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

15.6.11

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 5 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 68 stories were in Part One, Part Two, Part Three and Part Four, and the final instalment is below.

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 unwilling Taliban conscripts or 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 Five of Five)

Azizullah Asekzai (ISN 646, Afghanistan) Released July 2003

Born in 1980, he was assessed on March 8, 2003, when it was stated that he was “a family farmer,” who had been conscripted into Taliban service and taken to the Gereshk district of Helmand province, where Mullah Mir Hamza was the Taliban leader, and where he “was informed by a Taliban guard that he was being held to fight in a jihad.” After five days, he and other conscripts were flown to Kunduz, in northern Afghanistan, where they “lived in a vacant building in downtown Kunduz for two months,” and where Asekzai “received one-day weapons instruction on how to operate the AK-47 and other unknown weapons.”

On November 5, 2001, he “escaped and paid for passage on a jeep to Kabul,” but en route Hazara troops ambushed them, killing the driver. The six passengers fled, and Asekzai hid under a truck belonging to the Hazara, but he was caught and subsequently imprisoned in Bamiyan for almost five months before being handed over to US forces.

It was also stated, as a reason for his transfer to Guantánamo on June 9, 2002, that he was transferred “because of his knowledge of a Taliban draftee holding area in Kunduz and of Mullah Mir Hamza,” 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 [646] 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 does not pose a future threat to the US or its interests.” As a result, Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, the commander of  Guantánamo at the time, recommended that he be “considered for  transfer or release to the control of another government.”

Haydar Jabbar Hafez Tamimi (ISN 648, Iraq) Released March 2004

Born in 1973, he was described in his assessment on July 23, 2003 as Haydar Jabbar Hafez Al Tamimi, and it was also stated that, as well as having latent tuberculosis, in common with a great many of the prisoners, he had “Personality Disorder, Alcohol Abuse (resolved), Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and Depressive Disorder (resolved),” although apparently he was “otherwise in good health.”

In explaining how he ended up in Guantánamo, it was noted that, as a Shia, he was facing religious persecution in Iraq, and so, in October 2000, a man named Ali drove him to Suleimaniya in the Kurdish part of Iraq (the north), where he first joined Dr. Ayad Alawi’s National Wifaq Movement, and then the Iraqi Communist party, which he stayed with until March 2001. He explained that he “did not care for the Communists, but they gave him food, money and health care to be a member,” and so he worked for them as a guard. However, when he “tired of being a Communist,” he fled to Iran, where, seeking UN refugee status, he decided to travel to Pakistan. After visiting the UN office in Quetta, “where he filed for asylum, hoping to get Canada,” he found work in Peshawar with an Afghan named Maashougullah, in a photo studio taking passport photos, where he also worked as an interpreter.

When Maashougullah was seized by Pakistani and Taliban intelligence and taken to Kabul, his mother asked Al-Tamimi to take money and medicine to him, because “no one in her family could because they were known to be Northern Alliance sympathisers.” Seeking Maashougullah, he traveled to Afghanistan and “went to the Taliban Intelligence HQ in Kabul where the Taliban immediately arrested him.” he then spent 30 days in jail until the Taliban fled and he and the rest of the prisoners broke out of the jail. he left with Maashougullah and another man called Mohammed Ishan, who allowed Al-Tamimi to stay at his house, but later “sold him to General Fahim of the Northern Alliance.”

Interestingly, the reasons given for his transfer to Guantánamo, which, as I have explained, were grafted onto the prisoners’ cases after their transfer, dealt only partly with Afghanistan. It was stated that one reason for his transfer was because of his knowledge of the Taliban Intelligence Center in Kabul, but the other reasons were to do with Iraq, and it is known from the sad story of Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi that, from the moment Guantánamo opened, the US authorities were anxious to secure intelligence that might help to justify their plans to invade Iraq. Al-Libi was the emir of a training camp in Afghanistan, who was rendered to Egypt after his capture, where, under torture, he falsely confessed that two al-Qaeda operatives had met Saddam Hussein to discuss the use of chemical and biological weapons. Al-Libi later recanted his false confession (before he was returned to Libya, where he died in prison in May 2009), but his statement was still used to justify the invasion of Iraq, and in Al-Tamimi’s case it was noted that two of the reasons for his transfer to Guantánamo were because of his knowledge of a weapons storage facility in Kirkuk, Iraq, and also of a communications center in Kirkuk.

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

It is, however, not known what happened on his return. He stated that he “would like to get back to his life, earn money, have a normal family life.” It wa salsa noted that he “is resourceful, willing to take any work, [and] just wants to live freely without suffering for his faith,” but it is not known whether that would have happened to a Guantánamo prisoner released just a year after the US-led invasion.

Abdul Baqi (ISN 656, Afghanistan) Released November 2003

Born in 1937 and therefore around 65 at the time of his capture, he was assessed on May 3, 2003, when it was stated that he was a farmer, whose “daily routine was to wake at dawn, pray to Allah, eat breakfast and go to the fields. He would work all day except during the morning, noon, afternoon and evening breaks to pray and to eat if there was food available.” In the summer of 2001, he paid the Taliban to avoid conscription, but after the US-led invasion he was “arrested during a raid to find Mullah Popuza,” when his house was raided, and, “while his wife and five children were sleeping in a nearby room … soldiers broke down the door and trained their weapons on him,” blindfolding him and taking him to the US prison at Kandahar airport. According to his assessment, he did not know “how many days he was in captivity before he was flown to Guantánamo Bay but described many days of interrogation.” The spurious reason given for his transfer to Guantánamo on June 13, 2002 was “because of his knowledge of Taliban conscription,” which, if true, could surely have been achieved without either holding him prisoner or transporting him halfway around the world.

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 [656] 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 does not pose a future threat to the US, or its interests.” As a result, Maj. Gen. Miller recommended that he be “considered for transfer to the control of another government.”

Hezbullah (ISN 666, Afghanistan) Released November 2003

Born in 1984 and described in his assessment on July 23, 2003 as a Pakistani national born in Miram Shah, and not an Afghan, his full name was given as Hezbullah Abd Jalil Andar, and it was also noted that he had been described as being an Afghan “because that was where he had been living since 1990 and [he] considered that his home,” and also that he “wishe[d] to be repatriated back to his family in Afghanistan.”

It was also stated that, sometime in April 2002, when he may only have been 17 years old (hence his inclusion in my recent article, WikiLeaks and the 22 Children of Guantánamo), he “was cutting alfalfa on his farm” in Afghanistan, when “Coalition forces appeared in his village, searching the area.” He was asked if he knew Saifullah Rahman Mansoor, and when he said that he did, he showed the soldiers the way to Mansoor’s house, and, with his cousin, “helped the soldiers move objects from the house, after it was searched, and load them on a truck.” The soldiers then asked Hezbullah and his cousin to accompany them, and US Military Police took them to Gardez, “where they underwent biographical data interrogations.” They were then taken to Bagram, “where they stayed for approximately 40 days undergoing two full interrogations,” and “were then transported to Kandahar for 20-25 days.” He was then transferred to Guantánamo, on June 13, 2002, and the spurious reason that was given for his transfer was “because of his knowledge of the Taliban in Afghanistan.”

It seems that hIs cousin is probably Abdul Al Hameed Andarr (ISN 668, see below), who was assessed as being a “low-level Taliban member,” although no such claim was made for Hezbullah. 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 [666] 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, its interests, or its allies.” As a result, Maj. Gen. Miller recommended that he be “considered for release or transfer to the control of another government.”

Kari Mohammed Sarwar (ISN 667, Afghanistan) Released July 2003

Born in 1978, he was described in his assessment on March 8, 2003 as having been “diagnosed with chronic hepatitas B [sic] and photophobia,” although it was also stated that he was “otherwise in good health.”

When it came to the allegations against him, it was apparent that he was nothing mow than a religious scholar, seized by mistake (or for opportunistic reasons). After studying religion for three years in Khost province, he had then spent another two years “teaching children about the Koran and about purification rituals,” although he “did not receive any money or support from the mosque during this time [and] was supported entirely by his family.” At the end of February 2002, he “was offered a paid position at the mosque in Dap Kali, a small village near Khost,” where he “was paid a salary of 1,100 Pakistani Rupees to teach.”

Three weeks after taking this job, on March 21, 2002, he traveled to another village to visit his aunt, and there, while he was “preparing for prayer time, some unknown men approached him,” who “wanted to know if [he] was a Taliban [sic].” He “replied that he was not,” but the men sized him anyway and “turned him over to the United States ” — almost certainly, I would suggest, for money. The spurious reason given for his transfer to Guantánamo on June 13, 2002 was “because of his knowledge of Taliban operations in Khost.”

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 [667] 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 does not pose a future threat to the US, or its interests.” As a result, Maj. Gen. Miller recommended that he be “considered for transfer for release [sic] to the control of another government.”

Abdul Al Hameed Andarr (ISN 668, Afghanistan)  Released March 2004

Born in 1968, he was seized with his younger cousin, Hezbullah (ISN 666, see above), and in his assessment on October 21, 2003 it was stated that US and Afghan soldiers had searched his house and his village “because of his relationship to his first cousin, a senor Taliban leader and the Taliban’s former Eighth Division Commander,” identified as Saifullah Rahman Mansour. It was “also determined that [he] had brothers that were members of the Taliban government,’ albeit ones who were not named and were described as being of “undetermined seniority.”

Questioned and “suspected of then continued involvement [sic] with the Taliban,” he was taken into custody with Hezbullah, undergoing the process his cousin described: preliminary detention in Gardez, followed by 40 days in Bagram, and approximately a month in Kandahar. Despite attempting to ramp up his significance, however, the Task Force’s spurious reason for his transfer to Guantánamo on June 14, 2002 was ambivalent, noting only that he had been transferred “because of his possible knowledge concerning senior Taliban members.”

In its reasons for detaining Andarr, the Task Force stated that Mansour was “reported to be directing hit-and-run attacks on US and Coalition forces in AF, as well as reportedly planning suicide-bombing attacks against senior Afghan Transitional Authority (ATA) members.” It was alleged that Andarr was captured at a compound controlled by Mansour (although his cousin’s account suggested that he had voluntarily taken US forces to the compound) “and was living [sic] and working for Mansour,” and although it was assessed that much of the information he was presumed to possess was “considered dated and would be of marginal use, that information he could still possess might lead to a greater understanding of the persons involved in insurgent operations.” It was also noted that information about is brothers might also be useful, as “his family’s affiliations pose a continuing threat to the ATA.”

In his assessment, it was noted that he was “assessed as being a low-level Taliban member,” who was “of low intelligence value to the United States,” and was “a low threat risk to the US, its interests and allies.” As a result, Maj. Gen. Miller recommended that he be “considered for transfer to the control of another government for continued detention.”

Mohammed Haji Yousef (ISN 820, Afghanistan) Released November 2003

Born in 1967, he was described in his assessment on August 30, 2003 as Mohammed Yusef, and it was stated that he “owned a Public Call Office (PCO) and two other shops in the local bazaar in Bermal,” in Paktia province, where he had worked “for approximately 21 years.” He was seized during a raid on his store “for [sic] suspicion of being an Al-Qaida facilitator,” apparently because “[s]everal calls to incriminating numbers were reportedly made from the PCO.” The Task Force noted that he “maintained throughout the course of interrogations that he did not make the calls and was not aware of any suspicious activity going on in his store,” although it was also claimed that he “did have little knowledge [sic] on [sic] Al-Qaida financial operations” involving the hawala system, even though he “was not directly involved in the financial operations.”

When it came to the spurious reason for his transfer to Guantánamo, on October 28, 2002, it was stated that he was transferred “because of his knowledge of the financial network used to finance Taliban and Al-Qaida activities from abroad, and the means of communication utilized by the Al-Qaida and Taliban forces,” even though that was not a fair reflection of what had been presented as the reasons for his detention.

In its assessment, the Task Force stated that he was “assessed as not being affiliated with Al-Qaida nor a Taliban leader,” and that, in addition, he was “of low intelligence value to the United States,” and posed “a low threat to the US, its interests or its allies.” As a result, Brig. Gen. James E. Payne III of the US Army, who signed the memo, recommended that he “be considered for release or transfer to the control of another government for continued detention.”

Tila Mohammed Khan (ISN 830, Pakistan) Released November 2003

He was born in 1980, and it was stated, in his assessment on August 9, 2003, that he had “a history of depression and anxiety,” but was “otherwise in good health.” In describing the reasons for his detention, the Task Force stated that he lived in Waziristan, and had attended “a pro-jihad demonstration,” which, according to the memo’s author, was “presumably sponsored by the Taliban,” even though there was no reason for presuming this, as it may well have been sponsored by a Pakistani militant group.

As a result of attending this demonstration he apparently “decided to support the Taliban against Americans because he was promised food and a weapon.” He then “departed with 35-40 individuals to Kabul,” where “he served as a gate guard and a cook near the Kabul airport.” Having at some point deserted, or been told to flee after the US-led invasion, he was seized “while traveling from Kabul to his uncle’s home” (in Amana, in Paktika province), and was then held in Bagram for two months before being transferred to Guantánamo. The spurious reason for his undated transfer to Guantánamo was “because of his support for the Taliban and for his serving in a combatant role.”

In its assessment, the Task Force stated that he was “assessed as being a very low-level member of the Taliban,” and that, in addition, he was “of low intelligence value to the United States,” and posed “a low threat to the US, its interests and allies.” As a result, Maj. Gen. Miller recommended that he “be considered for release and repatriation to his country of origin.”

Sultan Ahmad (ISN 842, Pakistan) Released September 2004

Born in 1984 and very possibly a juvenile when seized, as I explained in my articles The Pentagon Can’t Count: 22 Juveniles Held at Guantánamo, and WikiLeaks and the 22 Children of Guantánamo, he was assessed on November 24, 2003, when it was stated that he had been “deceptive during interrogations,” claiming that he had wanted to travel to Turkey for jihad, and then claiming that he had wanted to travel to Turkey to find work, but “was robbed, which forced him to travel through Afghanistan.” There, he said, while attempting to cross the border back into Pakistan, he was “arrested by Afghan border troops and turned over to US personnel.” The spurious reason given for his transfer to Guantánamo on February 7, 2003 was “because he may provide information regarding Jihad recruitment.”

The Task Force assessed him as being “maybe a member of Lashkar-e-Tayyiba,” the Pakistani militant group that is primarily devoted to the struggle in Kashmir, and noted that he “may also be a member of  Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI),” which is actually a political party,albeit one committed to a Conservative, Deobandi interpretation of Islam. However, it was not certain that there was any truth to these assessments. As the Task Force also noted, Ahmad had confused the Criminal Investigative Task Force (CITF), whose Behavioral Science Consultation Team(BSCT), had “completed a behavioural review on 15 September 2003 and was unable to assign a risk category.”

Nevertheless, the Task Force concluded that he was “assessed as an extremist recruit,” who was “of intelligence value to the United States,” and who, above all, posed “a High Threat to the US, its interests or its allies.” As a result, Maj. Gen. Milller recommended that he “be retained under DoD control,” but in fact he was released 10 months later.

Saghir Ahmed (ISN 843, Pakistan) Released September 2004

He was born in 1975, and it was stated, in his assessment on November 11, 2003, that he “claimed that he was recruited in Pakistan to fight Jihad” by a member of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI) and that he “understood that he would be fighting Americans” and “decided to participate anyway.” He apparently signed a pledge to this effect, which “was to be used as a letter of introduction when he arrived in Afghanistan,” but which, instead, was found in his possession when he tried to enter Afghanistan, and was stopped by Afghan troops, and subsequently handed over to US forces.

In its assessment, the Task Force concluded that he had been “deceptive during his interrogations and refuse[d] to be forthright,” and was “suspected of being much more than a ‘recruit'” — in other words, he was “suspected of being a full member of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam,” and was regarded as being an “extremist Jihadist.” This was reflected in the spurious reasons given for his transfer to Guantánamo on November 11, 2003, when it was stated that he was being transferred “because [of] his knowledge of personnel recruiting for the Jihad in Afghanistan and Kashmir.” It was also stated that he was “assessed as being a probable member of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam,” but not as “a member of Al-Qaida nor a Taliban leader,” that he was “of intelligence value to the United States,” and that he posed “a medium threat to the US, its interests or its allies.” As a result, Maj. Gen. Miller recommended that he “be retained under DoD control,” although, like Sultan Ahmad, he was released 10 months later.

Barak (ISN 856, Afghanistan) Released March 2004

Born in 1972 in Paktia province, it was stated in his assessment on November 20, 2003 that he was seized “during a raid on a compound, which contained rockets and other weapons.” Initially, he “denied knowledge of the weapons but later admitted that the rockets belonged to his brother, Rafig,” who had reportedly “received them from Jalaluddin Haqqani (former Taliban commander)of the Zadran Tribe and stored them at the compound.” The spurious reason given for his transfer to Guantánamo on March 1, 2003 was “because of this involvement with weapons trafficking and his possible membership in the Taliban,” although it seemed clear from his assessment that these suspicions had come to nothing.

Although it was stated that he had been “evasive in interrogations” and “was tentatively identified as a supporter of the former Taliban commander Khalifa,” and it was also claimed that he and his brother may have been “involved in attacks against Coalition forces,” the notion that he was a worthwhile prisoner largely collapsed when he “was polygraphed in November 2002, regarding his knowledge of the purchase of the weapons and his assistance in the purchase of these weapons,” and “[t]he results of the polygraph indicated no deception.”

As  a result, he was “assessed as being neither affiliated with AI-Qaida nor a Taliban leader.” It was also stated that he was “of no intelligence value to the United States,”and that he posed “a Low Threat to the US, its interests or its allies.” Maj. Gen. Miller therefore recommended his release or transfer to the control of another government, but the Criminal Investigative Task Force “indicated that more investigation was needed to complete a threat assessment,” so it was decided that, “Until further law enforcement investigation is conducted by CITF and an assessment is made, JTF GTMO and CITF cannot agree on this particular detainee.” That investigation must have taken place swiftly, because Barak was released four months later.

Mohammed Khan (ISN 910, Afghanistan) Released September 2004

Born in 1982, he was seized, in a compound near Gardez that was owned by a local warlord named Samoud Khan, with seven others who ended up in Guantanamo. Notoriously, three or four of these prisoners were juveniles at the time of their capture, including (as I explained in my articles, The Pentagon Can’t Count: 22 Juveniles Held at Guantánamo and WikiLeaks and the 22 Children of Guantánamo), two boys who were just 13 or 14 years old at the time.

Like many of the prisoners, he was diagnosed, in his assessment on August 23, 2003, with latent tuberculosis, and also with “an Adjustment Disorder,” although he was also described as being “otherwise in good health.” When it came to the allegations against him, he stated that, on the day in December 2002 when he was seized, “he recalls returning to the compound after doing errands when he and others were told the Americans were coming. Several persons departed the compound while [he] and several others stayed behind, believing they had nothing to fear from the Americans.” Instead, however, “after the Americans arrived they took everyone’s weapons, and arrested and handcuffed everyone.” Khan specifically “advised that  no one resisted the Americans but they were arrested anyway.” The spurious reason given for his transfer to Guantánamo on February 6, 2003 was “because of his knowledge of routes of travel used by Samoud Khan and his associates, facilities used by Samoud Khan, and egress routes from Afghanistan.”

In its assessment, the Task Force stated that Khan was “assessed as being neither affiliated with aI-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 risk 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.”

Bismaullah (ISN 960, Afghanistan) Released September 2004

Born in 1948, he was described in his assessment on August 30, 2003 as Bismulla. He is one of at least ten prisoners seized in February 2003 “under suspicion of involvement in an ambush of American and Coalition Forces, while they were traveling along a road north of Lejay,” in Helmand province. Like others seized after this alleged attack, Bismaullah “was arrested because he was ‘wearing OD green military jacket at a checkpoint after a firefight’ which was the uniform of others involved with the attack.” The spurious reason given for his transfer to Guantánamo on May 9, 2003 was “because of his suspected involvement in the ambush and his knowledge of general order of battle information regarding the anti-coalition militia forces in the Lejay area.”

Bismaullah stated that “he was not involved in the attack and he was in a local mosque for morning prayer when he heard the gunfire and dismissed it as possibly ‘celebratory’ gunfire.” He also stated that, “after prayer, he was riding with a friend, Said Ali, on a motorcycle in route [sic] to a funeral of a relative when he was stopped at a checkpoint and arrested, under suspicion of his possible involvement.”

As with most, if not all of the other men seized, the Task Force conceded that “little hard fact” [sic] was “evident to directly link [him] to the ambush as a participant,” although it was noted that his “creditability” [sic] was “assessed as poor and he [had] not been candid or forthcoming in his interviews,” and that he had “refused to fully explain his actions on that day,” and that this made him “a continuing threat” to the US and its allies. Nevertheless, he was “assessed as being neither a member of Al-Qaida nor a Taliban leader,” and as being “of low intelligence value to the United States.” Defining his threat level, the Task Force called him “a low threat to the US, [but] a medium threat to the current government of Afghanistan because of his possible affiliation with local subversive elements.” As a result, Brig. Gen. James E. Payne III, who signed the memo, recommended that he “be considered for release or transfer to the control of another government for continued detention,” although it was also noted that, at the time, CITF had not approved his transfer because their investigation “was incomplete.”

Akhtar Mohammed (ISN 969, Afghanistan) Released March 2004

Born in 1983, he was a farmer and taxi driver, described, in his assessment on August 2, 2003, as being “uneducated” and with “no record of travel outside of his home region” in Helmand province. He was seized at a checkpoint in Lejay in February 2003 following an attack on US Special Forces (see Bismaullah, ISN 960, above) “while driving his taxicab to a local bazaar in Baghran.” Those who detained him “suspected that the taxi contained personnel that were responsible for the attack. Upon investigation, the passengers were released; however, detainee was not due to his name being synonymous with Taliban leader Abdul Wahid’s driver.” He was sent to Guantánamo in March 2003.

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 [969] 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 does not pose a future threat to the US, or its interests.” As a result, Maj. Gen. Miller recommended that he be “considered for transfer for release [sic] to the control of another government.”

Amanullah (ISN 970, Afghanistan) Released September 2004

No Detainee Assessment Brief exists for Amanullah, but he was included in a separate Task Force assessment on “Afghanistan/Pakistan Detainee’s” [sic], dated March 29, 2004, in which it was noted that he had “a history of the excision of a right ankle ganglion cyst, and mild intermittent asthma,” although he was “currently in good health.”

It was also stated that he was seized outside his house in a village in Helmand province on February 11, 2003. This was probably near Lejay, where there had been an attack (see Bismaullah, ISN 960, and Akhtar Mohammed, ISN 969, above) which was probably what was being referred to in Amanullah’s file, when it was noted, “According to reports, there was a 48-hour firefight between US Forces and Taliban right before detainee was captured.”

Amanullah stated that he “heard an explosion near his house and went to look for his son who was tending to livestock,” that “his son was injured from the bombs,” and that, when he “was walking his son back home to take care of his wounds US forces detained him.” He added that a Hazara linguist, who was translating for the US forces, “threatened his son to say that the detainee had hidden an AK-47 and was hiding 20-armed men with AK-47’s and rockets in a cave near his village,” and that “his son told the US patrol what the linguist had said out of fear for his father’s safety and that led to detainee’s arrest.” Transported to Bagram on February 12, 2003, he arrived in Guantánamo on March 25, 2003.

Under the heading, “Exploitation Requirements,” it was stated that Amanullah had “[p]ossible information on Taliban and Al-Qaida operations, leadership structure, locations of proposed targets in the Helmand Province, AF, and possible enemy weapons caches,” but he was assessed as a low risk, and as being of low intelligence value, and the Task Force also noted, “It appears that the detainee has not participated in hostilities and possesses a low threat to the US, its allies and interests.” As a result, he was recommended for release or transfer to the control of another government for continued detention.

Mohammed Akbar (ISN 1011, Pakistan) Released September 2004

Born in 1973 and described in his assessment on December 30, 2003 as an Afghan national called Akbar Mohammed, he was “diagnosed with latent Tuberculosis and as being in the early stages of Schizophreniform,” but it was claimed that he was “otherwise in good health.”

When it came to the reason for his detention, the Task Force note that it was “believed” that he “was captured by the iranians at an undetermined location inside of Iran and held for an undetermined amount of time,” before being “turned over to Afghan authorities sometime in March 2003 along with 7 others, all suspected by the Iranians of being Al-Qaida or Taliban operatives.” Those seized with him were mostly Afghans and Yemenis, and most were then subjected to brutal treatment in secret prisons in Afghanistan that were under the control of the CIA, as I explained in a report on secret detention for the United Nations in 2010.

Akbar was evidently more fortunate than most, if not all of these other prisoners, because he was transferred to Guantánamo on May 8, 2003, the spurious reason being that, while held at Bagram, he had admitted to being with a Taliban leader in Pakistan and “volunteering to work for Al-Qaida.” This was of great interest to the Task Force, who noted, “Prior to his arrival at GTMO, [his] interviews indicated he was purposely [sic] concealing information,” and also noted that his claim of being an Afghan was “thought to be part of his cover story, meant to help mitigate his affiliations and importance,” which was inferred because he was “highly educated and speaks at least 5 languages.” However, he had “not explained where he received his education,” had “not explained his position or affiliation with the Taliban,” and had further confused matters by claiming that he was an officer in the Afghan Army, which could not be confirmed. It was also noted that he had “unexplained travels that could possibly indicate a greater involvement with Islamic extremism.”

In conclusion, the Task Force admitted that Akbar “cannot be assessed as whether he was a member of Al-Qaida or a Taliban leader at this time,” although it was noted that he was of intelligence value to the United States,” and posed “a medium risk, as he may possibly pose a threat to the US, its interests or its allies.” As a result, Maj. Gen. Miller that he should be retained under DoD control, which he was for another nine months until his release.

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 June 2011, 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.

20 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    On Facebook, George Kenneth Berger wrote:

    I just Dugg it, Andy. Shall share it now. BTW The result I helped get [regarding campaigning in Sweden against the privatization by stealth of healthcare services] isn’t perfect, because an extreme right party in the coalition rejected one part of it. Forgot to mention that. But I think it was the best possible given that party’s presence.

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, George. And may I say again how pleased I am that you’ve made such progress educating people about the problems with healthcare and privatization in Europe.

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    George Kenneth Berger wrote:

    My pleasure, Andy. And although I must slow down, I’ve no plans to stop.

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Sharon Tipton wrote:

    Andy, thank you for bringing to our attention these crimes against humanity and civilization.

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    I’m very glad to hear it, George. We need your informed analysis. And Sharon, thanks very much. It’s my pleasure to continue exposing these stories, which cumulatively continue to demonstrate what an abomination Guantanamo was and is. Compiling this five-part series was an important refresher course for me in understanding the extent of the Bush administration’s failures.

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    George Kenneth Berger wrote:

    Thanks Andy. Off to dreamland now. Keep up the good work.

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    Sleep well, George. I’m off to bed soon myself. I’m going to York tomorrow, to show “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantanamo” to the York University Amnesty International Society, and then back to start research on the rest of the stories in the WikiLeaks files — that will take until the end of the year!

  8. WikiLeaks: The Unknown Prisoners of Guantánamo (Part Five of Five … | The Daily Conservative says...

    [...] more: WikiLeaks: The Unknown Prisoners of Guantánamo (Part Five of Five … Share and [...]

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    AniTa Hernan wrote:

    One day the prisoners will be able to tell you how grateful they are for being remembered. Thank you for all you do Andy.

  10. Andy Worthington says...

    Thank you, AniTa. That’s really cheered me up on a rainy day in London!

  11. Andy Worthington says...

    Ren Chemista wrote:

    Andy, the work you are doing on behalf of others is so critically important. Thank you for being their advocate. Justice alone sustains society.

  12. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Ren. Much appreciated. I particularly agree that “Justice alone sustains society,” as it appears that without serious, unbreakable guidelines for what is just, even supposedly good people can become tyrants and torturers.

  13. arcticredriver says...

    Andy, can I share with your readers some additional information about the February 10, 2003 raid on the village of Lejay, where captive 960, 969 and 970 were captured?

    I did some further reading about this raid, after reading the testimony of the nine men who were still in Guantanamo in time for their CSR Tribunals.

    The DoD and Bush appointees kept asserting that all the Guantanamo captives had been “captured on the battlefield”. But, I am sure your readers know by now, practically none of the captives had been captured on a battlefield, for any reasonable definition of battledfield. As I read the testimony of those nine men, who testifed at their CSR Tribunal, it brought home to me how someone could be “captured on a battlefield” because one was unfortunate enough to _live_ on the battlefield, and so were still there, when the actual shooters had left.

    There is something very important you and your readers won’t find in the Guantanamo documents. First, what is in these assessment briefs and the OARDEC allegations memos are that the US accounts of the “ambush” are very confused. However, none of the documents refer to the US receiving any casualties or any damage to their vehicles. Americans like to think of their troops, and American troops like to think of themselves as invicible, the best trained, bravest soldiers on planet Earth — including being cool under fire. Even though the US troops in question were (probably) special forces, my impression is that they were green troops, who had never been under fire. I regard it as a strong possibility that the Americans were not really subjected to an ambush, after all, and that some green troops in the American convoy started firing indiscriminately, after hearing a vehicle’s exhaust backfire.

    Some of the allegation memos are candid — seventy military age men were rounded up — and the eleven sent to HQ were chosen more or less at random.

    What the allegation memos don’t say is that the ones sent to HQ may have been the lucky ones, because US aircraft returned to bomb Lejay the next day. At least one of the captives lost a brother when this civilian village, which had just been searched, and had all the suspected militants taken away, and all its weapons taken away, was bombarded.

    The bombing was part of “Operation Eagle Fury”. Operation Eagle Fury would eventually involve daily air strikes from aircraft from various NATO air forces.

    It included bombing from multiple B52s. A whole battalion of US forces were sent to the region to search for the who shot at the US convoy. US spokesmen claimed back in February and March 2003 that Operation Eagle Fury resulted in the capture of a dozen militants. But I think we should assume this simply referred to the dozen men picked at random on February 10th. US spokesmen claimed that an aircraft fired on and destroyed a group of armed men. But the allegation memos stated that Lejay was one of the prime areas where illicit opium was grown. Opium drug lords also maintain bodies of armed men. This group of armed men the aircraft fired upon may have been the guards employed by a drug lord, not anti-government fighters.

    One of the things I think most notable about this “ambush” at Lejay, and the American reaction, is how wildly disproportionate it was. If anti-government forces really had fired upon a US convoy, without causing injury, did that really justify bombing the nearest village, and inflicting significant civilian casualties?

    Punishing civilians in retaliation for what guerilla fighters have done, in the region, is a war crime. The SS used to retaliate against civilians when they couldn’t capture resistance fighters. It is one of the reasons Nazis remain so villified. Sadly, we see in Lejay, US and NATO forces committed exactly the same war crime.

  14. arcticredriver says...

    Andy, you wrote, that US intelligence analysts asserted that captive 1010 had
    “unexplained travels that could possibly indicate a greater involvement with Islamic extremism.”

    The Pentagon Papers were finally declassified a few days ago — after forty years. Andy, I hope you and I are around whenever all the GWOT documents are finally declassified. I think they will confirm that the reason captive 1010 wouldn’t explain his travel is the same reason he developed schizophrenia.

    Drugs.

    If he was a heavily addicted junkie, like that Iranian Christian who ended up in Guantanamo, that could easily explain how he developed schizophrenia. And if he paid off his drug debts by serving as a drug courier, that would explain extensive travel.

    That is one of the surprising things about the Guantanamo documents — given that Afghanistan is the world’s center for illicit opium, and that it is the main cash crop and the main export, how infrequently opium is mentioned.

  15. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, arcticredriver. Your contributions, based on excellent research, are always welcome, and your two reports above contribute significantly to the record.

  16. Andy Worthington says...

    Gaian Aware wrote:

    shared

  17. Andy Worthington says...

    Thank you, and thanks also to everyone who has shared this. I’m in York, and have just completed a very successful trip to show “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantanamo” to a great Amnesty student audience. My train is delayed, so I’m just taking advantage of the free Wi-Fi at the station to catch up on emails and messages, and will then be working on more stories from the WikiLeaks files on the way home — part of a project to cover all the stories in the WikiLeaks files that I’ll be working on for the next six months!

  18. Andy Worthington says...

    Josh Meyer wrote:

    great stuff Andy

  19. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Josh. Good to hear from you.

  20. arcticredriver says...

    Thanks for the encouragement Andy.

    Can I make a comment on the “OD” (short for “olive-drab”) jackets the Lejay 12 were all asserted to be wearing?

    One of the repeated memes put forward to justify not according the USA’s captives in Afghanistan the protection of the POW status, as laid out in the Geneva Conventions, was that the Taliban didn’t wear uniforms. But here we see one of the many instances within the Guantanamo documents where a key justification for detaining captives was that they were wearing uniforms.

    Of course the Geneva Conventions doesn’t require combatants wear a “uniform”. It requires captives to wear a “fixed distinctive marking, visible from a distance”. I am not a lawyer, but in discussions elsewhere I have been informed that this does not require what Americans normally think of as a uniform. I have been informed that an distinctive armband, a distinctive vest, or a distinctive hat, is sufficient to fulfill this requirement.

    Some of the captives who described themselves as slave laborers, kidnapped in the neighbouring xStan republics, only to be traded to the Taliban by resistance groups active in the other Stan republics, where they were employed as kitchen workers, or laundry workers, faced the allegation that they had been issued “Taliban uniforms”.

    So, while the DoD spokesmen, and Bush political appointees, were asserting that the Taliban did not fulfill this Geneva Convention requirement, the Guantanamo analysts were asserting the exact opposite.

    What did a “Taliban uniform” look like? Could one distinguish between what an ordinary Pashtun would wear, and a Taliban, in his Taliban uniform? In their testimony, some foreigners said they couldn’t tell ordinary Pashtun from members of the Taliban. But other captives, who were afraid of the Taliban, said one could tell Pashtun civilians from Taliban, by what they wore. The Taliban wore a particular shade of traditional Afghan suit, the loose off white pants and long tunic, topped by a very long grey vest, and an oversize black turban. After reading this description I could see, in news reports, and in documentaries, that one could recognize this distinctive clothing.

    With regard to the Lejay 12 wearing “olive drab” jackets, first, in a region that has been at war since 1979, it should hardly be considered remarkable for men to wear army surplus jackets.

    This is an instance where the detainee assessment briefs are not in concurrence with the OARDEC allegation memos, and the testimony of the captives at their status hearings. Several captives who were described as being captured at the roadblock(s) testified that they were in fact, at home, in the village of Lejay, or in their fields, when they were rounded up with all the other military age men. Further, some of these men’s OARDEC allegation memos assert that they were captured due to “hearing loss” attributed to having fired automatic weapons, with no mention of wearing an army surplus jacket.

    The allegation memos offer three criteria by which the lucky eleven men who were sent to HQ following the roundup were distinguished from the other 59 men. (1) OD jackets; or (2) apparent hearing loss; or (3) stains on their clothing that could be blood — or grease. Andy, you have explained that much of the explanation for why captives were transferred to Guantanamo were basically, bald-faced lies, written long after the captives were transferred to Guantanamo. I recently read Karen Greenberg’s “Least Worst Place” — and this book makes the same point. Analysts didn’t have a clue who the captives were, when they were transferred to Guantanamo. They didn’t even know their names. What I think we see in the assessments is that analysts knew SOME of the Lejay 12 were captured at the roadblock(s), wearing an “OD” jacket, so they felt free to describe ALL of the men as being captured at the roadblock, wearing an OD jacket. “Close enough for government work” as we say here.

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