could, and should address “the lack of any official accountability for the abuses of the past, especially the embrace of torture,” noting, “Perhaps there are good, prudential reasons for stopping short of prosecuting those who authorized this vile offense to elementary morality for the crimes against American and international law that it entailed,” but adding, “No such reasons forbid the appointment of a truth commission,” which “would be a healthy act of atonement.”

Prisoners
By Hendrik Hertzberg, The New Yorker, April 18, 2011

On May 13, 1943, Axis forces in North Africa surrendered. The Allies suddenly found themselves saddled with nearly three hundred thousand prisoners of war, including the bulk of General Erwin Rommel’s famed Afrika Korps. Unable to feed or house their share, the British asked their American comrades to relieve them of the burden. And so, by the tens of thousands, German soldiers were loaded aboard Liberty Ships, which had carried American troops across the Atlantic. Eventually, some five hundred P.O.W. camps, scattered across forty-five of the forty-eight United States, housed some four hundred thousand men. In every one of those camps, the Geneva conventions were adhered to so scrupulously that, after the war, not a few of the inmates decided to stick around and become Americans themselves. That was extraordinary rendition, Greatest Generation style.

The “war on terror” is a very different kind of war, and the prisoners thereof are very different, too. It’s not just that a higher proportion of them appear to have been truly dedicated to the ideology in whose name they were fighting, or that they were unaffiliated with a government. It’s also that their numbers are small — a hamlet compared to the city-size P.O.W. population of 1945. In the nine years since the creation of the purpose-built prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, a grand total of seven hundred and seventy-nine men (and boys — the youngest was fifteen years old when he was captured) have been sent there. It currently holds a hundred and seventy-two. Yet this relative handful of shackled, isolated prisoners has somehow been permitted to engender a miasma of popular fear and political cowardice that contrasts shamefully with the matter-of-fact courage of an earlier and simpler time.

A week ago, on the same day that President Obama officially launched his campaign for reelection, his Attorney General, Eric Holder, announced that Guantánamo’s most notorious inmate, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, along with four others accused of direct involvement in the 9/11 attacks, will at last be brought to trial — but on Cuban, not American, soil, and before a panel of military officers, not a civilian judge and jury. You may recall that the last time Barack Obama was a candidate he promised that, if elected, he would shut Guantánamo down (by then a fairly uncontroversial position, one that even President Bush and his would-be Republican successor had come around to) and that he would see to it that accused terrorists were prosecuted in civilian courts rather than by military commissions. He promised, too, that his Administration would not continue indefinite detention without indictment or trial and, of course, that it would put a definitive end to the use of torture. He has been able to keep only the last of these promises fully. The rest have been undone by a combination of political nihilism on the part of Republicans, political ineptitude on the part of his own Administration, and political fecklessness on the part of the people’s representatives on Capitol Hill.

Two days after the inauguration, Obama, in the dazzling dawn of his Presidency, issued an executive order directing that the Guantánamo detention camps “be closed as soon as practicable, and no later than one year from the date of this order.” The slippage began less than a month later, with a complicated legal tussle over seventeen Gitmo prisoners. Even though they were Chinese Uighurs who had had nothing to do with anti-American violence, the mere possibility that they might set foot on the United States mainland was enough to ignite a brushfire of not-in-my-back-yard hysteria. By May of 2009, it had reached the point where the Senate voted, 90–6, not only to keep Gitmo open indefinitely but also to block the transfer of any of its detainees to U.S. soil, where the civilian courts are. (Though all six dissenters were Democrats, the rest of the caucus voted with the Republicans.) At times, Administration bungling has enabled local grandstanding. Later in 2009, the Justice Department neglected to prepare New York’s City Hall for the impact of its original plan for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, which was to try him in a Manhattan civilian court. Mayor Bloomberg, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, and Senator Charles Schumer quickly turned tail, and so did Obama.

A dispiriting series of tactical retreats from civil-liberties principles has followed. In January of this year, the President signed a politically veto-proof defense-appropriation bill that had been amended to again block funding for any transfer of detainees from Guantánamo to the home of the brave. In March, Obama issued another executive order. While it establishes twice-yearly reviews of the status of current detainees, confirms their habeas-corpus rights, and permits them to be represented by outside lawyers as well as by government-appointed defenders, the order also allows trials by military commissions to go forward, and at Guantánamo to boot. Now, in April, we learn that one such trial will be the case that, a year ago, Holder said (to this magazine’s Jane Mayer) would be “the defining event of my time as Attorney General.” It appears that Holder’s prediction will come true, though not in the way he intended. He was sure that he had an overwhelming case against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, one that would not have relied on evidence obtained through torture. (Mohammed was waterboarded a hundred and eighty-three times.) But he lost the bureaucratic battle. His anger last week as he announced the decision could not quite mask the Administration’s shame.

The collapse of Obama’s effort to close Guantánamo is the kind of failure that, in our atomized, increasingly dysfunctional political system, has a thousand deadbeat dads. But it has always been within the President’s power to remedy one aspect of the moral morass that Guantánamo symbolizes: the lack of any official accountability for the abuses of the past, especially the embrace of torture. There is no dispute that there was torture, that it was systematic, and that it was encouraged at the highest levels — George W. Bush, in his memoir, currently adorning the best-seller lists, practically boasts of approving it. Perhaps there are good, prudential reasons for stopping short of prosecuting those who authorized this vile offense to elementary morality for the crimes against American and international law that it entailed. No such reasons forbid the appointment of a truth commission. The work of such a commission, charged with compiling the record, affixing responsibility, and formally acknowledging what was done, would be a healthy act of atonement.

Obama has said more than once that he prefers to look forward, not backward. Not everyone feels that way. As soon as the Khalid Sheikh Mohammed reversal was announced, Peter King, the New York Republican who heads the House Committee on Homeland Security, called it “yet another vindication of President Bush’s detention policies.” It is no such thing. Even with all the failings of the current Administration, the difference between its approach and its predecessor’s is the difference between night and day, albeit a rainy, miserable day, overcast with dark clouds. But, by elevating amnesia to official policy, the President has put himself in a poor position to make even that argument.

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) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Digg and YouTube). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in July 2010, details about the new documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, on tour in the UK throughout 2011, and available on DVD here — or here for the US), my definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all my articles, and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.

Andy Worthington Discusses Guantánamo and the Failure of US Justice Under Obama with Peter B. Collins

Yesterday, it was my great pleasure to speak for over a hour with my friend, the veteran progressive radio show host Peter B. Collins, for his latest podcast, available here, which also features the journalist Robert Parry talking about Luis Posada Carriles and his article covering the jury trial and acquittal of Posada, the former head of Venezuelan intelligence, in El Paso last week.

This is how Peter described the show:

Two great journalists: Andy Worthington, author of The Guantánamo Files, comments on Obama’s cave-in on trials of 9/11 suspects, offers new info on our prisons in Afghanistan, and compares Britain’s political struggles to our own; Robert Parry offers history and context on the recent trial of CIA asset and Cuban exile Luis Posada Carriles.

In this article, Worthington reports that the same week Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder yielded on the trials, the Supreme Court refused to hear habeus corpus appeals of Gitmo inmates, allowing the conservative D.C. Court of Appeals to control the legal issues — consigning more than 100 innocent men to indefinite detention without charge or trial. Leaders of both parties are pandering to public fears, and the courts that limited Bush’s expansive view of presidential power are now maintaining that expansion for Obama. Worthington also talks about the new prison at Bagram with about 1,900 detainees, as well as the scattered prisons in Afghanistan where prisoners are interrogated using questionable methods. And he closes with an update on the Cameron government in Britain, and how its efforts mirror GOP positions in the US.

Peter’s podcasts provide a wonderful opportunity to discuss important topics in depth without commercial breaks, and our latest outing was no exception, as Peter allowed me to go deep into recent events which have demonstrated how both the Obama administration and the Supreme Court have now given up on doing anything that will lead to the closure of Guantánamo, or that will involve bringing justice to any of the 172 men still held.

The first of these is the administration’s cowardly retreat from the promised federal court trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other men accused of involvement in the 9/11 attacks, which I covered in my article, Holder, Obama and the Cowardly Shame of Guantánamo and the 9/11 Trial, and also in my cross-posting of the now-discarded indictment, filed in New York in December 2009, which provides a context for the planned trial as part of a series of federal court trials that began in 1993 with the trial of Ramzi Yousef, the first (and failed) World Trade Center bomber, whose uncle is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Seen from this perspective, of course, the abandonment of the 9/11 trial for nakedly political reasons is even more disturbing, and serves only to demonstrate how, on “national security,” the adminstration has capitulated horribly, and has vindicated Bush and Cheney from beyond the political grave.

As for the Supreme Court, I spoke at length not only about the history of the habeas litigation at Guantánamo, which has rarely received the coverage it should have, and also about the Supreme Court’s largely overlooked capitulation last Monday, which I discussed in my article, How the Supreme Court Gave Up on Guantánamo. This, sadly, appears to confirm that the justices are happy that the decision-making power on issues relating to Guantánamo is now in the hands of judges in the D.C. Circuit Court, even though they include poisonous right-wing ideologues like Judge A. Raymond Randolph, who voted for every Guantánamo-related piece of legislation under President Bush that was subsequently overturned by the Supreme Court. I mentioned how that court included Justice John Paul Stevens, whose retirement last year seems, ironically, to have created a generally more right-wing Supreme Court under President Obama, at least on “national security” issues, and also about how outrageous it is that the D.C. Circuit has been given a free rein to block all Guantánamo releases by, effectively, gutting habeas corpus of all meaning, and how depressing it is that almost no one in America’s mainsteam media has even noticed.

As mentioned in Peter’s introduction to the show, we also discussed the situation in Afghanistan, and especially the detention of prisoners at the US prison at Bagram airbase (who are now held in a new, rebranded facility known as the Detention Facility at Parwan). Peter picked up on ths topic because of his ongoing interest in it, but, in particular, because I have been examining the situation in Afghanistan in a series called “Bagram Week,” which has, to date featured the following articles — Updating the Definitive Bagram Prisoner List — 200 Review Board Decisions to Release, Transfer or Detain Added, Broken Justice at Bagram — for Afghans, and for Foreign Prisoners Held by the US, Voices from Bagram: Prisoners Speak in Their Detainee Review Boards (Part One of Three), The “Dark Side” of Bagram: An Ex-Prisoner’s Account of Two Years of Abuse and Bagram and Beyond: New Revelations About Secret US Torture Prisons in Afghanistan.

I was delighted that Peter wanted to talk about the largely overlooked situation in Afghanistan, where the Geneva Conventions have not been throughly reintroduced after the Bush years, where secret frontline facilities still exist where torture is practiced, where foreigners rendered to Bagram from other countries up to nine years ago are still held outside the law, and where the rebranding of the prison as somewhere more humane cannot disguise that fact that there is still violence and prejudice, and that the basis for holding prisoners is still as arrogant and generally misguided as it has been throughout the “War on Terror.”

Finally, Peter asked me to talk briefly about the political situation in the UK, following the creation of a coalition government after last May’s General Election, which I have been discussing in my onging series, Battle for Britain: Fighting the Coalition Government’s Vile Ideology. I was happy to do so, not only because the core values ensuring the stablity and fairness of my own country are under attack by arrogant ideologues who have finally given up on pretending that the welfare of all is of any interest to them (because they are only interested in the desires of the rich and the super-rich), but also because this situation is now being replicated throughout the countries of the West, and, of course, has very clear echoes in the United States.

This discussion involved a call for the creation of a revolutionary state of mind, which I hope will not fall on deaf ears, as it is clear to me that we have never before been so abandoned by mainstream politicians, and that we need to start thinking seriously about how to reclaim the machinery of politics for the people, before we are consigned to an ever increasing ghetto of powerlessness and poverty.

My thanks to Peter for creating the opportunity to discuss all these important topics, and for being such a well-informed host, and I do hope that you have the time to listen to the show.

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) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Digg and YouTube). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in July 2010, details about the new documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, on tour in the UK throughout 2011, and available on DVD here — or here for the US), my definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all my articles, and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.

How the Supreme Court Gave Up on Guantánamo

Last Monday, on the very same day that the Obama administration gave up on Guantánamo, so too did the Supreme Court. As far as we know, it was not a choreographed climbdown — nor had money been offered by George W. Bush and Dick Cheney to rehabilitate their legacies — but the effect was the same.

For opponents of the unconstitutional aberration that is Guantánamo, last Monday — April 4, 2011 — will go down in the history books as the day that they were obliged to watch impotently as federal court trials for terrorist suspects were discarded or discredited, the tired and tawdry looking “War on Terror” was revitalized, and the Supreme Court, through its inaction, decided that judges in the D.C. Circuit Court — who have publicly criticized the Supreme Court for incompetence — should continue to decide detainee policy at Guantánamo.

What this means, as I will spell out in detail below, is that, having gutted habeas corpus of all meaning in rulings over the last 15 months, the D.C. Circuit Court will be allowed to continue deciding that every prisoner still held at Guantánamo should — and very possibly will — be held forever, regardless of whether they were cleared for release by other judges, or by the President’s own interagency Guantánamo Review Task Force.

In last Monday’s first capitulation, the Obama administration — via Attorney General Eric Holder — abandoned a 16-month promise to try alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four others in federal court, capitulating to Republican pressure — and a ban on moving prisoners to the US mainland to face trials, which was unconstitutionally implemented by Congress in December — by announcing that the men would, instead, be tried by Military Commission at Guantánamo.

The administration therefore fulfilled a key Republican aim — ensuring that the highest-profile prisoners in Bush’s “War on Terror” would be regarded as “warriors” rather than as criminals — and, in effect, turned the clock back to 2008, when the Bush administration held three pre-trial hearings in the Military Commissions of these five men.

Admittedly, the Obama administration bears the ultimate responsibility, having revived the Military Commissions in the summer of 2009, when senior officials could have consigned the reviled system to the grave of failed legal novelties. In addition, it may all backfire, as the Commissions are built on dubious legal sands, and the proceedings tend to be full of holes through which determined defendants like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed will be able to mock America more successfully than in federal court. However, the end result is that Republicans — and, should they wish, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney — will be able to claim that they were right all along.

On the judicial front, the Supreme Court has ducked Guantánamo since its last major intervention, in Boumediene v. Bush, in June 2008, when the justices ruled that the prisoners had constitutionally guaranteed habeas corpus rights, and also ruled that Congress had acted unconstitutionally by attempting to strip the prisoners of those rights in the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 and the Military Commissions Act of 2006.

Although this was an enormously important decision, reinforcing the unusual but crucial ruling in June 2004, in Rasul v. Bush, that the prisoners, though seized in wartime, had habeas rights because the Bush administration had cut off all mechanisms whereby innocent men seized by mistake could prove their innocence, it also sowed the seeds of last Monday’s disaster.

Essentially, the Supreme Court refused to provide a description of an “enemy combatant,” leaving it to the lower courts to decide that, and although the District Court in Washington D.C. did a fine job of coming up with its own definition, and applying it in practice — and tweaking it along the way — in 41 cases from October 2008 to December 2009, for the last 15 months judges in the D.C. Circuit Court (the court of appeals) have fought back, with a number of notoriously right-wing judges refusing to accept the District Court’s generally accepted decision that some sort of involvement in the command structure of al-Qaeda and/or the Taliban is necessary to deny their habeas petitions.

Beginning with Al-Bihani v. Obama in January 2010, in which D.C. Circuit Court judges argued for no limit on the President’s wartime powers in the case of a Yemeni cook for Arab forces supporting the Taliban in Afghanistan, other panels have attacked the “command structure” argument, insisting that being “part of” al-Qaeda and/or the Taliban is sufficient to justify ongoing detention for life, and proceeding to attack the already low threshold required of the government — that it demonstrates its case by a “preponderance of the evidence,” rather than “beyond any reasonable doubt.”

What the D.C. Circuit Court desires, as judges have occasionally spelled out, is for the burden to be nothing more than “some evidence” — and that in a very open-ended way, as I explained in my last broadside directed at the Circuit Court. If they could, one suspects that the Circuit Court judges would simply return to the Combatant Status Review Tribunals at Guantánamo, held in 2004-05, which the Supreme Court in Boumediene found “insufficient.” In the CSRTs, the burden of proof was not on the government, but, outrageously, on the defendant, even through the prisoners in Guantánamo had no way of securing any evidence in their favor, or even of knowing what the government’s supposed case was against them.

In an attempt to overturn the Circuit Court’s dominance of all the arguments regarding the Guantánamo prisoners, a number of submissions have been made to the Supreme Court in recent months, and although these have all been turned down, as I mentioned above, it is worth analyzing what has been happening, in order to understand more thoroughly the dark forces that are now in control.

In an excellent editorial last month, the New York Times addressed the problem with the D.C. Circuit Court, focusing specifically on the court’s opposition to  attempts by the Uighurs — Muslims from China’s oppressed Xinjiang province, seized by mistake, who won their habeas petition in October 2008 — to be allowed to live in the US.

Although the judge in their case, Judge Ricardo Urbina, ordered that they be brought to live in the US in October 2008, the Bush administration — and then the Obama administration — appealed, and in February 2009, long before the Circuit Court specifically began meddling in reversing successful habeas opinions, or unilaterally calling for an expansion of executive power — the Circuit Court agreed. Under Judge A. Raymond Randolph — notorious for endorsing every opinion about Guantánamo under President Bush that was subsequently overturned by the Supreme Court — a panel of judges ruled, as the Times described it, that Judge Urbina “lacked authority to free them in the United States because the ‘political branches’ have ‘exclusive power’ to decide which non-Americans can enter this country.”

Since then, although 12 of the 17 Uighurs have accepted new homes (in Bermuda, Palau and Switzerland), the Court has continued to resist claims made by the other five, who turned down offers to rehouse them made by Palau and at least one other unidentified country, because they did not trust those countries to protect them from the Chinese government.

Appalled by this decision, and by all the other developments in the last 15 months, the Times boldly pointed out that the D.C. Circuit Court “has dramatically restricted the Boumediene ruling,” and that, “In its hands, habeas is no longer a remedy for the problem the Boumediene majority called ‘arbitrary and unlawful restraint.’”

The editors proceeded to note that, in the Uighurs’ brief to the Supreme Court, challenging this decision (as the latest instalment of a case that has bounced around the courts for the last two years), their lawyers point out explicitly that the only constant factor in this case is “the court of appeals’ refusal to apply, or even acknowledge” the Boumediene ruling, and the editors also provided an eye-opening glimpse into the partisan nature of Judge Randolph’s opposition to the decisions regarding Guantánamo that have come before him, explaining:

Judge Randolph … wrote the opinion for the District of Columbia Circuit that the Supreme Court overturned in Boumediene. In a speech called “The Guantánamo Mess” last fall, he said that the justices were wrong to do so and all but expressed contempt for the holding. As the basis for the speech’s title, he compared the justices who reached it to characters in The Great Gatsby. “They were careless people,” he read. “They smashed things up … and let other people clean up the mess they had made.”

This contemptuous approach to the Supreme Court’s ruling prompted the New York Times to respond:

In Kiyemba [the Uighurs' case] and related cases, however, it is Judge Randolph and others on the District of Columbia Circuit who are making the mess. Respected lawyers say they are subverting the Supreme Court and American justice. Of 140 challenging their detentions in the face of this hostility, dozens who should have been freed will likely remain in prison.

In conclusion, the Times sought to remind the Supreme Court that “Alexander Hamilton called ‘arbitrary imprisonments’ by the executive ‘the favorite and most formidable instruments of tyranny,’” and that, in Boumediene, Justice Anthony Kennedy “stressed that habeas is less about detainees’ rights, important as they are, than about the vital judicial power to check undue use of executive power,” adding that this is important because the Circuit Court “has all but nullified that view of judicial power and responsibility backed by Justice Kennedy and the court majority,” and that the Supreme Court should now remind the Circuit Court “which one leads the federal judicial system and which has a solemn duty to follow.”

If the Times‘ editors made a valid case — and I believe they did — then it was the Supreme Court who failed to take their responsibilities on board, because last Monday they refused to consider the Uighurs’ case, and also turned down three other habeas-related submissions — challenging the government’s use of hearsay, the “preponderance of evidence” standard, and the sweeping executive powers endorsed in Al-Bihani.

To date, analysts have suggested that the Supreme Court might have been unwilling to revisit Guantánamo, because Elena Kagan, who replaced Justice John Paul Stevens, served as Obama’s Solicitor General working on Guantánamo issues, and would have had to recuse herself, leaving the court, in all likelihood, split 4-4 on any Guantánamo cases. However, as SCOTUSblog noted, Kagan did not recuse herself from two of the cases turned down last Monday, suggesting that the problem is actually that no one amongst the justices wants to step into the role taken by Justice Stevens, who, from 2004 to 2008, “had been the Court’s leader in asserting a strong role for the Justices in overseeing how the law of detention had developed.”

Along with the Obama administration’s capitulation to Republican demands on Guantánamo, the fact that the Supreme Court, under Obama, has also ended up more right-wing than it was under Bush, when it comes to detention issues in the “War on Terror,” appears to be some sort of cruel joke.

How on earth have we ended up in a situation whereby, as SCOTUSblog explained, the poisonous figure of Judge Randolph has been left in a position in which the Supreme Court’s denial of review last Monday “might … count as a personal triumph” for him — and, thereby, a tacit admission that he was correct to regard Boumediene as a “mess” that requires cleaning up? Was Justice Stevens the only reason that the US justice system did not thoroughly endorse arbitrary detention as official policy under George W. Bush?

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) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Digg and YouTube). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in July 2010, details about the new documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, on tour in the UK throughout 2011, and available on DVD here — or here for the US), my definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all my articles, and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.

As published exclusively on the website of the Future of Freedom Foundation.

On the Torture of Bradley Manning, Obama Ignores Criticism by UN Rapporteur and 300 Legal Experts

In the ongoing scandal regarding the treatment of Pfc Bradley Manning, the alleged whistleblower responsible for leaking a treasure trove of classified US documents to WikiLeaks, who has been held since last July in a military brig in Quantico, Virginia, a slowly building body of criticism turned into a torrent of indignation early last month, when it was revealed that, as well as being kept in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day and checked every five minutes under a “Prevention of Injury” (PoI) order, Manning is also stripped naked every night (apart from a smock) and is made to stand naked outside his cell every morning as the cells are inspected.

In a legal letter to the US authorities, which was released by his lawyer a month ago, Manning described his conditions of confinement in his own words, which were reported in the Guardian as follows:

[Manning explained] how he was placed on suicide watch for three days from 18 January. “I was stripped of all clothing with the exception of my underwear. My prescription eyeglasses were taken away from me and I was forced to sit in essential blindness.”

Manning writes that he believes the suicide watch was imposed not because he was a danger to himself but as retribution for a protest about his treatment held outside Quantico the day before. Immediately before the suicide watch started, he said guards verbally harassed him, taunting him with conflicting orders.

When he was told he was being put on suicide watch, he writes, “I became upset. Out of frustration, I clenched my hair with my fingers and yelled: ‘Why are you doing this to me? Why am I being punished? I have done nothing wrong.’”

He also describes the experience of being stripped naked at night and made to stand for parade in the nude, a condition that continues to this day. “The guard told me to stand at parade rest, with my hands behind my back and my legs spaced shoulder-width apart. I stood at parade rest for about three minutes … The [brig supervisor] and the other guards walked past my cell. He looked at me, paused for a moment, then continued to the next cell. I was incredibly embarrassed at having all these people stare at me naked.”

In the letter, Manning’s lawyer, David E. Coombs, also included excerpts from the brig’s observation records, in which it is repeatedly stated that Manning is “respectful, courteous and well spoken” and that he “does not have any suicidal feelings at this time”. Coombs also noted that, in 16 entries between August last year and January this year, Manning “was evaluated by prison psychiatrists who found he was not a danger to himself and should be removed from the PoI order.”

In response to this clear abuse, critics began to emerge from unusual places. State Department P.J. Crowley, for example, was obliged to resign after he publicly complained that the Pentagon’s handling of Manning was “ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid,” and this week nearly 300 of what the Guardian described as “America’s most eminent legal scholars” (plus other leading academics) have signed a letter complaining about Manning’s treatment. Initiated on the blog Balkinization, and written by two distinguished law professors, Bruce Ackerman of Yale and Yochai Benkler of Harvard, the complaint (published in full below) states that the “degrading and inhumane conditions” to which Pfc Manning is being subjected are illegal, unconstitutional and could even amount to torture.

As the Guardian reported, they “claim Manning’s reported treatment is a violation of the US constitution, specifically the Eighth Amendment forbidding cruel and unusual punishment and the Fifth Amendment that prevents punishment without trial,” and, “in a stinging rebuke to Obama,” state that “he was once a professor of constitutional law, and entered the national stage as an eloquent moral leader. The question now, however, is whether his conduct as commander in chief meets fundamental standards of decency.”

The complaint has been published in the New York Review of Books, and its signatories include Laurence Tribe, a Harvard professor “considered to be America’s foremost liberal authority on constitutional law,” who “taught constitutional law to Barack Obama and was a key backer of his 2008 presidential campaign.” Other signatories include Philip Alston, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Bill Clinton’s former labour secretary Robert Reich, President Theodore Roosevelt’s great-great-grandson Kermit Roosevelt, and Norman Dorsen, the former president of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Tribe, who joined the Obama administration last year as a legal adviser in the Justice Department, but who left his post three months ago, told the Guardian that the treatment of Manning was objectionable “in the way it violates his person and his liberty without due process of law and in the way it administers cruel and unusual punishment of a sort that cannot be constitutionally inflicted even upon someone convicted of terrible offences, not to mention someone merely accused of such offences.”

Yochai Benkler also spoke to the Guardian, stating, “It is incumbent on us as citizens and professors of law to say that enough is enough. We cannot allow ourselves to behave in this way if we want America to remain a society dedicated to human dignity and process of law.” Adding that Manning’s conditions were being used “as a warning to future whistleblowers,” he also said, “I find it tragic that it is Obama’s administration that is pursuing whistleblowers and imposing this kind of treatment.”

As well as alienating nearly 300 legal experts, President Obama has also angered the UN Rapporteur on Torture, Professor Juan Mendez, who, as the Guardian explained, “issued a rare reprimand to the US government on Monday for failing to allow him to meet in private Bradley Manning,” which is “the kind of censure the UN normally reserves for authoritarian regimes around the world.”

Professor Mendez said, “I am deeply disappointed and frustrated by the prevarication of the US government with regard to my attempts to visit Mr Manning.” He added, “I am acting on a complaint that the regimen of this detainee amounts to cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or torture,” but “until I have all the evidence in front of me, I cannot say whether he has been treated inhumanely.”

Professor Mendez also explained that:

[T]he vast majority of states allowed for visits to detainees without conditions. But the US department of defence would not allow him to make an “official” visit, only a “private” one. An official visit would mean he meets Manning without a guard. A private visit means with a guard. Also, anything the prisoner says could be used in a court-martial.

Adding that his mandate was “to conduct unmonitored visits,” Professor Mendez also stated, “I am insisting the US government lets me see him without witnesses. I am asking [the US government] to reconsider.”

In conclusion (as the pressure will no doubt continue to mount against President Obama, who has tried and failed to wash his hands of responsibility for Pfc Manning’s treatment), I’m cross-posting below the complaint by Bruce Ackerman and Yochai Benkler, as promised:

Private Manning’s Humiliation
By Bruce Ackerman and Yochai Benkler

Bradley Manning is the soldier charged with leaking U.S. government documents to WikiLeaks.

He is currently detained under degrading and inhumane conditions that are illegal and immoral.

For nine months, Manning has been confined to his cell for 23 hours a day. During his one remaining hour, he can walk in circles in another room, with no other prisoners present. He is not allowed to doze off or relax during the day, but must answer the question “Are you OK?” verbally and in the affirmative every five minutes. At night, he is awakened to be asked again, “are you OK” every time he turns his back to the cell door or covers his head with a blanket so that the guards cannot see his face. During the past week he was forced to sleep naked and stand naked for inspection in front of his cell, and for the indefinite future must remove his clothes and wear a “smock” under claims of risk to himself that he disputes.

The sum of the treatment that has been widely reported is a violation of the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment, and the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee against punishment without trial. If continued, it may well amount to a violation of the criminal statute against torture, defined as, among other things, “the administration or application … of … procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or the personality.”

Private Manning has been designated as an appropriate subject for both Maximum Security and Prevention of Injury (POI) detention. But he asserts that his administrative reports consistently describe him as a well-behaved prisoner who does not fit the requirements for Maximum Security detention. The Brig psychiatrist began recommending his removal from Prevention of Injury months ago. These claims have not been publicly contested. In an Orwellian twist, the spokesman for the brig commander refused to explain the forced nudity “because to discuss the details would be a violation of Manning’s privacy.”

The Administration has provided no evidence that Manning’s treatment reflects a concern for his own safety or that of other inmates. Unless and until it does so, there is only one reasonable inference: this pattern of degrading treatment aims either to deter future whistleblowers, or to force Manning to implicate WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in a conspiracy, or both.

If Manning is guilty of a crime, let him be tried, convicted, and punished according to law. But his treatment must be consistent with the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. There is no excuse for his degrading and inhumane pre-trial punishment. As the State Department’s PJ Crowley put it recently, they are “counterproductive and stupid.” And yet Crowley has now been forced to resign for speaking the plain truth.

The WikiLeaks disclosures have touched every corner of the world. Now the whole world watches America and observes what it does; not what it says.

President Obama was once a professor of constitutional law, and entered the national stage as an eloquent moral leader. The question now, however, is whether his conduct as Commander in Chief meets fundamental standards of decency. He should not merely assert that Manning’s confinement is “appropriate and meet[s] our basic standards,” as he did recently. He should require the Pentagon publicly to document the grounds for its extraordinary actions — and immediately end those which cannot withstand the light of day.

Signed:

Bruce Ackerman, Yale Law School
Yochai Benkler, Harvard Law School

Additional Signatories (institutional affiliation, for identification purposes only):

Jack Balkin, Yale Law School
Richard L. Abel, UCLA Law
David Abrams, Harvard Law School
Martha Ackelsberg, Smith College
Julia Adams, Sociology, Yale University
Kirsten Ainley, London School of Economics
Jeffrey Alexander, Yale University
Philip Alston, NYU School of Law
Anne Alstott, Harvard Law School
Elizabeth Anderson, Philosophy and Women’s Studies, University of Michigan
Kevin Anderson, University of California
Scott Anderson, Philosophy, University of British Columbia
Claudia Angelos, NYU School of Law
Donald K. Anton. Australian National University College of Law
Joyce Appleby, History, UCLA
Kwame Anthony Appiah, Princeton University
Stanley Aronowitz, Sociology, CUNY Graduate Center
Jean Maria Arrigo, PhD, social psychologist, Project on Ethics and Art in Testimony
Reuven Avi-Yonah, University of Michigan Law
H. Robert Baker, Georgia State University
Katherine Beckett, University of Washington
Duncan Bell, Politics and International Studies, University of Cambridge
Steve Berenson, Thomas Jefferson School of Law
Michael Bertrand, UNC Chapel Hill
Christoph Bezemek, Public Law, Vienna University of Economics and Business
Michael J. Bosia, Political Science, Saint Michael’s College
Bret Boyce, University of Detroit Mercy School of Law
Rebecca M. Bratspies, CUNY School of Law
Jason Brennan, Philosophy, Brown University
Talbot Brewer, Philosophy, University of Virginia
John Bronsteen, Loyola University Chicago
Peter Brooks, Princeton University
James Robert Brown, University of Toronto
Sande L. Buhai, Loyola Law School, Los Angeles
Ahmed I Bulbulia, Seton Hall Law School
Susannah Camic, University of Wisconsin Law School
Lauren Carasik, Western New England College School of Law
Teri L. Caraway, University of Minnesota
Alexander M. Capron, University of Southern California, Gould School of Law
Michael W. Carroll, Law American University
Marshall Carter-Tripp, Ph.D, Foreign Service Officer, retired
Jonathan Chausovsky, Political Science, SUNY-Fredonia
Carol Chomsky, University of Minnesota Law School
John Clippinger, Berkman Center for Internet and Society
Andrew Jason Cohen, Georgia State University
Lizabeth Cohen, Harvard University
Marjorie Cohn, Thomas Jefferson School of Law
Doug Colbert, Maryland School of Law
Sheila Collins, William Paterson University
Nancy Combs, William& Mary Law School
Stephen A. Conrad, Indiana University Mauer School of Law
Steve Cook, Philosophy, Utica College
Robert Crawford, Arts and Sciences, University of Washington
Thomas P. Crocker, University of South Carolina
Jennifer Curtin, UCI School of Medicine
Deryl D. Dantzler, Walter F. Gorge School of Law of Mercer University
Benjamin G. Davis, University of Toledo College of Law
Rochelle Davis, School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University
Wolfgang Deckers, Richmond University, London
Michelle M. Dempsey, Villanova University School of Law
Wai Chee Dimock, English, Yale University
Sinan Dogramaci, Philosophy, University of Texas at Austin
Zayd Dohrn, Northwestern University
Jason P. Dominguez, Texas Southern University
Judith Donath, Fellow, Berkman Center for Internet and Society
Norman Dorsen, New York University School of Law
Michael W. Doyle, International Affairs, Law and Political Science, Columbia
Bruce T. Draine, Astrophysics, Princeton University
Jay Driskell, History, Hood College
Michael C. Duff, University of Wyoming College of Law
Lisa Duggan, Social and Cultural Analysis, NYU
Stephen M. Engel, PhD, Political Science, Marquette University
Cynthia Fuchs Epstein, Graduate Center,CUNY
Simon Evnine, Philosophy, University of Miami
Mark Fenster, Levin College of Law, University of Florida
Martha Field, Harvard Law School
Justin Fisher, Philosophy, Southern Methodist University
William Fisher, Harvard Law School
Joseph Fishkin, University of Texas School of Law
Mark Fishman, Sociology, Brooklyn College
Martin S. Flaherty, Fordham Law School
George P. Fletcher, Columbia University, School of Law
John Flood, Law and Sociology, University of Westminster
Michael Forman, University of Washington Tacoma
Bryan Frances, Philosophy, Fordham University
Katherine Franke, Columbia Law School
Nancy Fraser, Philosophy and Politics, New School for Social Research
Eric M. Freedman, Hofstra Law School
Monroe H. Freedman, Hofstra University Law School
Kennan Ferguson, University of Wisconsin, MilWaukee
John R. Fitzpatrick, Philosophy, University of Tennessee/Chattanooga
A. Michael Froomkin, University of Miami School of Law
Gerald Frug, Harvard Law School
Louis Furmanski, University of Central Oklahoma
James K. Galbraith, LBJ School of Public Affairs, University of Texas at Austin
Herbert J Gans, Columbia University
William Gardner, Pediatrics, Psychology,& Psychiatry, The Ohio State University
Urs Gasser, Harvard Law School, Berkman Center for Internet and Society
Julius G. Getman, University of Texas Law School
Todd Gitlin, Columbia University
Bob Goodin, Australian National University
Angelina Snodgrass Godoy, Human Rights, University of Washington
David Golove, NYU School of Law
James R. Goetsch Jr., Philosophy, Eckerd College
Thomas Gokey, Art and Information Studies, Syracuse University
Robert W. Gordon, Yale Law School
Stephen E. Gottlieb, Albany Law School
Mark A. Graber, University of Maryland School of Law
Jorie Graham, Harvard University
Roger Green, Pol. Sci. and Pub. Admin., Florida Gulf Coast
Daniel JH Greenwood, Hofstra University School of Law
Christopher L. Griffin, Visiting, Duke Law School
James Grimmelmann, New York Law School
James Gronquist, Charlotte School of Law
Jean Grossholtz, Politics, Mount Holyoke College
Lisa Guenther, Philosophy, Vanderbilt University
Christopher Guzelian, Thomas Jefferson School of Law
Gillian K. Hadfield, Law, Economics, University of Southern California
Jonathan Hafetz, Seton Hall University School of Law
Lisa Hajjar, University of California – Santa Barbara
Susan Hazeldean, Robert M. Cover Fellow, Yale Law School
Dirk t. D. Held, Classics, Connecticut College
Kevin Jon Heller, Melbourne Law School
Lynne Henderson, UNLV–Boyd School of Law (emerita)
Stephen Hetherington, Philosophy, University of New South Wales
Kurt Hochenauer, University of Central Oklahoma
Lonny Hoffman, Univ of Houston Law Center
Michael Hopkins, MHC International Ltd
Nathan Robert Howard, St. Andrews
Marc Morjé Howard, Government, Georgetown University
Kyron Huigens, Cardozo School of Law
Alexandra Huneeus, University of Wisconsin Law School
David Ingram, Philosophy, Loyola University Chicago
David Isenberg, Isen.com
Sheila Jasanoff, Harvard Kennedy School
Christopher Jencks, Harvard Kennedy School
Paula Johnson, Alliant International University
Robert N. Johnson, Philosophy, University of Missouri
Albyn C. Jones, Statistics, Reed College
Lynne Joyrich, Modern Culture and Media, Brown University
David Kairys, Beasley Law School
Eileen Kaufman, Touro Law Center
Kevin B. Kelly, Seton Hall University School of Law
Antti Kauppinen, Philosophy, Trinity College Dublin
Randall Kennedy, Harvard Law School
Daniel Kevles, Yale University
Heidi Kitrosser, University of Minnesota Law School
Gillian R. Knapp, Princeton University
Seth F. Kreimer, University of Pennsylvania Law School
Alex Kreit, Thomas Jefferson School of Law
Stefan H. Krieger, Hofstra University School of Law
Mitchell Lasser, Cornell Law School
Mark LeBar, Philosophy, Ohio University
Brian Leiter, University of Chicago
Mary Clare Lennon, Sociology, The Graduate Center, CUNY
George Levine, Rutgers University
Sanford Levinson, University of Texas Law School
Margaret Levi, Pol. Sci., University of Washington and University of Sydney
Tracy Lightcap, Political Science, LaGrange College
Daniel Lipson, Political Science, SUNY New Paltz
Stacy Litz, Drexel University
Fiona de Londras, University College Dublin, Ireland
John Lunstroth, University of Houston Law Center
David Luban, Georgetown University Law Center
Peter Ludlow, Philosophy, Northwestern University
Cecelia Lynch, University of California
David Lyons, Boston University
Colin Maclay, Harvard University, Berkman Center
Joan Mahoney, Emeritus, Wayne State University Law School
Chibli Mallat, Visiting Professor, Harvard Law School
Phil Malone, Harvard Law School
Jane Mansbridge, Harvard Kennedy School
Jeff Manza, Sociology, New York University
Dan Markel, Florida State University
Daniel Markovits, Yale Law School
Richard Markovits, University of Texas Law School
Michael R. Masinter, Nova Southeastern University
Ruth Mason, University of Connecticut School of Law
Rachel A. May, University of South Florida
Jamie Mayerfeld, Political Science, University of Washington
Diane H. Mazur, University of Florida Levin College of Law
Jason Mazzone, Brooklyn Law School
Jeff McMahan, Philosophy, Rutgers University
Richard J. Meagher Jr., Randolph-Macon College
Agustín José Menéndez, Universidad de León and University of Oslo
Hope Metcalf, Yale Law School
Frank I. Michelman, Harvard University
Gary Minda, Brooklyn Law School
John Mikhail, Georgetown University Law Center
Gregg Miller, Political Science, University of Washington
Eben Moglen, Columbia Law School and Software Freedom Law Center
Immanuel Ness, Brooklyn College, City University of New York
Charles Nesson, Harvard University
Joel Ngugi, Law, African Studies, University of Washington
Ralitza Nikolaeva, ISCTE Business School, Lisbon University Institute
John Palfrey, Harvard Law School
James Paradis, Comparative Media Studies, MIT
Emma Perry, London School of Economics and Political Science
Charles Pigden, University of Otago
Adrian du Plessis, Wolfson College, Cambridge University
Patrick S. O’Donnell, Philosophy, Santa Barbara City College
Hans Oberdiek, Philosophy, Swarthmore College
Duane Oldfield, Political Science, Knox College
Michael Paris, Political Science, The College of Staten Island (CUNY)
Philip Pettit, University Professor of Politics and Human Values, Princeton
Frank A. Pasquale, Seton Hall Law School
Matthew Pierce, University of North Carolina
Charles Pigden, Philosophy, University of Otago
Leslie Plachta, MD MPH, Albert Einstein College of Medicine
Thomas Pogge, Yale University
Giovanna Pompele, University of Miami
Joel Pust, Philosophy, University of Delaware
Ulrich K. Preuss, Law& Politics, Hertie School of Governance, Berlin
Margaret Jane Radin, University of Michigan and emerita, Stanford University
Aziz Rana, Cornell University Law School
Gustav Ranis, Yale University
Rahul Rao, School of Oriental& African Studies, University of London
Calair Rasmussen, Affiliation: Political Science, University of Delaware
Daniel Ray, Thomas M. Cooley Law School
Jeff A. Redding, Saint Louis University School of Law
C. D. C. Reeve, Philosophy, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Bryan Register, Philosophy, Texas State University
Robert B. Reich, University of California, Berkeley
Cassandra Burke Robertson, Case Western Reserve University School of Law
John A. Robertson, University of Texas Law School
Corey Robin, Brooklyn College and the CUNY Graduate Center
Clarissa Rojas, CSU Long Beach
Kermit Roosevelt, University of Pennsylvania Law School
Susan Rose-Ackerman, Law, Political Science, Yale University
Norm Rosenberg, History, Macalester College
Clifford Rosky, University of Utah
Brad R. Roth, Poli. Sci. and Law, Wayne State University
Barbara Katz Rothman, Sociology, City University of New York
Bo Rothstein, Political Science, University of Gothenburg
Laura L. Rovner, University of Denver College of Law
Donald Rutherford, Philosophy, University of California, San Diego
Leonard Rubenstein, JD, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
Chester M. Rzadkiewicz, History, University of Louisiana at Lafayette
DeWitt Sage, Filmmaker
Cindy Skach, Comparative Government and Law, Oxford
William J. Talbott, Philosophy, University of Washington
Natsu Taylor Saito, Georgia State University College of Law
Dean Savage, Queens College, Sociology, CUNY
Kent D. Schenkel, New England Law
Kim Scheppele, Princeton Univeristy
Ben Schoenbachler, Psychiatry, University of Louisville
Jeffrey Schnapp, Harvard University
Kenneth Sherrill, Political Science, Hunter College
Claire Snyder-Hall, George Mason University
Jeffrey Selbin, Yale Law School
Wendy Seltzer, Fellow, Princeton Center for Information Technology Policy
Jose M. Sentmanat, Philosophy, Moreno Valley College, California
Omnia El Shakry, History, University of California
Scott Shapiro, Yale University
Stephen Sheehi, Languages, Lit. and Cultures, University of South Carolina
James Silk, Yale Law School
Robert D. Sloane, Boston University School of Law
Ronald C. Slye, Law, Seattle University
Matthew Noah Smith, Philosophy, Yale University
Stephen Samuel Smith, Political Science, Winthrop University
John M. Stewart, Emeritus, Psychology, Northland College
Peter G. Stillman, Vassar College
Alec Stone Sweet, Yale Law School
Robert N. Strassfeld, Case Western Reserve University School of Law
Mateo Taussig-Rubbo, SUNY-Buffalo Law School
Jeanne Theoharis, Brooklyn College of CUNY
Frank Thompson, University of Michigan
Matthew Titolo, West Virginia University College of Law
Massimo de la Torre, University of Hull Law School
John Torpey, CUNY Graduate Center
Vilna Bashi Treitler, Black& Hispanic Studies, Baruch College, City
Laurence H. Tribe, Harvard University
David M. Trubek, University of Wisconsin (emeritus)
Robert L. Tsai, American University, Washington College of Law
Peter Vallentyne, Philosophy, University of Missouri
Joan Vogel, Vermont Law School
Paul Voice, Philosophy, Bennington College
Victor Wallis, Berklee College of Music
David Watkins, Political Science, University of Dayton
Jonathan Weinberg, Wayne State University
Henry Weinstein, Law, Literary Journalism, University of California
Margaret Weir, Political Science,University of California, Berkeley
Christina E. Wells, University of Missouri School of Law
Danielle Wenner, Rice University
Bryan H. Wildenthal, Thomas Jefferson School of Law
Langdon Winner, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Naomi Wolf, author
Lauris Wren, Hofstra Law School
Elizabeth Wurtzel, Attorney and author
Betty Yorburg, Emerita, City University of New York
Benjamin S. Yost, Philosophy, Providence College
Jonathan Zasloff, UCLA School of Law
Michael J. Zimmer, Professor of Law, Loyola University Chicago
Lee Zimmerman, English, Hofstra University
Mary Marsh Zulack, Columbia Law School

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) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Digg and YouTube). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in July 2010, details about the new documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, on tour in the UK throughout 2011, and available on DVD here — or here for the US), my definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all my articles, and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.

The 9/11 Indictment: The Case We Would Have Seen In New York Had A Federal Court Trial Proceeded

Last Monday, when Attorney General Eric Holder conceded that his dream of prosecuting, in federal court, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and four other men accused of involvement in the 9/11 attacks, was officially over, derailed by Congressional opposition to the very notion of moving a single prisoner from Guantánamo to the US mainland to face a trial (and glossing over the failure of President Obama to defend Holder’s dream), he also unsealed an indictment (PDF) that charged Mohammed and the others with 10 counts relating to the 9/11 attacks, which a judge dismissed because the accused will no longer be tried in civilian court.

On CBS News, Evening News Producer Phil Hirschkorn stated that there was “little new information in the court documents themselves,” and pointed out that:

Between the extraordinarily detailed 9/11 Commission Report, commission staff reports and the extensive Guantánamo public record, including charging documents and transcripts (from the earlier “tribunals” and current “commissions”), the dismissed federal indictment reveals little that wasn’t already known or previously alleged elsewhere. That doesn’t mean the government’s case was weak, and an indictment is not evidence. There would have been plenty to convict.

Hirschkorn also pointed out that perhaps the most detailed account, generally overlooked, is a 58-page statement drawn from the interrogations of Khaid Sheih Mohammed (PDF), which was “introduced at the nation’s first and only 9/11 trial — of Zacarias Moussaoui in 2006 in Virginia federal court — and which “was offered by the defense as a substitute for KSM’s supposedly exculpatory testimony regarding Moussaoui.”

Nevertheless, to freeze in time this indictment and to make it available in HTML format, I’m cross-posting the ten counts below — but not the names of all the 2,976 people who died on Septermber 11, 2001, which make up the latter half of the indictment. This is not, I hasten to add, because I lack sympathy for them — in fact, I agree with Marcy Wheeler that it’s “the most impressive part of the indictment, seeing the list of names like that” — but because formatting the names would have taken more hours than I can spare right now and may also have resulted in a document that was too big too publish. Again, for the full list, please check the original here.

Speaking of Marcy, her post analyzing the indictment — and asking some interesting questions about what it does reveal, and what new questions it raises — is recommended, as are some of the comments from Marcy’s lively and very engaged audience, and I also recommend the New York Times‘ article on the indictment, published on April 10, in which Benjamin Weiser analyzed the indictment’s place in the wider history of terrorism trials in New York, based on its docket number, 93 Cr. 180, which, as he explained, was first used in connection with the 1993 attacks on the World Trade Center by Ramzi Yousef (whose uncle is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed), and was followed by 13 others, each adding more to the story, and culminating in the 9/11 indictment.

As the Times explained, “there appeared to have been legal, practical, and even symbolic reasons to charge Mr. Mohammed in the lineage that began with the 1993 trade center attack.” Karen J. Greenberg, executive director of the Center on Law and Security at New York University, said, “One big point of these trials is that they present to the public the narrative history that we otherwise wouldn’t have. Symbolically, it has everything to do with understanding the threat we’re under, and how it’s changed over time, and how significant KSM’s role has been.”

The Times also noted that the 9/11 case “had been assigned to Judge Duffy, who had already handled three trials in the 1993 attack and the Bojinka conspiracy [a 1995 plot, in which 'the government said Mr. Yousef had an aborted plan ... to blow up a dozen American airliners over the Pacific Ocean']. In some ways, the indictments have evolved into a kind of terrorism genealogy that allows people, plots, and families to be traced.”

Noting also that “the 93 Cr. 180 series has yielded convictions of all eight defendants who were tried (Mr. Yousef twice), with their convictions upheld on appeal,” the Times concluded its article — whose sub-text was clearly a defense of federal court trials for KSM and his co-conspirators — with a comment made by a former prosecutor who “sounded almost wistful in speaking of the indictment’s dismissal,” and who stated, “It’s almost like an obituary. You don’t get the sense that it’s going to come back anytime soon.”

For my less challenging contribution to the discussions abut the indictment — a formatting exercise, essentially — see my cross-post of the indictment below, although I should reiterate that I did analyze the decision to drop the proposed federal court trial in an article entitled, Holder, Obama and the Cowardly Shame of Guantánamo and the 9/11 Trial.

INDICTMENT (S14) 93 Cr. 180(KTD) in the UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

- v. -

KHALID SHEIKH MOHAMMED, a/k/a “Mukhtar,” a/k/a “Mukhtar al-Baluchi,” a/k/a “Mukh,” a/k/a “Abdulrahman Abdullah al- Ghamdi,” a/k/a “Salem Ali,”

WALID BIN ATTASH, a/k/a “Khallad Bin Attash,” a/k/a “Saleh Saeed Mohammed Bin Yousaf,” a/k/a “Tawfiq Muhammad Salih Bin Rashid,” a/k/a “Silver,”

RAMZI BIN AL-SHIBH, a/k/a “Abu Ubaydah,” a/k/a “Ahad Abdollahi Sabet,”

ALI ABDUL AZIZ ALI, a/k/a “Aliosh,” a/k/a “Ali A,” a/k/a “Isam Mansur,” a/k/a “Ammar al-Baluchi,” a/k/a “Hani,”

MUSTAFA AL-HAWSAWI, a/k/a “Hashem Abdulrahman,” a/k/a “Hashem Abdollahi,” a/k/a “Mustafa Ahmed,” a/k/a “Zaher,” a/k/a “Khal,”

THE TERRORIST ATTACKS OF SEPTEMBER 11, 2001
(Counts One through Nine)

COUNT ONE

Conspiracy to Commit Acts of Terrorism Transcending National Boundaries

The Grand Jury charges:

Background: al Qaeda

1. From in or about 1989 until the date of the filing of this Indictment, an international terrorist group existed that was dedicated principally to opposing non-Islamic governments with force and violence. This organization grew out of the “mekhtab al khidernat” (the “Services Office”) organization that had maintained offices in various parts of the world, including Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the United States. The group was founded by Usama Bin Laden and others. The group called itself “al Qaeda” (“the Base”). Until in or about 1991, al Qaeda was headquartered in Afghanistan and Peshawar, Pakistan. In or about 1991, the leadership of al Qaeda, including its “emir” (leader or prince) Usama Bin Laden, relocated to the Sudan. Al Qaeda was headquartered in the Sudan from approximately 1991 until approximately 1996 but still maintained offices in various parts of the world. In 1996, Usama Bin Laden and other members of al Qaeda relocated to Afghanistan. Many loyalists demonstrated their commitment to al Qaeda by pledging an oath of allegiance (called a “bayat”) to Usama Bin Laden.

2. Usama Bin Laden and al Qaeda violently opposed the United States for several reasons. First, the United States was regarded as an “infidel” because it was not governed in a manner consistent with the group’s extremist interpretation of Islam. Second, the United States was viewed as providing essential support for other “infidel” governments and institutions, particularly the governments of Saudi Arabia and Egypt, the nation of Israel, and the United Nations, which were regarded as enemies of al Qaeda. Third, al Qaeda opposed the involvement of the United States armed forces in the Gulf War in 1991 and in Operation Restore Hope in Somalia in 1992 and 1993. In particular, al Qaeda opposed the continued presence of American military forces in Saudi Arabia (and elsewhere on the Saudi Arabian peninsula) following the Gulf War. Fourth, al Qaeda opposed the United States Government because of the arrest, conviction, and imprisonment of persons belonging to al Qaeda or its affiliated terrorist groups or those with whom it worked.

3. For these and other reasons, Usama Bin Laden declared a “jihad,” or holy war, against the United States, which he carried out through al Qaeda and its affiliated organizations. Usama Bin Laden issued public edicts calling for terrorist attacks against the United States and the murder of Americans. Members of al Qaeda issued “fatwahs” (rulings on Islamic law) indicating that such attacks were both proper and necessary.

4. Al Qaeda functioned both on its own and through some of the terrorist organizations that operated under its umbrella, including: Egyptian Islamic Jihad, which was led by Ayman al-Zawahiri; the Islamic Group (also known as “el Gamaa Islamia” or simply “Gamaa’t”); Jema’ah Islamiyah in Southeast Asia and Australia; and jihad groups in other countries, including the Sudan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Somalia, Eritrea, Djibouti, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bosnia, Croatia, Albania, Algeria, Tunisia, Lebanon, the Philippines, Tajikistan, and Azerbaijan, as well as the Kashmir region of India and the Chechen region of Russia. Al Qaeda also maintained cells and personnel in a number of countries to facilitate its activities, including in Kenya, Tanzania, the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, Canada, Malaysia, Thailand, and the United States.

Al Qaeda’s Organizational Structure

5. Al Qaeda had a command and control structure that included a majlis al shura (or consultation council), which discussed and approved major undertakings, including terrorist operations. Among those who sat on the majlis al shura of al Qaeda were Usama Bin Laden and Muhammad Atef, a/k/a “Abu Hafs el Masry,” until his death in mid-November 2001.

6. Under the majlis al shura, al Qaeda had a number of “committees,” including a “military committee” that considered and approved “military” matters. Muhammad Atef sat on the military committee and, until his death, was one of Usama Bin Laden’s principal military commanders. Atef was responsible for supervising the terrorist training of al Qaeda members and identifying targets for terrorist attacks that would be carried out, or sponsored, by al Qaeda.

7. In addition, al Qaeda had a “media committee,” which promoted al Qaeda by, among other things, preparing and distributing promotional materials to advertise al Qaeda’s terrorist agenda, intimidate its enemies, and attract recruits. KHALID SHEIKH MOHAMMED, WALID BIN ATTASH and MUSTAFA AL-HAWSAWI, the defendants, participated in the affairs of the media committee.

AI Qaeda’s Terrorist Training

8. Al Qaeda sponsored, managed, and financially supported training camps in Afghanistan. At the camps, personnel of al Qaeda and its affiliated terrorist groups were instructed in the use of firearms, explosives, chemical weapons, and other weapons of mass destruction. In addition to providing training in the use of various weapons, these camps — including camps known as al Farooq, Khalden, Derunta, Khost, Siddiq, Jihad Wal, and Mes Aynak — were used to conduct operational planning against United States targets around the world and experiments in the use of chemical and biological weapons. Al Qaeda personnel and others attending the camps flew from various locations to countries neighboring Afghanistan, usually Pakistan, and then traveled to Afghanistan and the camps using ground transportation. Al Qaeda made a promotional video concerning its training camps, featuring Usama Bin Laden, which was publicly aired, in or about June 2001, on the Al-Jazeera satellite television channel, and after that time received worldwide media coverage.

9. Al Qaeda’s camps were also used to train the group’s personnel in operational security and counterintelligence methods. This training, some of which was reduced to writing in assorted training manuals, was designed to prepare al Qaeda personnel to avoid detection by authorities when traveling abroad to perform terrorist operations or otherwise conduct al Qaeda affairs. For example:

  • a. Al Qaeda personnel who were traveling abroad were instructed to avoid signaling their connection to the organization or their religious beliefs. These instructions included dressing in “Western” attire, shaving their beards, carrying no Islamic literature, and bringing cologne and cigarettes (each of which is generally forbidden in Islamic culture).
  • b. Al Qaeda taught its personnel to “clean” their passports before traveling abroad. This tactic typically involved eliminating from the passport any record of prior travel to destinations associated with al Qaeda (for example, Afghanistan, Pakistan, or the Sudan) by doctoring the passport or by obtaining a new or replacement passport shortly before traveling.
  • c. Al Qaeda required its personnel to use fake names and codes in internal communications. Al Qaeda personnel were assigned “kunyas” (war names), or otherwise referred to by aliases or nicknames. Among other commonly used code words, “wedding” was used to refer to an impending terrorist operation and “honey” was used to refer to explosives and weapons.
  • d. Al Qaeda instructed its personnel who were traveling abroad to prepare a false “cover story” to disguise the true purpose of the travel.
  • e. Al Qaeda personnel were taught that information regarding a terrorist operation would be shared by al Qaeda leadership only on a “need to know” basis. Operatives would be managed by al Qaeda leadership in compartmented sections (sometimes called “cells”). In other words, the cells would he coordinated by al Qaeda leadership, but information would not necessarily be shared between the cells. A member of one cell might not know of the existence of another cell and its membership.
  • f. Al Qaeda taught its personnel to monitor media reporting of its operations to determine the effectiveness of their terrorist activities.
  • g. Al Qaeda provided counter-interrogation training to its personnel, which, among other things, required captured operatives to lie to authorities to prevent detection of an ongoing plot.

Al Qaeda’s Calls to Violence Against Americans

10. On various occasions, in the early 1990s, a co-conspirator not named as a defendant herein advised other members of al Qaeda that it was proper under Islam to engage in violent actions against infidels, even if others might be killed by such actions, because if the others were “innocent,” they would go to paradise, and if they were not “innocent,” then they deserved to die.

11. On or about August 23, 1996, a Declaration of Jihad was disseminated. It stated that it was from the Hindu Kush mountains in Afghanistan, and was entitled, “Message from Usamah Bin-Muhammad Bin-Laden to His Muslim Brothers in the Whole World and Especially in the Arabian Peninsula: Declaration of Jihad Against the Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holy Mosques; Expel the Heretics from the Arabian Peninsula.”

12. In February 1998, Usama Bin Laden endorsed a fatwah under the banner of the “International Islamic Front for Jihad on the Jews and Crusaders.” This fatwah, published in the publication Al-Quds al-’Arabi on February 23, 1998, stated that Muslims should kill Americans — including civilians — anywhere they could be found.

13. In or about June 1999, in an interview with an Arabic-language television station, Usama Bin Laden issued a further threat indicating that all American males should be killed.

14. In or about September 2000, in an interview with an Arabic-language television station, Usama Bin Laden called for a “jihad” to release the “brothers” in jail “everywhere.”

Overview of the Plot

15. In early 1999, in Afghanistan, Usama Bin Laden, Mohammad Atef, KHALID SHEIKH MOHAMMED, the defendant, and other al Qaeda leaders planned a terrorist operation targeting U.S. interests and persons. The plan required al Qaeda operatives to hijack commercial airplanes and pilot them into prominent buildings in the United States, causing maximum casualties and destruction.

16. In late 1999 and early 2000, in Malaysia, Thailand, and elsewhere, al Qaeda personnel surveyed airports and in-flight commercial airplanes to determine means by which the group’s operatives could later evade security measures.

17. From in or about December 1999 through in or about June 2000, al Qaeda selected operatives to pilot the airplanes to be hijacked and dispatched the operatives to the United States to obtain flight training and otherwise carry out the plot. Of this group of prospective pilot hijackers, Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi were the first to arrive in the United States, on or about January 15, 2000. They were followed by Marwan al-Shehhi, Mohamed Atta, and Ziad Jarrah, on or about May 29, 2000, June 3, 2000, and June 27, 2000, respectively.

18. From in or about June 2000 through in or about January 2001, Marwan al- Shehhi, Mohamed Atta, and Ziad Jarrah successfully completed pilot and jet-simulator training at flight schools and training centers in Florida. Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi did not acquire the necessary pilot skills. Hani Hanjour traveled to the United States on or about December 8, 2000, after which he took pilot and jet-simulator training in Arizona. In 2001, Zacarias Moussaoui, a co-conspirator not named as a defendant herein, traveled to the United States and took pilot and jet-simulator training in Oklahoma and Minnesota. Al Qaeda provided financial and logistical support to these prospective pilot hijackers while they were in the United States.

19. From in or about April 2001 through in or about June 2001, al Qaeda sent 13 additional hijackers to the United States to carry out the operation. These hijackers were supported by al Qaeda in traveling to the United States and after their arrival in the United States. These hijackers flew to the United States from Dubai, United Arab Emirates:

  • a. Satam al~Suqami and Waleed al-Shehri arrived in Orlando, Florida, on or about April 23, 2001;
  • b. Majed Moqed and Ahmed al-Ghamdi arrived in the Washington, D.C. area, on or about May 2, 2001;
  • c. Harnza al-Ghamdi, Ahmed al~Nami, and Mohand al-Shehri arrived in Miami, Florida, on or about May 28, 2001;
  • d. Ahmad al-Haznawi and Wail al-Shehri arrived in Miami, Florida, on or about June 8, 2001;
  • e. Fayez Banihammad and Saeed al-Ghamdi arrived in Orlando, Florida, on or about June 27, 2001; and
  • f. Abdul Aziz al-Omari and Salem al-Hazmi arrived in New York, on or about June 29, 2001.

20. From in or about May 2001 through on or about September 10, 2001, hijackers in the United States prepared for the hijacking operation by, among other activities, taking additional flight training; taking fitness training; purchasing knives; studying cross-country commercial flights; meeting overseas with al Qaeda leadership; and coordinating activities and locations in the United States.

21. From on or about August 25, 2001, through on or about August 31, 2001, 19 hijackers purchased or reserved tickets for the flights that they would hijack. In early September 2001, hijackers sent surplus funds overseas to al Qaeda.

22. On September 11, 2001, co-conspirators Mohamed Atta, Abdul Aziz al-Omari, Wail al-Shehri, Waleed al-Shehri, and Satam al-Suqami hijacked American Airlines Flight 11, bound from Boston to Los Angeles, and flew it into the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City.

23. On September 11, 2001, co-conspirators Marwan al-Shehhi, Fayez Banihammad, Ahmed al-Ghamdi, Hamza al-Ghamdi, and Mohand al-Shehri hijacked United Airlines Flight 175, bound from Boston to Los Angeles, and flew it into the South Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City.

24. On September 11, 2001, co-conspirators Hani Hanjour, Khalid al- Mihdhar, Nawaf al-Hazmi, Salem al-Hazmi, and Majed Moqed hijacked American Airlines Flight 77, bound from Virginia to Los Angeles, and flew it into the Pentagon.

25. On September 11, 2001, co-conspirators Ziad Jarrah, Ahmed al-Haznawi, Saeed al-Ghamdi, and Ahmed al-Nami hijacked United Airlines Flight 93, bound from Newark to San Francisco, and after resistance from the passengers, crashed it in Somerset County, Pennsylvania. (In this Indictment, each hijacker will be identified with the flight number of the plane he hijacked.)

The Defendants

26. KHALID SHEIKH MOHAMMED, the defendant, was closely associated with Usama Bin Laden, participated in the formulation of the plot resulting in the September 11, 2001 attacks, and was the plot’s operational leader.

27. WALID BIN ATTASH, the defendant, was closely associated with Usama Bin Laden and participated in the plot resulting in the September 11, 2001 attacks by, among other things, collecting information on matters related to airport and airplane security measures.

28. RAMZI BIN AL-SHIBH, the defendant, tried to become one of the pilot hijackers, but failed to obtain a visa for entry into the United States; instead, BIN AL-SHIBH managed the plot resulting in the September 11, 2001 attacks by, among other things, sending money to hijackers in the United States from abroad.

29. ALI ABDUL AZIZ ALI, the defendant, facilitated the plot resulting in the September 11, 2001 attacks by, among other things, sending money to hijackers in the United States from abroad.

30. MUSTAFA AL-HAWSAWI, the defendant, facilitated the plot resulting in the September 11, 2001 attacks by, among other things, helping the hijackers travel to the United States and facilitating their efforts upon arrival.

The Charge

31. From in or about 1999 until on or about March 1, 2003, in the Southern District of New York and elsewhere, KHALID SHEIKH MOHAMMED, WALID BIN ATTASH, RAMZI BIN AL-SHIBH, ALI ABDUL AZIZ ALI, and MUSTAFA AL-HAWSAWI, the defendants, and others known and unknown, in circumstances involving conduct transcending national boundaries, and in which the mail and facilities of interstate and foreign commerce were used in furtherance of the offense, the offense obstructed, delayed, and affected interstate and foreign commerce, the victim was the United States Government, members of the uniformed services, and officials, officers, employees, and agents of the governmental branches, departments, and agencies of the United States, and the structures, conveyances, and other real and personal property were, in whole and in part, owned, possessed, and leased to the United States and its departments and agencies, unlawfully, willfully, and knowingly combined, conspired, confederated, and agreed to violate Title 18, United States Code, Section 2332b(a).

32. It was a part and an object of the conspiracy that the defendants, and others known and unknown, would and did kill, maim and assault resulting in serious bodily injury persons within the United States, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 32, 34, 111, 114, 1111, and 1114; Title 49, United States Code, Section 46502(a); New York Penal Law Sections 120.10, 120.11, and 125.27; and 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. Section 2502, to wit, the murder on and after September 11, 2001, of the 2,976 persons named on pages 45 through 80 of this Indictment, and the maiming of and serious bodily injury to hundreds more.

33. It was a further part and object of the conspiracy that the defendants, and others known and unknown, would and did create a substantial risk of serious bodily injury to other persons by destroying and damaging structures, conveyances, and other real and personal property within the United States, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 32, 34, and 844(f) and (i); New York Penal Law Sections 150.20 and 120.25; and 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. Sections 3301 and 3302(a), to wit, the destruction and damage of four commercial airplanes in New York, Virginia, and Pennsylvania; the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center and surrounding structures and property in New York City; and the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, resulting in the deaths on and after September 11, 2001, of the 2,976 persons named on pages 45 through 80 of this Indictment.

Overt Acts

34. In furtherance of the conspiracy, and to effect its illegal objects, the defendants, and others known and unknown, committed the following overt acts, among others, in the Southern District of New York and elsewhere:

Origin of the Plot

35. In or before 1999, in Afghanistan, KHALID SHEIKH MOHAMMED proposed to Usama Bin Laden a terrorist plot that would use airplanes as missiles to crash into buildings.

36. Thereafter, in or about 1999, in Afghanistan, KHALID SHEIKH MOHAMMED discussed with Usama Bin Laden and members of al Qaeda’s “military committee” a plot in which al Qaeda operatives would hijack commercial airplanes and fly them into prominent buildings in the United States and elsewhere.

MOHAMMED Trains Hijackers

37. In or about 1999 and 2000, in Afghanistan and Pakistan, KHALID SHEIKH MOHAMMED trained the hijackers to use short-bladed knives by killing sheep and camels.

38. In or about 1999 and 2000, in Afghanistan and Pakistan, KHALID SHEIKH MOHAMMED trained the hijackers on how to conceal short-bladed knives through airport security.

39. In or about 1999 and 2000, in Afghanistan and Pakistan, KHALID SHEIKH MOHAMMED instructed the hijackers to obtain driver’s licenses when they arrived in the United States to facilitate their travel and lodging.

Co-Conspirators Seek U.S. Visas

40. On or about April 3, 1999, in Yemen, WALID BIN ATTASH applied for a U.S.-entry visa, using the name “Salah Saeed Mohammed Bin Yousaf,” which application was denied.

41. On or about the same day, April 3, 1999, in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Nawaf al-Hazmi (AA 77) applied for a U.S.-entry visa, which application was granted.

42. On or about April 7, 1999, in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Khalid al-Mihdhar (AA 77) applied for a U.S.-entry visa, which application was granted.

BIN ATTASH Tests Aviation Security

43. On or about December 31, 1999, WALID BIN ATTASH flew in first class on a United Airlines flight from Bangkok, Thailand, to Hong Kong, under the name “Saeed Mohammed Yousuf.”

44. On or about January 1, 2000, WALID BIN ATTASH flew in first class on a United Airlines flight from Hong Kong to Bangkok, Thailand, under the name “Saeed Mohammed Yusuf.”

45. On one and both of the United Airlines flights referred to in the preceding two paragraphs, WALID BIN ATTASH possessed a pocket knife and approached the cockpit to test security measures on the airplane.

46. In January 2000, WALID BIN ATTASH smuggled through airport security in Malaysia a Leatherman-type short-bladed knife.

47. On or about January 2, 2000, WALID BIN ATTASH flew from Bangkok, Thailand, to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, under the name “Saleh Saeed Mohammed Binyousaf.”

48. On or about January 5, 2000, Khalid al-Mihdhar (AA 77) flew from Dubai, United Arab Emirates, to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

49. On or about January 8, 2000, WALID BIN ATTASH, using the name “Salah Saeed Mohammed”; Nawaf al-Hazmi (AA 77); and Khalid al-Mihdhar (AA 77) flew from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Bangkok, Thailand, on the same flight, seated in the same row of the airplane.

50. On or about January 15, 2000, Nawaf al-Hazmi (AA 77) and Khalid al~ Mihdhar (AA 77) flew on the same United Airlines flight from Bangkok, Thailand, to Los Angeles, California, through Hong Kong.

51. On or about January 20, 2000, WALID BIN ATTASH flew from Bangkok, Thailand, to Karachi, Pakistan, under the name “Saleh Saeed Mohammed Binyousaf.”

The Hamburg Cell

52. In or about 1999, RAMZI BIN AL-SHIBH, Mohamed Atta (AA 11), Marwan al-Shehhi (UA 175), Ziad Jarrah (UA 93), and others, were associated together in Hamburg, Germany.

53. On or about November 25, 1999, Ziad Jarrah (UA 93) flew from Hamburg, Germany, to Karachi, Pakistan, through Istanbul, Turkey.

54. On or about November 29, 1999, Mohamed Atta (AA 11) flew from Hamburg, Germany, to Karachi, Pakistan, through Istanbul, Turkey.

55. On or about December 6, 1999, RAMZI BIN AL-SHIBH flew from Hamburg, Germany, to Karachi, Pakistan, through Istanbul, Turkey.

56. In or about January 2000, RAMZI BIN AL-SHIBH, Mohamed Atta (AA 11), Mohand al-Shehri (UA 175), Ahmed al-Ghamdi (UA 175), and Saeed al-Ghamdi (UA 93) were together at an al Qaeda facility in the vicinity of Kandahar, Afghanistan.

57. On or about January 3, 2000, ALI ABDUL AZIZ ALI helped Marwan al-Shehhi (UA 175) obtain a Boeing 767-300 flight deck video.

58. On or about January 4, 2000, ALI ABDUL AZIZ ALI helped Marwan al- Shehhi (UA 175) obtain a Boeing 747 flight simulator software program.

59. On or about January 18, 2000, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Marwan al-Shehhi (UA 175) was issued a U.S.-entry visa.

60. On or about May 18, 2000, in Berlin, Germany, Mohamed Atta (AA 11) was issued a U.S.-entry visa.

61. On or about May 25, 2000, in Berlin, Germany, Ziad Jarrah (UA 93) was issued a U.S.-entry visa.

62. On or about May 29, 2000, Marwan al-Shehhi (UA 175) flew from Brussels, Belgium, to Newark, New Jersey.

63. On or about June 3, 2000, Mohamed Atta (AA 11) flew from Prague, Czech Republic, to Newark, New Jersey.

64. On or about June 27, 2000, Ziad Jarrah (UA 93) flew from Munich, Germany, to Atlanta, Georgia.

65. From late June 2000 through early December 2000, Ziad Jarrah (UA 93) received flight training at the Florida Flight Training Center in Venice, Florida.

66. From early July 2000 through mid-December 2000, Mohamed Atta (AA 11) and Marwan al-Shehhi (UA 175) received flight training at Huffman Aviation in Venice, Florida.

BIN AL-SHIBH Tries to Join Hijackers

67. On or about May 17, 2000, in Berlin, Germany, RAMZI BIN AL-SHIBH applied for a U.S.-entry visa, which application was denied.

68. On or about June 15, 2000, in Berlin, Germany, RAMZI BIN AL-SHIBH applied for a U.S.-entry visa, which application was denied.

69. On or about August 9, 2000, RAMZI BIN AL-SHIBH applied to enroll in a pilot training course at the Florida Flight Training Center in Venice, Florida.

70. On or about August 14, 2000, RAMZI BIN AL-SHIBH arranged to wire money from his account in Germany to the account of the Florida Flight Training Center in Venice, Florida.

71. In or about August 2000, Ziad Jarrah (UA 93) attempted to enroll RAMZI BIN AL-SHIBH in the Florida Flight Training Center in Venice, Florida.

72. On or about September 15, 2000, in Sana’a, Yemen, RAMZI BIN AL- SHIBH applied for a U.S.-entry visa, which application was denied.

73. On or about October 25, 2000, in Berlin, Germany, RAMZI BIN AL- SHIBH applied for a U.S.-entry visa, which application was denied.

MOHAMMED Deputizes BIN AL-SHIBH

74. In early- to mid-2000, KHALID SHEIKH MOHAMMED directed RAMZI BIN AL-SHIBH to serve as an intermediary between MOHAMMED and the hijackers.

Overseas Financing

75. On or about April 16, 2000, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, ALI ABDUL AZIZ ALI, using the name “Ali,” wired $5,000 to a bank account in California.

76. On or about June 13, 2000, in Hamburg, Germany, RAMZI BIN AL- SHIBH transferred approximately $2,700 to Marwan al-Shehhi (UA 175) in Manhattan, New York.

77. On or about June 21, 2000, in Hamburg, Germany, RAMZI BIN AL- SHIBH transferred approximately $1,800 to Marwan al-Shehhi (UA 175) in Manhattan, New York.

78. On or about June 29, 2000, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, ALI ABDUL AZIZ ALI, using the name “Isam Mansar,” transferred $5,000 to Marwan al-Shehhi (UA 175) in Manhattan, New York.

79. On or about July 18, 2000, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, ALI ABDUL AZIZ ALI, using the name “Isam Mansur,” transferred approximately $10,000 into a Florida SunTrust bank account in the names of Mohamed Atta (AA 11) and Marwan al-Shehhi (UA 175).

80. On or about July 26, 2000, in Hamburg, Germany, RAMZI BIN AL- SHIBH transferred approximately $1,700 to Marwan al-Shehhi (UA 375) in Florida.

81. On or about August 5, 2000, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, ALI ABDUL AZIZ ALI, using the name “Isam Mansour,” transferred approximately $9,500 into a Florida SunTrust bank account in the names of Mohamed Atta (AA 11) and Marwan al-Shehhi (UA 175).

82. On or about August 29, 2000, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, ALI ABDUL AZIZ ALI, using the name “Mr. AH,” transferred approximately $20,000 into a Florida SunTrust bank account in the names of Mohamed Atta (AA 11) and Marwan al-Shehhi (UA 175).

83. On or about September 17, 2000, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, ALI ABDUL AZIZ ALI, using the name “HANI (Fawaz TRDNG),” transferred approximately $70,000 into a Florida SunTrust bank account in the names of Mohamed Atta (AA 11) and Marwan al-Shehhi (UA 175).

84. On or about September 26, 2000, in Hamburg, Germany, RAMZI BIN AL-SHIBH transferred approximately $4,100 to Marwan al-Shehhi (UA 175) in Florida.

MOHAMMED Manages the Plot

85. Beginning in or about April 2001, KHALID SHEIKH MOHAMMED directed the funding and logistical support of the hijackers by instructing RAMZI BIN AL- SHIBH, ALI ABDUL AZIZ ALI, and MUSTAFA AL-HAWSAWI to coordinate the movement of hijackers to the United States through the United Arab Emirates.

86. For example, in mid-April 2001, KHALID SHEIKH MOHAMMED coached RAMZI BIN AL-SHIBH on cover stories that he could teach a hijacker to use to avoid detection by border security.

87. In or about mid-April 2001, KHALID SHEIKH MOHAMMED instructed RAMZI BIN AL-SHIBH and ALI ABDUL AZIZ ALI to send tens of thousands of dollars to the hijackers already in the United States, but to send the money in multiple transfers of smaller amounts, so as to avoid detection and loss of the funds.

88. In or about mid-April 2001, KHALID SHEIKH MOHAMMED expressed frustration to RAMZI BIN AL-SHIBH that a hijacker was not traveling to the United States sooner.

89. In or about mid-April 2001, KHALID SHEIKH MOHAMMED directed MUSTAFA AL-HAWSAWI to gather certain materials when AL-HAWSAWI traveled to Kuwait.

90. In or about mid-April 2001, KHALID SHEIKH MOHAMMED advised RAMZI BIN AL-SHIBH that hijackers traveling through the United Arab Emirates at that time should contact ALI ABDUL AZIZ ALI while MUSTAFA AL-HAWSAWI was traveling.

91. In mid- to late-April 2001, through RAMZI BIN AL-SHIBH and MUSTAFA AL-HAWSAWI, KHALID SHEIKH MOHAMMED monitored the progress of a hijacker as he traveled to a country where he would apply for a new passport and a U.S.-entry visa.

92. In or about late April 2001, KHALID SHEIKH MOHAMMED asked RAMZI BIN AL-SHIBH whether hijackers in the United States had met to coordinate with each other and with other hijackers who were arriving in the United States.

93. In or about late April 2001, KHALID SHEIKH MOHAMMED advised RAMZI BIN AL-SHIBH that he would soon be sending more hijackers to assist Mohamed Atta (AA 11) in the United States.

AZIZ ALI Maintains Contact With Hijackers

94. From 2000 through in or about June 2001, hijackers in the United States placed approximately 35 telephone calls to numbers associated with ALI ABDUL AZIZ ALI.

Arrival of Additional Hijackers

95. On or about April 23, 2001, Satam al-Suqami (AA 11) and Waleed al- Shehri (AA 11) flew from Dubai, United Arab Emirates, to Orlando, Florida.

96. On or about May 2, 2001, Majed Moqed (AA 77) and Ahmed al-Ghamdi (UA 175) flew from Dubai, United Arab Emirates, to Dulles Airport in Virginia.

97. On or about May 28, 2001, Hamza al-Ghamdi (UA 175), Ahmed al-Nami (UA 93), and Mohand al-Shehri (UA 175) flew from Dubai, United Arab Emirates, to Miami, Florida.

98. On or about June 8, 2001, Ahmad al-Haznawi (UA 93) and Wail al-Shehri (AA 11) flew from Dubai, United Arab Emirates, to Miami, Florida.

99. On or about June 27, 2001, Fayez Banihammad (UA 175) and Saeed al- Ghamdi (UA 93) flew from Dubai, United Arab Emirates, to Orlando, Florida.

100. In making reservations for the flight referred to in the preceding paragraph, Fayez Banihammad (UA 175) and Saeed al-Ghamdi (UA 93) each provided the contact telephone number 0505209905, a cellular telephone associated with MUSTAFA AL-HAWSAWI (the “AL-HAWSAWI Phone”).

101. On or about June 29, 2001, Abdul Aziz al~Omari (AA 11) and Salem al~ Hazmi (AA 77) flew from Dubai, United Arab Emirates, to New York.

102. In making reservations for the flight referred to in the preceding paragraph, Abdul Aziz al-Omari (AA 11) and Salem al-Hazmi (AA 77) each provided the AL-HAWSAWI Phone as a contact telephone number.

103. On or about July 4, 2001, Khalid al-Mihdhar (AA 77) flew from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to New York.

BIN ATTASH Videotapes Hijacker’s Martyr Will

104. Before July 4, 2001, in an overseas location, WALID BIN ATTASH videotaped Khalid al-Mihdhar (AA 77) reading a martyr will.

AL-HAWSAWI’s Support of Banihammad

105. On or about June 25, 2001, MUSTAFA AL-HAWSAWI opened fixed deposit, current, and credit card accounts at a Standard Chartered Bank branch in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates (collectively, the “AL-HAWSAWI Accounts”).

106. On or about June 25, 2001, at the Standard Chartered Bank branch referred to in the preceding paragraph, Fayez Banihammad (UA 175) opened fixed deposit, current, and credit card accounts (collectively, the “Banihammad Accounts”).

107. On or about June 25, 2001, Fayez Banihammad (UA 175) gave MUSTAFA AL-HAWSAWI written authority to pick up items connected to the Banihammad Accounts, namely, ATM and Visa cards, and associated access codes.

108. On or about July 23, 2001, MUSTAFA AL-HAWSAWI caused the Visa card connected to the Banihammad Accounts to be shipped from the United Arab Emirates to Fayez Banihammad (UA 175) in Florida.

109. On or about August 1, 2001, the Visa card connected to the Banihammad Accounts was used to make three ATM withdrawals in North Boca Raton, Florida.

110. On or about August 21, 2001, approximately $4,900 was deposited into the Banihammad Accounts in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates.

111. On or about August 22, 2001, the Visa card connected to the Banihammad Accounts was used to withdraw approximately $4,800 at a bank in Boynton Beach, Florida, in the vicinity of where Fayez Banihammad (US 175) was living.

AL-HAWSAWI Maintains Contact With Hijackers

112. From in or about July 2001 through and including September 11, 2001, hijackers in the United States placed approximately 50 telephone calls to numbers associated with MUSTAFA AL-HAWSAWI.

Cross-Country Surveillance Flights

113. In or about May 2001, KHALID SHEIKH MOHAMMED instructed Mohamed Atta (AA 11) and Marwan al-Shehhi (UA 175) to take cross-country flights to study in-flight security measures.

114. On or about May 24, 2001, Marwan al-Shehhi (UA 175) flew first class from New York to San Francisco.

115. On or about June 7, 2001, Ziad Jarrah (UA 93) flew first class from Hanover, Maryland, to Los Angeles.

116. On or about June 28, 2001, Mohamed Atta (AA 11) flew first class from Boston to San Francisco.

117. On or about July 31, 2001, Waleed al-Shehri (AA 11) flew first class from Boston to San Francisco.

118. On or about August 13, 2001, Hani Hanjour (AA 77) flew first class from Washington, D.C., to Los Angeles.

BIN AL-SHIBH Maintains Contact With Hijackers

119. In or about July 2001, hijackers in the United States placed more than 70 telephone calls to numbers associated with RAMZI BIN AL-SHIBH.

The Spain Meeting

120. On or about July 7, 2001, Mohamed Atta (AA 11) flew from Miami, Florida, to Zurich, Switzerland.

121. On or about July 8, 2001, Mohamed Atta (AA 11) flew from Zurich, Switzerland, to Madrid, Spain.

122. On or about July 8, 2001, in Hamburg, Germany, RAMZI BIN AL-SHIBH purchased an airline ticket to Tarragona, Spain.

123. From on or about July 9, 2001, through on or about July 16, 2001, RAMZI BIN AL-SHIBH and Mohamed Atta (AA 11) were in Tarragona, Spain, where they met and discussed, among other aspects of the plot, potential targets for the hijacking attacks.

124. After leaving Spain, RAMZI BIN AL-SHIBH reported to KHALID SHEIKH MOHAMMED about the meeting with Mohamed Atta (AA 11).

125. Thereafter, KHALID SHEIKH MOHAMMED instructed RAMZI BIN AL-SHIBH and MUSTAFA AL-HAWSAWI to take the actions described below, in paragraphs 128 through 131.

MOHAMMED Applies for U.S. Visa

126. On or about July 23, 2001, in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, KHALID SHEIKH MOHAMMED applied for a U.S.-entry visa, using the name “Abdulrahman A.A. Al-Ghamdi,” which application was denied.

Jarrah Travels to Germany

127. On or about July 25, 2001, Ziad Jarrah (UA 93) traveled from the United States to Germany.

Money Transfers to Moussaoui

128. On or about July 30, 2001, MUSTAFA AL-HAWSAWI, using the name ”Hashem Abderahman,” sent $5,000 from the United Arab Emirates to RAMZI BIN AL-SHIBH, who received the money in Hamburg, Germany, using the name “Ahad Abdollahi Sabet.”

129. On or about July 31, 2001, MUSTAFA AL-HAWSAWI, using the name ”Hashim Abdourahman,” sent $10,000 from the United Arab Emirates to RAMZI BIN AL- SHIBH, who received the money in Hamburg, Germany, using the name “Ahad Abdollani Sabet.”

130. On or about August 1, 2001, RAMZI BIN AL-SHIBH, using the name “Ahad Abdollahi Sabet,” sent approximately $10,000 from Dusseldorf, Germany, to Zacarias Moussaoui in Oklahoma.

131. On or about August 3, 2001, RAMZI BIN AL-SHIBH, using the name “Ahad Abdollahi Sabet,” sent approximately $4,000 from Hamburg, Germany, to Zacarias Moussaoui in Oklahoma.

Co-Conspirator Tries to Enter the United States

132. On or about August 4, 2001, a co-conspirator not named as a defendant herein (“Co-Conspirator 1″) flew from Dubai, United Arab Emirates, to Orlando International Airport, in Florida.

133. In making reservations for the flight referred to in the preceding paragraph, Co-Conspirator 1 provided the AL-HAWSAWI Phone as a contact telephone number.

134. At or about the time of Co-Conspirator 1 ‘s arrival, Mohamed Atta (AA 11) was at the Orlando International Airport, where he placed calls to the AL-HAWSAWI Phone.

135. Later that day, Co-Conspirator 1 was denied entry into the United States and took a return flight to Dubai through London.

The Las Vegas Meeting

136. In summer 2001, KHALID SHEIKH MOHAMMED instructed some of the hijackers to meet in Las Vegas to make final preparations.

137. On or about August 13, 2001, Mohamed Atta (AA 11) flew from Reagan National Airport in Virginia to Las Vegas, Nevada.

138. On or about August 13, 2001, Hani Hanjour (AA 77) and Nawaf al-Hazmi (AA 77) flew together from Virginia to Las Vegas, Nevada.

Purchases of Knives

139. On or about August 3, 2001, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Zacarias Moussaoui purchased two knives.

140. On or about August 13, 2001, in Boynton Beach, Florida, Marwan al-Shehhi (UA 175) purchased two knives.

141. On or about August 13, 2001, in Boynton Beach, Florida, Fayez Banihammad (UA 175) purchased a knife set.

142. On or about August 16, 2001, in Eagan, Minnesota, Zacarias Moussaoui was in possession of a Leatherman-type short-bladed knife set.

143. On or about August 27, 2001, in Laurel, Maryland, Nawaf al-Hazmi (AA 77) purchased a Leatherman-type short-bladed knife set.

144. On or about August 30, 2001, in Boynton Beach, Florida, Hamza al-Ghamdi (UA 175) purchased a Leatherman-type short-bladed knife set.

Attack Date Is Communicated to al Qaeda Leadership

145. In late August 2001, KHALID SHEIKH MOHAMMED was advised of the date that the hijacking attacks would be carried out, and MOHAMMED notified Usama Bin Laden of it.

146. In early September 2001, in Afghanistan, WALID BIN ATTASH was advised of the date that the hijacking attacks would be carried out.

AZIZ ALI Tries to Join Hijackers

147. On or about August 27, 2001, in the United Arab Emirates, ALI ABDUL AZIZ ALI applied for a U.S.-entry visa, which application was denied. On the application, AZIZ ALI indicated that he expected to travel to the United States on September 4, 2001, and that he expected to stay “one week” (i.e., until September 11, 2001).

148. Shortly thereafter, when KHALID SHEIKH MOHAMMED learned that ALI ABDUL AZIZ ALPs application for a visa had been denied, MOHAMMED sent a message that AZIZ ALI should travel to meet MOHAMMED.

Hijackers Return Excess Funds

149. On or about September 4, 2001, Mohamed Atta (AA 11) sent a package via Federal Express to a post office box in the United Arab Emirates used by MUSTAFA AL- HAWSAWI.

150. On or about September 5, 2001, Fayez Banihammad (UA 175) wired approximately $8,000 from his Florida SunTrust account to the Banihammad Accounts over which MUSTAFA AL-HAWSAWI had authority and control.

151. On or about September 8, 2001, Mohamed Atta (AA 11) wired approximately $2,860 to “Mustafa Ahmed” in the United Arab Emirates.

152. On or about September 8, 2001, Mohamed Atta (AA 11) wired $5,000 to “Mustafa Ahmed” in the United Arab Emirates.

153. On or about September 9, 2001, Waleed al-Shehri (AA 11) wired $5,000 to “Ahanad Mustafa” in the United Arab Emirates.

154. On or about September 10, 2001, Marwan al-Shehhi (UA 175) wired $5,400 to “Mustafa Ahmad” in the United Arab Emirates.

155. On or about September 10, 2001, Nawaf al-Hazmi (AA 77) mailed the ATM card for the First Union bank account of Khalid al-Mihdhar (AA 77) to a post office box used by MUSTAFA AL-HAWSAWI in the United Arab Emirates. Al-Mihdhar’s account had a balance of approximately $10,000 at the time.

156. On or about September 11, 2001, in the United Arab Emirates, approximately $16,348 was deposited into the AL-HAWSAWI Accounts.

BIN AL-SHIBH Flees

157. On or about September 3, 2001, in Germany, RAMZI BIN AL-SHIBH, using the name “Ahad Abdoflahi Sabet,” received $1,500 that was sent by MUSTAFA AL- HAWSAWI, using the name “Hashem Abdollahi.”

158. On or about September 5, 2001, RAMZI BIN AL-SHIBH traveled from Dusseldorf, Germany, to Madrid, Spain, and did not return to Germany.

159. On or shortly before September 9, 2001, RAMZI BIN AL-SHIBH was in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, where he instructed ALI ABDUL AZIZ ALI and MUSTAFA AL- HAWSAWI to depart the United Arab Emirates.

160. On or shortly before September 11, 2001, RAMZI BIN AL-SHIBH departed the United Arab Emirates.

161. On or about September 12, 2001, RAMZI BIN AL-SHIBH was in Afghanistan.

AZIZ ALI Flees

162. On or about September 9, 2001, in the United Arab Emirates, ALI ABDUL AZIZ ALI made a one-way reservation to travel from Dubai to Karachi, Pakistan.

163. On or about September 10, 2001, in the United Arab Emirates, ALI ABDUL AZIZ ALI withdrew nearly all the balance from two bank accounts.

164. Later on or about September 10, 2001, ALI ABDUL AZIZ ALI flew from Dubai to Karachi, Pakistan, on a one-way ticket.

AL-HAWSAWI Flees

165. On or about September 11, 2001, in the United Arab Emirates, at about 9:22 a.m. local time (the early morning hours of Eastern Daylight Time), MUSTAFA AL- HAWSAWI moved approximately $6,534 of the $8,000 in the Banihammad Accounts into the AL-HAWSAWI Accounts, using a check dated September 10, 2001; AL-HAWSAWI then withdrew approximately $1,361, nearly all the remaining balance in the Banihammad Accounts, by ATM cash withdrawal.

166. On or about September 11, 2001, in the United Arab Emirates, approximately $40,871 was prepaid to a Visa card connected to the AL-HAWSAWI Accounts.

167. On or about September 11, 2001, MUSTAFA AL-HAWSAWI left the United Arab Emirates for Pakistan.

The September 11. 2001 Terrorist Attacks

168. On September 11, 2001, the hijackers possessed a handwritten set of final instructions for a martyrdom operation using knives on an airplane.

169. On September 11, 2001, Mohamed Atta, Abdul Aziz al-Omari, Satam al-Suqarni, Waleed al-Shehri, and Wail al-Shehri hijacked American Airlines Flight 11, a Boeing 767, which had departed from Boston bound for Los Angeles at 7:59 a.m. They flew Flight 11 into the North Tower of the World Trade Center in Manhattan at 8:46 a.m., causing the collapse of the tower, great damage and destruction to other structures and property, and injury and death to thousands of persons.

170. On September 11, 2001, Marwan al-Shehhi, Hamza al-Ghamdi, Fayez Banihammad, Mohand al-Shehri, and Ahmed al-Ghamdi hijacked United Airlines Flight 175, a Boeing 767, which had departed from Boston bound for Los Angeles at 8:14 a.m. They flew Flight 175 into the South Tower of the World Trade Center in Manhattan at 9:03 a.m., causing the collapse of the tower, great damage and destruction to other structures and property, and injury and death to thousands of persons.

171. On September 11, 2001, Hani Hanjour, Khalid al-Mihdhar, Majed Moqed, Nawaf al-Hazmi, and Salem al-Hazmi hijacked American Airlines Flight 77, a Boeing 757, which had departed from Virginia bound for Los Angeles at 8:20 a.m. They flew Flight 77 into the Pentagon in Virginia at 9:37 a.m., causing great damage and destruction to property and injury and death to hundreds of persons.

172. On September 11, 2001, Ziad Jarrah, Saeed al-Ghamdi, Ahmed al-Nami, and Ahmed al-Haznawi hijacked United Airlines Flight 93, a Boeing 757, which had departed from Newark, New Jersey, bound for San Francisco at 8:42 a.m. After resistance by the passengers, the hijackers crashed Flight 93 in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, at approximately 10:03 a.m., killing all on board.

Bin Laden and BIN ATTASH Hear News of the Attacks

173. On September 11, 2001, WALID BIN ATTASH was with Usama Bin Laden in Afghanistan when they heard for the first time that airplanes had struck the World Trade Center.

174. Shortly thereafter, Usama Bin Laden instructed WALID BIN ATTASH to travel to the Tora Bora region of Afghanistan and prepare the area by digging trenches and stockpiling food, weapons, and ammunition.

Withdrawals of Hijackers’ Excess Funds

175. On or about August 25,2001, in the United Arab Emirates, MUSTAFA AL-HAWSAWI applied for a supplemental Visa card connected to the AL-HAWSAWI Accounts, which application was made in the name “Abdulrahman Abdullah al-Ghamdi,” an alias used by KHALID SHEIKH MOHAMMED. The application was supported by documentation associated with MOHAMMED, including his photograph.

176. On or about September 13, 2001, the supplemental Visa card connected to the AL-HAWSAWI Accounts was used to make six ATM withdrawals in Karachi, Pakistan.

Post-Attack Propaganda and Efforts to Avoid Capture

177. On or about October 7, 2001, a video was aired on the Al-Jazeera satellite television channel in which Usama Bin Laden praised the September 11, 2001 attacks.

178. After September 11, 2001, RAMZI BIN AL-SHIBH and MUSTAFA AL- HAWSAWI met with Usama Bin Laden in Afghanistan. The meeting was videotaped.

179. On or about September 10, 2002, Usama Bin Laden videotaped a message in which he identified the 19 hijackers by name and “kunya.”

180. On or about March 1, 2003, KHALID SHEIKH MOHAMMED and MUSTAFA AL-HAWSAWI were present at a safe house where they possessed false identification and materials related to al Qaeda and the planning and execution of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

(Title 18, United States Code, Section 2332b(a)(2) & (c)(1)(a).)

COUNT TWO

Acts of Terrorism Transcending National Boundaries

The Grand Jury further charges:

181. The allegations in paragraphs 1 through 30 and 34 through 180 are repeated.

182. From in or about 1999 until on or about September 11, 2001, in the Southern District of New York and elsewhere, KHALID SHEIKH MOHAMMED, WALID BIN ATTASH, RAMZI BIN AL-SHIBH, ALI ABDUL AZIZ ALI, and MUSTAFA AL-HAWSAWI, the defendants, and others known and unknown, in circumstances involving conduct transcending national boundaries, and in which the mail and facilities of interstate and foreign commerce were used in furtherance of the offense, the offense obstructed, delayed, and affected interstate and foreign commerce, the victim was the United States Government, members of the uniformed services, and officials, officers, employees, and agents of the governmental branches, departments, and agencies of the United States, and the structures, conveyances, and other real and personal property were, in whole and in part, owned, possessed, and leased to the United States and its departments and agencies, unlawfully, willfully, and knowingly (1) killed, maimed, and assaulted resulting in serious bodily injury thousands of persons within the United States, including the 2,976 murdered persons named on pages 45 through 80 of this Indictment, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 32, 34, 111, 114, 1111, and 1114; Title 49, United States Code, Section 46502(a); New York Penal Law Sections 120.10, 120.11, and 125.27; and 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. Section 2502, and (2) created a substantial risk of serious bodily injury to other persons by destroying and damaging structures, conveyances, and other real and personal property within the United States, namely, four commercial airplanes in New York, Virginia, and Pennsylvania; the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center and surrounding structures and property in New York City; and the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 32, 34, and 844(f) and (i); New York Penal Law Sections 150.20 and 120.25; and 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. Sections 3301 and 3302(a).

(Title 18, United States Code, Sections 2332b(a)(l) & (c)(1)(A) and 2.)

COUNT THREE

Conspiracy to Commit Violent Acts and Destroy Aircraft

The Grand Jury further charges:

183. The allegations in paragraphs 1 through 30 and 34 through 180 are repeated.

184. From in or about 1999 until on or about March 1, 2003, in the Southern District of New York and elsewhere, KHALID SHEIKH MOHAMMED, WALID BIN ATTASH, RAMZI BIN AL-SHIBH, ALI ABDUL AZIZ ALI, and MUSTAFA AL-HAWSAWI, the defendants, and others known and unknown, unlawfully, willfully, and knowingly combined, conspired, confederated, and agreed to violate Title 18, United States Code, Section 32.

185. It was a part and an object of the conspiracy that the defendants, and others known and unknown, would and did destroy and wreck aircraft in the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 32(a)(1), to wit, the hijacking and destruction of American Airlines Flight 11, United Airlines Flight 175, American Airlines Flight 77, and United Airlines Flight 93, resulting in the deaths on and after September 11, 2001, of the 2,976 persons named on pages 45 through 80 of this Indictment.

186. It was a further part and object of the conspiracy that the defendants, and others known and unknown, would and did perform acts of violence against and incapacitate individuals on aircraft in the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States, so as likely to endanger the safety of such aircraft, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 32(a)(5) (2001), to wit, the hijacking and destruction of American Airlines Flight 11, United Airlines Flight 175, American Airlines Flight 77, and United Airlines Flight 93, resulting in the deaths on and after September 11, 2001, of the 2,976 persons named on pages 45 through 80 of this Indictment.

Overt Acts

187. In furtherance of the conspiracy, and to effect its illegal objects, the defendants, and others known and unknown, committed the overt acts set forth in Count One of this Indictment, which are fully incorporated by reference.

(Title 18, United States Code, Sections 32(a)(7) (2001) and 34.)

COUNT FOUR

Violence on and Destruction of Aircraft

The Grand Jury further charges:

188. The allegations in paragraphs 1 through 30 and 34 through 180 are repeated.

189. From in or about 1999 until on or about September 11, 2001, in the Southern District of New York and elsewhere, KHALID SHEIKH MOHAMMED, WALID BIN ATTASH, RAMZI BIN AL-SHIBH, ALI ABDUL AZIZ ALI, MUSTAFA AL-HAWSAWI, the defendants, and others known and unknown, unlawfully, willfully, and knowingly destroyed and wrecked aircraft in the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States, and performed acts of violence against and incapacitated individuals on such aircraft, so as likely to endanger the safety of such aircraft, to wit, the hijacking and destruction of American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175, resulting in the deaths on and after September 11, 2001, of the first 2,752 persons named on pages 45 through 80 of this Indictment.

(Title 18, United States Code, Sections 32(a)(1) & (5) (2001), 34, and 2.)

COUNT FIVE

Conspiracy to Commit Aircraft Piracy

The Grand Jury further charges:

190. The allegations in paragraphs 1 through 30 and 34 through 180 are repeated.

191. From in or about 1999 until on or about March 1, 2003, in the Southern District of New York and elsewhere, KHALID SHEIKH MOHAMMED, WALID BIN ATTASH, RAMZI BIN AL-SHIBH, ALI ABDUL AZIZ ALI, MUSTAFA AL-HAWSAWI, the defendants, and others known and unknown, unlawfully, willfully, knowingly, and with wrongful intent, combined, conspired, confederated, and agreed to commit aircraft piracy, by seizing and exercising control of aircraft in the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States by force, violence, threat of force and violence, and intimidation, to wit, the hijacking and destruction of American Airlines Flight 11, United Airlines Flight 175, American Airlines Flight 77, and United Airlines Flight 93, resulting in the deaths on and after September 11, 2001, of the 2,976 persons named on pages 45 through 80 of this Indictment.

Overt Acts

192. In furtherance of the conspiracy, and to effect its illegal objects, the defendants, and others known and unknown, committed the overt acts set forth in Count One of this Indictment, which are fully incorporated by reference.

(Title 49, United States Code, Section 46502(a)(1)(A) & (a)(2)(B).)

COUNT SIX

Aircraft Piracy

The Grand Jury further charges:

193. The allegations in paragraphs 1 through 30 and 34 through 180 are repeated.

194. From in or about 1999 until on or about September 11, 2001, in the Southern District of New York and elsewhere, KHALID SHEIKH MOHAMMED, WALID BIN ATTASH, RAMZI BIN AL-SHIBH, ALI ABDUL AZIZ ALI, MUSTAFA AL-HAWSAWI, the defendants, and others known and unknown, unlawfully, willfully, knowingly, and with wrongful intent, committed aircraft piracy, by seizing and exercising control of aircraft in the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States by force, violence, threat of force and violence, and intimidation, to wit, the hijacking and destruction of American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175, resulting in the deaths on and after September 11, 2001, of the first 2,752 persons named on pages 45 through 80 of this Indictment.

(Title 49, United States Code, Sections 46502(a)(1)(A) & (a)(2)(B) and 2.)

COUNTS SEVEN AND EIGHT

Murder of United States Officers and Employees

The Grand Jury further charges:

195. The allegations in paragraphs 1 through 30 and 34 through 180 are repeated.

196. From in or about 1999 until on or about September 11, 2001, in the Southern District of New York and elsewhere, KHALID SHEIKH MOHAMMED, WALID BIN ATTASH, RAMZI BIN AL-SHIBH, ALI ABDUL AZIZ ALI, MUSTAFA AL-HAWSAWI, the defendants, and others known and unknown, unlawfully, willfully, deliberately, with premeditation and malice aforethought, and perpetrated from a premeditated design unlawfully and maliciously to effect the death of a human being other than him who is killed, killed an officer and employee of the United States and agencies and branches thereof, while such officer and employee was engaged in, and on account of, the performance of official duties, to wit, the deaths of the following persons at the World Trade Center in New York City on September 11, 2001:

(Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1111, 1114 and 2.)

COUNT NINE

Destruction of the Twin Towers

The Grand Jury further charges:

197. The allegations in paragraphs 1 through 30 and 34 through 180 are repeated.

198. From in or about 1999 until on or about September 11, 2001, in the Southern District of New York and elsewhere, KHALID SHEIKH MOHAMMED, WALID BIN ATTASH, RAMZI BIN AL-SHIBH, ALI ABDUL AZIZ ALI, MUSTAFA AL-HAWSAWI, defendants, and others known and unknown, unlawfully, maliciously, and knowingly damaged and destroyed, by means of fire and explosives, buildings, vehicles, and other real and personal property used in interstate and foreign commerce and in activities affecting interstate and foreign commerce, to wit, the destruction and damage of two commercial airplanes, the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, and surrounding structures and property in New York City, resulting in the deaths on and after September 11, 2001, of the first 2,752 persons named on pages 45 through 80 of this Indictment, including hundreds of public safety officers performing duties as a direct and proximate result of the said damage and destruction.

(Title 18, United States Code, Sections 844(i) and 2.)

COUNT TEN

Al Qaeda Conspiracy to Kill Americans

The Grand Jury further charges:

199. The allegations in paragraphs 1 through 30 and 34 through 180 are repeated.

200. From in or about 1989 until the date of the filing of this Indictment, outside the United States, in the Southern District of New York and elsewhere, KHALID SHEIKH MOHAMMED, WALID BIN ATTASH, RAMZI BIN AL-SHIBH, ALI ABDUL AZIZ ALI, MUSTAFA AL-HAWSAWI, the defendants, together with members of the terrorist group known as al Qaeda, affiliated terrorist organizations, and others known and unknown, unlawfully, willfully, and knowingly combined, conspired, confederated, and agreed together and with each other to kill nationals of the United States, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 2332(b).

201. It was a part and an object of the conspiracy that the defendants, and others known and unknown, would and did murder United States nationals anywhere in the world, including the United States.

Overt Acts

202. In furtherance of the conspiracy, and to effect its illegal object, the defendants, and others known and unknown, committed the overt acts set forth in Count One of this Indictment, and the following overt acts, among others:

203. In mid-1999, KHALID SHEIKH MOHAMMED and Usama Bin Laden together visited a covert training facility in the vicinity of Kabul, Afghanistan, where trainees were prohibited from using their true names and the curriculum included instruction in surveillance, counter-surveillance, and assessment of potential targets for terrorist attack.

204. In or about January 2000, RAMZI BIN AL-SHIBH attended a speech given by Usama Bin Laden in the vicinity of Kandahar, Afghanistan.

205. In early- to mid-2000, in Karachi, Pakistan, KHALID SHEIKH MOHAMMED discussed United States interests in Australia as targets for a terrorist attack.

206. In or about mid-2001, in the vicinity of Kandahar, Afghanistan, WALID BIN ATTASH served as a member of Usama Bin Laden’s security detail.

207. In summer 2000, MUSTAFA AL-HAWSAWI was present in al Qaeda facilities in the vicinity of Kandahar, Afghanistan, including the place where the group conducted its “media” operation.

208. From at least in or about May 2001 until at least in or about October 2001, in the vicinity of Kandahar, Afghanistan and Karachi, Pakistan, KHALID SHEIKH MOHAMMED worked to influence media reports about issues of interest to al Qaeda.

209. In November and December 2001, in the vicinity of Kandahar, Afghanistan and Karachi, Pakistan, KHALID SHEIKH MOHAMMED and ALI ABDUL AZIZ ALI participated in a plot to attack airplanes bound for the United States with “shoe bombs.”

210. On or about April 29, 2003, in Pakistan, WALID BIN ATTASH possessed approximately 400 to 500 kilograms of explosives to be used to attack Americans.

(Title 18, United States Code, Section 2332(b)(2).)

Notice of Special Findings

a. The allegations of Counts One through Nine of this Indictment are hereby realleged as if fully set forth herein and incorporated by reference.

b. As to Counts One through Nine of this Indictment, the defendants KHALID SHEIKH MOHAMMED, WALID BIN ATTASH, RAMZI BIN AL-SHIBH, ALI ABDUL AZIZ ALI, MUSTAFA AL-HAWSAWI:

  • (1) were more than 18 years of age at the time of the offense, (Title 18, United States Code, Section 3591(a));
  • (2) intentionally killed the victims. (Title 18, United States Code, Section 3591(a)(2)(A));
  • (3) intentionally inflicted serious bodily injury that resulted in the deaths of the victims. (Title 18, United States Code, Section 3591(a)(2)(B));
  • (4) intentionally participated in an act, contemplating that the life of a person would be taken and intending that lethal force would be used in connection with a person, other than one of the participants in the offense, and the victims died as a direct result of the acts. (Title 18, United States Code, Section 3591(a)(2)(C));
  • (5) intentionally and specifically engaged in an act of violence, knowing that the act created a grave risk of death to a person, other than one of the participants in the offense, such that participation in the act constituted a reckless disregard for human life and the victims died as a direct result of the act. (Title 18, United States Code, Section 3591(a)(2)(D));
  • (6) in committing the offenses described in Counts One through Nine of the Indictment, knowingly created a grave risk of death to one or more persons in addition to the victims of the offense. (Title 18, United States Code, Section 3592(c)(5));
  • (7) committed the offenses described in Counts One through Nine in an especially heinous, cruel, and depraved manner in that they involved serious physical abuse to the victims. (Title 18, United States Code, Section 3592(c)(6));
  • (8) committed the offenses described in Counts One through Nine after substantial planning and premeditation to cause the death of a person and commit an act of terrorism. (Title 18, United States Code, Section 3592(c)(9)); and
  • (9) intentionally killed and attempted to kill more than one person in a single criminal episode. (Title 18, United States Code, Section 3592(c)(16).)

(Title 18, United States Code, Sections 3591 and 3592.)

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) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Digg and YouTube). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in July 2010, details about the new documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, on tour in the UK throughout 2011, and available on DVD here — or here for the US), my definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all my articles, and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.

Battle for Britain: The Government’s Idiocy on Increased University Tuition Fees Revealed

Did I miss something here? Check out the following sequence of events, and then tell me if it establishes anything other than the fact that Britain’s Tory-led coalition government is so blinded by its enthusiasm for sweeping ideological change that ministers have failed to think about the implications of their policies, and have done so to such an extent that they end up giving the impression that they are incompetent amateurs, who don’t have a clue what they are doing, and are unfit to govern.

When, in autumn, the government announced huge cuts to university teaching budgets, leading to the doubling or trebling of fees from the current rate of £3,290 a year to anywhere between £6,000 and £9,000 a year, the first casualty was the integrity of the Liberal Democrats, who had made an election promise that they would explicitly oppose a rise in tuition fees — a broken promise from which the party may never recover.

A second casualty was the apathy of British youth — a problem that appeared to coincide with the 13 years of the New Labour project, and which, anecdotally, I have always referred to as the effects of Tony Blair’s “psychic cosh,” which also silenced the critical inclinations of citizens of all ages — as 50,000 students and schoolchildren (as well as tutors and support staff) took to the streets of London in November to protest, surprising both the government and the police.

Along the way, the Poll Tax Riot was resuscitated (almost as some kind of racial memory), and the protests continued into December, cementing the return of large-scale dissent to the British streets, and the return of oppositional politics, and revealing that, unlike in times past, much of that opposition came from the people rather than from anyone associated with the Labour Party.

In the end, sadly, the government won the vote on tuition fees, by just 21 votes, and the students were unable to maintain the momentum of their campaign — although an untold number were radicalized by their experiences. That was in December, and since then, behind the scenes, universities have either been lobbying the government to rethink its plans, or have begun working out how to adapt in light of the radical changes.

To understand the predicament facing the universities, it is necessary to look at the difficulties that I highlighted back in November in my article, Did You Miss This? 100 Percent Funding Cuts to Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences Courses at UK Universities. Amazingly, the extent of the cuts to arts, humanities and the social sciences — to everything except the ring-fenced subjects of science, engineering, technology and maths — has been barely noticed in either the mainstream media or the new media.

As a result, only those who have taken on board the extent of the funding revolution (which involves transferring the entire burden of funding for this vast array of subjects from the state to the individual, without proper consultation, or a mandate for doing so), have also worked out that universities across the board will have to charge the maximum fees available — £9,000 a year — in order to stand a chance of surviving.

The reason for this is simple: it currently costs more than £9,000 a year to teach students, so the maximum fees will be necessary just to provide a service that will not even be as good as it is today, in everything except the ring-fenced subjects of science, engineering, technology and maths. However, the government evidently failed to notice this glaring problem when the fee increases were first announced, suggesting that only a handful of institutions would be charging £9,000 a year, and that the majority would settle for £6,000.

Astonishingly, it has taken until now for these problems to surface in the media, even though they are of extraordinary significance, as they raise profound questions about the ramifications of the government’s experiment, in relation to its impact on the numbers of people who will be prepared to accept an instant doubling or tripling of the cost of a degree, and its impact on the costs that will have to be borne by the government, which, lest we forget, will be paying out the hugely increased fees in the first place, and will then be reimbursed after students graduate.

In the Guardian last week, in an article and an editorial that only partly addressed what is going on, business columnist Richard Alcock suggested that universities were overwhelmingly charging £9,000 a year, “rather than the average £7,500 a year [ministers] had hoped, arguably leaving the government to scrabble round to find an extra £1 bn,” because charging the lower amount will make establishments look second-rate. This argument was also followed up by the Guardian‘s editors, without either party addressing the fact that decisions had been made in an effort to ensure that something resembling the current level of service can and will be maintained.

In response, the government threw a hissy fit, with universities minister David Willetts — whose nickname “Two Brains” only suggests that neither is working — indicating that the government might have to seriously cut student numbers in order to pay for the increase in fees imposed by ministers themselves, thereby jeopardizing their oft-repeated promise that they are interested in social mobility (even though all their actions across government actually indicate that the opposite is true).

There has been one slight glimmer of hope for the government — in that hugely restrictive caps on foreign students, which home secretary Theresa May intended to impose as part of the government’s immigration policies inspired directly by the BNP, were slightly lifted after intervention from Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and business secretary Vince Cable.

Overall, however, the system is now so chaotic that, as well as suggesting enforced cuts in student numbers (which will, of course, do nothing to help universities survive), the government has now, via Vince Cable, proposed that universities need to think drastically about how to reduce their costs, rather than charging students £9,000 a year.

To my mind, this looks like haranguing universities for not voluntarily flagellating themselves into a state of total economic submission, but to Cable there apparently should have been “a ferment of creative thinking about how to redesign courses and manage staff change,” as the Guardian explained, with the business secretary rather condescendingly stating, “I may be missing something, but I haven’t seen much evidence of this.”

Evidently envisaging some sort of Primark-style world of university provision, based on cut-price competition — and, to my mind, chillingly hinting that sixth-form colleges will be the next “luxury” to be charged for — Cable “[drew] a comparison with sixth-form colleges, where students can receive a year’s teaching at a cost of £4,800,” and said, “To then receive less intensive teaching [at university] will leave them wondering why university is so expensive.”

He also “warned universities they could face sharper competition from new providers offering ‘high standards at lower prices,’ as well as more vocational qualifications that could lead straight to a job,” as the Guardian put it, explaining, “They will need to think about whether putative links between public reputation and price will work in their favour or not — because, fundamentally, those setting the highest prices should logically be making the strongest offer to their students, especially on teaching and employment,” and added that ministers will “support the expansion of student numbers at institutions that offer cheaper courses,” including FE colleges and private providers, stating, “If these providers can offer places that students want — at prices students want — we intend to help them grow. The corollary is that institutions not offering provision of recognisably good value — but that pitch for high prices — could be seriously squeezed.”

For NUS President Aaron Porter, all this smacks of desperation, as indeed it does. Porter stated that it was “shameful” for “government ministers who presided over the creation of a university funding system that encourages universities to charge the highest fee to try passing the blame on to universities.” He added, echoing my sentiments exactly, “Ministers are facing the consequences that everyone but them saw coming when they rushed through changes to tuition fees and they are in a state of panic.”

So now we just need to capitalize on this panic, to force the government to back down before it ruins Britain’s universities. After the TUC-led “March for the Alternative” on March 26, which drew in 500,000 people, I’d suggest that to do so we need national gatherings on a regular basis, to create new coalitions of resistance out of the promise expressed on that day.

Any suggestions?

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) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Digg and YouTube). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in July 2010, details about the new documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, on tour in the UK throughout 2011, and available on DVD here — or here for the US), my definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all my articles, and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, filmmaker, photographer and Guantanamo expert
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The Guantánamo Files book cover

The Guantánamo Files

The Battle of the Beanfield book cover

The Battle of the Beanfield

Stonehenge: Celebration & Subversion book cover

Stonehenge: Celebration & Subversion

Outside The Law DVD cover

Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo

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