WikiLeaks: The Unknown Prisoners of Guantánamo (Part One of Five)

15.5.11

Please support my work!

Freelance investigative journalist Andy Worthington begins a 70-part, million-word series telling, for the first time, the stories of 776 of the 779 prisoners held at Guantánamo since the prison opened on January 11, 2002. Adding information released by Wikileaks in April 2011 to the existing documentation about the prisoners, much of which was already covered in Andy’s book The Guantánamo Files and in the archive of articles on his website, the project will be completed in time for the 10th anniversary of the prison’s opening on January 11, 2012.

This is Part 1 of the 70-part series. It was updated on September 21, 2011.

In WikiLeaks’ recent release of classified military documents relating to the majority of the 779 prisoners held at Guantánamo, one of the great publicity coups was shining a light on the stories of the first 201 prisoners to be freed from the prison, between May 2002, when a severely schizophrenic Afghan prisoner, Abdul Razak, was returned to his home country, and September 2004, when 35 prisoners were repatriated to Pakistan, and 11 were repatriated to Afghanistan.

A handful of these 46 prisoners were cleared for release as a result of the Combatant Status Review Tribunals, which began on August 13, 2004 and concluded on March 29, 2005. These, as Lt. Col. Stephen Abraham, a veteran of US intelligence who worked on the tribunals has explained, were essentially part of a one-sided process designed to create the illusion that the prisoners’ cases were being objectively examined to determine whether, on capture, they had been correctly designated as “enemy combatants,” who could continue to be held indefinitely.

558 prisoners passed through the CSRT process, and records released by the Pentagon in 2006, as the result of a successful lawsuit filed by media groups, provided details of all these men’s cases — the government’s supposed evidence against them, and transcripts of the CSRTs (and their annual follow-ups, the Administrative Review Boards), or, at least, transcripts of the tribunals and review boards in which the prisoners had deigned to take part, after many boycotted them, correctly perceiving that they were essentially a sham.

On the other hand, no records have ever been publicly released by the US government which provide any information whatsoever about the 201 released, or approved for release before the CSRTs began, except for a prisoner list released in May 2006 (PDF), which contains the names, nationalities, and, where known, dates of birth and places of birth for 759 prisoners (all but the 20 who arrived at Guantánamo between September 2006 and March 2008).

In the years since the documents relating to the CSRTs and ARBs were released, I attempted to track down the stories of these 201 men, and managed, largely through successful research that led to relevant media reports, interviews and reports compiled by NGOs, to discover information about 114 of these prisoners, but nothing at all was known about 87 others (except for their names, and, in some cases, their date of birth and place of birth). With the release of the WikiLeaks files, all but three of these 87 stories have emerged for the very first time, and in this article (and in four others to follow), I will run through these stories, beginning with the first 17 below. Also see Part Two, Part Three, Part Four and Part Five.

Please note that the overwhelming majority of these 84 prisoners were Afghans or Pakistanis, and that many were assessed by the US military as “being neither affiliated with Al-Qaida nor a Taliban leader,” of having “no intelligence value to the United States,” and of posing “a low threat to the US, its interests or its allies.” That last reference — to them posing “a low threat” — ought to alert readers to the problems with the classification system at Guantánamo, as many of the cases involve patently innocent people seized by mistake, who, nevertheless, were referred to as “a low threat” rather than as no threat at all.

On their return, the majority of the Afghans were released outright, whereas the Pakistanis were mostly imprisoned for many months before they too were granted their freedom (see here for an article from Pakistani newspaper the Nation in June 2005 describing the release of 17 prisoners repatriated from Guantánamo in September 2004, some of whom are listed below).

WikiLeaks: The Unknown Prisoners of Guantánamo (Part One of Five)

Zafar Iqbal (ISN 014, Pakistan) Released September 2004

In the classified US military documents released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, the file relating to Igbal was an “Update Recommendation [for] Transfer to the Control of Another Country for Continued Detention (TRCD),” dated May 28, 2004, in which it was noted that he was born in March 1983, and had been recommended for “release or transfer to the control of another government” on September 27, 2002, on the basis of an assessment that he “was not affiliated with Al-Qaida or a Taliban leader and does not pose a future threat to the US or US interests.”

However, under “New Information,” the Joint Task Force noted that although he was assessed as being “of low intelligence value,” he posed “a medium risk, as he may possibly pose a threat to the US, its interests and allies,” and “continues to harbor animosity towards US forces,” partly because he was allegedly associated with the militant organization Harkat ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI) in Pakistan, having apparently contacted HUJI officials “prior to leaving Pakistan for Afghanistan and again upon his arrival in Afghanistan,” which, to the Task Force, “strongly indicat[ed] that his travel into Afghanistan was coordinated through the HUJI organization.”

Despite this additional information, it is also clear that a major fact contributing to the upgrade of his risk assessment was the fact that an Iranian prisoner in Guantánamo, Abdul Majid Muhammed (ISN 555, released in October 2006) had identified him “as handing out weapons for the Taliban” and stated that he had “talk[ed] of jihad against the US upon release,” although there is, of course, no indication of why his accuser should have been trusted. It was also noted that, at Guantánamo, he had allegedly “sharpened his spoon into a weapon, potentially for use against a guard.”

The US authorities seemed to have slightly better grounds for regarding Iqbal as a combatant when it came to the details of his capture, as he and his cousin (also assessed as a HUJI member) were reportedly “captured by the Northern Alliance while trying to board a bus out of Kunduz during the period of time when the Taliban had lost hold of their front lines there and Taliban forces were fleeing the area” (in late November 2001). According to the US authorities, “The detainee was shot in the leg and his cousin was killed when they attempted to escape from Dostum’s forces. The Northern Alliance then brought the detainee to Mazar-e-Sharif and placed him in prison there before he was handed over to US Forces.” The prison referred to was probably not in Mazar, but was the nearby prison at Sheberghan, run by the Northern Alliance commander General Rashid Dostum. This also indicates that Iqbal was a survivor of the notorious “convoy of death,” when thousands of prisoners died (through suffocation, or by being shot) in containers en route to the prison at Sheberghan.

In conclusion, Brig. Gen. Jay W. Hood, the commander of Guantánamo at the time, recommended that Iqbal be “transferred to the control of another country for continued detention.” It was also noted that the “new intelligence” had come from the Criminal Investigative Task Force, and that, although JTF GTMO had “originally assessed [him] as a low risk,” the Task Force now “concur[red] with CITF’s medium threat assessment.”

Jamal Muhammad Al-Deen (ISN 016, Pakistan) Released July 2003

In the documents released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, the file relating to Jamal al-Deen was a “Transfer Recommendation,” dated October 16, 2002, in which it was noted that he was born in 1968, and was a Taliban conscript. He apparently “receiv[ed] a letter from his father telling him to join the Jihad against the Northern Alliance,” and “wanted to join the Taliban as a bus driver for a three-month period.” Sent to a training camp near Kandahar, he “was shown the operation, assembly, and disassembly of the Kalishnikov [sic] rifle, as well as other types of weapons,” although it was added that none of them were assigned to him. After approximately two weeks’ training, he was “sent to the front lines near Kabul to fight against the Northern Alliance,” and, after three months of “intense fighting,” he “wanted to return home” and was “loaded onto a truck departing for Mazar-E-Sharif, at which point the Taliban confiscated his property.”

Seized by the Northern Alliance, he was imprisoned at Mazar-e-Sharif (in the Qala-i-Janghi fort, where he was one of 86 survivors of a massacre that came about after some of the several hundred prisoners held staged an uprising, fearing that they were about to be shot), and he was sent to Guantánamo on January 14, 2002, allegedly because of “his possible knowledge regarding Pakistan foreign fighters from the Karachi area recruited by the Taliban, general information on the surrender to General Dosturn’s forces, and the prison uprising at Mazar-e-Sharif.”

However, as I explained in my article, “How to Read WikiLeaks’ Guantánamo Files” (originally published on WikiLeaks’ website when the Guantánamo files were first published, as part of my work liaising between WikiLeaks and its media partners):

[T]he “Reasons for Transfer” included in the documents, which have been repeatedly cited by media outlets as an explanation of why the prisoners were transferred to Guantánamo, are, in fact, lies that were grafted onto the prisoners’ files after their arrival at Guantánamo. This is because, contrary to the impression given in the files, no significant screening process took place before the prisoners’ transfer. As a senior interrogator who worked in Afghanistan explained in a book that he wrote about his experiences (The Interrogators), every prisoner who ended up in US custody had to be sent to Guantánamo, even though the majority were not even seized by US forces, but were seized by their Afghan and Pakistani allies at a time when substantial bounty payments for “al-Qaeda and Taliban suspects” were widespread.

In its assessment, the Joint Task Force stated that it “consider[ed] the information obtained from and about him as not valuable or tactically exploitable,” and added, “Based on current information, detainee [016] is assessed as not affiliated with Al-Qaida nor as being a Taliban leader. Moreover … the detainee has no further intelligence value to the United States and will not be seen for further intelligence purposes. [He] has not expressed thoughts of violence nor made threats toward the US or its allies during interrogations or in the course of his detention. Based on the above, detainee does not pose a future threat to the US or US interests.” As a result, Maj. Gen. Michael Dunlavey, the commander of Guantánamo at the time, recommended that he be “considered for release or transfer to the control of another government.”

It was also noted, “During a visit to Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, from 3 to 10 August 2002, Pakistani Intelligence officers interrogated [al-Deen] and concluded that he had little or no intelligence value. They stated that their government would accept custody of [him] if released by the US government.”

Mohammed Sayed (ISN 018, Pakistan) Released September 2004

In the documents released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, the file relating to Mohammed Sayed was a “Recommendation to Retain under DoD Control,” dated August 23, 2003, in which it was noted that he was born in 1973, and was a Taliban recruit, “influenced by religious teachings at his local mosque,” who was stationed at Kunduz for two months, where “he received between one and three days of training on the AK[-47], delivered water, chopped wood and worked in the kitchen.” He was captured in Mazar-e-Sharif by Northern Alliance forces after fleeing Kunduz when the US bombing campaign took place in November 2001, and was transferred to Guantánamo on January 14, 2002, on the spurious basis that it was “because of his knowledge of Arab fighters in Afghanistan from August 2001-December 2001.”

Assessed as being “possibly a member of Harkat ul-Mujahideen (HUM),” a Pakistani militant group, he was also allegedly identified as having stayed at a guesthouse near Mazar-e-Sharif that was allegedly used by the Australian prisoner David Hicks (ISN 2, released in May 2007), although it is unknown whether there are any grounds for believing this claim, which was made by two of his fellow prisoners in unknown circumstances: Zia Ul Shah (ISN 15, a Pakistani released in October 2006), and Mamdouh Habib (ISN 661, the other Australian prisoner, who was subjected to torture in Egypt).

The second page of his file is missing, but it is clear that he was recommended for continued detention, and was not released for another 13 months.

Mohammed Ishaq (ISN 020, Pakistan) Released November 2003

In the documents released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, the file relating to Mohammed Ishaq was a “Transfer Recommendation,” dated October 16, 2002, in which it was noted that he was born in 1983, and it was also stated that he and a friend, Abdul Ghaffar, traveled to Afghanistan on November 1, 2001, to find Ghaffar’s brother, Mohammed Usman, who “had left for Afghanistan two months earlier to fight in the Jihad against the Northern Alliance.” They located him in Kunduz, but were taken prisoner by the Northern Alliance two days later. What happened to Abdul Ghaffar and Mohammed Usman is unknown, but Ishaq was apparently “transferred by Northern Alliance forces to US forces sometime in December 2001,” and was sent to Guantánamo on the spurious basis that it was because of “his limited knowledge of Taliban recruiting techniques.”

In its assessment, the Joint Task Force stated that it “consider[ed] the information obtained from and about him as not valuable or tactically exploitable,” and added, “Based on current information, detainee [020] is assessed as not affiliated with Al-Qaida nor as being a Taliban leader. Moreover … the detainee has no further intelligence value to the United States and will not be seen for further intelligence purposes. [He] has not expressed thoughts of violence nor made threats toward the US or its allies during interrogations or in the course of his detention.” As a result, Maj. Gen. Dunlavey recommended that he be “considered for release or transfer to the control of another government.

It was also noted, “During a visit to Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, from 3 to 10 August 2002, Pakistani Intelligence officers interrogated [Ishaq] and concluded that he had little or no intelligence value. They stated that their government would accept custody of [him] if released by the US government.”

Salah Hudin (ISN 021, Pakistan) Released July 2003

In the documents released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, the file relating to Salah Hudin was a “Transfer Recommendation,” dated December 14, 2002, in which he was identified as Sala Hudin, born in January 1982, and it was noted that he was a Taliban recruit, who, in early September 2001, had been encouraged to “fight in the Jihad against the Northern Alliance,” and traveled to Kunduz, where, he said, he “received a single training session on the Kalashnikov and PK rifles, which lasted a total of thirty minutes.” He was then sent to the front lines at Khawaja Ghar, where he spent 20 days on guard duty and ten days “cooking and serving food,” and where, he said, he “never witnessed any combat.”

On or around December 12, 2001, he was apparently ordered to surrender to General Dostum’s forces, and was held in Mazar-e-Sharif (probably in General Dostum’s prion at Sheberghan) for 19 days, before US forces took him their prison in Kandahar. He was sent to Guantánamo on January 20, 2002, on the spurious basis that it was because of “his knowledge of recruiting activities in Mushkee, Pakistan, of Mullah Zakir, the commander of the Taliban units north of Takharistan [Takhar province], and of Muhammad Ibrahim, a possible Taliban recruiter operating in Jalalabad.”

In its assessment, the Joint Task Force stated that it “consider[ed] the information obtained from and about him as not valuable or tactically exploitable,” and added, “Based on current information, detainee [021] is assessed as not affiliated with Al-Qaida nor as being a Taliban leader. Moreover … the detainee has no further intelligence value to the United States and will not be seen for further intelligence purposes. [He] has not expressed thoughts of violence nor made threats toward the US or its allies during interrogations or in the course of his detention. Based on the above, detainee does not pose a future threat to the US or US interests.” As a result, Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, who took over from Maj. Gen. Dunlavey as the commander of Guantánamo, recommended that he be “considered for release or transfer to the control of another government.”

It was also noted, “During a visit to Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, from 3 to 10 August 2002, Pakistani Intelligence officers interrogated [Salah Hudin] and concluded that he had little or no intelligence value. They stated that their government would accept custody of [him] if released by the US government.”

Yusef Nabied (ISN 083, Tajikistan) Released July 2004

In the documents released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, the file relating to Yusef Nabied was a “Transfer Recommendation,” dated December 8, 2003, in which he was identified as Yusef Nabith, born in 1963, and it was noted that he had latent tuberculosis, in common with many of the prisoners, and had also been diagnosed with steomyclitis (a disease that affects bone marrow), although he was also described as being “otherwise in good health.”

It was also noted that Nabied was seized on the border of Afghanistan and Uzbekistan by General Dostum’s forces and was taken to the Qala-i-Janghi fort, where he survived the massacre of prisoners by the Northern Alliance and US forces following an uprising, and that he was sent to Guantánamo on February 7, 2002, on the spurious basis that it was “because of his knowledge of the prison uprising that took place in Mazar-e-Sharif [Qala-i-Janghi], as well as his knowledge of the methods used by the Taliban to acquire money and recruit personnel.”

In analyzing his story, the Task Force claimed that he had “failed to be truthful.” It was determined that he had been captured with an armed group on the border of Afghanistan and Uzbekistan, as they tried to flee the country, although he had not provided an explanation of his movements that was sufficient to assuage the suspicion that he “traveled to Afghanistan to participate in Jihad,” possibly in connection with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. It was also noted that he had not discussed gaps in his timeline, which involved his presence in Tajikistan and Pakistan, or his assessed role in the Russian military.

As a result, although he was assessed as being  of “low intelligence value” to the US, and as “not being a member of Al-Qaida or a Taliban [sic],” he was also assessed as posing “a medium threat to the US, its interests or its allies,” and Maj. Gen. Miller recommended his “[t]ransfer to the control of another country for continued detention.”

Unlike the Pakistanis, whose imprisonment on their return and subsequent release was well documented, it is not known what happened to Nadied on his return to his home country.

Mohammed Ashraf (ISN 100, Pakistan) Released September 2004

In the documents released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, the file relating to Mohammed Ashraf was an “Update Recommendation [for] Transfer to the Control of Another Country for Continued Detention (TRCD),” dated May 21, 2004, in which it was noted that he was born in 1980, and was recruited for jihad in Afghanistan by Jaish-e-Mohammed (JEM), described as “a Tier 1 terrorist target, which is defined as terrorist groups, especially those with state support, that have demonstrated the intention and the capability to attack US persons or interests.”

This, plus a claim that he had failed to pass a polygraph test, in which deception was “indicated,” led to an update to the recommendation by Maj. Gen. Dunlavey, on October 16, 2002, that he be “considered for release or transfer to the control of another government,” which was based on an assessment that he “was not affiliated with Al-Qaida or a Taliban leader and does not pose a future threat to the US or US interests.”

In this revised assessment, it was noted that he was “of medium intelligence value,” and “a medium risk, as he may possibly pose a threat to the US, its interests and allies.” As a result, Brig. Gen. Hood recommended that he be “transferred to the control of another country for continued detention.” The circumstances of his detention were not discussed.

Mohammed Irfan (ISN 101, Pakistan) Released September 2004

In the documents released by WikILeaks in April 2011, the file relating to Irfan was a document entitled, “JTF-GTMO Assessment: Afghanistan/Pakistan Detainee’s [sic],” dated March 29, 2004, which provided assessments of dozens of Afghan and Pakistani prisoners. In this document, he was assessed as being a high risk and of high intelligence value, and it was noted that JTF GTMO “Cannot Concur with Transfer to the Control of Another Country for Continued Detention,” which was evidently proposed by the Criminal Investigative Task Force.

It was noted that, after studying in college, Irfan had “inquired about joining the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JEM) terrorist group,” but, because of the waiting list for training, had instead “joined the Harkat ul-Jihad al-Islami (HUJI) who could provide him training right away.” After 15 days of “basic weapons and physical fitness training,” it was stated that he “joined the JEM and was sent to Kabul, AF to fight the jihad.” Instead, however, he was flown to Kunduz, and was then transported to Shaheen Point, where “he worked in a Taliban military aid-station, dressing wounds and administering medications for wounded fighters.”

Seized by the Northern Alliance, he was sent to Sheberghan and was subsequently turned over to US forces and sent to Guantánamo on February 9, 2002, on the spurious basis that it was “because of his affiliation with the Taliban as a foreign terrorist fighter.”

In its assessment, JTF GTMO wrote that he, although he had “no known affiliations with Al-Qaida,” he “remain[ed] committed to his Islamic extremist views and if released, it [was] strongly believed [he would] rejoin his terrorist group, who are closely aligned with Al-Qaida.” It was also claimed that, because of his “admitted association with two known terrorist groups,” he was “highly vulnerable to re-recruitment, should he be released.” The fact that he had worked as a medic and not a fighter obviously meant nothing to the US authorities, although, despite this assessment, with its alarmist claims, he was released just six months later.

Mohammed Raz (ISN 106, Afghanistan) Released July 2003

In the documents released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, the file relating to Mohammed Raz was a “Transfer Recommendation,” dated October 29, 2002, in which he was identified as Raz Mohammed, born in 1969, and it was noted that  he had latent tuberculosis, in common with many of the prisoners, and also “mild hypertension,” but was “otherwise in good health.”

It was also noted that he was a Taliban conscript, who was assigned to work as “a guard at a rear echelon Taliban base in Kunduz” because of a back problem. He surrendered to Northern Alliance forces under General Dostum in November 2001, and was, therefore, probably a survivor of “the convoy of death,” when thousands of prisoners died in containers en route to Dostum’s prison at Sheberghan.

He was sent to Guantánamo on February 9, 2002, on the spurious basis that it was “because of his possible knowledge of Taliban personalities at the base in Kunduz as well as those involved in the recruiting and drafting of fighters in the Uruzgan Province of Afghanistan.”

In its assessment, the Joint Task Force stated that it “consider[ed] the information obtained from and about him as not valuable or tactically exploitable,” and added, “Based on current information, detainee [106] is assessed as not affiliated with Al-Qaida nor as being a Taliban leader. Moreover … the detainee has no further intelligence value to the United States and will not be seen for further intelligence purposes. [He] has not expressed thoughts of violence nor made threats toward the US or its allies during interrogations or in the course of his detention. Based on the above, detainee does not pose a future threat to the US or US interests.” As a result, Maj. Gen. Dunlavey recommended that he be “considered for release or transfer to the control of another government.”

Sarfaraz Ahmed (ISN 113, Pakistan) Released September 2004

In the documents released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, the file relating to Sarfaraz Ahmed was a “Transfer Recommendation,” dated October 18, 2003, in which he was identified as Sarfra Ahmed, born in 1966, and it was noted that he was a doctor (a general practitioner), who, by his own account, had worked “as a doctor for the Taliban,” caring specifically for Pakistanis, and that he had been captured by Northern Alliance forces in Mazar-e-Sharif.

Based on his interrogations, the US authorities concluded that he had “provided medical care to Taliban fighters” in Afghanistan, and had previously provided medical support to Pakistanis training for combat in Kashmir at a camp in Pakistan run by the militant group Lashkar-e-Tayiba. Shockingly (although this was common in Guantánamo), it was also alleged that he “was affiliated with other extremist groups including Tablighi-Jamaat,” elsewhere described as “an extremist group affiliated with al-Qaeda, that operates in the Kashmir region of northern Pakistan,” even though Tablighi-Jamaat (aka Jamaat al-Tablighi) is actually a huge and entirely legitimate missionary organization, with millions of members worldwide.

He was sent to Guantánamo when the prison opened (the file stated “December 2001,” but the prison didn’t open until January 11, 2002), on the spurious basis that it was “because of his affiliation as a Taliban member.”

In conclusion, Ahmed was described as being “of low intelligence value,” but as “a medium threat risk to the US, its interests and allies because of his dedication to extremist views,” although Maj. Gen. Miller recommended that he be “considered for transfer to the control of another government for continued detention,” which took place eleven months later.

Yamatolah Abulwance (ISN 116, Afghanistan) Released March 2004

In the documents released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, the file relating to Yamatolah Abulwance was a “Transfer Recommendation,” dated August 16, 2003, in which he was identified as Yamatollah Abdul Wace, born in 1977, and it was noted that he was a Taliban conscript. He said that he was forced to join the Taliban soon after 9/11 when Abdul Hai, a Taliban commander, came to his store with five other Taliban soldiers and took him at gunpoint to Kunduz, and then to a camp where he served food and drink and was responsible for keeping the inventory and issuing blankets to Taliban forces located three and a half hours away. He added that he stayed for three months, until the camp surrendered, and was turned over to US forces approximately one month later.

He was sent to Guantánamo on January 15, 2002, on the spurious basis that it was “[d]ue to being suspected as a Taliban supporter and fighter.”

The authorities at Guantánamo suspected that he was a probable supporter of the Taliban and Islamic extremism, because of perceived inconsistencies in his story, and he was assessed as being “of low intelligence value,” but of posing “a medium threat to the US, its interests and its allies.” As a result, Maj. Gen. Miller recommended that he be “transferred to the control of another country for continued detention,” although he was freed seven months later.

Janan Taus Khan (ISN 124, Afghanistan) Released November 2003

In the documents released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, the file relating to Janan Taus Khan was a “Transfer Recommendation,” dated June 21, 2003, in which it was noted that he was born in 1981, and, as well as having latent tuberculosis, in common with many of the prisoners, had “a heart murmur,” although he was also described as being “in good health.”

Khan, who was from Kandahar, told his interrogators that he was a Taliban conscript, who had been chosen by his village elders, for three years in a row, to serve for three months a year as a driver for the Taliban. He said that he was seized in Kandahar the day after he had tried and failed to collect a hundred bags of fertilizer from a plant in Mazar-e-Sharif (on November 29, 2001), because it was closed.

He was sent to Guantánamo when the prison opened (the file stated “01 January 2002″ but the prison didn’t open until January 11, 2002), on the spurious basis that it was “because of his knowledge of routes and facilities used by the Taliban.”

In its assessment, the Joint Task Force stated that it “consider[ed] the information obtained from and about him as not valuable or tactically exploitable,” and added, “Based on current information, detainee [124] is assessed as being neither affiliated with Al-Qaida nor a Taliban leader. Moreover … the detainee has no further intelligence value to the United States and will not be seen for further intelligence purposes. [He] has not expressed thoughts of violence nor made threats toward the US or its allies during interrogations or in the course of his detention. Based on the above, detainee poses a low threat to the US or its interests.” As a result, Maj. Gen. Miller recommended that he be “considered for release or transfer to the control of another government for continued detention,” although he was freed five months later.

Mohammed Ouzar (ISN 133, Morocco) Released July 2004

In the documents released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, the file relating to Mohammed Ouzar was a “Recommendation to Retain under DoD Control,” dated November 11, 2003, in which he was identified as Mohamed Ibrahim Awzar or Mohamed A. Ibrahim, born in 1979. JTF-GTMO noted that the authorities at Guantánamo had been unable to assess whether Ouzar had, as he claimed, traveled to Italy at the age of 17, “where he attended a trade school for sheet metal work and hydraulics” in Turin, but also “began attending mosques and was impressed by an Egyptian Imam who preached Jihad against the West.”

He reportedly traveled to Afghanistan using his own money, trained briefly at a Libyan camp, and then joined the Taliban on the front lines at Bagram until December 2000, when he returned to Italy to renew his visa. After working at a few odd jobs, he apparently returned to Afghanistan in April 2001, joining other Arabs in Kunduz until the city fell after the US-led invasion in November 2001, when he ended up in Qala-i-Janghi, presumably after surrendering. He claimed that he “witnessed” the uprising (that led to a massacre of prisoners), but was “not involved” in it, and added that “he was shot twice in the left leg during the fighting.”

He was sent to Guantánamo on February 4, 2002, on the spurious basis that it was “because of his affiliation with the Taliban as an Arab fighter and possible Al-Qaida member.”

Described as being “evasive, uncooperative, and argumentative during interrogations,” and also as “provid[ing] contradictory information,” he was assessed as “a hard-line Islamist extremist and jihadist who continues to fully support jihad against the West and the US in particular,” and as “a member of Al-Qaeda” — a claim that involved an untested assertion that he was “positively identified by a senior Al-Qaida operative currently in US custody as an Al-Qaida member.” He was also assessed as being “of intelligence value to the United States,” and of posing “a high threat to the US, its interests or its allies,” and, as a result, Maj. Gen. Miller recommended that he be “retained under DoD control.” Nevertheless, he was released just eight months later.

In June 2005, it was reported that Ouzar, along with two other former prisoners (Mohamed Mazouz and Brahim Benchekroun, who later received prison sentences in Morocco), told Dutch TV that the CIA had “promised them the right to stay in the Netherlands,” where, according to their lawyer, Mohamed Hilal, “they were supposed to spy within the Moroccan Dutch community.” The report also stated that “the CIA in Guantánamo offered them to spy in five countries, including the Netherlands, Canada, and Switzerland,” and that “There was heavy pressure on them not to return to Morocco,” because “The CIA said they’d probably be tortured there.” On his return to Morocco, Ouzar (with other ex-prisoners) was put on trial on charges related to terrorism, in a process that involved numerous delays, but which concluded in 2007 with his acquittal.

Ghaser Zaban Safollah (ISN 134, Pakistan) Released July 2003

All that is known of Safollah (beyond his birth year — 1979) is an internal memo (an “Intent to Nominate Detainee for Repatriation/Release from United States Control”), rather than a Detainee Assessment Brief, dated July 6, 2002, recommending him for “Repatriation/Release from United States Control,” concluding that he “is of no further intelligence value, and is not considered a continued threat to the United States or it’s [sic] allies.”

Tarik Mohammad (ISN 136, Pakistan) Released November 2003

In the documents released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, the file relating to Mohammed was a “Recommendation to Retain under DoD Control,” dated September 6, 2003, in which he was identified as as Mohammed Hasim Tariq, born in 1972, and it was noted that, as well as being diagnosed with latest tuberculosis (as with many of the prisoners), he had also been diagnosed with “an Adjustment Order with Depression,” but was “otherwise in good health.”

It was also noted that he stated he was from a family that was “extremely religious and detested such modern conveniences as televisions, radios, and newspapers.” After gaining a biology degree at Islamabad University, he opened a small food store “but it failed,” and then, in November 2001, was recruited by the Taliban to help them defend Afghanistan from “what he saw as a crusade against Islam by the US.” Taken by a guide from Kohat to Kunduz, he apparently “performed clerical duties, such as record keeping etc., and never participated in any fighting.” When the Taliban “began to run away from the battlefield,” he also fled, and was seized by Northern Alliance forces under General Dostum and imprisoned for a month in Sheberghan, before being turned over to US forces.

He was sent to Guantánamo on June 11, 2002, on the spurious basis that it was “because of his involvement with the Taliban as a foreign fighter.”

Although it was noted, under “Reasons for Continued Detention,” that he was “a self-admitted Jihadist” who “joined the Taliban to fight against the US and it’s [sic] allies,” and was “still a dedicated extremist” who “may still harbor pro-Taliban sympathies,” his assessment made it clear that he was “assessed as not being a member of al-Qaeda or a Taliban leader,” and it was also stated that he was “of minimal intelligence value to the United States.” However, it was also stated that he posed “a medium threat to the US and … to the government of Afghanistan because of his dedicated extremist views and his possible willingness to take up arms against the government,” and, as a result, Maj. Gen. James E. Payne III, who signed the memo, recommended that he be “retained under DoD control.” Nevertheless, two months later, he was repatriated.

Mohammed Tariq (ISN 137, Pakistan) Released September 2004

In the documents released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, the file relating to Tariq was an “Update Recommendation to Transfer to the Control of Another Country for Continued Detention (TRCD),” dated May 21, 2004, in which he was identified as Mohammed Tarik, born in March 1973, and it was noted that he had been recommended to be “considered for release or transfer to the control of another government” on October 16, 2002 by Maj. Gen. Dunlavey.

However, in the “Update Recommendation,” it was noted that, although the Criminal Investigative Task Force (CITF) had assessed him as a low threat risk on May 9, 2003, CITF deferred to JTF-GTMO’s assessment that he posed a medium risk, primarily because it had emerged since the 2002 assessment that he had apparently been recruited by Jaish-e-Mohammed (JEM), described as “a Tier 1 terrorist target, which is defined as terrorist groups, especially those with state support, that have demonstrated the intention and the capability to attack US persons or interests.” It was also stated that he had connections with individuals in Pakistan who had “organized public rallies for the purpose of soliciting support and volunteers to participate in Jihad against the US and Northern Alliance.”

Although it was assessed that he was “not a member of al-Qaeda,” it was also noted that his association with JEM, with its “reported ties to al-Qaeda,” plus his demonstrated commitment to Jihad and an additional assessment that he “participated in hostile actions against the US in Afghanistan,” indicated that he “may be vulnerable to recruitment of terrorist [sic] or groups that support terrorism.”

As a result, he was assessed as “a medium risk,” who “may possibly pose a threat to the US, its interests and allies,” and Maj. Gen. Hood recommended that he be “transferred to the control of another country for continued detention.” It was, however, also noted that the Criminal Investigative Task Force disagreed, and had “assessed [him] on 9 May 2003 as a low threat risk,” but that, “As a result of this reassessment, in the interest of national security and pursuant to an agreement between the CITF and JTF GTMO Commanders, CITF will defer to JTF GTMO’s assessment that [he] poses a medium risk.”

Said Saim Ali (ISN 140, Pakistan) Released September 2004

In the documents released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, the file relating to Ali was an “Update Recommendation to Transfer to the Control of Another Country for Continued Detention (TRCD),” dated May 21, 2004, in which it was noted that he born in 1977. It was also noted that, on October 16, 2002, Maj. Gen. Dunlavey recommended him for release, because of an assessment that he was “not affiliated with al-Qaeda or a Taliban leader” and was “considered a low threat to the US and its allies.” However, in information added after this assessment, it was noted that he had specifically been recruited for jihad in Afghanistan in late September 2001, that he had tried and failed to join Jaish-e-Mohammed (JEM), described as “a Tier 1 terrorist target, which is defined as terrorist groups, especially those with state support, that have demonstrated the intention and the capability to attack US persons or interests,” and that he had apparently stated that “he would have fought the Americans had they come to fight in an area by him.”

Although it was stated that he might have information on “Taliban recruitment in Pakistan, Taliban military leadership, and JEM recruitment in Pakistan,” it was also noted that JTF-GTMO “consider[ed] this information not tactically exploitable,” and that therefore he was “of low intelligence value.” Although he was not regarded as “a member of al-Qaeda and/or its terrorist network,” it was stated that he had “demonstrated a commitment to jihad” and that he had “some level of combatant training and may be vulnerable to recruitment for terrorist or supportive groups,” and he was therefore assessed as being “a medium risk, as he may possibly pose a threat to the US, its interests and allies.”

As a result, Brig. Gen. Hood recommended that he be “transferred to the control of another country for continued detention,” although it was noted that, “[p]reviously JTF GMTO and CITF had agreed on the threat assessment of this detainee as a low risk,” but now, “in the interest of national security and pursuant to an agreement between the CITF and JTF GTMO Commanders, CITF will defer to JTF GTMO’s assessment that [he] poses a medium risk.”

Also see Part TwoPart Three, Part Four and Part Five of this series.

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.

10 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    On Facebook, Tashi Farmilo-Marouf wrote:

    Andy, were these ‘Combatant Status Review Tribunals’ specially designed for Guantanamo?

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    George Kenneth Berger wrote:

    It’s Dugg, Andy. I spent some time this afternoon on a thread with some Americans. The topic was US torture, so I took the opportunity to plug your writings.

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Berkeley Copwatch wrote:

    thanks for covering this

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    That’s a good question, Tashi. The CSRTs were rather cynically introduced in response to the Supreme Court’s ruling, in Rasul v. Bush (June 2004), that the prisoners had habeas corpus rights. They were modeled on the Geneva Conventions’ Article 5 competent tribunals, designed to provide assessments for prisoners seized in wartime who are not part of regular forces. However, instead of taking place close to the time and place of capture, so that witnesses can be called, the CSRTs took place nearly three years after capture, and the only witnesses came from within Guantanamo.

    Here’s an explananation from “Detainees at Guantanamo Bay,” a Report for Congress prepared by Jennifer K. Elsea of the Congressional Research Service:
    http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/RS22173.pdf

    In Rasul v. Bush (2004), a divided Supreme Court declared that “a state of war is not a blank check for the president” and ruled that persons deemed “enemy combatants” have the right to challenge their detention before a judge or other “neutral decision-maker” … In response … the Pentagon established procedures for Combatant Status Review Tribunals, based on the procedures the Army uses to determine POW status during traditional wars.

    A footnote explained:

    See Department of Defense (DoD) Fact Sheet, “Combatant Status Review Tribunals”: http://www.defenselink.mil/news/Jul2004/d20040707factsheet.pdf
    CSRT proceedings are modeled on the procedures of Army Regulation (AR) 190-8, Enemy Prisoners of War, Retained Personnel, Civilian Internees and Other Detainees (1997), which establishes administrative procedures to determine the status of detainees under the Geneva Conventions and prescribes their treatment in accordance with international law. For more information, see Treatment of “Battlefield Detainees” in the War on Terrorism, CRS Report RL31367:
    http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/terror/RL31367.pdf

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks also, George and Copwatch. Good to hear from you. And thanks for the plug elsewhere, George. Always appreciated.

  6. CC says...

    As always, Andy, thanks for caring and all your hard work.

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, CC. Your support is most welcome!

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    Christine Casner wrote:

    SHARED, AS ALWAYS. ♥

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    Thank you, my friend!

  10. Andy Worthington says...

    Tashi Farmilo-Marouf wrote:

    After reading the link you posted, it makes me think of how tricky this ‘war on terror’ is. I was thinking of this the other day, when I was watching a program on the BBC about how men received ‘training’ in Afghanistan. They explained the different arms training, combat training etc., they received – and it reminded me of the kind of courses that my brother takes as part of the military here in Canada. I mean how can we criticize a people for training and fighting in a war we started? Aren’t they entitled to defend their country? And if our military is well organised and offers training to soldiers, then shouldn’t others have equal rights to do the same? It seems we only accept models as organized and formal as our own.

Leave a Reply

Back to the top

Back to home page

Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, filmmaker, photographer and Guantanamo expert
Email Andy Worthington

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

RSS

Posts & Comments

World Wide Web Consortium

XHTML & CSS

WordPress

Powered by WordPress

Designed by Josh King-Farlow

Please support Andy Worthington, independent journalist:

Archives

In Touch

Follow me on Facebook

Become a fan on Facebook

Subscribe to me on YouTubeSubscribe to me on YouTube

Andy's Flickr photos

Campaigns

Categories

Tag Cloud

Afghans Al-Qaeda Andy Worthington Bagram British prisoners CIA torture prisons Clive Stafford Smith Close Guantanamo David Cameron Force-feeding Guantanamo Hunger strikes Lewisham London Military Commission NHS NHS privatisation Photos President Obama Reprieve Save Lewisham A&E Shaker Aamer Taliban Torture UK austerity UK protest US Congress US courts WikiLeaks Yemenis