Tyler Cabot’s Important Profile of Guantánamo Prisoner Noor Uthman Muhammed for Esquire

29.8.11

Every now and then, mainstream media magazines pick up on a story from Guantánamo and run with it, reaching a wide audience and providing detailed coverage of the Bush administration’s shameful prison, which Barack Obama has found himself unable to close, and which, for the 171 men still held, appears now to be a prison without end.

Guantánamo has become largely forgotten by those who should be alarmed at what its continued existence reveals about America’s humanity and sense of justice, but who, in all too many cases, are misled by their media and by the senior Bush administration officials who are still allowed to continue defending their dreadful policies and criminal activities in public, even though they should be held accountable for their part in implementing torture.

For Esquire this month, Tyler Cabot, an editor at the magazine, has profiled Noor Uthman Muhammed, otherwise known as Prisoner 707, a Sudanese prisoner who was subjected to a trial by Military Commission at Guantánamo in February this year, as I explained in my article, “Hiding Horrific Tales of Torture: Why The US Government Reached A Plea Deal with Guantánamo Prisoner Noor Uthman Muhammed.” The military jury in Muhammed’s case gave him a 14-year sentence, although he is only supposed to serve 34 months as the result of a plea deal, but such is the injustice at Guantánamo that it is by no means certain that he will actually be released.

Cabot’s connection to the case is through his father, Howard Cabot, a corporate lawyer who, to his son’s immense surprise, ended up working on Muhammed’s case. With the assistance of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, an organization that supports journalism on underreported topics, Cabot wrote “Stories My Father Told Me,” a feature on his father, and his involvement in Noor Uthman Muhammed’s case, for the June 2009 edition of Esquire, and he also reported on Muhammed’s trial in February this year, in two blog posts for Esquire (here and here).

I recommend all of the above, but with his latest article, “The Prisoners of Guantánamo,” Tyler Cabot has issued an accomplished, important and timely reminder about the ongoing injustice of Guantánamo through a thorough analysis of Muhammed’s story and of the terrible and unjustifiable position that America has found itself in ten years after the 9/11 attacks, and nearly ten years after Guantánamo opened.

Cabot not only tells, with some sensitivity, Muhammed’s own back story, but also the story of the Khalden training camp, where he was a trainer and then a quartermaster under Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi [described as Ibn Sheikh al-Libi], later a notorious CIA “ghost prisoner,” how the camp was closed when al-Libi refused to bow to pressure from Osama bin Laden to bring all the camps in Afghanistan under al-Qaeda control, and Muhammed’s capture in Faisalabad in March 2002 with Abu Zubaydah, the supposed “high-value detainee,” who was in fact Khalden’s mentally damaged gatekeeper.

Cabot does an excellent job of creating sympathy for Muhammed, explaining how, at Khalden, where he disliked being a trainer and preferred instead to look after the supplies, and to cook, he was nothing but a minor player in a camp that was primarily associated with defensive jihad — or, as he stated at Guantánamo during his Combatant Status Review Tribunal in 2004, Khalden was “a place to get training” that had nothing to do with either al-Qaeda or the Taliban. “People come over to that camp, train for about a month to a month and a half, then they go back to their hometown,” he said, adding that what the people did with the training they received was their own business.

Moreover, at the end of the account of Muhammed’s journey from Sudan to a trial by Military Commission, Cabot sums up the baleful legacy of Guantánamo in a handful of powerful passages, which I include below, and which I hope will reverberate powerfully with any Esquire reader who is not knowledgeable about Guantánamo:

There was a time, early in the “war on terror,” when word came from the highest levels in Washington that Guantánamo was to be the preserve of the “worst of the worst.” This was obviously never true, but it’s not until now that we know it. And not before surrendering to fear and abandoning the rules of evidence and the value of due process and eroding the foundation of the rule of law itself. The truth is that most of the 779 men who wound up at Guantánamo were like Noor — low-level, rather inconsequential, possessed of nothing useful to the United States nor posing any particular danger. In fact, people close to the team that prosecuted Noor quietly even voiced sympathy for him, describing him as “one of life’s losers.”

It is a strange population, the 171 men still left at Guantánamo. There is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and another two dozen hardened militants, who will never be released. This class of prisoner represents a small minority of the population. Then there are the others — about a hundred men, mostly Yemeni, who have been cleared to leave but have no place to go, as no country will take them. And there are another thirty-five or so like Noor. They are nameless, low-level operatives, or hapless men who were in the wrong place at the wrong time. They are the detritus of a decade-long war. They can’t simply be released. That would be admitting that they aren’t as bad as the government once said they were. And most can’t be tried, either, because much of the evidence against them — if there is any — is too fraught, as it was gotten by torture, and would never have even been considered to be evidence in any American judicial proceeding before September 11, 2001.

The Prisoners of Guantánamo
By Tyler Cabot, Esquire, September 2011

After a decade, it’s hard to tell who the captives are — us or them. Here, we follow Prisoner 707 to find out how the unlucky men got to the island prison, and whether it’ll ever be possible for us all to leave.

A man is born in the 1960s, but in the wrong place. His life is untouched by modernity, and in fact the people who live where he lives — mostly nomads or goatherds or subsistence farmers — carry on as they have for a thousand years. Compared even with the people in this arid Sudanese borderland west of the Red Sea he is poor. He is illiterate, can’t even tell you when he was born, and after his parents die when he is a child, he doesn’t think to ask why. It’s simple: People don’t live long, and then they die. The movements of his life are dictated by elemental concerns — what to eat, where to sleep. He collects what he finds and trades what he can — sticks, cardboard, tattered robes, tires. And when your abiding interests are so basic, you likely don’t have time for something so luxurious as a personal history or self-regard. He makes no claims for himself, possesses nothing resembling the Western notion of ambition. He has no conception of the outside world — knows little of Europe, has barely heard of America, doesn’t have the frame of reference even to conceive of a signal bouncing off a star and sending a picture or someone’s voice around the world. By the standards of the late twentieth century, or of any century, really, he is one of the unlucky men. Maybe God will provide something a little better in heaven, inshallah.

And then something most unexpected happens. Improbably, the unlucky man encounters the United States of America and becomes subject to the full might of the mightiest, most consequential power the world has ever known. His life will be changed forever, to be sure. But what one could never have imagined is that the man — not much more than a peasant in rags, after all — would become the very essence of what our mighty country fears the most. What one could never have imagined is that the peasant in rags would change the United States as much as the United States changed him.

*****

Today, nine years after he arrived on the island, Noor Uthman Muhammed is a whiff of a man. His orange prison jumpsuit hangs on his slight body. His cell is new. Until recently, he had been charged with no crime, and he’d lived for the past few years communally. He had a cell where he was locked up at night, but by day he could wander through the block, talk with the other brothers, watch one of the large TVs bolted to the wall, wash his white robe himself, and hang it on the railing to dry. Today, as a convicted war criminal, he lives on a cell block with three other men. They are the men whose cases have gone before military commissions at Guantánamo. Enter his cell and to the right there are a stainless-steel toilet and sink bolted to the wall. The toilet has no seat, the sink no knobs. Across the tiny concrete room, almost close enough to touch from the toilet, is a platform that extends up from the floor and out from the wall. It is topped by a thin blue foam mattress where at night he closes his eyes and dreams.

After his parents died, Noor didn’t have a place to sleep. He was passed from aunt to brother to uncle, hut to hut to hut. He slept where he could, ate what he could find or trade for. This didn’t change when, after one drought or famine too many, the family moved far from the town where he was born, Kassala, eventually landing in the city of Port Sudan. From above, the port looks like the lucky half of a broken wishbone, narrow and straight where the Red Sea first breaches land, then curving up and around the asphalt roads, tan government buildings, and colonial settlements of Main Town, built by the British in 1909. Yet as the channel curves farther west toward the Nile and the desert beyond, signs of civilization ebb. Roads turn to dirt, electricity lines vanish, running water is replaced by mule-drawn water tanks. Here in Deim al-Nur and the slums of Tata and Al Qadsiya, the low jerry-rigged dwellings are similar to the huts Noor lived in as a young boy, except instead of branches and twigs, some are made of empty food-aid sacks, tin, salvaged cloth, plastic bags. Many of the residents are former shepherds and nomads. Now they are dockworkers, carpenters, junk collectors, prostitutes.

Noor had no skills and no education, so he did what he could do best. He scavenged. Wood, old sandals, broken wheels, anything he could find that might be of some value to somebody he brought to the market to trade. There were dozens of corrugated-metal-and-plastic booths selling bags of spices and piles of bananas, meat, and fish. At night he looked for a corner of a hut or lay down in the dirt outside. He had a small cupboard, his one solid possession, where he kept his clothes and Koran. He was alone. Even around family, he didn’t talk or socialize. He had a mind full of fears and ideas he wouldn’t share.

It’s the same in Guantánamo. He doesn’t like talking about his past, refuses even to look at the recent pictures from his brother or write letters to his family. There was one letter conveyed by the Red Cross, and that was all. Noor had been engaged to marry his cousin, and he wanted to release her to marry someone else, as he wasn’t sure he’d ever be going home. For a boy from Kassala, Noor traveled a long way, and then he just vanished from the face of the earth. Now at least they know where he is, but he doesn’t want to worry them, doesn’t want to raise their hopes, and for years didn’t want to burden them with a singular hell — the prospect of being imprisoned for life but charged with no crime. “Please pray for me,” he wrote in his only letter home. “I am being held by the Americans.”

Also, he wants to remember all of them as he knew them when he was a boy, before he knew anything about America, before his name was spoken at the White House. When people ask about his childhood, whether it be interrogators, lawyers, or investigators, his face goes dark. He sits way back in his white plastic chair under the fluorescent lights, so far that he looks as though he’ll fall over, his lips tightened and wide, his eyes dead.

*****

In 1992, Noor was about twenty-five. He had never been very religious, but he started talking to some of the men in the market about Islam. Port Sudan is almost directly across the Red Sea from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, so most African Muslim pilgrims pass through here on their way to Mecca. Because Noor couldn’t read, the men gave him audiotapes of sermons, and later they showed him films. There were murdered Muslim women and children in the films, bloody and broken. They need help, Noor was told. The men told him about the mujahideen, the heroic brothers who were protecting these Muslims. They were doing Allah’s work. They were fulfilling their obligation to wage defensive jihad. And they told him that he, too — even Noor — could be a hero and make something of his life.

Decisions and choices and circumstances can push and pull a life in unexpected directions. You can wake up in a cell and not quite understand how the door got locked behind you.

Noor wanted a way out of the bleakness of his life. Having a larger purpose sounded good to him. Having a job sounded better. He took a $700 loan from a local cattle trader and left.

*****

Three black office chairs behind three microphones in a double-wide trailer. The chair in the middle is taller, wider, made of padded leather. This is where the tribunal president sits. Behind him there is a two-way mirror, about four by six feet. Behind that? Impossible to know. A translator? An intelligence analyst? Guards wearing desert camouflage? There is a small American flag hung flat above the mirror, an AC unit poking through the wall on the right.

Perpendicular to where the tribunal sits is a small off-white table with two cheap vinyl chairs that look like they belong around a kitchen table. This is where the recorder sits. Directly across, against the back wall, is another chair. It is made of white molded plastic. No cushion, nothing detachable, no materials that could be used for other means. This is where the detainee sits. Detainee, the word itself, it must be noted, is one of the great Orwellian inventions of the past decade. A word that would have had great meaning to Solzhenitsyn, meant to describe a prisoner for whom, for a variety of good and terrible reasons, a suitable judicial system cannot be found. A “prisoner” knows his fate. A “detainee” just lingers.

And so the detainees pass through like ghosts, their stories flickering for minutes, before they are shuttled back to the cells. The Algerian accused of planning an explosives attack against the U. S.: “I just want to defend my case. It is a false accusation against me and I just want to clarify it.” The Brit who demands rights under international law: “So the government evidence has been classified?” The Tunisian who offers his hands as literal proof that he is innocent: “How could I have trained? If you look at my hands, I am injured. My hand is only 35 percent functional.”

It is July 2004 and there are roughly six hundred men at Guantánamo but no legal system for distinguishing between the relative few true militants and the misbegotten. The government is still gathering evidence, all questions of justice and due process put on hold by the imperatives of war. The purpose of these primitive tribunals is not adjudication but rather compliance with the Supreme Court’s order that the detainees have at least some means of challenging their imprisonment.

Noor is led up the trailer stairs and through the door. He slowly lowers himself into the white plastic chair. He is weak and moves far more slowly and with more caution than a man his age should. He arrived two years earlier, in August 2002. His body has begun to slip away, weakening, aching.

“Do you understand why we are here?” asks the tribunal president, an Air Force colonel. He is pleasant and very concerned with procedure.

“Yes, I understand why we are here.” Noor’s answer is translated from Arabic into English, then played back to the military officers in the room. They wear no name badges, their identities concealed to protect them from the shackled man before them.

“Do you understand that you do not have to provide us any statement, but you may if you wish?”

Yes, Noor understands. Directly in front of his chair a steel eyelet and lock protrude from the green-gray office carpeting. Across the room, on the back wall, is a red panic button.

The unclassified evidence is read for the record. If Noor wants to go home to Sudan, his chance is now. He must convince the people before him that he is not who they think he is. He is not dangerous, he is just a man who was lost for a while but does not want any trouble. There are no lawyers present — as no lawyer has yet been assigned to the case or allowed to meet him. Noor must make the case himself.

The detainee delivered an electronic communication machine, possibly a facsimile machine, to Osama bin Laden.

“I did not see bin Laden, nor did I meet him,” Noor says. “As far as the facsimile, I wanted to buy that facsimile for myself.”

The detainee corresponded with a senior Al Qaeda lieutenant concerning the potential closing of Khalden camp.

“What happened was this,” he begins. He is trying to explain that he didn’t know anything. The camp was run by the sheik’s son and Abu Zubaydah, he says. “The rest of the trainers … we just simply follow what they have to say.”

The detainee was the “70th Taliban Commander.”

“Again, I don’t know anything about the Taliban,” he says. “I never carried arms with them. I don’t know anything about the Taliban. I am not even convinced of the Taliban, so how do you associate me with the Taliban?”

How do you reason with captors who don’t understand where you’ve been, what you’ve seen? How do you tell a captor you’re innocent when everything in your file says that you’re a terrorist?

The detainee worked as a weapons instructor on the use of the AK-47, PK, and RPG at the Khalden camp.

“All I trained on was the Kalashnikov, the light weapons. I trained for a period of three months only … That’s all I did.”

The detainee provided logistics support at the Khalden training camp.

“I want to tell you something,” says Noor. Here it is. The point that will finally make them understand, his chance to finally get through.

“I used to bring the rice, and all the required food, vegetables,” he says. “That’s all I was doing. Sugar and other things, I would get for cost, take it to the camp or somewhere else.”

The faces stare back at him, his words met with silence.

One tribunal member leans toward his mic: “Just had one clarifying question. At one point you said you don’t know anything about the Taliban, and you’re not even convinced of the Taliban. What do you mean by that?”

It is not a complicated question. “I am not convinced with their cause or with the Taliban,” answers Noor.

The tribunal member is incredulous. “You’re not convinced they even exist, or what?”

Noor stares back. “Everything that you want to do in life, you want to be convinced of what you’re doing. When it comes to the Taliban, even scientists go against each other. Everybody sees it a different way.”

The guards close their fingers over his frail wrists and help him down the trailer stairs and back through the tropical humidity to his cell. Noor doesn’t understand much from the proceedings, but he understands enough to know that he will never leave Guantánamo.

*****

He didn’t tell his brother or sister or uncle what he intended to do. He simply told them he was going to Khartoum to study. Once there he boarded a Kenya Airways jet — likely the first plane he’d ever seen up close, let alone flown in — and hopscotched southeast to Nairobi, then on to New Delhi. In that swarming city of foreign faces, he switched to the train, 250 miles to Lahore, Pakistan, then another 250 miles to Peshawar. The journey took him two years. What Noor did in those two years — did he travel by train or truck, foot or mule? Did he stop to work or study, to rest and pray? — is hard to know. But as the Soviets had been routed from Afghanistan just a few years before, the CIA still thought of the mujahideen fondly, and global jihad was as yet only notional — nothing he did would have put him in conflict with the United States.

On an unremarkable day in 1994, in a border town in Pakistan, Noor arrives at a safe house. There is a clear system for entering a jihadi training camp. Noor offers the proprietor of the safe house a letter of introduction, likely from one of the men in the market in Sudan. The proprietor asks Noor a series of questions. Who do you know in Port Sudan? Why did you come here? How did you travel? Nervous and scared, Noor answers all the questions. He passes the test; his future ticks forward further. He enters the house and another exchange takes place. He is given a traditional salwar kameez, the dress worn by both women and men, and a letter. In return he offers his Sudanese passport and his name. From here forward he will be known as Farouk and Akrima and Zamir. A new kunya every few years, but never Noor. Noor is the past. The past is gone.

A guide takes Noor to the Afghan border. Early in the morning the guide walks him through, past the Pakistanis standing guard — straight, don’t stop or ask questions — and into the mountains of Khost. They rise tall and black, then settle into brown hills, then eventually into beautiful green valleys. In just such a valley sits the camp. It is called Khalden and has been here since at least 1988, when Arab mujahideen built it to train for their fight against the Soviet empire. The Soviets eventually left Afghanistan, but Khalden and the mujahideen stayed. They still had weapons, they still had American tactical manuals, and they still had Muslims to protect — from the communist Najibullah in Afghanistan, from madmen in Bosnia, and from the Russians again, this time in Chechnya.

Khalden is the size of one and a half football fields. There is a brick mosque with a metal roof and a small shack made of stones and topped with leaves and plastic sheeting, where food is cooked. The barracks have earthen floors. On the far side is a classroom with a blackboard, the surrounding mountain walls used for target practice, the caves used for storing munitions and baking bread. There is one water source, the river. Candles, gas lamps, and fire the only means of light and warmth. Noor is given a filthy sleeping bag that previously was used for transporting the bodies of brothers killed in battle. But he is filled with great pride. He has made it, he is now a brother.

His first day begins with formation. There are many men here. Yemenis and Algerians and Chechens and Saudis. At any time there can be anywhere from fifty to seventy men. They come for different reasons. Some to return home to fight, others hoping to move up to another camp where they can learn more advanced skills, and still others like Noor who are just looking for something to do. They come not to fight but to escape. (Every so often a group of rich Saudis roll through for a week or two, not to train but rather so they can tell everyone back home they shot guns at a mujahideen camp.) In the morning these men stand together united as brothers as the camp’s emir, Ibn Sheikh al-Libi, leads formation. Then they divide into groups, the Chechens with other Chechens, the Jordanians with other Jordanians, and so forth.

The men train physically, they run for hours through the mountains, they learn how to crawl and surveil and bury their secrets. Their muscles grow and their heels and palms become callused. In the classroom they are quizzed on tactics, how to spot a target, how to evade an attack. There is small-arms training, handguns, assault rifles, machine guns. They shoot at the mountainside, learning how to peer through a scope, how to exhale as they squeeze the trigger. The more advanced students are broken down into smaller groups and given explosives training — how to lay dynamite, how to install a trigger in a ball of C-4, how to plant a bomb. At night there is Islamic study. Someone might give a sermon or teach a lesson or urge the brothers to help push the Israelis out of Palestine.

There are many different philosophies on jihad. The men who run this camp subscribe to defensive jihad, the idea that all Muslims have an obligation to protect themselves and other Muslims from attacks. Their camp is not a Taliban camp or an Al Qaeda camp. It is independent. The men come here to learn basic skills. What they decide to do with them when they leave is their concern.

Most of the men stay for weeks, three to four months at most, then they head back to their home countries with the vague notion of protecting themselves or their families, or they head off to fight the Russians in Chechnya. Those who are more fervent are sent to more advanced camps, Derunta if they want to learn explosives. A Palestinian named Abu Zubaydah is responsible for transferring them. He’s emir of the main guesthouse into Khalden. When recruits arrive in Pakistan, he takes their passports and funnels them to Khalden, and when their training is over, he funnels them back out.

Noor is not funneled anywhere. He never graduates to another camp or goes home. He stays at Khalden, where he feels he belongs.

At first he works as a small-arms instructor. He teaches the recruits to treat their weapons as if they were their own limbs. He shows them how to take them apart and clean the barrels, wiping the dirt away, oiling them, then reassembling them. And he teaches them to shoot. There are hand pistols and single-shot rifles and Kalashnikovs, passed down from fighter to fighter. For a few months, Noor’s job is to teach the trainees how to use these weapons. But he does not enjoy the work. Eventually he works up the courage to ask Ibn Sheikh for a transfer. In Noor, Ibn Sheikh sees a man he can trust. He offers him a new job, one better suited to his skills and disposition. Noor becomes the camp’s quartermaster, responsible for making sure there is enough rice and beans and water and wood. He collects what the camp needs, and at the end of the day he goes to sleep in his corner.

There is a profound sense of isolation, of remoteness, to Khalden. And for six years the men come and go, hundreds, perhaps thousands as the years pass. The barracks stay the same, the biting cold comes each winter, and each winter Noor knows what the camp needs to make it through — how much firewood to gather for warmth, how much food. He has a job and a purpose. He doesn’t ask questions. In 1995, Osama bin Laden moves his operations to Afghanistan and begins setting up his own camps. Noor gets up and does his job. In 1998, fatwas are heard over the radios, men blow up the U. S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Noor helps out when Ibn Sheikh is out of town, leads formation. Cruise missiles rain down on Al Qaeda training camps, and still Noor checks the food supply. Until one day in late 1999, the outside finally pushes through.

First comes word that Khalden must be moved. Ammunition, weapons, food stores, everything loaded up and caravanned ninety miles over dirt roads to Kabul. Soon after, a meeting is called. The men meet in Wazir Akbar Khan, an upscale district of Kabul lined by embassies and government buildings. Ibn Sheikh is there. Abu Zubaydah comes from the safe house in Pakistan. Noor and the other trainers, most of whom are part of the camp’s advisory council, attend. The problem is laid out. Bin Laden is consolidating power in Afghanistan. He does not like the idea of independent camps. He wants all the camps to be Al-Qaeda camps, and he wants to be the emir of them all. They can allow bin Laden to run the camp as an Al-Qaeda facility and train the men for offensive jihad, or they can shut it down.

The men in the room voice their opinions. And at last Ibn Sheikh makes a decision. Khalden will close. The trainees go to other camps. The trainers look for other jobs. Noor begins wandering again, this time toward home.

He doesn’t know what is coming — the hijackers and airplanes and falling bodies and crumbling towers. He doesn’t know that he will soon collide with the greatest power in the history of the world. For a few months more, he is simply a peasant without a passport.

*****

He sleeps on a mat cramped on the floor with a dozen others. They come from different places: Libya, Algeria, Saudi Arabia. Some have traveled here in small groups, wearing hijabs over their beards, long salwar kameez to their toes. Others rose from their caves in Tora Bora after bin Laden escaped and the Americans left. They journeyed by white pickup truck and donkey and on foot from Kandahar up to Khost and across the border. They were alerted where to cross the border by contacts on the Pakistani side, then they began moving from safe house to safe house until they came to this floor in Faisalabad, Pakistan. Most were driven by fear, others like Noor simply followed. Noor has never led in his life. It is hard to believe that he would lead now.

The home is two stories of stucco topped by rectangular balconies that double as a watchtower. The only color is a blue gate that keeps cars out and the people in. Some of the men have been here for two or three weeks. Others for just a few days. In the kitchen there are vegetables, some chicken and rice, wildly mismatched silverware and plates. There’s a chore list taped to one wall, and little furniture. The men eat on the floor. It is also where they pray. Where they wait. One of the men, Ghassan al-Sharbi, a Saudi who attended an aeronautics college in Arizona and knows English, teaches some of the others. Noor works on his English vocabulary and assumes a role similar to the one he had at Khalden — he gets the food, cooks, makes sure the safe house has the supplies it needs. It is boring here. They are safe, there is food and a place to sleep, but little more to do than pray and wait.

It is extremely hard to get a good fake passport in Faisalabad. Sometimes you can get documents in Afghanistan, but only pictures in Pakistan. Once you have both, you need an expert who can seamlessly bind them together. They must be near perfect, or else they are useless. A former jihadi might make it home, but then what? He can never leave again. Getting married, having children is not an option, because the man cannot travel with his family. Inside the house there are dozens of passport photos. The same man is in many of them, in front of the same red background that is often used in passports in the Middle East. In each he looks slightly different. Here he has a beard, there a mustache. Here a suit, there a robe. There are also multiple blank passports with no pictures or names. This is downstairs where the men waiting for documents are staying. There is also an upstairs. But Noor is not allowed upstairs. To get upstairs you need to go through the steel door at the top of the stairway. To go through the steel door you need a battering ram.

On March 28, 2002, at two in the morning, the battering ram comes.

The Pakistanis go in first, over the blue gate and through the front door. This is one of a dozen simultaneous raids tonight — a dozen houses, each handpicked by the CIA after weeks of surveillance, in search of Abu Zubaydah. He’s the man Noor first met two years earlier when Khalden was closed, the one whose responsibility was getting passports and paperwork for the men leaving the camp and moving onward to other training or perhaps home. Since 9/11 he’d become one of the most wanted men in the world, third after bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri.

The commandos lead with 9mm handguns, the same handguns stenciled on their black Punjab Elite Police uniforms. Most of their equipment for the raid — a battering ram from Galls police supply in Kentucky, night-vision goggles, body armor — was shipped in by the CIA on a charter plane just days earlier. The commandos are well trained and brutally efficient. The safe-house front door bursts open, pistols punch into the darkness, and the men on the thin mats awaken from the last good sleep they will have for years. There is no resistance. Hands up, Noor and the rest simply surrender.

They cannot see what is happening elsewhere in the house, but they can hear. Shouting on the stairwell, huge bangs as the metal of the battering ram pounds the reinforced upper door. Then the sound of hinges breaking, metal giving, and the sounds of a man gasping as a knife is thrust into his neck. Now commotion, shouts in Punjabi as the commandos storm through the door and up to the roof. Then the sound of 9mm’s firing. Gravity takes over from there. Two thumps on the ground, boots surrounding the bodies, one dead, the other — Zubaydah — wounded with shots to the leg, groin, and stomach, but still breathing. A voice in accented English: “He killed my man, he stabbed him in the neck, he killed my man! We will fuck him!” Now another voice, this one the CIA officer in charge: “We’re fucked if he dies. Let’s get him to a hospital.”

By now, Noor and the other men from the first floor are sitting outside the blue gate, hands cuffed behind their backs, faces staring forward. Around them, the Pakistani commandos laugh and smoke. Upstairs the CIA and FBI begin collecting evidence. There is a magnifying glass and a couple card-sized screwdriver kits, dirty and smudged. A toothbrush, its head blackened by grease, red wire strippers, a yellow-and-blue box-cutting knife. Then the switches, dozens of bags of them, little matchbook-sized boxes in individual plastic bags, and the batteries, Duracell AAs. There are no beds and few personal items upstairs, but there is a folding table. On it lies a black timing device, two wires sticking out, a blue soldering iron, its metal tip still warm. Nearby is a map showing the British school in Lahore.

A paddy wagon arrives. Then the moving begins — the imagination starts a game that won’t end for years: Where are they taking me? What will happen? Noor is taken by the arm, pushed into the wagon. Then into a holding pen at a jail in Faisalabad. The next day a jail in Lahore, filthy cells, squalor. The not knowing, the inability to gain any mental traction, is worse than the conditions. Time slows, measured in breaths. Some of the men cry, others fervently shout and pray, others stay silent.

Another day, moved once again. This time to a house in Lahore bought by the CIA. Up out of the paddy wagon, Noor and the others are situated on the kitchen floor. On the ground they sit, hands cuffed behind their backs. Silence enforced by the gun. September 11 is still an open investigation, so the FBI is in charge here. The bedrooms are interrogation rooms. They are led to the interrogation rooms, one by one. The questions drilled at them in Arabic. Name? Birth date? Nationality? How did you get here? What were you doing in Afghanistan? Where were you on September 11? Have you ever met bin Laden? Where did you meet bin Laden? What did he say to you?

The men all have the same story. They are in Pakistan to study Arabic, that is the only reason. “There are no Arabic schools in Faisalabad,” the interrogators tell them. At this, the men pretend to grow tired, exhausted, some nodding off in their chairs, sliding forward off their seats. Others claim nausea, extreme distress. In America the politicians are already bragging. Abu Zubaydah is the biggest capture so far. In 2002 they don’t yet know that he actually knows very little, that he had nothing to do with the embassy bombings or 9/11, that any useful information Zubaydah may have given the Americans is hopelessly compromised by the fact that he was repeatedly tortured to get it.

No matter, in Lahore the prisoners are moved to the dining room for processing. Fingerprints, cataloging of items found with the men, mug shots. In one a man stands stone-faced and dirty. He has not slept or showered in days. He has the look of a man lost in a current he can’t control or understand, his eyes wide in shock. He holds a handwritten sign across his chest with his name. The flash pops, and he is led back through the kitchen, out of the house, and into the unknown.

*****

In the cage in Lahore where he and the others live and sleep for two months, he’s interrogated for days at a time without being fed. When not being questioned, Noor and the others beg the Pakistani guards to pull weeds or brown grass from the ground outside so that they might have something to eat. The hunger is crippling and all consuming. But there are other worries, other dark fantasies. Growing up in Sudan, Noor had heard about the security forces in Egypt and about how they would take people from the streets and make them disappear. In his cage in Lahore, Noor thinks about what it would be like to disappear and never be heard from again.

At Bagram Air Base, where the prisoners are transferred, Noor has a bag placed over his head, his arms suspended from the ceiling by chains, or else the opposite, feet and hands bolted to the floor, knees bent, a man stuck to the earth. At times the air-conditioning is turned to freezing, his clothes stripped away. These are the good days, because as uncomfortable as he is, he knows what is happening. He has begun conditioning himself to routine. The worst is when the guards rush in at night and push him against the wall and tell him that his time has come — he’s going off to Egypt with the others. He will disappear.

The flight to Guantánamo is more than twenty hours. He is hooded and handcuffed to the other men, unable to move, unable to urinate. When he arrives, he is taken to Camp 5. Here he is locked up in solitary and interrogated daily. He has no idea what will happen to him, what his future could be, whether anyone even knows he’s here. He only knows what to fear — the interrogation room, where the music is so loud he feels like his head is being beaten. And Romeo, an even smaller room, with no mattress or blanket or clothes. You could be left in Romeo for days, forgotten.

Noor is moved to Camp 6. He is still kept in solitary, but some of the worst treatment ends, the routine becomes more routine, and the days pile up. The mind adjusts. But he has begun changing physically. There are nightmares. He replays the raid, the worst hours of interrogation. But other things, too. He feels achy all the time. Also he has become bloated and nauseous, his digestive system never quite right, always on the verge.

The body has ways of coping with stress. A mugger pulls a pistol or your car is sideswiped and adrenaline and cortisol immediately flood your system. Your heart rate rises and your breath quickens so oxygen can reach your muscles faster. Glucose is released into your bloodstream, a boost of energy to aid in escape. And your brain’s levels of the memory-stamping hormones called glucocorticoids and catecholamines increase so that you remember the situation and avoid it in the future.

Allostasis is the process by which the body constantly adjusts its hormone levels to remain stable. Allostatic load occurs when the stress switch that controls the flow of cortisol and adrenaline gets stuck in the on position. Doctors who have spent time treating Guantánamo detainees call this “Guantánamo syndrome.”

In May 2008, six years after he arrived, Noor is at last charged with conspiracy and supporting terrorism. The penalty is life imprisonment. He does not trust his lawyers; he does not trust anyone. But by now he is in Camp 4. Here the brothers live communally, up to ten men to a room. Life gets considerably better. Noor takes classes, reads and studies. There is open sky and a yard and a soccer field. And yet one thing doesn’t change — the not knowing. He is trapped in a legal system that seems to change by the day. There is no end to his confinement in sight. Five months later, in October, the charges are abruptly dropped after a lead prosecutor resigns, citing a crisis of conscience, claiming that the military has been withholding exculpatory evidence in the case against a child soldier from Afghanistan. Two months later, a month before President Obama will take office, the charges against Noor are reinstated.

At Noor’s military-commission trial in February 2011, many observers will comment how odd it is that he doesn’t stand when his lawyers stand. What they don’t know is that he is not able.

*****

Thursday night is the night of enlightenment. And on Thursday, the brothers are together and Noor is laughing and smiling and at ease. He is usually quiet, spends his time alone reading and memorizing the Koran. But on Thursday nights he joins his brothers in singing nasheeds. They come together out of their cells and sway slightly. Noor sings loud, his dark face turned to the sky, facing his home, his voice rising into the Caribbean night.

Between nasheeds the brothers recite poems or tell jokes. Noor has a favorite. It is about Adarob, the local name for his extended tribe in Sudan. The Adarob are known for their smarts, and extreme patience. They can wait and wait and wait; their forbearance is bottomless. The joke is about an Adarob thief who tries to mug a schoolteacher.

Adarob says, “Give me what’s in your pocket!”

The teacher says, “I don’t have anything in my pocket.”

“Then give me your watch!”

“I am not wearing a watch.”

“Then give me a cigarette!”

“I don’t smoke.”

“What do you do for work?”

“I am a schoolteacher.”

Adarob then sits on the ground and says, “Give me a lesson! I swear I will get something out of you!”

Noor breaks out in laughter, his face beaming. It is the one evening a week he allows himself the pleasure of small things.

“You must be patient,” he tells the brothers. “Being here is divine destiny. God tests humans in their lives to know their faith and patience.” The brothers hear this and they see how he perseveres with calm and patience, and they are inspired. He is serving the time for all of them.

They come to him for counseling on other matters, too. He is an elder the other men depend upon, his advice always honest but never disrespectful. When some of the brothers go on a food strike, he tells them that he does not believe not eating will solve their problems. But he also skips some meals himself out of solidarity and respect. “I cannot eat if they are going on a food strike,” he says. Some of the brothers spit on the guards as they walk by; they throw urine and feces on them. He tells the brothers, “Even if I hated a guard, I am not convinced that this is a good thing to do.” He tells them, “I respect your convictions, but it’s not something I want to do.”

Some days after morning recitation Noor spends an hour with his Sudanese brothers on a prayer rug in the yard, the high barbed-wire fences stretching to the sky, the smell of the ocean strong. They talk about home and soccer, Noor recounting games he played as a young boy and trips to the social club, watching his favorite team, Al-Hilal. They reminisce about Flamingo and Kilo 8, where the teenage kids would gather and camp, and evening Ramadan meals of assida, millet pudding, and hulu-mur, the spicy drink that is on every table in Sudan.

“You should not be in jail,” he tells brother Adel, from Port Sudan [Adel Hassan Hamad, released in December 2007]. “You did not do anything, you are a respected person, like an older brother. It saddens me that someone your age would be here.” To brother Mustafa from Khartoum [Mustafa al-Hassan, released in September 2008], he makes a request: “If you ever get out and meet my niece and nephew, remind them to be of good morals.”

He does not like to waste his time on television. He is often silent. He reads and studies and thinks and prays to Allah. Because this he knows: Whether he will get out of here or not is Allah’s will.

*****

The courtroom looks like a prefabricated barn, a light-yellow box made of metal siding surrounded on every side by barbed wire. Around it sit other metal boxes, trailers for the defense and prosecution teams, five trailers for five defendants. The courthouse was specially built to try the 9/11 plotters concurrently and broadcast the proceedings to the world. Inside, it is outfitted with a media box and large-screen monitors and a sound system that can be delayed so that sensors can muffle classified information before it reaches the journalists who sit behind triple-paned, soundproof hurricane glass.

Noor sits in the front row with his defense team. His robe is white, as is his cap. He has a blue jacket that he wears when he gets cold. In his mid-forties, he is old and weak. He speaks the most the first day, but says only one thing. Na’am. Yes. Yes. Yes he understands the charges, yes he pleads guilty, yes he knows what that means, yes he has seen the translation, yes he has made the decision to plead guilty on his own, yes, yes, yes, yes. Over and over again he is prompted to tell the judge that he is guilty, that nobody has made him plead guilty. Yes, yes, I did it. And then he sits, his gaze often to the left, away from his own trial and the judge and his legal team, a phantom in a custom-built $12 million courtroom. It is not that he’s uninterested in his fate. It is that his fate has already been decided. Everyone knows this. Despite what has been agreed upon and signed behind closed doors, he must still stand trial, he must still be publicly sentenced. He must be patient, let the lawyers and government do what they need to do.

Virtually overnight the prosecution team has doubled, tripled in size. Whereas two young JAG lawyers spent months shepherding the case, the big brass has shown up for court, seven men huddled around the prosecution tables. Nobody wants to miss the trial, nobody wants to be left out of history and the photo ops after.

Arthur Gaston steps before the jury. He is tall, brown hair, small head, wire-rimmed glasses, a southern Navy commander, a second-generation Eagle Scout. He walks with the swagger and confidence of a man used to being right. His grin shows that he knows it.

“Terrorists are not born, they are made,” he tells the jury. “And Noor has made hundreds of them.” Noor does not move, does not flinch, he simply sits and waits.

Over three days, the government makes its case: Khalden is where terrorists are made. By working there, Noor was cultivating terrorists. There are photos of bomb switches projected onto the large screens and pictures of cards rigged to explode when opened, all items found in the safe house. The stories of three terrorists are explained in detail over hours during each day: Mohamed al-Owhali, who helped blow up the U. S. embassy in Nairobi; Ahmed Ressam, who plotted to bring down LAX during the millennium celebration; Zacarias Moussaoui, who the government at one point posited was the twentieth 9/11 hijacker. Noor did not know what would become of these men, but he did cook rice for them.

The defense counters. Noor has owned up to working at Khalden but shouldn’t be charged for the crimes of others. He should not be forced to be made culpable for 9/11. Noor’s posture does not change; the figure in perfect white robes simply sits. Whether the arguments are for or against him does not matter. Noor knew nothing of the terror plots carried out by men years after they left Khalden, the defense continues. He should not be held responsible for them, nor for the actions of Abu Zubaydah in the safe house. Of the 1,050 fingerprints taken from the second story, where the bombs were being made, not one belongs to Noor. He was not there to build bombs and has never been accused of such. He needed a passport. He wanted to go home.

Still. Noor wants to go home, which is why he says nothing. Let the lawyers argue, let the government preen and justify his incarceration, let 9/11 survivors and military families take solace in his guilty plea, let the journalists and human-rights observers denounce the commission system. It does not matter to him. The politics of this bizarre ritual are not his concern.

After three days, the jury comes back with its sentence. Noor rises, puts his blue jacket on. “Fourteen years.” He is emotionless. The jury is led from the room, and his plea deal is unsealed, the real sentence read. Thirty-four months. In exchange for pleading guilty and agreeing to be interviewed by the FBI under oath, Noor will be released in less than three years.

He is led out of the courtroom and into a transport van. Outside, in competing press conferences, the government celebrates its victory and extols the virtues of the commission system while the human-rights observers denounce the outcome as a sham. They would have had Noor fight the charges, even if it meant another six, seven, or eight years waiting for a trial.

Meanwhile, back at his cell in Camp 6, Noor thinks about none of this. He is carefully packing his belongings, his Koran, his prayer items. For the first time in nearly ten years, there is a sentence and an end point. He knows how much longer he must be patient. One thousand and twenty days. Twenty-four thousand four hundred eighty hours.

He is happy.

*****

His family waits in the same two-room home that Noor left nearly twenty years ago. The yard he slept in remains, as does the dirt alley where he would play soccer. His older brother Osman supports the family now, and he waits. Any time Noor’s nephew Mus’ab, who was born around the time Noor was captured, sees something on the television about Guantánamo, he shouts and tells the family to come watch. “They’re talking about Noor!” he says. He dreams of Noor coming home, wishes he could be transformed into a superhero for one day so he could rescue him. His sister Muna waits, too. But she has the most trouble. Ask her a simple question and she cries, goes sick. The memories hurt. But they all also have faith. This is all God’s predestined plan. If Allah wants Noor to be released, Noor will be released. “When he comes back, we will find him a wife, celebrate his return, build him a home, inshallah,” says Osman. “We will greet him with a parade like that of the president of the republic. After that we will do anything he wants,” says his cousin Sa’id.

To the family, he is a lost son they want back. In Guantánamo he is prisoner 707. And throughout, he has become what we needed him to be. When he was captured, he was what we most feared — an Arabic-speaking man found in a house with bombs. Then, because we feared fair trials in courts of law, he became a judicial problem, a man to be processed and moved. Nine years later, the government has now made him proof that our commission system works.

There was a time, early in the “war on terror,” when word came from the highest levels in Washington that Guantánamo was to be the preserve of the “worst of the worst.” This was obviously never true, but it’s not until now that we know it. And not before surrendering to fear and abandoning the rules of evidence and the value of due process and eroding the foundation of the rule of law itself. The truth is that most of the 779 men who wound up at Guantánamo were like Noor — low-level, rather inconsequential, possessed of nothing useful to the United States nor posing any particular danger. In fact, people close to the team that prosecuted Noor quietly even voiced sympathy for him, describing him as “one of life’s losers.”

It is a strange population, the 171 men still left at Guantánamo. There is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and another two dozen hardened militants, who will never be released. This class of prisoner represents a small minority of the population. Then there are the others — about a hundred men, mostly Yemeni, who have been cleared to leave but have no place to go, as no country will take them. And there are another thirty-five or so like Noor. They are nameless, low-level operatives, or hapless men who were in the wrong place at the wrong time. They are the detritus of a decade-long war. They can’t simply be released. That would be admitting that they aren’t as bad as the government once said they were. And most can’t be tried, either, because much of the evidence against them — if there is any — is too fraught, as it was gotten by torture, and would never have even been considered to be evidence in any American judicial proceeding before September 11, 2001. And no serious person would have ever argued for it as such.

This condition — this stateless and inconsequential group of ghost detainees — might well be described as another form of Guantánamo syndrome. Except this syndrome is a debilitation of the American legal system, whereby it becomes possible for a prisoner to be held forever, without charge. With a court system, the envy of the world, simply too afraid to present evidence and hold trials. As one lawyer for a high-profile detainee put it, the best thing that happened to Noor is that he was at last charged with a crime. It forced the government to act and make a deal. They could no longer simply let him linger indefinitely. His charges were his way out. A military lawyer puts it another way: “One of the running jokes of Guantánamo is that you have to lose to win.”

Noor wouldn’t speak to me for this story, nor would my father, who is a member of his legal team (See “Stories My Father Told Me,” July 2009), nor would anyone else involved in Noor’s defense. They are all extremely cautious, because even still, there are no guarantees that Noor will actually leave when his sentence is up. The convening authority could decide in the end that he is too dangerous to release. Or he could be the victim of fractious American politics. In February 2011, the day after his sentencing, the House passed a bill stipulating that no Guantánamo detainees can be transferred to countries that are state sponsors of terror. Sudan, whose president is wanted for war crimes committed in Darfur, is on that list. It does not matter that nine other detainees have returned to Sudan and none have returned to militancy. It does not matter that the Sudanese government tracks their every move. If Sudan is on that list in 2013 when Noor’s sentence is up and the House bill becomes law, the secretary of defense would have to make an explicit exception.

Noor can’t worry about these things. It is all up to Allah, he tells his lawyers. “I put this in God’s hands. If He wants me to leave from here, I will go.”

Recently, Noor has begun to allow himself to think of the future. The camp doctors told him that his cholesterol is high, so he has begun eating better. He doesn’t touch the cheese or the carbs. Every week his lawyers send a packet of news articles to read. Lately he has asked for stories on omega-3’s. During recreation time he uses the elliptical machine or treadmill, and the pain in his joints and in his back is giving way to muscle. The belly beneath his robe is flat again. In his forties, he is already an old man. But with exercise now, he will be able to carry the child he’ll have when at last he makes it home.

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.

9 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    On Facebook, Louise Gordon wrote:

    Dugg

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    George Kenneth Berger wrote:

    Dugg

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Louise and George. This really is an excellent article, and I hope that many, many people will read it in the magazine, on Esquire’s website and in other places like here.

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Louise Gordon wrote:

    I’ll share it on my page. :-)

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks again, Louise. Very good to hear from you.

  6. Peace Activist says...

    I have read the above, and will visit the Esquire site. I’ve found the article above to give a deep insight, I felt that I was living the whole experience as I read it. It was more than just reading; it helped me understand much more than that.

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Peace Activist. Very glad to hear your thoughts. It’s quite a journey that Tyler takes us on, isn’t it? Very informative indeed.

  8. arcticredriver says...

    How did Cabot learn all that amazing detail? Was he one of Noor’s defense attorneys?

    The question that wasn’t asked, or was perhaps redacted from the Transcript from Abu Zubaydah’s Tribunal isn’t addressed in Cabot’s article — after the CIA lost interest in sponsoring camps like Khaldan, who paid the bills? Noor probably didn’t know, but Abu Zubaydah almost certainly did know.

    Andy I hope you won’t mind if I repeat in this comment something I have written before. It is not just maintaining a moral high ground that requires being fair to Fouad Al Rabia, Noor, Abu Zubaydah — even Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Our public safety is at risk too.

    Show trials, staged trials that secure convictions and harsh sentences, from exhausted men pleading guilty to bogus charges make us less safe, when the authorities use those confessions to maintain their flawed narrative was true all along. They make us all less safe because we then continue to squander our precious counter-terrorism resources on non-threats.

    One key misunderstanding the US intelligence establishment continue to make is to fail to understand the nature of al Qaeda’s donors. I would congratulate Cabot on understanding that Noor and Abu Zubaydah were telling the truth, that Khaldan was a rival camp, not part of Al Qaeda.

    I suspect that fund raising was a huge headache for Osama bin Laden, and that he had to live with the fact that most of his donors were much less extreme than he was — and they were fickle. They spread their sponsorship around. They donated to humanitarian charities that dug irrigation wells, built medical clinics, schools, orphanages — like al Wafa. Foolish or self-serving American intelligence officials chose to magnify the threats the public faces. They conflated the charity al Wafa with the terrorist group al Qaeda, just because some of the same donors sponsored both groups.

    Captives who worked for al Wafa have said Osama bin Laden hated them. And I believe them.

    I suspect the same holds true for the competition between Osama bin Laden and whoever raised the funds for the Khaldan camp. They were soliciting donations from some of the same donors. And I’ll bet Osama bin Laden really resented this.

    I see this as a split between the really radical jihadists, who followed or were allied to bin Laden, and the less radical jihadists, who didn’t favor unilateral attacks on the west, like the Khaldan group, that could have been exploited. If the enemy of my enemy is my friend, why didn’t the US intelligence establishment try to accentuate the schism between these groups, and get the Khaldan group and other less radical jihadists either on our side, or at least to friendly neutrality.

    Abu Zubadah was quite famous. His Khaldan camp, Noor and Al Libi’s Khaldan camp, was older and more famous than al-Qaeda’s newer camps. The camp had been active during the time when many foreign fighters Soviet-Afghan war had trained there. These former trainees were probably influential, back home.

    I wonder if it would have been better if, in the late 1990s, the CIA had quietly renewed its support of the Khaldan camp. If one believes the testimony a lot of the captives who acknowledge attending Al Farouq, Al Qaeda’s first line camp, all they were looking for was the military training they believed all observant Muslims should undergo. It was only once they arrived at the camp that they were pressured to engage in jihad. In the US this marketing technique is called “bait and switch”. Wouldn’t it have been better if those individuals had learned how to shoot, had learned combat tactics, at a camp where no one tried to convince them that unilateral attacks on the west were what Islam requires?

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    Great comments, arcticredriver, and yes, Tyler Cabot’s father is one of Noor’s defense team — hence the unprecedented detail.
    I don’t mind you mentioning how the lies and abuses of the “War on Terror” endanger public safety — it is something I have watched you do for many years, and it is so important that I’m delighted you stick with it, as I’m sure you’re happy that I stick with my decision to keep publicizing the fact that “the worst of the worst” were, in general, no such thing, and were largely rounded up randomly, or bought from America’s dubious allies in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The pity is that so many other people have moved on …
    Anyway, those are excellent points you raise about competing for fundraising, which I have never heard before, but which certainly ring true to my mind, and I was riveted by your sentence, “after the CIA lost interest in sponsoring camps like Khaldan, who paid the bills? Noor probably didn’t know, but Abu Zubaydah almost certainly did know.” Again, it’s such a great, great shame that, while Cheney is out touting torture again, no one’s mentioning that two people who may well have actually provided important information if they hadn’t been tortured — Abu Zubaydah and Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi — are not being mentioned at all in the media.

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Investigative journalist, author, filmmaker, photographer and Guantanamo expert
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