Can Kuwait Break the Guantánamo Deadlock?

31.8.11

As the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks approaches, those hoping for the closure of the “War on Terror” prison at Guantánamo, which was, and remains the most notorious emblem of the Bush administration’s excessive and misguided response to the attacks, are wondering how the prison will ever close.

Through a combination of cowardice on the part of President Obama and ferocious opposition in Congress to his plans to close Guantánamo, 171 men remain at the prison, even though the President initially promised to close it within a year of taking office, and even though a Task Force he convened to review the prisoners’ cases, comprising career officials and lawyers in government departments and the intelligence agencies, recommended that only 36 of those men should be tried, and 89 others should be released.

With a Congress-imposed ban on bringing prisoners to the US mainland for any reason, and lawmakers insisting that they have the right to interfere in any plans to release prisoners, those campaigning to close Guantánamo have been obliged to seek out new angles in the effort to reawaken awareness about the ongoing injustice of Guantánamo.

To this end, a recent feature on CNN, dealing with the two remaining Kuwaiti prisoners in Guantánamo, highlighted some of the problems outlined above, as well as casting a baleful eye on the failure of the US judiciary to secure the release of prisoners. Importantly, however, it also provided a possible route out of the current paralysis regarding the closure of the prison, if the Obama administration can locate any political backbone.

The two remaining Kuwaitis in Guantánamo, Fayiz al-Kandari and Fawzi al-Odah, lost their habeas corpus petitions in September 2010 and August 2009, despite there being no actual evidence that they were involved in any activities against US or coalition forces. I covered the judges’ rulings on their petitions at the time, and also covered al-Kandari’s story in depth in October 2009, and I was pleased to note that CNN’s coverage dealt thoroughly with the supposed evidence and the problems with it, and why that ought to provide an impetus for the closure of Guantánamo to be back on the agenda as the tenth anniversary of the prison’s opening approaches.

The story of Fayiz al-Kandari

As CNN described al-Kandari’s story, the young man, who was “the eldest son of a large family,” traveled to Pakistan in June 2001, and on to Afghanistan in August 2001. His “stated purpose” was “to do charitable work, assisting with the reconstruction of two wells and the repair of a mosque,” and he had undertaken charitable work before — in Bosnia in 1994, and in Afghanistan in 1997. In addition, a member of his family stated that his visit was “for the sake of his mother who had cancer,” so that there would be “more blessings from God on her behalf.”

In Afghanistan, after the 9/11 attacks, as was noted by Lt. Col. Barry Wingard, a military attorney assigned to defend al-Kandari in the trial by military commission for which he was put forward in the dying days of the Bush administration, al-Kandari “remembers leaflets falling all around him,” on which “there was a picture of an Afghan man, who was holding a bag of money.” The leaflets, prepared by a US PsyOps team and dropped from planes, stated, “You turn in your Arabs and we will give you money.” Lt. Col. Wingard explained that, as a result, Afghan officials advised al-Kandari to leave, but, instead, he was seized by Northern Alliance soldiers and sold to the US.

To prosecutors, al-Kandari’s story is unconvincing, but their own version of events is thoroughly outlandish. As was claimed in September 2004, during his Combatant Status Review Tribunal (a military review board convened to assess whether he had been correctly designated on capture as an “enemy combatant”), he was supposed to have “recruited personnel to participate in jihad in Afghanistan,” and to have “received weapons training at the Khaldan training camp,” where “Osama bin Laden personally provided religious instruction and trainee [sic].” The tribunal concluded that he was a member of al-Qaeda, who, in their option, had been present in Afghanistan’s Tora Bora mountains during a showdown between al-Qaeda forces and the US military (and its proxy Afghan army) between mid-November and mid-December 2001.

In response, al-Kandari, who has “always denied the accusations,” and has avoided incriminating himself (or others) like so many other prisoners subjected to unbearable pressure, is on record as stating, “I looked at all the unclassified accusations; I was laughing so hard.”

Despite only arriving in Afghanistan in August 2001, he was accused not only of visiting the al-Farouq training camp (the main training camp for Arabs in the years before 9/11), but it was also stated that he “provided instruction to al-Qaeda members and trainees,” that he “served as an adviser to Osama bin Laden,” and that he “produced recruitment audio and video tapes which encouraged membership in al-Qaeda and participation in jihad.”

Over the years, he has faced other claims — that he attended two training camps, fought on the Taliban front lines against the Northern Alliance, was with Osama bin Laden in Tora Bora, and was a religious leader for al-Qaeda and the Taliban — even though the government was unable to explain how he “provided instruction to al-Qaeda members and trainees” at al-Farouq, when the camp closed less than a month after his arrival in Afghanistan, and, more importantly, how he was supposed to have undertaken all this training, provided all this instruction and advice, and produced videos and audiotapes during the small amount of time that he actually spent in Afghanistan. As he stated during a military review in 2005:

At the end of this exciting story and after all these various accusations, when I spent most of my time alongside bin Laden as his advisor and his religious leader … All this happened in a period of three months, which is the period of time I stayed in Afghanistan? I ask, are these accusations against Fayiz or against Superman? It seems to me that whoever wrote these accusations he must [have] been drinking and he must have been drunk when he wrote it.

Adding new information to what was already known, Moazzam Begg, a former Guantánamo prisoner and British citizen, told CNN he remembered al-Kandari from his own brief detention in Kandahar, Afghanistan, before his transfer to Bagram and then Guantánamo, “because the Americans would bring him from cell to cell to collect trash.” He recalled that other prisoners “told him al-Kandari was knowledgeable about Islamic issues,” but never heard any of his fellow prisoners mention that he was “associated with known terrorists or terrorist activities.”

Lt. Col. Wingard pointed out that al-Kandari had “maintained his innocence” throughout nearly ten years in detention, and friends and relatives also insisted that he “never had any affiliation with terrorist organisations.” His mother, Fatima Yusuf, explained in a letter supporting his son’s habeas petition, “I have lost my son for years and I am longing for him.” She added that his piety was apparent from when he was a child, because he “used to divide his daily pocket expenses into two halves, one for him and he used to distribute the other half to the poor. Sometimes, he spent his whole pocket expenses to the needy, without withholding anything for him.”

Although al-Kandari has recently been allowed to make phone calls to his family every few months, he is not currently doing so, because, as Lt. Col. Wingard explained, “he has been locked in solitary confinement for going on a hunger strike after his personal belongings, including his mail, was taken.”

The story of Fawzi al-Odah

The case against the other Kuwaiti, Fawzi al-Odah, is hardly any more convincing. As I explained in an article for the BBC in 2007, he was a primary school teacher who “took a short holiday from work and traveled to Afghanistan in August 2001 to teach the Koran and provide humanitarian aid. This was something he had done before, in other countries, and his family had a history of providing humanitarian aid, establishing libraries and wells in various countries in Africa.”

Furthermore, as I explained when he lost his habeas petition:

Judge Kollar-Kotelly’s ruling was based on a dubious assemblage of information that relied more on inconsistencies in al-Odah’s account of his activities than it did on anything resembling concrete evidence, as she herself admitted, when she wrote that there were “significant reasons why the Government’s proffered evidence may not be accurate or authentic.”

This supposed evidence, which even the judge had reason to doubt, consisted primarily of claims that he had undertaken military training for one day, and had “admit[ted] carrying an AK-47 through the Tora Bora mountains for 10 to 11 days during the US air campaign in that region.”

Like al-Kandari, al-Odah has “maintained his innocence throughout his detention,” and his father Khalid, a former pilot who worked with US forces during the war against Saddam Hussein in 1991, and now works with the Kuwait Family Committee, which lobbies on behalf of the Kuwaiti prisoners, told CNN that, although his son was carrying a weapon when he was detained, it was only for self-defense.

Even if the US case is true, it is hardly appropriate, nearly ten years after the 9/11 attacks, that, as I explained when al-Odah lost his habeas petition:

[T]he United States is still asserting that it has the right to hold a young man who spent just one day at a training camp, who did not flee Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks (perhaps because he feared reprisals if he was found escaping), who traveled with other men to Kabul, and then to Logar and then to Tora Bora and his eventual capture, with no evidence that he ever used the weapon he was given, and no evidence that his training involved anything more than firing a few rounds from an AK-47 in a practice session.

Why Fayiz al-Kandari and Fawzi al-Odah should be released rather then being held for the rest of their lives at Guantánamo

The problems facing al-Kandari and al-Odah strike to the heart of the problems confronting those calling for the closure of Guantánamo, and relate to the failures of their habeas corpus petitions to guarantee that their cases are judged fairly, and President Obama’s failure to recognize that prisoners should either be tried or released.

In March this year, confirming the recommendations of his Task Force, the President issued an executive order approving the indefinite detention of 46 of the remaining prisoners, with periodic reviews of their status, on the basis that they are too dangerous to release, but that not enough evidence exists to put them on trial.

This executive order has, understandably, been widely criticized by human rights groups and concerned lawyers, and although the Obama administration has not announced which of the remaining prisoners have been designated for indefinite detention, al-Kandari’s lawyers believe he “is likely to be indefinitely detained,” as CNN described it. It also seems likely that al-Odah, along with other prisoners who have lost their habeas petitions, is also in this category.

Speaking of those designated for indefinite detention, Lt. Col. Wingard told CNN that they were “unfortunate souls” who “will never get a trial, will be presumed guilty and will die in Guantánamo without ever having stepped into a courtroom.”

An appeal by al-Kandari has been submitted to the Court of Appeals in Washington D.C. (the D.C. Circuit Court), but as I have explained in several articles this year (see here, here and here, for example), that court, which includes several judges whose worldview matches that of the Bush administration officials and lawyers who dreamt up the abomination that is Guantánamo in the first place, have effectively gutted habeas corpus of all meaning for the Guantánamo prisoners, vacating or reversing every successful habeas petition that has come before them.

It is therefore almost certain that al-Kandari’s appeal will fail, as, indeed, did al-Odah’s appeal, which was rejected by the Circuit Court in June 2010. As a result, David Cynamon, the lead attorney for the Kuwaitis in Guantánamo, was speaking accurately when he told CNN that the court was a “black hole” for the detainees. Cynamon proceeded to explain that, as CNN put it, “[t]he difficulty with the Guantánamo cases is the government relies on hearsay.” Elaborating, he explained that there was no way of “testing the truthfulness of the people making the allegations.”

In addition, the Supreme Court has also refused to reexamine the cases. Eight appeals had been submitted by the start of this year, but all were dismissed, including al-Odah’s, which was one of three rejected on April 4 this year.

With the legal avenues cut off as effectively as they were under President Bush, and no sign that the American public is interested, the fate of Fayiz al-Kandari and Fawzi al-Odah — and, by extension, of other prisoners trapped in Guantánamo — may, therefore, be in the hands of the Kuwaiti government. As CNN noted, Kuwait “is an important US ally in the Gulf,” rescued from an invasion by Saddam Hussein in 1991, and an important base for the US-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003.

This ought to count for something, and it clearly did in 2005 and 2006, when eight of the 12 Kuwaitis held in Guantánamo were released, and in 2009, when two others were released after winning their habeas petitions. Khalid al-Odah told CNN that nine of the men had “reintegrated well.” He said, “They are productive. Some have children, they are working and we are in contact with them all the time.”

However, as was revealed in diplomatic cables from the US embassy in 2009, which were released by WikiLeaks last November, the US Ambassador in Kuwait alleged that Kuwait’s record had been tarnished by the example of the tenth ex-prisoner, Abdullah al-Ajmi, released in November 2005, who had blown himself up as a suicide bomber in Mosul, Iraq following his release.

The Ambassador dismissed all the Kuwaiti prisoners as “nasty, unrepentant individuals,” and secured support from Kuwait’s Minister of Interior Sheikh Jaber al-Khalid al-Sabah, who said of the prisoners, “If they are rotten, they are rotten and the best thing to do is get rid of them. You picked them up in Afghanistan; you should drop them off in Afghanistan, in the middle of the war zone.”

This was deeply shocking to Adel Abdul Hadi, one of al-Kandari’s lawyers in Kuwait, who said, in response to Sheikh al-Sabah’s comments, “Those charged with having Fayiz and Fawzi returned were actually suggesting they be murdered instead of being returned to Kuwait.”

Specifically, the problems with al-Ajmi ought to have been overcome following the return of the two other Kuwaitis who won their habeas petitions and were subsequently freed in 2009. One, Khalid al-Mutairi, was found to be a charity worker, as he had claimed all along, and the other, Fouad al-Rabiah, won his petition after a judge concluded that his confessions about working for Osama bin Laden and working with al-Qaeda during the showdown in Tora Bora, were false confessions, learned and repeated as a result of torture and the threat of torture.

Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly ruled that his confessions were “not credible or reliable, and that the Government has failed to provide the Court with sufficiently credible and reliable evidence to meet its burden of persuasion. If there exists a basis for al-Rabiah’s indefinite detention, it most certainly has not been presented to this Court.”

On his repatriation, according to David Cynamon, he was briefly held in a rehabilitation center in Kuwait’s central prison, which was built at great expense by the Kuwaiti government. However, the government almost immediately realized that there was no case against him and released him.

Khalid al-Odah told CNN that, if the US government has more significant doubts about Fayiz al-Kandari and Fawzi al-Odah, then they should be assuaged by the plans for their return. Both men, he said, would be sent to the rehabilitation center. In addition, “They would not be allowed to leave the country and they would be under surveillance.”

He added that, although his son “may have lost his legal battle,” he was secure that  “Kuwait has other cards to play with.” Those cards involve notions of justice that run deep in the Gulf nation, even if they are also capable of inspiring internal conflict.

On May 18 this year, a fight broke out while parliament was debating the fate of the two Kuwaitis still in Guantánamo, as a Shiite MP and a Muslim Brotherhood MP exchanged blows. However, most Kuwaiti MPs, and over 16,000 other people, have signed a petition urging the US government to “release Fayiz al-Kandari immediately and ensure his return home to Kuwait since the Kuwait government has fulfilled all conditions stipulated by the US administration for the release of detainees from Guantánamo Bay. Kuwait has enhanced the monitoring system of returned citizens and built a multi-million dollar rehabilitation center to facilitate their return.”

Crucially, Kuwaiti MP Rola al-Dashti told CNN that it was “impossible” to know if al-Kandari was guilty or innocent. “I don’t see a fair trial,” she said. Referring to both al-Kandari and Fawzi al-Odah, she added, “Nobody knows why the US is keeping them. It is very important to the people of Kuwait and to the families of the detainees that the US abide by democratic principles. It doesn’t look good to look into the US and see this kind of practice.”

Lawmakers who have tried to tie President Obama’s hands when it comes to closing Guantánamo have interfered to prevent prisoners from being returned to countries they regard as a threat — Yemen, for example, and Afghanistan. The example of Abdullah al-Ajmi still hovers darkly over the releases of the Kuwaiti prisoners, but otherwise the government, as a staunch ally of America, and a beacon of stability in the Middle East, is ideally placed to push for the release of its final two citizens in Guantánamo.

This, moreover, would break the deadlock that has paralyzed President Obama and that leaves Guantánamo still beaming out its bleak message to the rest of the world that, when it comes to foreign Muslims, the US government remains content to imprison them without charge or trial in an experimental prison that ought to be a source of shame and disgust.

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 the website of the Future of Freedom Foundation.

18 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    On Facebook, Tamzin Jans wrote:

    None of this attitude towards Al Qaeda makes much sense when you see how the US at times aided and/or looked the other way with Al Qaeda members. In Libya today there are some Al Qaeda people among the rebels and no one seems to know much about who will be forming the new Libyan government.

    On the one hand, so many are imprisoned and tortured and they are guilty of hardly any crime and, on the other hand, Western states seem to be aiding Al Qaeda Jihadists for political purposes.

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Hi Tamzin, thanks for the comments, and I’m sure there are many reasons for doubting the sincerity of the US, especially when it comes to the complicated world of double agents. With regard to Libya, however, I don’t regard it necessarily as honest to claim that former members of the Libyan islamic Fighting Group can automatically be labeled as al-Qaeda.

  3. Mark Erickson says...

    I have to file an objection, my friend. I was just looking into Al Kandari myself because of the CNN article (via Lawfare via Thomas Jocelyn). While there is absolutely no reliable evidence of wrong-doing by Al Kandari, it must be noted that the Judge denied habeas on the basis of Kandari’s admissions alone. And not just interrogations at GTMO (which Al Kandari does not allege were coercive), but in his habeas Declaration. (A Declaration is testimony a detainee has written out with his lawyer and submitted to the habeas court on his behalf. Can you find and post the actual Declaration, Andy?)

    On page 40 of the opinion, the Declaration is cited as admitting that Al Kandari was at the Battle of Tora Bora with a rifle which he had been taught to use while there. The judge’s key finding is on page 44. The following pages document that Al Kandari admitted to being with four possible Al Qaeda or Taliban members, including Ibn Sheik Al Libi. I deeply regret the state of the law that allows this, but I have to admit that this is enough for the federal judge to rule that Al Kandari was more likely than not “a part of” Al Qaeda or the Taliban, and thus is lawfully held. Again, this situation is every bad word I can think of and more. I am in no way agreeing or condoning that he should be held.

    I just think that an accurate portrayal of Al Kandari must mention that he admits to being at the Battle of Tora Bora with a rifle and that at a minimum he was with some Al Qaeda or Taliban guys there (more accurately what the American government calls Al Qaeda or Taliban). My own speculation is that Al Kandari supported at least defensive jihad and made the fateful decision to go to Tora Bora to fulfill what he thought was a religious duty. If this is true, I do not take him to be any threat at all to the US, and he should have never been sent to GTMO. The government should have released him long ago. I would further speculate that the military held on to him due partly to his education and willingness to stand up for his fellow detainees. (Similar to Begg and Aamer).

    I agree with the CNN piece in that Al Kandari’s case “illustrates the difficulties of establishing who may have had links with al Qaeda and similar groups in the chaotic aftermath of 9/11, the strength of evidence against them, and whether they might remain or become a threat today if freed from detention.” A just review of the detention system would release him straight away. But that’s not going to happen. So, hopefully he gets a trial, even if in a military commission, and receives something like time served. (Realizing a conviction is guaranteed. Another point is that I think the horrid military commission system offers a greater chance of a lighter sentence than civilian trials. Either through plea bargains or military jury sentences)

    As always, I greatly appreciate the work Andy does and would be happy to talk more about Fayiz.

  4. Brian Scott says...

    Andy, as a fellow activist and campaigner, I dream about having the kind of impact and reach that you flex every day. I salute you.
    But this is just foppish naivete, acting like there is nothing that you personally can do to solve this problem.
    You could drive a solution, if you will commit to the only possible solution, the Dat-dazh-deet Deradicalization Program.

    You exaggerated when you said implied that Congressional lawmakers didn’t have the right to interfere in plans to release prisoners. Of course they do; it’s part of the US system of checks and balances. The challenge is to find a solution that still allows them to pander to low-information voters whom they have convinced that every prisoner at Gitmo is a terrorist.

    Dat-dazh-deet is the only path that lets most of these elected officials continue to fudge the truth on the true nature of the detainees who are cleared for release, while appealing to “rule-of-law” extremists like you and me by finally getting these 87 or so innocent men out of there.

    If you deleted the info on Dat-dazh-deet that you were sent earlier, I can send it again. Let’s get the ball rolling so that there is Justice, eventually.

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Tamzin Jans wrote (in response to 2):

    I don’t know, but Pepe Escobar is saying something to that extent. I also saw a video of one of the ‘rebels’ who stated that they had contacts with, what he termed, the good Al Qaeda. Here is an article of P.Escobar:
    http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/MH30Ak01.html
    This what I mean by some hypocrisy going on.

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks again, Tamzin. Well, yes, Pepe’s article is fascinating, but I can’t quite work out what’s going on. In the Washington Post in October 2007, for example, an article about the Libyans seized by the CIA and rendered to Libya involved a discussion with Noman Benotman, a former opponent of Gaddafi who is now an acknowledged expert on LIFG members. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/10/26/AR2007102602326_pf.html

    The article stated,

    Abdallah al-Sadeq [the pseudonym of Abdelhakim Belhaj], was apprehended in a covert CIA operation in Thailand in the spring of 2004, according to Noman Benotman, a former member of the Libyan militant network.

    Another, Abu Munder al-Saadi, the group’s spiritual leader, was caught in the Hong Kong airport. In both cases, Benotman said, the Libyans were held briefly by the CIA before U.S. agents flew them to Tripoli.

    “They realized very quickly that these guys had nothing to do with al-Qaeda,” Benotman said in an interview in London. “They kept them for a few weeks, and that’s it.”

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    Hi Mark,
    Thanks for your research and your comments and questions. I don’t have a copy of the declaration, but can try and get hold of one.
    So I agree that it appears that Fayiz was in Tora Bora, and was armed, and that may well be true. It was what I described in my book, for example, although for the last two years I have based my opinions on the accounts given by his lawyers, as I was told that he had recanted those admissions — and, as you know, there are more often than not good reasons for doubting the veracity of what people said in US custody, at Guantanamo or elsewhere, if they say that what they confessed to was not the truth.
    If Fayiz was a soldier, of course, then yes, the US government can hold him according to its absurd Authorization for Use of Military Force. That shouldn’t be allowed, of course, as you recognize, because soldiers should be held as prisoners of war according to the Geneva Conventions, and we would now be able to argue how long this “war” is going to last.
    And if he wasn’t a soldier, and was a humanitarian aid worker, then the angle is slightly different, of course, and the injustice sharper, but fundamentally, at this point in time, when the truth is so hard to establish, i only care about the government’s right to hold terror suspects — perhaps a few dozen men at most. Everyone else? Can we release them please? Whether or not they were in Tora Bora, and whether or not they had a gun, they were not terrorists, and there’s no justification for holding them any longer.

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    Hi Brian,
    Yes, please send me your proposals again. My apologies for not having got back to you.

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    Tamzin Jans wrote (in response to 6):

    Perhaps pressure was put on Libyan authorities to put him back in jail in Libya and then he was again recently released by Saif. I am not sure what is the real information out of Libya, in spite of having spent more than three years there very recently. I was there when they released those hundreds of prisoners from jail.

  10. Andy Worthington says...

    Hi Tamzin, yes I believe he was freed after Saif’s intervention — that reconciliation program which looked as though it was a marked improvement on the previous repression — but I need to do more research to get a better perspective on all this.

  11. Andy Worthington says...

    Tamzin Jans wrote:

    Thanks, Andy. I know you do excellent work and research and I know you also know about the many Libyans who were caught in this war on terror, some innocent and some not so innocent. There are a lot of political issues in any world situation.

  12. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Tamzin. On the question of Libya, however, there are more conflicting opinions than on almost any other topic I can think of.

  13. Andy Worthington says...

    Tamzin Jans wrote:

    I think it is important that if they are starting a new Libya, as opposed to the “old” Libya, then they must learn to accept some opposition without putting people in prison and torturing them. They have achieved the goal of ousting Gadhafi and I think it is time for them to move on, drop the weapons, re-construct and seriously think about democracy in other terms than just the ballot box. The continual hounding out of Gadhafi protagonists doesn’t show that they are moving away from the old methods. In a healthy society, there is opposition and there is freedom to state that without wondering if the state will come and get you.

  14. Andy Worthington says...

    I agree, Tamzin, but I can also understand the extent of some people’s anger at supporters of Gaddafi over the last 42 years, although I don’t condone any kind of reprisals, of course. That’s where a functioning judiciary is needed, and the awareness that justice is better than vengeance.

  15. Mark Erickson says...

    Andy, quite right. (table rap rap). Can you put a number on how many legitimate terror suspects there are? Direct 9/11 links are only a handful, right? Members of Al Qaeda aren’t more than 20, are they?

  16. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Mark. You really tested me with that last set of comments and questions.

    So, remember that the Guantanamo Review Task Force recommended that 36 prisoners should be put on trial — although they included Omar Khadr, Ibrahim al-Qosi (a cook), and Noor Uthman Muhammed (a quartermaster), for example (who have all now reached pleas deals in their trials by military commission), so they’re certainly not all members of al-Qaeda. The Task Force analyzed the cases of 242 prisoners, and concluded that roughly 10 percent (24 in total, therefore) were “Leaders, operatives, and facilitators involved in terrorist plots against US targets.”

    After that, it gets particularly troubling. The Task Force identified 20 percent (48 prisoners in total) as “Others with significant organizational roles within al-Qaeda or associated terrorist organizations” including “individuals responsible for overseeing or providing logistical support to al-Qaeda’s training operations in Afghanistan; facilitators who helped move money and personnel for al-Qaeda; a cadre of Osama bin Laden’s bodyguards, who held a unique position of trust within al-Qaeda; and well-trained operatives who were being groomed by al-Qaeda leaders for future terrorist operations.” And much of the above is very dubious, to say the least.

    My most detailed explanation is here: http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2010/06/11/does-obama-really-know-or-care-about-who-is-at-guantanamo/

  17. Andy Worthington says...

    Tamzin Jans wrote:

    I’m afraid the road to justice is long. Please take a look at this: http://medialens.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=644%3Ato-avert-a-bloodbath-libya-and-the-press-part-1

  18. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Tamzin. That’s a useful round-up of unpleasant information. So many mixed messages — these stories on the one hand, optimistic opponents of Gaddafi and former exiles with hope and skills on the other …

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
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