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

31.5.11

Freelance investigative journalist Andy Worthington continues his 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 3 of the 70-part series.

One of the great publicity coups in WikiLeaks’ recent release of classified military documents relating to the majority of the 779 prisoners held at Guantánamo, as I explained in the first part of this five-part series, was to shine a light on the stories of the first 201 prisoners to be freed from the prison between its opening, in January 2002, 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, a one-sided process, which ran from August 2004 to March 2005 and was designed to rubber-stamp the prisoners’ prior designation as “enemy combatants,” who could continue to be held indefinitely. Information about the 558 prisoners who passed through the CSRT process (PDF) was first made publicly available in 2006, but 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 were released (and information relating to their annual follow-ups, the Administrative Review Boards, or ARBs), 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 series of articles, I am transcribing and condensing these stories, and providing them with some necessary context. The first 17 stories were in Part One, the second 17 were in Part Two, and the third 17 are below. Also see 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 AI-Qaida nor a Taliban leader,” of having “no intelligence value to the United States,” and of posing “no threat” or “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 Three of Five)

Abdullah Edmondada (ISN 360, Afghanistan) Released March 2003

Born in 1960 in Kandahar, and described, in his assessment on December 5, 2002, as Abdullah Bayanzay, he was, according to the US authorities, “selected from a lottery” in his village “to support the Taliban, which required a regular inflow of conscripts to support their operation.” As the assessment also noted, “The village reluctantly supplied conscripts to the Taliban because the village elders understood that there would be harsh consequences if they failed to comply.” As a result, at the end of September 2001, he was flown in a cargo plane to Kunduz, in north eastern Afghanistan, “along with about 50 other recruits,” and taken to the Taliban command center.” There, because Edmondada “was older than the other recruits, he requested an easy assignment and was assigned to guard a room at the command center where the recruits slept and stored their personal belongings and ammunition.”

Two months later, when Kunduz fell to the Northern Alliance, he “and about 450 soldiers were loaded onto trucks” and taken to Yanghareq, to the north west of Kunduz, where they surrendered along with several thousand others. He was then transported to Sheberghan prison near Mazar-e-Sharif, surviving what has become known as the “convoy of death” because an unknown number of prisoners (but almost certainly numbering in the thousands) died en route, mostly through suffocating in the container trucks that were used to transport them.

It was also stated, as a reason for his transfer to Guantánamo on June 11, 2002, that he was transferred “because of his possible knowledge of Taliban activities in the Kunduz area under Taliban commander Abdul Basiv,” but, as I explained in a recent 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, 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 [360] 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, the commander of Guantánamo at the time, recommended that he be “considered for release or transfer to the control of another government.”

Shaibjan Torjan (ISN 362, Afghanistan) Released March 2003

Born in 1977 and described, in his assessment on September 27, 2002, as Sahibjan Torjan, he was an extremely unwilling Taliban conscript. As noted in his assessment, “The Taliban came to [his] home and asked for a male volunteer to join them. The only other male of military age was his father, so [he] volunteered for service.” Although the Taliban then “placed him with a fighting unit in Kunduz,” he “refused to fight,” and was imprisoned for 30 days. He was then “used as a driver,” prior to his capture by Northern Alliance forces at the fall of Kunduz. He was also, presumably, another survivor of the “convoy of death.” It was also stated, as a spurious reason for his transfer to Guantánamo on May 4, 2002, that he was transferred “because of his knowledge of Taliban facilities in several areas in northern 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 [362] 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.”

Shai Jahn Ghafoor (ISN 363, Afghanistan) Released March 2003

He was born in 1969 and it was stated, in his assessment on February 8, 2003, that he was a farmer and day labourer in a village in Helmand province, and that, on September 9, 2001, he was “forcibly conscripted by the Taliban to work as a supply driver in Taloqan,” in northern Afghanistan. As the assessment explained, he “drove a pickup truck carrying foodstuffs and miscellaneous supplies from a bazaar outside of Taloqan to within two miles of the front lines,” although he “did not transport ammunition or weapons and saw no foreign troops in the area where he dropped off the supplies.” Another survivor of the “convoy of death,” he was sent to Guantánamo on June 11, 2002 on the spurious basis that it was “because of [his] knowledge of Taliban recruitment and travel routes, and of details regarding Sheberghan prison” — in other words, details of how he was abused by both the Taliban and the Northern Alliance.

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 [363] 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. Miller recommended that he be “considered for release or transfer to the control of another government.”

Mohammed Kakar (ISN 364, Afghanistan) Released May 2003

Born in 1977, and described, in his assessment on March 8, 2003, as Muhamed Raz-Muhamed Kakar, he apparently “dodged Taliban conscription” twice before his capture and his pointless transfer to Guantánamo. On the second occasion, he was jailed “for being a conscientious objector” and his father arranged with an elder of the village in Uruzgan province, where he lived, to “pay 20,000,000 Afghanis for a man to take [his] place during this period of conscription.” As a result, he was freed from jail and “returned to operating the family store.” However, on October 27, 2001, the Taliban returned, taking him, via Kandahar and Kabul, to Kunduz, where he “and four other conscripts that volunteered were used as guards at a petroleum site,” their main duty being “to prevent theft of petroleum and protect the depot from arson.” Another survivor of the “convoy of death,” he was sent to Guantánamo on June 11, 2002 on the spurious basis that it was “because of his knowledge of a Taliban petroleum site that he guarded near Kunduz.”

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 [364] 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. Miller recommended that he be “considered for release or transfer to the control of another government.”

Sabit Layar (ISN 365, Afghanistan) Released July 2003

Born in 1981 and described, in his assessment on April 26, 2003, as Sabitullah Allayar, he was another unwilling Taliban conscript. According to his assessment, “In October 2001, [his] father warned him of the Taliban coming to the village again to collect conscripts. Detainee left his home and while sneaking around the wall of his home Taliban officials stopped him” and immediately took him to Kabul, via a base near Kandahar, en route to Kunduz. However, “[a]s the vehicles were being organised, the following morning, detainee escaped.” He then found a bus driver who was prepared to let him ride on top of the bus for free, but he was seized at a Taliban checkpoint near Ghazni, and taken back to Kabul “where he was beaten repeatedly for having escaped conscription.” Two days later, he was sent to Kunduz, where he was made to guard “a depot area away from the Kunduz headquarters.” It was also noted that his responsibilities “included the call to prayer.”

As Kunduz was bombed and “most of the group attempted to hide on the other side of the village where there was less death and destruction,” he ended up walking with others in his group to the desert at Yanghareq, where they surrendered to Uzbek soldiers of the Northern Alliance, and, after two days tied up, were sent to Sheberghan as part of the “convoy of death.” On June 10, 2002, he was sent to Guantánamo on the spurious basis that it was “because of his knowledge of Taliban operations in and around Kunduz and Kabul just prior to the surrender of Taliban forces in November 2001.”

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 [365] 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. Miller recommended that he be “considered for release or transfer to the control of another government.”

Hazrat Sangin Khan (ISN 366, Afghanistan) Released March 2004

He was born in 1977, and it was stated, in his assessment on August 9, 2003, that he “claim[ed] to have been a cab driver forced into the service of Taliban Commander Sher Ali,” who “worked with the Taliban as a driver for three years before he and his unit surrendered to [Northern Alliance commander General] Dostum’s forces at Mazar-e-Sharif.” The spurious reason for his transfer to Guantánamo was “because of his knowledge of senior Taliban personnel and service to the Taliban,” and, despite his instance that he was an unwilling conscript, this affiliation counted against him in Guantánamo, where it was “assessed that [he] may have knowledge regarding mid to senior-level Taliban members,” which “may be of value to the Afghan Transitional Authority (ATA), a critical ally in the US-led Operation Enduring Freedom and the Global War on Terrorism.”

In its assessment, the Joint Task Force concluded that he was “assessed as being a low-level member of the Taliban,” and it was stated that “sources not available now may be available in the future to confirm, deny, or change his intelligence value and threat assessment.” As of August 2003, however, he was assessed as being “of low intelligence value,” and of posing “a low threat risk to the US, its interests and allies,” and Maj. Gen. Miller recommended that he be “considered for transfer to the control of another government for continued detention.”

Juma Khan (ISN 443, Afghanistan) Released November 2003

He was born in 1972, and, according to his assessment on August 9, 2003, he “claimed he was tricked into accompanying a man who later turned him in as a member of the Taliban for money.” He further explained that this man, Agha, “a loyal Dostum follower,” also told civilians in the Mazar-e-Sharif area that US forces “paid civilians $2,000 USD when they surrendered as Taliban fighters.” This — which I have never heard about before —  is a ploy that ought to have been perceived as self-defeating, but perhaps, in the desperation of poor, war-torn Afghanistan, it seemed like a good idea. Whatever the case, Khan claimed that he “voluntarily surrendered to US forces” and was subsequently taken to Kandahar and Guantánamo.

In its assessment, the Joint Task Force concluded that he was “assessed as not being a member of the Taliban or of al-Qaida,” and that he was “of low intelligence value,” and also posed “a low threat to the US, its interests and its allies.” As a result, Maj. Gen. Miller recommended that he be “considered for release and repatriation to his country of origin.”

Mohammed Nasim (ISN 453, Afghanistan) Released March 2004

Born in 1972, he was described, in his assessment on November 22, 2003, as having been “diagnosed with chronic hepatitis B,” although it was also stated that he was “otherwise in good health.” When it came to the allegations against him, the US authorities were clearly floundering. According to Nasim’s account, Pakistani police came to his home in mid-December 2001 and arrested him, transporting hi to Bagram, and then to Guantánamo “because of suspected involvement with the Taliban.”

However, according to the US authorities, he had “not been forthright in his interviews,” and had “attempted to create a perception that he [was] uneducated, illiterate, and nothing more than an innocent ‘businessmen,'” even though, according to “[analytical research,” he was “suspected to be the Taliban Deputy Minister of Education.” Alarmingly, it was also noted that, according to this same process of “research,” he was “maybe the former deputy to General Abdul Rashid Dostum,” described as “the leader of Jumbish-I-Milli (National Islamic Movement of Afghanistan), who defected to the Taliban in November 1998,” even though, by 2001, Dostum was working with the Northern Alliance, and, as well as spearheading the “convoy of death,” was responsible, after the US-led invasion of Afghanistan, for handing over at least 10 percent of the total number of prisoners who ended up at Guantánamo.

In its assessment, based on this ludicrously flawed and/or vague analysis, the Joint Task Force concluded that he was “assessed as being a possible high ranking member of the Taliban,” who “may be of intelligence value to the United States,” and who, as a result, “poses a high threat to the US, its interests or its allies.” and should continue to be detained. It was also noted that, “in the interest of national security and pursuant to an agreement between the CITF and JTF GTMO Commanders, CITF stated it would schedule this case for their Behavioral Sciences ConsultationTeam to re-evaluate the threat assessment,” and either because of this, or a decision higher up, Nasim was released four months later.

Mohammed Sadiq Adam (ISN 454, Uzbekistan) Released March 2004

Listed as an Uzbek, he was actually an Afghan national, born in 1973, and in his assessment on November 24, 2003, in which he was described as Mohammed Siddiq Adam, it was stated that he claimed that he “worked for the Taliban as a truck driver,” and that, “[o]n the day he was captured, he claimed to have been traveling on his normal route and was stopped by the Northern Alliance forces near the city of Bamian.” He was then handed over — or sold — to US forces. Despite this, the spurious reason for his transfer to Guantánamo on February 7, 2002 was “because of his suspected involvement with the Taliban as a fighter.”

Assessed as being “neither affiliated with AI-Qaida nor a Taliban leader,” he was also regarded as being “of no intelligence value to the United States,” and of posing “a Low Threat to the US, its interests or its allies,” and the Joint Task Force recommended him for “release or transfer to the control of another government for continued detention.” However, because the Criminal Investigative Task Force (CITF) stated that it “requires further investigation to make a threat assessment,” Maj. Gen. Miller noted that, “Until CITF completes additional investigation and conducts an assessment, JTF GTMO and CITF cannot concur on an assessment.” Four months later, Adam was released.

Hamdullah (ISN 456, Afghanistan) Released March 2004

Born in 1974 and described, in his assessment on November 11, 2003, as Mo Amad Gui, he was seized in Pakistan, from a house where he was evidently living, by the Pakistani authorities, “under suspicion of being a Taliban supporter and on weapons possession.” He was allegedly “found to have two AK-47s in his home and a weapons permit signed by the Taliban governor of Kandahar,” and it was also stated that the reason for his transfer to Guantánamo on June 12, 2002 was “because of his suspected involvement with Taliban.” In further analysis, it was stated that he and his brother were “suspected of drug and weapons smuggling that supported the Taliban directly,” but that, “When questioned concerning these issues [he had] not been forthright and [had] repeatedly been found deceptive.”

Because of this perceived deception, the Task Force stated that he had “not been fully exploited.” As a result, he was recommended for ongoing detention. Although he was “assessed as not being a member of Al-Qaida nor a Taliban leader,” he was regarded as being “of intelligence value to the United States,” and of posing “a medium threat to the US, its interests and its allies” (and the Criminal Investigative Task Force, which, “pursuant to an agreement,” defers to JTF GTMO’s assessment, categorised him as a low risk”). Despite the assessments, he was released just four months later.

Redouane Chekhouri (ISN 499, Morocco) Released July 2004

Born in 1972, he was described, in his assessment on January 3, 2004, as Radwan  Shakouri, and was recommended for continued detention, on the basis that he was “of high intelligence value to the United States,” and “pose[d] a medium risk as he may possibly pose a threat to the US, its interests and allies.” Nevertheless, he was released just six months later, along with four other Moroccans, including Mohammed Ouzar (ISN 133), profiled in Part One.

Redouane Chekhouri is the brother of Younis Chekhouri (ISN 197), described here as Ahmad Abdullah Al-Wazan, who is still held, and most of his perceived significance was based on the disputed allegations against his brother. It was claimed that his brother suggested that they (Redouane, Younis and Younis’ wife) traveled to Damascus, Syria to look for work, and that when they couldn’t find any work in Syria, Younis “suggested they try to do relief work in Jalalabad, Afghanistan.” As a result, they traveled overland to Jalalabad, via Iran, where they “went to work with the detainee’s niece’s husband, Abu Ahmad,” described as “a purported member of the Moroccan Islamic Fighting Group (MIFG),” for approximately four months. After the US-led invasion, Redouane was injured during the bombing of Jalalabad, and Younis “went to find [his] wife in Pakistan while his brother was laid up because of his injuries.” He reportedly “stayed in an unidentified Afghan’s house for approximately 27 days and was eventually taken to a hospital in Jalalabad, where he was treated for a broken elbow and head wounds.” There he was seized by Northern Alliance soldiers “and taken to a prison in Kabul, where he was incarcerated for approximately one month,” and was then handed over — or sold — to US forces.

He was flown to Guantánamo on April 30, 2002, “because of his knowledge and involvement with the MIFG and the links between family members (Abu Ahmad) and their actions with the MIFG,” according to the reasons for his transfer that were grafted onto his case after the fact, but it remains unclear whether there is any truth to the US authorities’ claims that either of the Chekhouri brothers were involved with the MIFG, aka the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group or, in French, Groupe Islamique Combattant Marocain (GICM).

On his return to Morocco, Redouane Chekhouri (along with the other ex-prisoners released with him) was put on trial on charges related to terrorism, in a process that involved numerous delays and that concluded in 2007 with his acquittal, which suggests that, in his case, there was no evidence that he was involved with the GICM, even though, in his assessment at Guantánamo, the Joint Task Force stated that he was “claimed by the Moroccan government to be a member of the MIFG,” and that, in addition, “His brother has admitted to being the former military head of the MIFG, and Abu Ahmad has been identified through sensitive information as a member of the MIFG,” and one of [his] other brothers is currently in custody in Italy on charges of recruiting fighters for the Al-Qaida network.”

Emdash Abdullah Turkash (ISN 500, Turkmenistan) Released March 2004

Born in 1935, and therefore 66 years old at the time of his capture, Turkash, who is an Afghan national, and not from Turkmenistan, as claimed in the Pentagon’s records, was assessed on August 16, 2003, when it was stated that he had “been diagnosed with treatable active Tuberculosis and Hepatitis C but [was] otherwise in good health.” It was also stated that he claimed that he was seized by Afghan police in January 2002, in a village in Afghanistan, “because he admitted to being able to speak Arabic.” In addition, it was stated that Turkash claimed that he was “not captured with weapons, equipment, money, passports or documents and that he [was] only a simple ‘street person,’ selling honey and fruits on the street.” He was turned over to US forces in Bagram, and the spurious reason given for his transfer to Guantánamo on January 28, 2002 was because of his “suspected knowledge of Arab activities associated with the Taliban regime.”

This was a thin basis for suspicion, and what happened afterwards seemed only to confirm that Guantánamo existed primarily to create reasons for detaining people who had been sent there not for any specific reason, but only because they had somehow ended up in US custody. Turkash was assessed as never having been “forthright or fully cooperative,” but, in what appeared to be a quietly desperate quest for information, the “[t]ransfer team analysed detainee information and concluded that [he] had knowledge of extremist activities in Saudi Arabia and was deported from SA, along with his entire family because of his family connections to Islamic extremism.” Turkash denied this, acknowledging that he had lived in Saudi Arabia “for over 55 years,” but denying “knowledge of extremist activities.”

It was, moreover, claimed, without much confidence, that he “may have son’s [sic] who are Al-Qaida members and one son may be identifiable with a senior Al-Qaida leader in Chechnya,” and, in conclusion, the Joint Task Force assessed him as “having knowledge of extremist personalities connected to AI-Qaida and may have a son who is an Al-Qaida commander,” even though, in a crucial passage, it was noted that, “Despite repeated efforts to ascertain any information concerning this detainee from the Saudi government, none has been provided and therefore no evidence exists to support this detainee’s continued detention in Guantánamo Bay.”

As a result, he was assessed as being “of low intelligence value to the United States at this time,” and of posing “a medium threat risk to the US, its interests and allies because of his potential connections to Al-Qaida members,” and Maj. Gen. Miller recommended that he be “considered for transfer to the control of another government for continued detention,” with the Task Force’s additional suggestion that, “During detention and additional interrogation in Afghanistan, sources not available now may be available in the future to provide additional intelligence” about him.

Aminulla Amin (ISN 504, Pakistan) Released September 2004

He was born “in approximately 1973,” according to his assessment on July 9, 2003, in which it was stated that his name was Amin Allah Amin, and that he had been “diagnosed with latent tuberculosis and chronic active Hepatitis B,” even though it was also claimed that he was “otherwise in good health.” In addition, the Joint Task Force claimed that, although he was reportedly born in Chaman, Pakistan, “new information states he might have been born in Saudi Arabia or Yemen.”

This, in fact, seem to be a clear example of how, in their desire to justify who was being held at Guantánamo, the authorities ended up clutching wildly at implausible straws. Amin himself stated that he had been seized by agents of Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence directorate (the notorious ISI), while “standing and talking in front of a sidewalk cafe” in the border town of Chaman on December 20, 2001. “Someone,” the report continues, “identified [him] as a possible Taliban affiliate while he claims he was just a teacher,” deliberately misidentified by an “unknown person” who “held a grudge against him or his tribe.” In addition, he explained that he “could have bought his release by paying 100,000 Rupees (about US $1,670)” to ISI officials, which was “how many Taliban bought their release,” because “it was common knowledge that the ISI solicited and accepted bribes from prisoners.”

This whole scenario provides a perfectly plausible explanation for how Amin ended up at Guantánamo (as well as a startling insight into the everyday corruption of the ISI), and the spurious reasons for his transfer to Guantánamo on May 2, 2002 were that he had “knowledge of specific information regarding residences and the possible hiding locations of former Taliban officials in Chaman.” As a result, Maj. Gen. Miller recommended him for release or transfer on December 14, 2002, but by the time of this assessment, seven months later, he had been “identified through a sensitive source as being a Saudi national and a known Tier-II member of Al-Qaida” (which was nonsense), and had also been “‘recognized’ by an associate affiliated with Al-Qaeda,” who, nevertheless (and this should have set alarm bells ringing), “did not know his name or any further information concerning” him.

In a third piece of supposed evidence contradicting Amin’s story, a Sudanese prisoner seized after the Qala-i-Janghi massacre in northern Afghanistan in November 2001 said that Amin was “a person he recognised from the prison in Kandahar.” According to the Joint Task Force, this claim “potentially places the detainee in Afghanistan during the later days of the campaign against the Taliban and calls into question the detainee’s statements and credibility,” even though, to anyone with a modicum of skepticism, it did no such thing, and merely demonstrated instead what happens when prisoners are randomly prevailed upon to tell stories about people whose photographs they are shown while being interrogated in sessions in which the threat of violence is ever present.

In spite of these obvious caveats, Amin was reassessed as “affiliated with Al-Qaida” and “a serious threat to the United States,” who “should be detained for further intelligence purposes,” and it was also stated that he “possesses a high confirmed threat to the US, its interests and its allies.” It took around a year for someone in authority to realise that he was not a Saudi, and that all of the above was nonsense, leading to his release in September 2004.

Sultan Mohammed (ISN 517, Afghanistan) Released May 2003

Born in 1977, he was described, in his assessment on January 18, 2003, as Sulran Mohamed, from Helmand province, and it was also noted that, as well as having latent tuberculosis, in common with the majority of the Afghan prisoners, he also had “frequent migraine headaches, and suffer[ed] from partial hearing loss due to loud explosions in the war.” In terms of justifying his detention, it was stated that, in October 2001, while he was traveling to purchase medicine, “several Taliban soldiers forcibly conscripted him into Taliban service, claiming that he would be allowed to leave with pay after serving three months.” He was then taken to a combat position in Baghlan province, where he remained until his capture two months later, and where it was noted that, “Although he did receive limited weapons training along with other conscripts, his duties primarily consisted of posting guard and repairing meals.” He was captured after fleeing with his group, and the spurious reason for sending him to Guantánamo, on January 11, 2002 (the day the prison opened), was because of his supposed knowledge of various Taliban figures, including the mayor of his region, and his commander in the field.

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 [517] is assessed as neither 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. Miller recommended that he be “considered for release or transfer to the control of another government.”

Khirullah Akah (ISN 518, Afghanistan) Released November 2003

Born in 1977 and described, in his assessment on June 21, 2003, as Khir Ullah, he was apparently “a poppy farmer prior to being selected as one of several young men chosen by his village elder to serve in the Taliban” in the fall of 1999. As a conscript, he was “required to serve for three months of the year for three successive years,” and in his third year, when he was captured en route from Baghlan to Kabul, like Sultan Mohammed, above, he apparently “served as a recruiter,” who “recruited and was in charge of a squad of 13 people to fight with him.” The spurious reason given for his transfer to Guantánamo, on May 2, 2002, was “because of his knowledge of Taliban facilities in Kandahar, Taliban fighters in Baghlan, and the Taliban leadership in the Baghlan and Balkh regions.”

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 [518] 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 US interests.” As a result, Maj. Gen. Miller recommended that he be “considered for release or transfer to the control of another government.”

Abdul Karim (ISN 520, Afghanistan) Released May 2003

Born in 1982, it was noted, in his assessment on September 3, 2002, that he claimed that Taliban members “forcibly took him” from his village “for a three-month conscription period,” and that, on November 13, 2001, “when Kunduz and Mazar-e-Sharif were being captured by the Northern Alliance, his two masters transported [him] to Kabul, where they were subsequently captured by Northern Alliance forces.” Later transferred to US forces, he arrived in Guantánamo on June 12, 2002, on the spurious basis of “his possible knowledge of a Taliban facility in Pol-e-Khumri,” in Baghlan province.

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 [520] is assessed as not affiliated with Al-Qaida and was not being a Taliban leader [sic]. Moreover … the detainee has no further intelligence value to the United States and will not be seen for further intelligence purposes. [B]ased upon all of the foregoing, and the fact that [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. he is not considered a threat to the US or US interests.” As a result, Maj. Gen. Michael Dunlavey recommended that he be “considered for release or transfer to the control of another government.”

Ataullah Adam Gul (ISN 525, Afghanistan) Released March 2004

Born in 1983 and described, in his assessment on November 12, 2003, as Towala Alam Gul, he told his interrogators that he was an Afghan who had “moved to Pakistan to study religion, with his family’s blessing and support,” and had “spent three years near Quetta, studying at different mosques.” After 9/11, amid “rumors that the Taliban would be attacked by the United States,” he apparently traveled by car to Afghanistan with five other people, was captured near Kandahar and taken to Nahrin, in Baghlan province, where, in his words, he “volunteered” to fight with the Taliban, although he also claimed that, after two months’ training, he ” was allowed to go to a bazaar late at night in Nahrin, where he decided to escape, and head for home.” According to his account, however, he was recaptured and sent back to Nahrin, where “he was whipped and told that his punishment would be much harsher if he tried to leave again.”

After resuming his duties, which apparently consisted of working as a guard, he was taken by truck towards Kabul, as American bombers attacked, but was captured by Northern Alliance forces, who “held him in custody for two months before handing him over to American forces.” He arrived in Guantánamo on June 15, 2002 (although it was listed as 2003).

In its assessment, the Joint Task Force stated that he was “assessed as not being a member of Al-Qaida or a Taliban leader. Moreover … the detainee is of no intelligence value to the United States [and] poses a low threat to the US or US 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.”

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.

42 Responses

  1. arcticredriver says...

    Andy you have also taken steps in independently identifying and tracking the identity of the Bagram captives. You encouraged your readers to write in when we came across additional information. This recent compilation of covering memos includes one for a Bagram captive with the ISN 365. It doesn’t provide much detail — except that he was one of the captives classified as an “enduring threat”.
    http://www.dod.gov/pubs/foi/detainees/BagramCAMRedacted_pt1_Updated_66%20pgs_3_3_11.pdf#page=1

    His memo was dated January 2010 — four months after the first official list of the bagram captives, that was a snapshot of the captives held there on September 22, 2009.

    The way I see it he wasn’t on the September 2009 list because he was recaptured during the preceding four months.

    Alternatively, he was held in Bagram when the list was compiled, but in the secret black jail, or somewhere else, where a decision had been made to hold him “off the books”.

    Or, possibly he was re-apprehended prior to being assessed to have been a former captive, and was listed on the September 2009 list, but under a different ISN.

    Cheers!

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    That’s very interesting, arcticredriver. I suspect, based on previous examples of Guantanamo prisoners freed and then recaptured and held in Bagram (see the first few entries here), that the ISN number (ISN 365) means that he’s Sabit Layar, whose story is told above. I also suspect that your analysis — that he wasn’t on the September 2009 list because he was recaptured during the four months preceding his January 2010 memo — is probably accurate.
    Thanks for all your hard work!

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Sod You wrote:

    Obama promised to close down Gitmo, liar liar

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Christine Casner wrote:

    Thanks, Andy — SHARED!! ♥

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    George Kenneth Berger wrote:

    I’ll Digg and Share this later, Andy. For to take a riff on a famous female Brit, who lifted it from a fiction, He who does not pay his rent on time, shall not eat.

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    George Kenneth Berger wrote:

    Well Andy, the homeowner’s computer was broken, so I could not pay my rent. I’ll share and digg now.

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    Ghaliyaa Haq wrote:

    THANKS! I lost my computer glasses!! I’m sunk… I have to find them… :-( Argh…

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Sod You, Christine, George and Ghaliyaa. Your support for this project is much appreciated — as is the support of everyone who has shared it.

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    Tashi Farmilo-Marouf wrote:

    Yesterday the headline on the front page of our local paper was, “Harper declares victory in war on ‘Islamist terror’ in Afghanistan”
    Read more: http://www.ottawacitizen.com/news/Harper+declares+victory+Islamist+terror+Afghanistan/4865018/story.html#ixzz1O1o4jrxE
    IF any of this PROPAGANDA is true — why keep places like Guantanamo open? IF the west has been ‘victorious’ then ‘the war on terror’ is over. IF there was ever such a thing in the first place!!!

  10. Andy Worthington says...

    Good points, Tashi. Thanks.
    Unfortunately, when it comes to the “War on Terror,” logic and common sense have fled, as we have seen with US lawmakers’ response to the death of Osama bin Laden. Mission accomplished? No, an excuse to seek an even wider “War on Terror,” more torture, and more indefinite detention without charge or trial. The world, truly, has turned upside-down.

  11. Andy Worthington says...

    George Kenneth Berger wrote:

    I agree Andy.

  12. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, George!

  13. Andy Worthington says...

    Tashi Farmilo-Marouf wrote:

    Well of course, they got away with it the first time, they pushed the limits of what citizens will accept. Why would they give up such power willingly? It only further serves their own interests!

  14. Andy Worthington says...

    Agreed, Tashi. And that, of course, is how we end up drifting slowly further and further away from what is actually lawful and acceptable and was constructed, over a long period of time, to keep powerful people’s worst instincts in check, until one day those who are still awake realize that we’re living in a full-blown fascist state …

  15. Andy Worthington says...

    George Kenneth Berger wrote:

    Very well said Andy. I am conversant with aspects of Swedish, Dutch, British, and American politics and culture. The latter three show drifts towards full fascism that alarm me. For example, the Dutch government today took steps towards the full privatisation of its healthcare system, which involve yet more marginalization and medical neglect of poor, ill, and elderly people. This happened yesterday and today, with the launch of certain proposals. They result from a demand by Dutch Fascist Geert Wilders, who although not in the cabinet, can fully determine legislation. In one sense that I can explain, Nederland is no longer a Parliamentary democracy, but a semi-formal Oligarchy or one-party state.. We know enough about the US and UK to see related drifts. I am angry and scared.

  16. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, George. Yes, being angry and scared is entirely appropriate. There is a determined attempt by lying, two-faced politicians to remove the safety net from those who are ill, old, unemployed, or who have mental health problems, and to maintain mechanisms beyond the law for those described as terrorists. We are in deep trouble, and most people haven’t even noticed, or don’t even care.

  17. Andy Worthington says...

    Tashi Farmilo-Marouf wrote:

    It is alarming, George and people seem to be asleep! I think we get back what we put out and what we put up with. We are either too lazy or too disinterested or unaware of what governments are doing. They are trying to do the same thing here in Canada, slip in privatization, little by little. Some provinces have a two tier health system already. That means if you are rich, you can get immediate service – and if you are poor you have to wait in line for mediocre service… it is horrible! I don’t understand why anyone accepts it!

  18. Andy Worthington says...

    George Kenneth Berger wrote:

    Here is a reasonably good link http://www.dutchnews.nl/news/archives/2011/06/major_shakeup_for_nonresidenti.php

  19. Andy Worthington says...

    George Kenneth Berger wrote:

    I shall Digg and share now, Andy. And Tashi, thanks for telling me about Canada.

  20. Andy Worthington says...

    George Kenneth Berger wrote:

    I also Dugg and shared the revised prisoner list.

  21. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Tashi. Part of the problem, I think, is with aspiration, so far too many people are failing to care about the common good because they’ve fooled themselves into thinking that one day they might be rich, and so they don’t need to care. But I don’t think that explains it all, and I keep referring to people being asleep, because I think actually that’s the only accurate description of the sleepwalking of the masses into a world that no longer cares about anyone except the rich.

  22. Andy Worthington says...

    And George, thanks for that. Chilling link. I just picked out a few lines that I found particularly alarming:
    “Friends and neighbours will play a much greater role in taking care of the elderly and handicapped in a new vision of long-term care outlined by junior health minister Marlies Veldhuijzen van Zanten”
    “Councils will be able to use ‘professional support, volunteers and school pupils on community work experience schemes’ to supply the care”
    This is what David Cameron calls “the big society”; in other words “F*ck off, you’re on your own.” Very depressing indeed.

  23. Andy Worthington says...

    George Kenneth Berger wrote:

    I must still read it more closely, but two people I trust find it chilling too.

  24. Andy Worthington says...

    George Kenneth Berger wrote:

    That “Friends and neighbors” crap comes from the Christian notion of Love your Neighbor. A standard excuse of many Dutch governments to motivate dumping, in a country brainwashed by an absolutistic interpretation of Romans, verse 13, enforced by Calvin’s Dutch henchmen, the Protestant priests of the United Provinces. An Uppsala history professor argues that the murder of Johan de Witt in 1672 marked the beginning of the downfall of European civilization: it postponed a radical enlightenment wanted by Spinoza for 100 years. By then it was watered down by Locke and Voltaire. Too late. I happen to be writing a story about this now, with a FB friend.

  25. Andy Worthington says...

    George Kenneth Berger wrote:

    That’s right, Andy, “Just go away. Not our problem.” Maggie’s No Society dressed up in Christian apologetics.
    Some of my British colleagues are incensed at what Cameron and Clegg are up to. I’ve been supplying them with information. Some of the stuff about KPMG (aka ATOS ORIGIN) might well have come from me.

  26. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks again, George. Looking forward to your piece about the premature end of the Enlightenment, which I don’t know enough about!

  27. arcticredriver says...

    For what it is worth ISN 363 was one of the first former captives to be accused of being a recidivist.

  28. Andy Worthington says...

    Interesting. Thanks, arcticredriver. The DoD “Fact Sheet: Former Guantanamo Detainee Terrorism Trends,” dated April 7, 2009, describes him as a “suspected” recidivist:
    http://abcnews.go.com/images/Politics/guantanamo_recidivism_list_090526.pdf

    Here’s the story of his supposed death from an Associated Press report (he is named as Maulvi Abdul Ghaffar rather than Shai Jahn Ghafoor, and the key passage concerns US doubts about his identity):
    http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,133581,00.html

    A former inmate at the U.S. prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, who returned to Afghanistan to rejoin the Taliban as a key commander, was killed along with two fellow fighters in a raid by Afghan security forces, two senior officials said Sunday … The Taliban commander, Maulvi Abdul Ghaffar, died along with two comrades in a gunbattle Saturday night in Uruzgan, a southern province, said Gov. Jan Mohammed Khan.

    He said authorities had received intelligence that Ghaffar was hiding in a village called Pishi and was planning an attack against the government. Security forces launched the raid after surrounding the house where the militants were hiding. No Afghan forces were reported hurt.

    The governor said Ghaffar had been a senior Taliban commander in northern Afghanistan and was arrested about two months after a U.S.-led coalition drove the militia from power in late 2001. He was held for eight months at Guantanamo Bay before his release and return to Afghanistan.

    Khan and Afghan Interior Minister Ali Ahmad Jalali Khan said Ghaffar was then appointed leader of Taliban fighters in Uruzgan, a rugged region believed to be a stronghold of the hardline Islamic militia.

    U.S. military officials said they could not immediately confirm Ghaffar had once been in U.S. custody.

  29. Andy Worthington says...

    Back on Facebook, Tashi Farmilo-Marouf wrote:

    ‎”The government’s anti-Islam alliance partner PVV had made 12,000 new nurses a condition of its support for economic reforms.” — George, If these ignorant fools knew anything about Islam, it might actually help them!!! If the VALUES of Islam were applied, they wouldn’t find themselves in this financial meltdown, scrounging around to scape any penny away from necessities to cover their greedy asses! I wish it were true that friends and neighbours would help each other but from what I observe in society people are less and less aware of who their neighbours even are! They aren’t even trusting of the ‘strangers’ living next to them. People are becoming more individualistic – they worship money – think that money is their only salvation. So it appears Charles Darwin is correct when he said this life is a ‘survival of the fittest’ and I would add the richest!

  30. Andy Worthington says...

    George Kenneth Berger wrote:

    I agree totally, Tashi: only the *intended* values count for me. All else is trickery. Here’s the reason for that supposed PVV contradiction. They attract voters with policies that *sound* good, like employing more nurses. At the same time they enforce policies that are medically dangerous and others that are, e.g. Islamophobic. That’s how they get what they *really* want. After the next election, or after the usual amnesia cuts in, they’ll drop their demand for more nurses without a blink of their eyes. Standard practice. They’ve done this before. I might add that Pia Kjaersgaard and her Fascist Dansk Folkparti (Danish People’s Party) behave exactly the same way. The groups learn from each other.

  31. Andy Worthington says...

    Tashi Farmilo-Marouf wrote:

    I don’t like that phrase: Economic Reforms. Because of what you just said, “All else is trickery.” It is trickery. It is not unusual in our human history to target certain groups when we find ourselves in economic difficulties. I look at is as a distraction, people are too busy focused on hating and cleansing, to notice what the real crooks are doing. And hasn’t that always been the people in power! The leaders – the mega rich – the ones who hold the purse strings are the ones who control everything. Shouldn’t they be held to account? This is why I am attracted to religion, because there is no justice on this earth, there must be justice and balance after death. Life wouldn’t make sense otherwise.

  32. Andy Worthington says...

    George Kenneth Berger wrote:

    PS. Instead of “intended values” substitute “actually intended and humane values.” These people are dangerous liars, Tashi. As soon as the Cabinet caves in on any issue, PVV will drop its demand. The very sad part of this is that the Cabinet plays along because it (Cabinet) usually wants these things anyway. Most people do not see it, many find it OK, and the rest just go along and hope they come out OK. It’s called “I’m all right, Jack.” In German it’s explicit: Jeder für sich = each for him (or her) self. And yes, it’s social Darwinism.

  33. Andy Worthington says...

    Tashi Farmilo-Marouf wrote:

    Exactly, each person who sees themselves solely as an individual, has disconnected them self from humanity. How so? We are all human, no matter what shape, colour or form. Imagine a world where we all worked together. It is a beautiful dream of mine. :)

  34. Andy Worthington says...

    George Kenneth Berger ‎wrote:

    Tashi. There might be a little justice on Earth, sporadically and very fragile. As you know, I’m not a believer. My values ultimately derive from faithful friendship and its extension to as much of the world as possible. I’m no individualist, thank goodness.
    PS. In my long experience “reform” is too often a code for cuts and disadvantaging some group.

  35. Andy Worthington says...

    Tashi Farmilo-Marouf wrote:

    I can tell that you are not individualistic, George :) You wouldn’t care so deeply about all these issues otherwise. And thank goodness for that :) See, we don’t all have to be the same – but we should all respect one another – we can all fit comfortably in this world, with all our varied ideas and beliefs and still get along!

  36. Andy Worthington says...

    George Kenneth Berger wrote:

    Thanks Tashi. Appreciated. I agree.

  37. Andy Worthington says...

    Tashi Farmilo-Marouf wrote:

    Here is an interesting Canadian article, George.
    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/ottawa-notebook/trade-minister-launches-blistering-attack-on-ndp/article2044234/
    Money, competing with other economies, remaining ‘strong’, that is what governments care about. People think jobs and income are everything in life! I think that is why they re-elected this Idiot, Harper. He now has a majority government… and they are whining and complaining about the opposition getting in the way (the NDP – that is who I voted for).

  38. Andy Worthington says...

    George Kenneth Berger ‎wrote:

    Tashi. Several good points there. Too many people look and think no further than their next pay check (assuming they have jobs!). If they see they get more money-say one Canadian Dollar–then they think that’s just fine. Not a thought that they might become ill or unemployed. And about the Canadian economy remaining strong. Canada and Sweden are the *only* two Western countries that *so far* have suffered little from the Credit Crunch. In 1994 both countries put pretty strict regulatory laws in place, concerning banking behaviour. But yet, (1.) These two governments are introducing budget cuts, almost entirely for ideological, not economic, reasons. And (2.), many people expect Sweden to start suffering badly, within two years. The government here is cutting- and privatising away like mad. Some are pissed-off and disappointed. It will get worse if people do not act.
    PS Tashi. I’m glad you read that PVV article. I would appreciate it if you would spread it. It shows the worst possible example (so far) of what is being done in supposedly progressive nations. Last night I made sure that it got spread around in Sweden. I work with healthcare groups here that need some shaking up. For after more than 60 years of reasonably good government, too many Swedes have become naive and too trusting.

  39. Andy Worthington says...

    Tashi and George,
    Great conversation — thanks for letting me and all the other readers here in on it. The end of the welfare state — or the end of Western states’ belief that they have an obligation to look after all their citizens — becomes more alarming the more comparisons are made between countries. People really do need to wake up — and fast!

  40. Andy Worthington says...

    George Kenneth Berger wrote:

    Indeed, Andy.

  41. Andy Worthington says...

    George Kenneth Berger wrote:

    I should add the the Credit Crunch and the “war against terrorism” are being used (partially as fronts) to intimidate and frighten too many people into accepting the end of the Welfare State, as a necessity, or. Into plain, thoughtless panic that can oppose nothing.

  42. Andy Worthington says...

    Tashi Farmilo-Marouf wrote:

    I agree George and Andy. We demand less, care for each other less and fear more and work harder. Well, we’re seeing what’s happening now in the “Arab world” – the wheel is turning. One civilization rises and another falls. When we do wake up, if we do wake up, we’ll do it because we’re forced into it (for whatever reason, rising food prices, water shortages, oil and resource shortages, natural disasters and the list goes on.) Cheerful – isn’t it! (lol)

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