Freelance investigative journalist Andy Worthington continues his 70-part, million-word series telling, for the first time, the stories of 776 of the 779 prisoners held at Guantánamo since the prison opened on January 11, 2002. Adding information released by WikiLeaks in April 2011 to the existing documentation about the prisoners, much of which was already covered in Andy’s book The Guantánamo Files and in the archive of articles on his website, the project will be completed in time for the 10th anniversary of the prison’s opening on January 11, 2012.
This is Part 20 of the 70-part series. 260 stories have now been told. See the entire archive here.
In late April, WikiLeaks pushed Guantánamo back onto the international media’s agenda by publishing thousands of pages of classified military documents — the Detainee Assessment Briefs — relating to almost all of the 779 prisoners held at Guantánamo since the prison opened on January 11, 2002, which drew on the testimony of witnesses — in most cases, the prisoners’ fellow prisoners — whose words are unreliable, either because they were subjected to torture or other forms of coercion (sometimes not in Guantánamo, but in secret prisons run by the CIA), or because they provided false statements to secure better treatment in Guantánamo.
As an independent media partner of WikiLeaks, I liaised both before and after the publication of these documents with WikiLeaks’ mainstream media partners (including the Washington Post, McClatchy Newspapers, the Daily Telegraph, Der Spiegel, Le Monde and El Pais), and then, after the killing of Osama bin Laden pushed Guantánamo aside once more, and allowed apologists for torture, and those who engineered its use by US forces, to resume their malignant, criminal and deeply mistaken defense of torture, and of the existence of Guantánamo, I began to analyze all of the Detainee Assessment Briefs in depth.
I began, in May and June, with a five-part series, “WikiLeaks: The Unknown Prisoners of Guantánamo,” telling the stories of 84 prisoners, released between 2002 and 2004, whose stories had never been told before. These men and boys were amongst the first 201 prisoners released, and unlike the other prisoners, for whom information was released to the public from 2006 onwards, as a result of court cases involving Freedom of Information requests, no information had been officially released about the first 201 prisoners.
“WikiLeaks: The Unknown Prisoners of Guantánamo” was followed by a ten-part series, “WikiLeaks and the Guantánamo Prisoners Released from 2002 to 2004,” published from June to August, in which I revisited the stories of 114 other prisoners released in this period, adding information from the Detainee Assessment Briefs to what was already known about these men and boys from press reports and other sources.
As a result, of the 201 prisoners released between 2002 and 2004, I have, to date, published the most comprehensive reports available in one place on 198 of the 779 prisoners held, with just three stories currently unknown (of prisoners whose Detainee Assessment Briefs were missing, and whose stories have not surfaced in any other media).
For the next phase of this 70-part project (with 19 parts now complete), I have turned my attention to the period from September 2004 to the end of 2005, when 62 prisoners were released (see Part One, Part Two, Part Three and Part Four). This was the period in which, after the prisoners won a spectacular victory in the Supreme Court in June 2004, in Rasul v. Bush, when the Supreme Court granted them habeas corpus rights (in other words, the right to ask an impartial judge why they were being held), lawyers were allowed to meet the prisoners for the first time, and the secrecy that was required for Guantánamo to function as an interrogation center beyond the law was finally broken.
However, although the Bush administration allowed habeas petitions to proceed, Congress attempted to strip the prisoners of their habeas rights in the Detainee Treatment Act in 2005, and the administration also responded to the Supreme Court’s ruling with its own inferior version of habeas, the Combatant Status Review Tribunals.
The tribunals were designed to review the evidence against all the prisoners (which they did from July 2004 to March 2005), to decide whether they had been correctly designated, on capture, as “enemy combatants” who could be held without rights. They were, however, a corrupt and inept process, designed essentially to rubber-stamp the administration’s prior decisions, and not to allow the prisoners to fundamentally challenge the largely flimsy basis of their detention. The prisoners were, for example, not allowed lawyers, and they were not allowed to either see or hear the classified evidence against them, although it was not until 2007 that the extent of the failings of the CSRTs became fully apparent, when their supposed integrity was thoroughly undermined in an affidavit submitted to the Supreme Court by Lt. Col. Stephen Abraham.
A veteran of US intelligence who had worked on the tribunals, Lt. Col. Abraham not only revealed how shambolic the process of compiling the supposed evidence for the tribunals was, but also how, when tribunals such as the one he took part in, disagreed with the authorities’ preconceived notions, by deciding that the man before them was not an “enemy combatant,” the officers were dismissed and “do-over” tribunals were convened until the authorities got the results they desired.
Despite the insuperable problems with the CSRTs, they — and their successors, the annual Administrative Review Boards — often provided the only opportunity for the prisoners to have their own voices heard, and they proved invaluable when I was researching and writing The Guantánamo Files.
Now supplemented with information from the Detainee Assessment Briefs released by WikiLeaks, the 62 stories in this five-part series cover 29 of the 38 prisoners who were the only ones, out of 558 prisoners in total, to succeed in convincing their tribunals, and the authorities overseeing the tribunals, they they were not “enemy combatants” — or, as the administration insisted, that they were “no longer enemy combatants.” The Pentagon’s document listing the 38 (PDF) describes them as “Detainees Found to No Longer Meet the Definition of ‘Enemy Combatant’ during Combatant Status Review Tribunals Held at Guantánamo.” The other nine were not freed because, in all but one case, it was unsafe for them to be returned to their home countries, and, as a result, they were not released until 2006 and 2009, when third countries were found that were prepared to accept them.
This series also covers the stories of 33 others released between September 2004 and November 2005 who were not cleared for release after the CSRTs, but were released anyway, and readers will, I hope, be able to see how much of the decision-making process involved political maneuvering rather than anything to do with justice.
I also hope that readers will bear in the mind the Bush administration’s refusal to concede that it made any mistakes, which is apparent in its refusal to accept that prisoners were “not enemy combatants,” and its decision to describe them as being “no longer enemy combatants” instead, and will reflect on the problems of overclassification that have been thoroughly chronicled in the preceding series analyzing the Detainee Assessment Briefs.
My analysis to date has established repeatedly that even patently innocent prisoners seized by mistake were regarded as a “low risk,” rather than as no risk at all, and it is important for readers to bear in mind that the entire process of detaining and processing prisoners and exploiting them for their supposed intelligence was shot through with a drive to conclude that they were all a threat, and to overlook the distressing fact that most of them were seized in a largely random manner, mostly by America’s Afghan and Pakistan allies, at a time when substantial bounty payments were widespread, and were never subjected to anything that resembled an adequate screening process.
Naquibullah Shabeen (ISN 834, Afghanistan) Released April 2005
Of the 13 prisoners profiled in this article, Naquibullah Shabeen is one of 12 included in the 38 prisoners officially declared to be “no longer enemy combatants” after their Combatant Status Review Tribunals.
In Chapter 14 of The Guantánamo Files, I explained how, between April and December 2002, at least 50 Afghans were sent to Guantánamo from Bagram, and how, in his book The Interrogators, Chris Mackey (the pseudonym of a former senior interrogator in Afghanistan) reported that the screening for Afghan prisoners was made more flexible in June 2002, when, instead off sending every single prisoner in their custody to Guantánamo (as stipulated by those directing operations from Camp Doha in Kuwait), the prison’s commanders finally worked out how to release “worthless prisoners back to their farms and families.” The process involved creating a new category of prisoner — “persons under US control” — who could be held for 14 days without being assigned a number that entered the system overseen by the overall commanders in Kuwait and the Pentagon, because once a prisoner was officially assigned a number, it was almost impossible for the interrogators to let them go.
Two of the 50, whose story only demonstrates that, even with these changes, many Afghans were still pointlessly sent to Guantánamo, were Naquibullah Shabeen (also identified as Shahwali Shaheen Naqeebyllah), who was 25 years old at the time of his capture, and Mohammed Rasoul (see below), who was 23 years old. The two were brothers — and doctors — who, as was explained in Guantánamo, returned from Pakistan to open a clinic, and were captured after a rocket attack on a US base in October 2002, because US forces mistakenly believed that someone entered their house after firing the rockets.
In his Detainee Assessment Brief, dated September 6, 2003, which was a “Transfer Recommendation,” and in which he was identified as Naqibullah Shawali Zair Mohammed, born in 1976, it was stated that he was diagnosed with latent tuberculosis, in common with many of the prisoners, and also “Anxiety Disorder,” but that he was “otherwise in good health.”
The Task Force observed that he had joint Afghan-Pakistani nationality, and confirmed that he was a doctor, noting that he owned a clinic in Bermel, in Paktika province, Afghanistan, and stating that he was “arrested with his younger brother and another individual after a rocket attack on the Lawara Fire Base,” because a US plane had “observed a vehicle fleeing the scene,” and, after “engaging the vehicle,” the pilot “observed three subjects flee into a nearby compound.” When US forces then searched the compound, they seized the brothers and the other, unidentified man. He was sent to Guantánamo on October 27, 2002, allegedly “because of his suspected involvement in the rocket attack.”
However, as I explained in my article, “How to Read WikiLeaks’ Guantánamo Files” (originally published on WikiLeaks’ website when the Guantánamo files were first published, as part of my work liaising between WikiLeaks and its media partners):
[T]he “Reasons for Transfer” included in the documents, which have been repeatedly cited by media outlets as an explanation of why the prisoners were transferred to Guantánamo, are, in fact, lies that were grafted onto the prisoners’ files after their arrival at Guantánamo. This is because, contrary to the impression given in the files, no significant screening process took place before the prisoners’ transfer. As a senior interrogator who worked in Afghanistan explained in a book that he wrote about his experiences (The Interrogators, mentioned above), every prisoner who ended up in US custody had to be sent to Guantánamo, even though the majority were not even seized by US forces, but were seized by their Afghan and Pakistani allies at a time when substantial bounty payments for “al-Qaeda and Taliban suspects” were widespread.
Naqibullah denied that he was involved in the attack, but the Task Force regarded his credibility as poor, claiming that he had “never satisfactorily explained the circumstances involving the three subjects who fled into the compound following the rocket attack.” Although it was noted, crucially, “No evidence has come forward directly linking the detainee to the attack,” the Task Force claimed that “circumstantial evidence strongly suggest[ed] the detainee was a participant or he may have additional knowledge of anti-US forces operating in the area.”
It was also noted that he was “highly educated and ha[d] never expressed any overt thoughts of violence towards the US while in captivity,” but that his letters home, intercepted by the US authorities, “seem to suggest differently.” No clue was given as to what this means, but it added to the reasons that led the Task Force to conclude that he “may have participated in the attack or was at least complacent [sic] in the operation.” It was suggested that he “show[ed] links with known Taliban members” and “tentative links to possible Al-Qaida members that he may have come into contact with through his clinic.”
These vague claims, and another — that he had “not been completely forthright though he ha[d] gone to great pains to appear to be supportive and cooperative during his detention” — led the Task Force to conclude that he “possibly pose[d] a threat to the current government of Afghanistan,” and that, although he was “assessed as not being a member of Al-Qaida or Taliban leader,” and was “of low intelligence value to the United States,” he posed “a medium threat to the US, its interests or its allies.” As a result, James E. Payne III, who signed the memo, recommended that he be “considered for transfer to the control of another government for continued dentition,” a position that was evidently maintained for another 16 months, until January 2005, when his military tribunal at Guantánamo found that he was not an “enemy combatant,” and approved his release.
Mohammed Rasoul (ISN 835, Afghanistan) Released April 2005
Of the 13 prisoners profiled in this article, Mohammed Rasoul is one of 12 included in the 38 prisoners officially declared to be “no longer enemy combatants” after their Combatant Status Review Tribunals.
As explained above, in Chapter 14 of The Guantánamo Files, I described how Rasoul (also identified as Rasool Shahwali Zair Mohammed Mohammed), who was 23 years old at the time of his capture, was seized with his brother, Naquibullah Shabeen, who was 25 years old at the time. The two were brothers — and doctors — who, as was explained in Guantánamo, returned from Pakistan to open a clinic, and were captured after a rocket attack on a US base in October 2002, because US forces mistakenly believed that someone entered their house after firing the rockets.
In telling the story of his capture in his Detainee Assessment Brief, dated September 13, 2003, which was a “Transfer Recommendation,” and in which he was identified as Rasol Mohammed, born in 1978, the Task Force noted that the raid was on October 15, 2002, and that Mohammed stated that he “heard the loud noise of rockets, airplanes firing and fighting in the area around his house,” which was so alarming that his neighbor and his family sought shelter with him. However, an hour later, US forces knocked on the door, but as they could not speak each others’ languages, and there was no translator, he was unable to respond as the Americans arrested him, his brother and his neighbor.
In a quote from a note made in the field, it was stated that “the capturing forces stated that they observed that the hair on the detainee’s hands had been burned off and he smelled like burnt gunpowder (or burnt rocket fuel) as well as having oily stains on his clothes, similar to motor oil,” although it was also noted that he “claimed that his burns were from a cooking accident and the stains and smells on his clothes were from building a guesthouse,” and stated that “he and his brother had no part in the attack and denied having any knowledge concerning anyone who may have been involved.” As with this brother, he was sent to Guantánamo on October 27, 2002, allegedly “because of his suspected involvement in the rocket attack.”
Mohammed denied that he was involved in the attack, but the Task Force regarded his credibility as poor, claiming, in passages that were exactly the same as those in his brother’s file, that he had “never satisfactorily explained the circumstances involving the three subjects who fled into the compound following the rocket attack.” Although it was noted, crucially, “No evidence has come forward directly linking the detainee to the attack,” the Task Force claimed that “circumstantial evidence strongly suggest[ed] the detainee was a participant or he may have additional knowledge of anti-US forces operating in the area.”
As with his brother, the Task Force concluded that he “may have participated in the attack or was at least complacent [sic] in the operation.” It was suggested that he “appear[ed] to have connections through family members that are known Taliban members,” although it was also noted that “these connections are tentative and the detainee denies any affiliation with the former Taliban regime.”
These vague claims, and another — that he had “not been completely forthright though he ha[d] gone to great pains to appear to be supportive and cooperative during his detention” — led the Task Force to conclude that he “possibly pose[d] a threat to the current government of Afghanistan,” and that, although he was “assessed as not being a member of Al-Qaida or Taliban leader,” and was “of low intelligence value to the United States,” he posed “a medium threat to the US, its interests or its allies.” As a result, James E. Payne III, who signed the memo, recommended that he be “considered for transfer to the control of another government for continued dentition,” a position that was evidently maintained until, as in his brother’s case, his military tribunal at Guantánamo found that he was not an “enemy combatant,” and approved his release.
Abdul Qudus (ISN 929, Afghanistan) Released April 2005
Of the 13 prisoners profiled in this article, Abdul Qudus is one of 12 included in the 38 prisoners officially declared to be “no longer enemy combatants” after their Combatant Status Review Tribunals.
As I explained in Chapter 17 of The Guantánamo Files, and also in two articles, “The Pentagon Can’t Count: 22 Juveniles Held at Guantánamo” and “WikiLeaks and the 22 Children of Guantánamo,” he was one of at least 22 prisoners who were juveniles at the time of their capture (in other words, under 18 at the time their alleged crimes took place), and who should therefore have been repatriated rather than punished, according to the UN Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, which the US ratified on December 23, 2002.
Qudus, who was 13 or 14 at the time of his capture in Helmand province towards the end of 2002, was seized with another juvenile, Mohammed Ismael Agha (ISN 930), who was released in January 2004 (see “WikiLeaks and the Guantánamo Prisoners Released from 2002 to 2004 (Part Ten of Ten).” As I explained, the two, according to their own accounts, were sold to the Americans by Afghan soldiers. Agha said they had been looking for work, and ended up spending the night at an Afghan militia post in Gereshk. The following morning, Qudus said that the soldiers wanted to give them weapons and make them fight, and when they refused they were put in a car, delivered to the Americans, and accused of being with the Taliban.
As I also explained in the article cited above, Agha maintained this story after his release, when he spoke to the media, although Qudus was identified in those interviews as Mohammed Wali. I also explained how the Task Force, in its assessment, failed to mention Agha’s age, but did assess him as being “neither affiliated with Al-Qaida nor a Taliban leader,” and how Maj. Gen. Miller then recommended his release or transfer.
In the documents released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, the file relating to Qudus was a “Transfer Recommendation,” dated January 10, 2004, in which no specific mention was made of his status as a juvenile at the time of his capture, although it was acknowledged that he was born in 1986 and was only 17 at the time of the assessment, which took place 11 months after his arrival at Guantánamo. Given that this was just 18 days before Mohammed Ismael Agha, captured with him, was released after much fanfare about his age, I find this a rather depressing state of affairs, as Abdul Qudus was not released for another 15 months, with no evidence that, during this time, he was treated any differently than the adult prisoners.
In telling his story, the Joint Task Force reiterated that he “was arrested by Afghan military forces near Gereshk, AF,” but claimed that it was “after he and his friend [Agha] approached them and asked for a weapon with which to kill any Americans,” which is an implausible-sounding diversion from the story of their attempted recruitment. He was sent to Guantánamo on February 7, 2003, on the spurious basis that it was “because of his association with a local leader, Mullah Maulaw Abdul, and his teachings that encourage students to attack Americans.”
In a section providing “Reasons for Continued Detention,” the Task Force inadvertently revealed not only how juveniles like Qudus were not being held separately from the adult population, as required by America’s UN treaty obligations, and as recommended by US military doctors, in a proposal dismissed by defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld (discussed here), but also how counter-productive this was.
As the Task Force explained, Qudus was “generally cooperative,” and “his interrogators [felt] he ha[d] been generally remorseful,” noting that he “claimed he was encouraged to attack Americans because of the teachings of several Imams, whom he had great respect for.” It was also alleged that he “stated that he told the Afghan military forces that if they gave him a weapon, he would shoot Americans, and readily admitted this throughout his detention,” which led the Task Force to note that he had “demonstrated at least some level of commitment to Jihad by his statements, associations, or activities.”
It is difficult to know whether these “confessions” were produced willingly, or whether they initially came about under duress (and were then repeated through fear), or whether they came about as Qudus’s response to his ill-treatment in US custody. However, even if they were true, Qudus, as a juvenile, was not supposed to be regarded as responsible for his own actions, as juveniles are recognized as being susceptible to the influence of responsible adults. As a result, there should have been no surprise that Qudus was “thought by his interrogators to be easily influenced,” and as “vulnerable to recruitment for terrorist or supportive groups,”
What was shocking was the recognition that he was “still being influenced by the men around him while he has been detained,” which would not have happened if, like Agha and the two other juveniles released in January 2004, he had been held in a separate camp (Camp Iguana) and educated and cared for.
In conclusion, he was “assessed as being neither a member of Al-Qaida nor a Taliban leader,” and was regarded as being “of low intelligence value to the United States,” although he was also assessed as posing “a medium risk as he may possibly pose a threat to the US, its interests or allies.” As a result, Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, the commander of Guantánamo at the time, recommended him for “Transfer to the control of another government for continued detention,” although it was also noted that the Criminal Investigative Task Force (created by the DoD in 2002 to conduct interrogations on a law enforcement basis, rather than for “actionable intelligence”) “stated they require[d] more investigation to make a threat assessment,” and that, “Until further law enforcement investigation [was] conducted by CITF and an assessment [was] made, JTF GTMO and CITF cannot agree on the risk of this particular detainee.”
It is not known whether CITF ever made a threat assessment, but 15 months later, his tribunal at Guantánamo recognized that he was not an “enemy combatant,” and approved his release.
Haji Shahzada (ISN 952, Afghanistan) Released April 2005
Of the 13 prisoners profiled in this article, Haji Shahzada is one of 12 included in the 38 prisoners officially declared to be “no longer enemy combatants” after their Combatant Status Review Tribunals.
In Chapter 17 of The Guantánamo Files, I explained how Haji Shahzada, who was 43 years old at the time of his capture, was one of three villagers seized in Kandahar province, the other two being Abdullah Khan (ISN 950, released in February 2006), who was 46 years old, and Allah Nasir (ISN 951, released in August 2007) who was 55. The three were captured during house raids by Afghan soldiers on January 29, 2003, and Shahzada, a prominent landowner and the local representative for the Karzai government, explained that it happened after an enemy of his told a false story to the Americans, who believed it.
In Guantánamo, Shahzada explained, “In Afghanistan they heard that American forces are providing $25,000 to capture each Arab and $15,000 to capture each Afghan. Is it [that] you want to buy people with money? The enemy who sold me for $15,000 to you, I will charge him $200,000 and I will make sure that I hand all of his family to you, so they will work like me in Cuba.” Warning that capturing innocent people like him was a sure way of turning the population against the Americans, he also said, “this is just me you brought but I have six sons left behind in my country. I have ten uncles in my area that would be against you. I don’t care about myself. I could die here, but I have 300 male members of my family there in my country. If you want to build Afghanistan you can’t build it this way … I will tell anybody who asks me that this is oppression.”
Ludicrously, most of the allegations against Shahzada centred on Khan, a poor shopkeeper who had just sold him a dog. Captured at Shahzada’s house, and accused of being Khairullah Khairkhwa, the governor of Herat (who had been in US custody since February 2002), he was also accused of being an airfield commander for the Taliban. The third man, Nasir, was an old family friend of Shahzada. An ethnic Uzbek, he was a poor shopkeeper, and was also subjected to ludicrous allegations: that he worked for the Saudi charity al-Wafa in Herat, and that he was involved in an international bomb plot. Unlike Shahzada, however, Khan and Nasir were not released until 2006.
In an interview for McClatchy Newspapers’ major report on 66 released Guantánamo prisoners in 2008, Shazada sang about Guantánamo to the McClatchy reporter:
This is the jail of Cuba, to whom shall I describe it?
Listen, Muslims, this is the jail of Cuba
Made of chains, made of iron cells.
There are humans in the cages of Cuba.
They are deprived of their lives and know nothing, not even themselves.
At nighttime the guard comes and they call you to interrogation.
As McClatchy noted, “Shahzada didn’t write the lines; they were passed along in folded notes, poetry written by other men hunched over notebooks in their small wire-mesh cells, then handed to him quickly, before the guards could see.” Shahzada was apparently known throughout Guantánamo “for his beautiful, sad voice, and prisoners smuggled him poems as often as they could, waiting for him to sit on his mattress and begin to sing, his words floating over them, over the camp under the blazing red sun, to remind them of a home that they doubted they’d ever see again.”
His song complete, Shazada told the reporter that “Guantánamo, along with his trip there, was stranger than anything he could have dreamed.” He confirmed that, before his capture in January 2003, “he was an elder of his village in Kandahar province, as his father and his father’s father had been.” In the 1980s, he had been imprisoned for a year by the Russians, “for shooting a man over a land dispute,” and in the 1990s the Taliban had held him for a week “when he refused to give them conscripts from his family.” He added that “they would have killed him, but didn’t want the tribal complications that would follow.” The Americans, however, “were something different.”
Shahzada explained how he was seized in his home, “after a long evening of playing cards with two men who’d stayed the night as his guests,” and was woken up with “an AK-47 pointed at his face, and the Afghan soldier behind it warning him that US troops were there.” He and his guests were then blindfolded, handcuffed and dragged out of the house. As the McClatchy report explained, at first Shahzada wasn’t interested in why he was seized. Instead, “he was trying to comprehend the idea that someone would come to his house — the house of a village elder — in the middle of the night and not only drag him out the front door, in front of his wife and neighbors, but also do the same to his guests.” As McClatchy noted, “In the world of ethnic Pashtuns, it was an outrageous chain of events,” because hospitality, and the inviolability of that hospitality, is central to Pashtun life.
As confirmed in Guantánamo, the basis for the raid was the misidentification of Abdullah Khan, with Shahzada “accused of helping him smuggle weapons and plan attacks on US soldiers,” and, as Shahzada explained, the US Special Forces soldiers who seized him “weren’t interested” when he told them that “Khan raised dogs for dog fighting: Hard-line mullahs such as those in the Taliban consider dogs filthy, and they see dog fighting as especially sinful.”
Speaking of the reason for his detention, Shahzada later told the McClatchy reporter that “he’d been handed over to the Americans for a bounty paid to men in his village who wanted to get rid of him,” although he “wouldn’t say who the men were.” However, Hekmat Mugaddadi, a senior official in the Afghan Peace and Reconciliation Commission in Kandahar described his case as “a well-known instance of the Americans detaining, then humiliating, the wrong man.”
“He is from my village, I know him. He is a good, honest man,” Mugaddadi said. “Some people told the Americans that he had a hand with the Taliban … It was some of his relatives, his cousins, who did this. It was because his sons were young, and they thought they could take his land and one of his younger sisters once the Americans took him.”
No one was interested in Shahzada’s innocence for two years after his capture. He was taken first to a Special Forces base, then to the US prison at Kandahar airport for five days, “where US soldiers stripped him naked, another event that seemed unbelievable to him, even as it was happening,” and then to Bagram, where he stayed for two and a half months. “They did the same bad thing, except this time my eyes were open,” he said. “They stripped me naked; there were women and men in front of us, soldiers, looking at me and laughing and yelling things.”
At Bagram, he was constantly in trouble for singing. “They [the guards] would say shut up, don’t talk. I would sing to myself, lying on the ground,” he said. “Because of that, they would hang me by my hands from the ceiling on my cell. The first time, it lasted for 12 days, the next time for seven days and then again for four days. My feet were not flat on the ground; I was standing on my toes.” He was, he added, only “let down to eat his meals … sometimes for half an hour, sometimes for 15 minutes.”
In interrogations, he said, the Americans continued to claim that he had been helping a Taliban commander (his friend, confused with Khairullah Khairkhwa, even though Khairkhwa was also in US custody), and refused to listen when he “told them the Taliban had jailed him, that he liked dogfights, that he spent his time overseeing his ancestral farms, which grew grapes, corn and wheat.” McClatchy added, “He would say, slowly so that the interpreter understood: I-am-not-Taliban; this-is-a-mistake.”
In Guantánamo, Shahzada said, it was “a lonely life,” with Taliban around him, and Arabs, who, he said, “were not good people. They made problems all the time. When the guards walked by, the Arabs threw water at them and peed at them.” As for the Taliban, and their leaders, like Abdul Salam Zaeef, he said, “For the Taliban, Mullah Zaeef was their leader. But I did not follow him; he was not from my party. He was not a man who liked dogs.”
It took nearly two years until he was able to explain to a tribunal that he and his house guests had been seized by mistake, and to explain why Abdullah Khan could not be Khairullah Khairkhwa. As McClatchy noted, the tribunal’s conclusion — that he was not an “enemy combatant” — was “the closest that US officials have come so far to admitting that they had innocent men at the installation.” Even so, it is far from a genuine apology, or any acknowledgment that men’s ives were ruined for nothing, and that they might deserve compensation. Moreover, in the cases of the two men seized with Shahzada, not even this limited acknowledgment that mistakes were made was available, as they were not cleared of being “enemy combatants,” and were not released until February 2006 and August 2007.
In the documents released by WikiLeaks,the file relating to Shahzada was a document entitled, “JTF-GTMO Assessment: Afghanistan/Pakistan Detainee’s [sic],” dated March 29, 2004, which provided assessments of dozens of Afghan and Pakistani prisoners. In it, the Task Force acknowledged that he “was a leader in his community,” and that he claimed he was “not a member of Al-Qaida or Taliban,” although it was also noted that the “Capturing source” had “provided information of a meeting at that residence involving future plans to conduct attacks against US and coalition forces.”
In the report, it was stated that Shahzada allegedly blamed his capture on Abdullah Khan, although this is entirely unconvincing, as he was supportive of Khan in all his publicly available statements, and that he “proclaim[ed] innocence for himself and [Allah Nasir].” It was also noted that he “believes that one of his dinner guests named Haji Saed Sha Agha, was once a Taliban member and possible [sic] a bodyguard for Mullah Omar.”
The Task Force assessed him as being of medium intelligence value, and of posing a medium risk, claiming that he had “not provided enough information on his capture situation to warrant any release in the near future,” and that he and the other two men captured with him “continue[d] to produce conflicting information about occurences before their arrest.” It was also claimed that Shahzada had “suspected associations with the Taliban, subversive operatives and supporters,” and that his “veracity is in question” and he “should not be trusted.” In conclusion, the Task Force recommended him for “Transfer to the Control of Another Country for Continued Detention,” and he had to wait until his tribunal to find a group of military officials who were prepared to scrutinize his story objectively, and to realize that he had been detained by mistake.
Hammidullah (ISN 953, Afghanistan) Released April 2005
Of the 13 prisoners profiled in this article, Hammidullah is one of 12 included in the 38 prisoners officially declared to be “no longer enemy combatants” after their Combatant Status Review Tribunals.
In Chapter 17 of The Guantánamo Files, I explained how Hammidullah (identified as Janat Gul), who was 29 years old at the time of his capture, was seized at his home in Helmand province in January 2003. In Guantánamo, he said that he worked for Ariana Airlines to avoid being conscripted to fight by the Taliban, but denied being a member of the Taliban, and explained that he quit his job several days after 9/11. “I was released from the oppression of the Taliban government,” he said. “I came out of the darkness into the light … even before the Americans came, I was in my own house and in my own land.”
In the documents released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, the file relating to Hammidullah was a “Recommendation to Retain under DoD Control,” dated August 20, 2004, in which he was identified as Hamidallah, Hammdidullah, Mullah Hammidullah Akhund, Janat Gul and Janat Gal, born in 1972. It was also noted that he had “a history of Irritable Bowel Syndrome,” but was “otherwise in good health.”
In telling his story, the Task Force noted that, after graduating from a technical college in Kabul with a degree in electrical engineering, he worked at Kandahar airport from 1992-93 (before the Taliban’s rise to power) where “he ordered supplies, conducted maintenance, and logged fuel consumption,” and “was also assigned the duty of eavesdropping on English conversations.” When the Taliban came to power, he continued working at the airport, where he “maintained a log noting when anyone took fuel from the fuel storage dump,” and “filed fuel reports and was a security guard.”
However, “Because he could read and write,” Gul (who had changed his name to Hammidullah, “[i]n order to obtain decent wages under the Taliban rule,” and because “he did not want the Taliban to know of his education”) “garnered the attention of the president of Ariana Airlines, Mohammed Khalis. In 1996, he went to Kabul, “where he spent three years as a presidential assistant with Ariana Airlines [and] then became president of the airline … due to the recommendation of the outgoing president, who was promoted to a higher position in the Taliban organization.”
Gul stated that “Ariana Airlines was never used by Al-Qaida members or by any Arab citizens,” and added that he “never heard of Al-Qaida until the term was used in American press reports.” He also stated that “Ariana Airlines was not used to transport opium or any derivative of opium and all of the passengers were searched for drugs.” He also explained that, “During his assignment as president of the airline, he traveled to Kuwait (KU), Saudi Arabia (SA), and Pakistan (PK) on behalf of the airline, often carrying large sums of money,” and that, on one occasion in Kuwait, he “arranged to purchase a plane for nine million USD.”
After explaining that he was captured by US Special Forces in Lashkar Gah, in Helmand province, on January 30, 2003, the Task Force noted that he was sent to Guantánamo on March 22, 2002 (actually, 2003) on the spurious basis that he “may be able to provide specific information on: Opium production and distribution in Afghanistan, Taliban and Al-Qaida use of proceeds from opium sales, Taliban and Al-Qaida use of Ariana Airlines [and] Ariana Airlines involvement with the opium trade in Afghanistan.”
In assessing Gul’s story, the Task Force claimed that he and Ariana Airlines were “alleged to have provided logistical support, such as flights, to Al-Qaida’s CBRNE (Chemical, Biological, Radialogical [sic], Nuclear, and Explosives) program and fighters in Afghanistan,” that Osama bin Laden’s supporters “were able to fly on Ariana Airlines whenever and wherever they wished, with no reservations required or money paid,” that “Ariana Airlines was also reported to have trained young Muslim ‘fanatics’ to fly aircraft,” and that, “Despite the detainee’s claims to the contrary, the Taliban used Ariana Airlines planes to transport Taliban and Al-Qaida associated fighters to the front lines.” This latter point was certainly true, although most of the other allegations above seem to have been wild and paranoid speculation.
There were, however, reasons for the US authorities to presume that the president of Ariana Airlines would have known what was happening at a high level, and the fact that he traveled to Kuwait to buy a Boeing 747 for $9 million only adds to these suspicions. What is not known is if there is any truth to the Americans’ claim that “Mullah Omar canceled the order and transferred the money to his personal account,” or whether, as an analyst claimed, Gul “never informed his interrogators that the deal was cancelled and the Taliban received the monies intended for it,” and whether, as also claimed, this “indicates interaction between the Airline and the Taliban, specifically Mullah Omar, with such interaction most likely originating through the detainee.”
Moreover, there were further claims of financial impropriety, as it was noted that when, on September 18, 2001, he abandoned his post as president of Ariana Airlines and returned to Kandahar,” he “emptied the airline’s safe of 700,000 USD,” and his personal assets were later frozen by Pakistan and the United Nations.
In conclusion, Gul was identified as being “of high intelligence value,” and of posing “a high risk, as he is likely to pose a threat to the US, its interests and allies,” regarded as “an influential member of the Taliban and the global terrorist network,” who “knows influential people within the Taliban organization and likely terrorist organizations.” It was also considered significant that Ariana “was a Taliban air asset,” and it was claimed that “Mullah Omar kept a close watch on its operations,” and it was also regarded as important that the airline “was used to move troops and terrorists to the front lines, though the detainee denies it.” As a result, Brig. Gen. Jay W. Hood, the commander of Guantánamo at the time, recommended that he be “retained under DoD control.”
It took another eight months for Gul’s military tribunal at Guantánamo to disagree with this assessment, to find that he was not an “enemy combatant,” and to approve his release.
Mohammed Nasim (ISN 958, Afghanistan) Released April 2005
Of the 13 prisoners profiled in this article, Mohammed Nasim is one of 12 included in the 38 prisoners officially declared to be “no longer enemy combatants” after their Combatant Status Review Tribunals.
In “The Guantánamo Files: Website Extras (12) – The Last of the Afghans (Part Two),” I explained how, in Guantánamo, he described himself as “a poor man, very disabled: I am a poor farmer with very small kids,” and denied the allegations against him, which centered on claims that he had commanded 25 Taliban fighters for a military commander in Kabul. “Since I knew my left and right hands,” he said, “I never went out of my village.”
Nasim was seized in February 2003, but he had no idea why he was caught, as he had no obvious enemies, but he wondered if it was because his name had been confused with someone else’s. He also explained that, although the Pentagon had listed his date of birth as 1962, he was at least 55 years old, and he was one of numerous prisoners whose requests for outside witnesses to corroborate his story (his uncle and his brother) was turned down because the State Department had not received a reply to his request from the Afghan government within the very short time frame (just two weeks) that was allowed for responses.
After his release, as was explained in a feature in Time, he complained about the treatment he received, saying, “Many times they took our clothes. Trying to sleep in a cold room, with no mattress, no blanket, I got sick. I have many scars on my body from all the torture but it has recovered. If it weren’t for my family borrowing money, we would have never survived financially while I was away.”
In his Detainee Assessment Brief, which took the form of an “Update Recommendation to Release or Transfer to the Control of Another Country (TR),” dated February 25, 2005, it was noted that he was born in 1962, and that he was allergic to penicillin. It was also noted that he had “completed treatment” for the latent tuberculosis that he and many other prisoners suffered from.
In assessing Nasim, the Task Force noted, bluntly, that he “does not appear to be a member of the Taliban and/or Al-Qaida and it’s [sic] global terrorism network,” adding, “Based on a review of previous interrogations conducted on this detainee, the circumstances surrounding his capture, statements given, his behavior and level of cooperation, [he] has had no level of combatant or terrorist training. [He] does not appear to have participated or directly supported terrorist acts or been a key member of a terrorist network.”
It was also noted that he was sent to Guantánamo on May 9, 2003, but that his file “does not indicate why he was sent to JTF GTMO.” This is a rare admission in files dedicated to pretending that there was some coherent structure to the interrogation program at Guantánamo, which was, for the most part, thoroughly chaotic and based solely on interrogating whoever had been unfortunate enough to end up in US custody, and as such it is of importance.
After noting that he did not know his date of birth, only that he was approximately 60 years old, as well as noting that he cannot read or write, the Task Force explained that he was married, with two teenage sons, and a daughter who was just three months old when he was seized. It was also noted that he “has no military training, and is not a member of the Taliban,” and the Task Force explained that he had “never left Afghanistan,” and had “spent most of his life working as a farmer and traveling with gypsies, working menial labor jobs to provide for his family.” His last job, before his capture, was “clearing farmland for Abdul Razik, a landowner” in rural Helmand province. He explained that he “spent his spare time gathering wood,” which he would then trade “for wheat and corn, which he used to feed this family.”
Describing the absurd circumstances of his capture, the Task Force explained that he “had traveled from his home village to his older brother’s village … to celebrate the Eid holiday with his family.” He “heard a commotion, looked outside and saw Americans coming,” and also “saw others running, but did not run himself.” Instead, “US forces waved the detainee towards them and he went to them. They asked the name of his village, and when he told them he was arrested.”
Although no reason was given to supposedly justify his transfer to Guantánamo, it was noted elsewhere that he “was apprehended after a name similar to his was heard on a radio intercept thought to be originating from a group of individuals acting as sentries, reporting US troop movements to the Taliban.” However, it was also noted that it had been assessed that he was “not the same individual mentioned in the intercept,” and was not associated with the Taliban and/or Al-Qaida.” In addition, it was explained that, “According to further reporting and analysis, the name that was intercepted was ‘Mullah Nasim,'” but although it “was assumed by the capturing troops that ‘Mullah Nasim’ and detainee were one and the same,” this was simply not true.
As a result, it was determined that he posed “a low risk,as he [was] not likely to pose a threat to the US, its interests and allies,” and it was also determined that he was “of low intelligence value,” which , for the first time to my knowledge, was explicitly spelled out as meaning “little or no intelligence value.” Nasim’s was also the first file I have seen that included the recommendation of the Combatant Status Review Tribunal at Guantánamo, which led to an acknowledgment that his “enemy combatant status was reassessed on 13 January 2005, and he is not considered an enemy combatant,” and Brig. Gen. Hood’s recommendation, six weeks later, that he be “Released or Transferred to the Control of Another Country.”
Kako Kandahari (ISN 986, Afghanistan) Released April 2005
Of the 13 prisoners profiled in this article, Kako Kandahari is one of 12 included in the 38 prisoners officially declared to be “no longer enemy combatants” after their Combatant Status Review Tribunals.
In Chapter 17 of The Guantánamo Files, I explained how Kako Kandahari, who was 32 years old at the time of his capture, was a police officer in a district in Jalalabad, working for the provisional post-Taliban government under Hamid Karzai, who was seized with Haji Ghalib (ISN 987, released in February 2007), the chief of police. The two men were seized after US and Afghan forces searched their compound and identified weapons and explosives that they thought were going to be used against them. Both men pointed out, however, that they had a history of opposition to the Taliban, and were working for pro-US forces, and also pointed out that they fought with the Americans in Tora Bora. “I captured a lot of al-Qaeda and Arabs that were turned over to the Americans,” Ghalib said, “and I see those people here that I helped capture in Afghanistan.” He explained that he thought he may have been betrayed by one of the commanders working for the Americans in the Battle of Tora Bora (the showdown with al-Qaida in the mountains east of Jalalabad at the end of 2001), because he “let about 40 [al-Qaeda] escape so I got on the phone and cussed at him and that is why I am here.”
In the documents released by WikiLeaks, the file relating to Kandahari was a “Transfer Recommendation,” dated January 24, 2004, in which it was noted that he was born in 1970. Ignoring his protestations regarding this innocence (and the fact that his claims, like those of the many other pro-US Afghans sent to Guantánamo could have easily been verified, if the political will had existed to do so), the Task Force noted that, according to the US Special Forces soldiers who seized Kandahari, he was captured — with Haji Ghalib — after a raid on a compound where Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) were being manufactured.”
In this suspicious version of events, Ghalib’s own description of himself as a chief of police was not mentioned, and it was noted only that Kandahari claimed that he was “the Security Chief for the village of Ghunkiel, AF,” and that Kandahari himself “claim[ed] to have been a simple farmer who worked part time as a security guard for Ghalib.”
He was sent to Guantánamo on July 17, 2003, on the spurious basis that it was “because of his possible knowledge of anti-US activities and a local warlord, Mulawi Kabir [Maulawi Abdul Kabir, the governor of Nangarhar province under the Taliban], in the Nangarhar and Konar provinces, connected to the Hezb-E-Islami Gulbuddin (HIG) [the anti-US militia headed by the Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar], the Al-Qaida, as well as his possible involvement with IEDs.”
It is not known where the false information against Kandahar (and Ghalib) came from, but the Task Force decided that Kandahari “ha[d] not been cooperative” and the US authorities had “ascertained little information about him.” Claiming that he was “arrested during a raid because of his involvement as an insurgent and his suspected expertise in IEDs,” and was “reportedly a leader of a small security unit under Ghalib” (which was true), it was also noted that he was “suspected of having knowledge of warlord Mulawi Kabir [Maulawi Abdul Kabir], who attended a meeting in Pakistan with HIG members, Jalaluddin Haqqani [another Afghan warlord opposed to the US], and several Al-Qaida members.” In addition, it was noted that he was “believed to be a low-level insurgent fighter working on behalf of a local warlord who is opposed to US intervention in Afghanistan.”
The Task Force also stated that he had been “administered a polygraph exam while in Bagram,” which reportedly “showed deception,” and claimed, without any explanation, that he “ha[d] some special skills (IEDs) that give him the capability to participate [sic] or support terrorism and he remains vulnerable to recruitment for terrorists or a supportive group.”
The fact that all the above was nonsense was completely overlooked by the Task Force. He was “assessed as not being a member of Al-Qaida or a Taliban leader,” and as being “of low intelligence value to the United States,” but he was also assessed as posing “a medium risk, as he may possibly pose a threat to the US, its interests or its allies,” and, as a result, Maj. Gen. Miller recommended him for “Transfer to the control of another government for continued detention.” It was also noted that the Criminal Investigative Task Force “indicated that further investigation [was] needed to make a threat determination,” and that, “Until CITF makes an assessment, JTF GTMO and CITF cannot agree on this particular detainee.” Kako Kandahari therefore had to wait for another 15 months until his military tribunal at Guantánamo believed his own account, found that he was not an “enemy combatant,” and approved his release.
Feda Ahmed (ISN 1013, Afghanistan) Released April 2005
Of the 13 prisoners profiled in this article, Feda Ahmed is one of 12 included in the 38 prisoners officially declared to be “no longer enemy combatants” after their Combatant Status Review Tribunals.
In a footnote to Chapter 16 of The Guantánamo Files, dealing with the dozens of prisoners in Guantánamo subjected to “extraordinary rendition” and detention in CIA “black sites” or torture prisons run by allies in Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Syria, I mentioned what I described as an “inexplicable rendition”: that of Feda Ahmed. 25 years old at the time of his capture, Ahmed said in Guantánamo that he paid a smuggler to help him get to the United States, but was captured in a boat off the US coast, having traveled via Guatemala and Mexico.
In the documents released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, the file relating to Feda Ahmed was a “Recommendation to Retain under DoD Control,” dated September 10, 2004, in which he was identified as Ahmed Esmatallah Fedah, or Ahmed Feda, born in February 1977.
In telling his story, the Joint Task Force began by acknowledging that, according to Feda, he was “making his way to the US from Pakistan (PK) via South America and Mexico (MX),” and was “attempt[ing] to enter the US, so he could get a job and send money home to his family.” According to this account, he “had arranged to pay $25,000 to the facilitator if he arrived safely in the US,” although, “[a]fter many months of travel, he was arrested by Mexican police in March of 2003″ (it was actually March 2002) with another man, Ahmad Jan (in this account there was no mention of being seized in a boat). The two were apparently arrested because they were “traveling without proper documentation,” and after being held for three months, Feda was deported to Afghanistan, and was held in an Afghan prison for ten months before being handed over to US authorities.
He was sent to Guantánamo on May 9, 2003, on the spurious basis that it was to “provide specific information on terrorist networks, financing, facilitators, recruiters, and travel in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Mexico.”
Rather than believing his story, the Task Force picked it apart, claiming that “[t]he US escort officer on the return trip to Afghanistan from Mexico was able to determine that [Feda] and Ahmed Jan had staged out of Ecuador (EC) sometime in February 2002,” sailing to Mexico in a trip on which, it was alleged, his “probable facilitator” had been “linked to Hizballah [Hezbollah] and Al-Gama’at Al-Islamiyya [Al-Gama'a Al-Islamiyya, an Egyptian terrorist group].” It was claimed that “[t]he vessel that transported [Feda] and Ahmed Jan into Mexico [was] believed to be one of the special interest vessels (vessels that carry any US-bound alien who is a citizen or national of, or originates travel from, a country that is of special interest to the national security of the US (lraq, Iran, Egypt, Sudan, Indonesia, Yemen and Afghanistan),” who “are the focus of a joint INS, USCG and Mexican Navy operation called Operation Southern Watch.”
As far as the Task Force was concerned, Feda’s credibility was “suspect.” He was regarded as having been “consistently deceptive during interviews,” and “revised his story at least three times.” As a result, the Task Force regarded “[h]is inability to provide accurate basic information about family, past employment, airlines, information on his false passport etc.,” as suggesting that he had had “counter-interrogation training.”
It was noted that he “initially claimed that he was being pursued to join the Taliban in Kandahar,” and that his father, a car salesman, gave him $25,000 “to find someone who would smuggle him into the US,” although he later claimed to have been living and working in Karachi for several years. He also apparently lied about being illiterate, and “provided erroneous information about the education institutions he attended.”
Of particular interest is a section dealing with Ahmed Jan, with whom he was seized, whose whereabouts are unknown, as he was not transferred to Guantánamo. Jan apparently “claimed he was looking for an ‘uncle’ in the US, for whom he had no address,” and an analyst noted, “This would suggest that both Afghani’s [sic] were given the same cover story to tell if they were captured,” revealing, of course, that Feda had also told this story, although it was not mentioned elsewhere.
It was also noted that he was polygraph tested, and then subjected to Computer Voice Stress Analysis, in which there was “Deception Indicated” in his responses to two questions: “Have you received combat training?” and ” Were you trying to sneak into America, to hurt Americans?” This, however, does not constitute proof, but the information outlined above was enough for the Task Force to conclude that he was “of high intelligence value,” and that he posed “a medium risk, as he may possibly pose a threat to the US, its interests and allies.” The Task Force was particularly concerned that he had “not explained how his family, who are Afghan refugees in Pakistan, could afford to pay the smuggler’s fee of $25,000,” and also claimed that it was “proven that [he had] consistently provided false information,” and that this was “not indicative of someone simply trying to enter the US.” It was also claimed that he “knows four languages, one of which is English,” and is “of higher intelligence,” and that therefore it was important to determine whether or not he was “a highly trained terrorist operative.”
In conclusion, Brig. Gen. Hood recommended that he be “retained under DoD control,” although the Criminal Investigative Task Force did not agree, having “assessed [him] on 23 April 2004 as a low risk.” However, “In the interest of national security and pursuant to an agreement between the CITF and JTF GTMO Commanders,” CITF “defer[red] to JTF GTMO’s assessment that [he] pose[d] a medium risk.” It took another seven months before his Combatant Status Review Tribunal at Guantánamo agreed with CITF’s analysis, concluding that he was not an “enemy combatant,” and approving his release.
Naibullah Darwaish (ISN 1019, Afghanistan) Released April 2005
Of the 13 prisoners profiled in this article, Naibullah Darwaish is one of 12 included in the 38 prisoners officially declared to be “no longer enemy combatants” after their Combatant Status Review Tribunals.
As I explained in “The Guantánamo Files: Website Extras (12) – The Last of the Afghans (Part Two),” Darwaish (also identified as Nasibullah), who was 35 years old at the time of his capture, was one of a few dozen prisoners who had been working for the post-Taliban government of Hamid Karzai, but who were seized by US forces and sent to Guantánamo because rivals (either from the Taliban or from the Communists who had been ousted from power in the early 1990s) had told false stories about them.
In his tribunal at Guantánamo, Darwaish was accused of having “a stockpile of weapons” under his control, and of having “detailed knowledge” of the plans and organization of the Taliban and Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin (the anti-US militia of the warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who, ironically, had been heavily funded by the US during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s). In response, Darwaish explained that he was the chief of police for a district in Zabul province, east of Kandahar, that the weapons were registered with the Karzai government’s Ministry of the Interior, that he knew nothing about the workings of HIG, and that his appointment had actually made him a “lifetime enemy with Taliban.”
Although he insisted that he didn’t know who had made false allegations against him, it was apparent from his tribunal that the US authorities had decided that it was significant that Hamedullah Tukhi, the Karzai-appointed governor of the province, who gave him his job, had once been allied with Hekmatyar. Darwaish, of course, disagreed, telling the tribunal:
I’m innocent and I’m very hopeless. I accept you as my elder brother in Afghanistan, Americans are our eldest. We respect you because you guys help us, and you guys helped rescue us from the criminals, the al-Qaeda and the Taliban. That is a very important thing.
In the documents released by WiiLeaks in April 2011, the file relating to Darwaish was a “Recommendation to Transfer to the Control of Another Country for Continued Detention (TRCD),” dated August 13, 2004, in which he was identified as Nasibullah Darwaish, born in 1970. In telling his story, the shifting sands of Afghan politics were very much in evidence, as it was noted that he fought against the Soviet occupation for eight years (when he was a teenager, in other words), but was the Security Commander of the Shinkai District of Zabul province at the time of his capture, appointed by Tokhi Hamidullah [Hamedullah Tukhi], the governor of the province. Darwaish apparently told his interrogators that “Hamidullah sided with the Taliban following the occupation,” but that, “[w]hen the Taliban fell, the Karzai government made a deal with Hamidullah to side with the new government.”
He added that, “When the US forces entered Shinkai on 24 March 2003, he greeted them with open arms,” but that, “Based on accusations by the local villagers, the US forces arrested [him],” and he was “accused of extorting money from business owners, killing three people and allowing the Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin (HIG) to work in the district.”
Nevertheless, he was sent to Guantánamo on July 17, 2003, on the spurious basis that he was “assessed to be able to provide information concerning: Members or supporters of HIG, Hizb-e-Islami Khalis (HIK) [the militia of another anti-US warlord, Younis Khalis] and Taliban within his district of Zabul Province [and] Activities or suspected facilities within his district of Zabul province.”
It is difficult to know where the truth lies, as Darwaish may have been playing both sides, or he may have been the victim of rivals seeking to usurp his power and influence. The Task Force noted that Hamidullah, a HIG commander against the Soviet Union, with whom Darwaish fought, was removed from his position as the governor of Zabul province on October 24, 2003 (although he was elected to the Wolesi Jirga, the lower house of the Afghan National Assembly, in elections in 2005) and was “reported to still have ties with Gulbuddin Hekmatyar” and to have “recently talked with other Anti-Coalition Militants (ACM) about removing the Afghan Transitional Administration and Coalition forces from Afghanistan.” It was also claimed that Darwaish was “assessed to have been involved in the murder of Deputy Chief Rahmatullah of the National Security Directorate in Qalat,” who “was investigating corruption within the Zabul Provincial Government when he was killed.”
In its assessment, the Task Force claimed that, although he had been “cooperative during interviews,” he had not been “completely forthright about his role in the HIG.” He was determined to be “of medium intelligence value,” primarily because of his supposed knowledge of “[i]nformation that would implicate individuals currently serving with the Government of Afghanistan in criminal activities that occurred both prior to the US presence and after the interim government.”
Even more than in cases involving Afghan Taliban conscripts, who clearly had nothing to do with terrorism, Darwaish’s case appears to be a criminal investigation jarringly transposed to Guantánamo as though corruption and terrorism were one and the same, although the Task Force didn’t care about these distinctions. After assessing him as “basically a corrupt government official who would serve whomever was in a position of power, without regard to their political affiliation,” the Task Force noted that it had been determined that he posed “a medium risk, as he may possibly pose a threat to the US, its interests and allies,” and Brig. Gen. Hood recommended that he be “transferred to the control of another country for continued detention.” It took another eight months for his Combatant Status Review Tribunal to go one step further, deciding that he was not an “enemy combatant,” and approving his release.
Habib Noor (ISN 1041, Afghanistan) Released April 2005
Of the 13 prisoners profiled in this article, Habib Noor is one of 12 included in the 38 prisoners officially declared to be “no longer enemy combatants” after their Combatant Status Review Tribunals.
As I explained in “The Guantánamo Files: Website Extras (12) – The Last of the Afghans (Part Two),” Noor, who was 34 years old at the time of his capture, owned a shop selling sacks in Khost, in eastern Afghanistan, and was accused of owning a compound used to harbor soldiers responsible for ambushing US Special Forces and Afghan soldiers in early 2003. The US authorities claimed that Noor’s brother had allegedly joined the fighting, but Noor himself insisted that he was unaware of the ambush and had spent that particular day in the village bazaar, and he pointed out that he did not even know which brother the Afghan soldiers were talking about, explaining that his younger brother was in Saudi Arabia and that his older brother was “deaf and can hardly see.”
In the documents released by WikiLeaks,the file relating to Noor was a document entitled, “JTF-GTMO Assessment: Afghanistan/Pakistan Detainee’s [sic],” dated March 29, 2004, which provided assessments of dozens of Afghan and Pakistani prisoners. In it, the Task Force attempted to refute his claims. Noting that, on April 5, 2003, “US forces were ambushed during a patrol and the ambushers were followed to a compound, which was owned by the detainee,” the Task Force added that “[t]he ambushers fled past many compounds to reach his compound,” and also noted that Noor’s brother, Ajab Noor, was killed in the firefight and was “associated with Malaui [Maulawi] Nieb Solar who led the ambush.”
It was also explained that, although Noor himself “was detained by the AMF as he approached his compound,” and that he “claim[ed] he was returning from his shop he owns in the village,” he was not blameless. The Task Force stated, “Even though [he] was not directly involved in the ambush that led to his arrest, evidence led the AMF forces to conclude that he had knowledge of his brother’s activities and attack.” It was “assessed that [he] provided shelter and possibly a base of operations for anti- coalition forces,” and that he had “directly supported hostilities against US and coalition forces and maintain[ed] the capabilities to continue to do so.”
In conclusion, he was assessed as being of medium intelligence value, and a medium risk, and, under “Exploitation Requirements,” it was noted that he “may be able to provide specific information concerning anti-coalition militant activities established to destabilize coalition forces in Afghanistan.” It was also noted that he was recommended for “Transfer to the Control of Another Country for Continued Detention,” although a year later he was released from Guantánamo and freed in Afghanistan after his Combatant Status Review Tribunal concluded that he was not an “enemy combatant.”
Mullah Jalil (ISN 1117, Afghanistan) Released March 2005
Of the 13 prisoners profiled in this article, Mullah Jalil is one of 12 included in the 38 prisoners officially declared to be “no longer enemy combatants” after their Combatant Status Review Tribunals.
As I explained in “The Guantánamo Files: Website Extras (12) – The Last of the Afghans (Part Two),” Jalil (also identified as Haji Jalil), who was 32 or 33 years old when he was seized in 2003, was one of the last prisoners to be sent to Guantánamo from Afghanistan. At his tribunal in Guantánamo, he addressed the only two allegations against him — that he “admitted serving with the Taliban” and that he “served as the Taliban commander of the Bagram airport” — by explaining that he was actually a poor farmer from Helmand province. He admitted working for the Taliban, but explained it was “not voluntary,” and added that he had served for six months in 2000, before the US-led invasion. Denying the allegation that he was “the Taliban commander of the Bagram airport,” he explained that he was in Guantánamo because a “personal enemy,” who had killed his uncle, made false allegations against him. “I was by the river getting ready for prayer;” he said. “In the meantime my enemy reported me to the Americans and they came and captured me. I haven’t even seen Bagram until the Americans captured me.”
In the documents released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, the file relating to Jalil was a “Recommendation to Release or Transfer to the Control of Another Country (TR),” dated September 17, 2004, in which it was noted that he was born in 1970, and had initially been identified as Mukhtar Y Anaje, as well as being identified as Muktar Yahya Najee Al-Warafi. This is an alarming mistake, as al-Warafi is actually a Yemeni prisoner at Guantánamo (still held), whose ISN number is 117 (rather than 1117). It is not known, of course, if this elementary confusion has led to difficulties and confusions for either man, but it is indicative of a disturbingly imprecise attitude regarding the identities of the prisoners.
After noting that Jalil had “multiple shrapnel wounds,” but was “otherwise in good health,” the Task Force ran through his story, noting that he had “served sporadically in the local military against Russian forces” from 1986-89, and, in the 1990s, had been “conscripted into the Taliban for two 90-day periods and was a driver at the Kabul airfield during one of those periods.” However, it was also noted that he was “suspected of being the former Taliban Bagram Airfield commander,” and was “implicated in an ambush on US Forces at Sangin, AF, that resulted in two US soldiers dead.”
This information came from the Afghan forces who turned him over to US Forces on July 16, 2003, after a chain of detention that involved him first being “captured by local villagers in his hometown,” then being turned over to AMF (Afghan Militia Forces) in the town of Gereshk, and then turned over to US officials at Gereshk Firebase. He was then sent to Guantánamo on November 11, 2003, on the spurious basis that it was to “provide information on: Operational information regarding plans and attacks against US Coalition Forces [and] Storage facilities for weapons and equipment used in attacks against US Forces.”
It is not known whether any attempt was made to establish the truth during the four months he was held by US forces in Afghanistan, or whether it was the interrogators at Guantánamo who finally worked out, sometime during his first ten months at Guantánamo, that he had been seized by mistake and that the Afghans who captured him had falsely accused him of being the commander of Bagram airfield, but it was spelled out explicitly in the document released by WikiLeaks that, “After reviewing all information pertaining to the detainee, it appears his capture by Afghan Militia Forces (AMF) and subsequent handover to US Forces was based on fraudulent claims given by AMF personnel themselves.”
This information had evidently been available all along, as the Task Force explained that Jalil “was captured by Afghan forces after being implicated by Dad Mohammad Khan, aka Ami Dado, the Chief of Intelligence in Helmand Province.” Khan identified Jalil “as taking an active part in the attack,” but, in field comments made at the time, the reporting officer stated that he “believes that Dad Mohammad Khan himself is involved with the ambush and/or is covering up for someone involved.” It was also noted that Khan “and other members of the Hezb-I-Mujahideen Terrorist organization [perhaps a reference to HIG] were later identified as conducting the ambush in Sangin, AF, that killed two Americans,” and an analyst noted, “Considering that Dad Mohammad Khan was the individual who originally accused the detainee of participating in the ambush, that report is no longer credible.”
Despite this, he was assessed as being “of low intelligence value,” rather than of no intelligence value at all, and of posing “a low risk,” rather than no risk at all, which speaks volumes about the manner in which the classification system at Guantánamo exaggerated prisoners’ supposed significance — and, it should be noted, is now being used not only by right-wing commentators seeking to defend Guantánamo, but also by mainstream journalists when referring to prisoners’ stories, without any necessary caveats being attached to their reporting.
As a result of the assessment, Brig.Gen. Hood recommended Jalil for “release or transfer to the control of another country,” although it was also noted that the Criminal Investigative Task Force did not agree, having “assessed [him] as a medium risk on 23 April 2004.” However, “In the interest of national security and pursuant to an agreement between the CITF and JTF GTMO Commanders,” JTF GTMO “defer[red] to CITF’s assessment that [he] pose[d] a medium risk.” It took another six months before his Combatant Status Review Tribunal at Guantánamo agreed with JTF GTMO’s analysis, concluding that he was not an “enemy combatant,” and approving his release.
Hukumra Khan (ISN 1157, Afghanistan) Released April 2005
Of the 13 prisoners profiled in this article, Hukumra Khan is one of 12 included in the 38 prisoners officially declared to be “no longer enemy combatants” after their Combatant Status Review Tribunals.
As I explained in “The Guantánamo Files: Website Extras (12) – The Last of the Afghans (Part Two),” Hukumra Khan (also identified as Hukumran), who was 28 years old at the time of his capture, was the penultimate prisoner to be transferred from Afghanistan to Guantánamo, as part of the industrial-scale transfer of prisoners that came to an end in November 2003. A member of the nomadic Kuchi tribe, he explained in Guantánamo that he had recently returned from working abroad, as a laborer in Saudi Arabia.
Soon after his return, when he had money, new clothes and a satellite phone, Khan stated that he had his phone taken from him by an Afghan soldier, working with US forces, who asked him for a bribe, “otherwise I will make problems for you.” The soldier then told a false story about him to the Americans, who came to search his house, and also checked the houses of his brother, his uncle and his father, where they found three Kalashnikov AK-47s. As a result, they took him to a forward operating base in Gardez, where he was held for 37 days, and where, he said, “Every day they told me that I would be released,” but instead he was transferred to Guantánamo via Bagram. At his tribunal, pleading to be released, he said:
My life is torn up. I lost the telephone, I lost my money, I left my kids and I don’t know what they are doing. They send me only because I didn’t give the money. I’m a labor worker, I didn’t do anything wrong. I’m not Taliban and I’m not al-Qaeda … I’m asking from you guys to be kind to me. Don’t be mean to me. Please release me from here.
In 2008, when he was working as a cab driver in Khost, he was interviewed by a reporter for McClatchy Newspapers for a major review of 66 released Guantánamo prisoners. In an article based on the interview, Tom Lasseter described Khan (who explained that his name was Hukumran) as “easy to like,” and ran through his story of being held in Gardez and then in Bagram, where, he said, he was questioned about “his travels as a laborer to Saudi Arabia [and] the three AK-47s found near his home, the two passports he carried and the expensive satellite phone” he had. “There were two interrogators, American men, who wanted to frighten me. They had beards. They would beat on the chairs and yell that I was lying,” he said. “I told them that these things did not frighten me. I told them I was telling them the truth, and if they wanted to kill me, fine.”
In Guantánamo, he said, his interrogations “were far less harsh.” “The interrogators at Guantanamo were very nice with me,” he said. “They gave me cigarettes all the time and let me watch movies. I was innocent; there was no proof.” McClatchy noted that he “quickly learned that if he kept to himself in the cellblocks, his life would be relatively easy.”
“The Arabs were always making problems. They would throw water at the soldiers; they would spit at them,” he said. “When something happened that the inmates didn’t like, they would begin shaking their cell walls and screaming. I never took part in this because I didn’t want the guards to take me away.” As a result, “he remained quiet and waited,” until he was given the opportunity to appeal — successfully — for his release.
However, there was also another side to his story. The McClatchy article explained that a high-ranking Afghan intelligence official claimed that he “isn’t what he seems. His satellite phone was confiscated, the official said, because of whom he’d been calling: men linked to the Taliban.” He added that, “while US military officials at times detained the wrong men at Guantánamo, they also sometimes let the right ones go.”
The official added that “he’d received reports from an informant in Waziristan” that Hukumran “had wasted little time reconnecting with hard-core Islamist groups after he was released from Guantánamo.” The official said that he had “very close ties” to Sirajuddin Haqqani,” a Pashtun warlord and military leader who fights the US from Pakistan, and is the son of the famous Afghan warlord Jalaluddin Haqqani, and added, “He is not a good person; he’s been involved with anti-government activities.”
This may be true, but if so it is unusual that he was not mentioned by name in any of the Pentagon reports that have emerged over the last few years, dealing with the alleged recidivism of former prisoners.
In the documents released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, the file relating to Khan was a “Recommendation to Retain under DoD Control,” dated October 15, 2004, in which he was identified as Hukumra, born in 1973, and it was noted that his family had moved to a refugee camp in Pakistan during the Soviet occupation, and that he stated that, from 1990 until the time of his capture, in 2003, he worked as a well-digger in Saudi Arabia.
Describing the circumstances of his capture, in July 2003, it was noted that it took place during “Operation Warrior Sweep,” described by an analyst as “the first major combat operation for the nascent National Army encompassing 1,000 ANA soldiers, backed by US and ltalian troops, to fight against suspected Taliban and Al-Qaida remnants in the Zormat valley south of Paktia province’s capital of Gardez.”
This may have been so, but combat was not involved in Khan’s capture. Instead, the Task Force noted that, while he was getting his oil changed, a police commander noticed that he had a satellite phone in his possession (a Thuraya model), which he took off him, and then demanded to search his house, finding “three Kalashnikov rifles, a satellite phone charger plus instruction booklet, a solar panel, two passports, a ledger with possible names of Taliban members and a blank German ID card.” He “also had 15,000 PR (conversion $260USD) at his house when he was arrested,” and although this was not a significant amount of money, it was claimed that the fact that he “arrived from Saudi Arabia and had a sum of money increased suspicions.”
Handed over to US custody, he was held in Bagram, and was then sent to Guantánamo on November 21, 2003, on the spurious basis that it was to “provide information on: Cultural geography of Afghanistan, Terrorism related facilities, Biographies of Taliban and Al-Qaida personnel, Communications equipment [and] Biographies on [sic] terrorists in Afghanistan.”
The Task Force managed to pick holes in his story, trying to establish that he was not poor enough to have been a well-digger, and that, as an analyst described it, his hands were “not rough or calloused and [we]re actually soft with manicured fingernails,” and that he was, instead, a member of HIG, who “worked for Essa Khan,a known member of the HIG operating in Gardez.” This may well have been true, although it was not clearly established at Guantánamo, where Khan was assessed as being “of medium intelligence value,” and as “a member of the HIG and/or part of Anti-Coalition activities against the US and/or its allies in Afghanistan,” who posed “a high risk, as he is likely to pose a threat to the US, its interests and allies.”
As a result, Brig. Gen. Hood recommended that he be “retained under DoD control” although the Criminal Investigative Task Force disagreed, having “assessed [him] as a low risk on 9 March 2004.” From the time of the file included in the documents released by WikiLeaks, it was another six months until his Combatant Status Review Tribunal reached the same conclusion as CITF, finding that he was not an “enemy combatant” and approving his release.
Martin Mubanga (ISN 10007, UK) Released January 2005
In Chapter 16 of The Guantánamo Files, dealing with the dozens of prisoners in Guantánamo subjected to “extraordinary rendition” and detention in CIA “black sites” or torture prisons run by allies in Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Syria, I told the story of Martin Mubanga, who was 29 years old at the time of his capture, and who was rendered to Guantánamo from Zambia.
Born in Zambia but brought up in London from the age of three, Mubanga became interested in Islam in his late teens. In 1995, he worked with a Muslim charity helping victims of the Serbs’ ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, and in November 2000 he traveled to Pakistan, and then Afghanistan, where he studied at madrassas in Kabul and Kandahar. Although he was booked on a flight to the UK from Karachi on September 26, 2001, he discovered that the routes to Pakistan were closed after 9/11, and his passport and his will had gone missing.
After finding a guide to take him to Pakistan, he phoned his family to ask them to post his Zambian passport to him, and then decided to visit relatives in Zambia, where he met his elder sister, who had arrived from the UK, in February 2002. A few weeks later, his sister’s boyfriend phoned from London to say that the Sunday Times had run a story saying that a man named Martin Mubanga had been captured in Afghanistan while fighting for the Taliban. Although this explained what had happened to his passport, the sequence of events that followed was incomprehensible.
First, he was arrested by the Zambian security services, and then an American agent and an MI5 agent flew to Zambia and questioned him in a series of motel rooms. The British agent produced his passport, his will and a list of 33 Jewish organizations in New York, which, he said, had been found with the passport in a cave in Afghanistan, and suggested that Mubanga was planning to visit New York on behalf of Al-Qaida, to seek out Jewish military targets. Despite the absurdity of the situation, he was interrogated for another three weeks, and then, after unsuccessful attempts to recruit him to work as a spy in South Africa or the north of England, the American told him, “I’m sorry to have to tell you this, as I think you’re a decent guy, but in ten or 15 minutes we’re going to the airport and they’re taking you to Guantánamo Bay.”
In Guantánamo, he spent a year with prisoners who only spoke Arabic. “I always thought one of the main things they were trying to do was break you mentally, make you go crazy,” he said after his release, in an interview with David Rose that formed the basis of an article, “How I entered the hellish world of Guantánamo Bay,” that was published in the Observer the month after his release (the US government’s publicly available allegations are here). “So I thought, either I sink or I swim. I decided to swim and that meant learning Arabic.”
Left behind after four Britons were released in March 2004 — apparently because, under duress, the Australian prisoner David Hicks (ISN 2) made false allegations against him, which he later retracted — he then faced his hardest test. First he was moved to cell blocks that only contained Pashtu-speaking Afghans, and then, deprived of all “comfort items,” he was held in solitary confinement and subjected to the torture program that was used on prisoners to “soften them up” for interrogation between the fall of 2002 and the summer of 2004. He described being subjected to searing heat or freezing cold in the interrogation rooms, and on one occasion left alone by an interrogator until he wet himself:
He comes back with a mop and dips it in the pool of urine. Then he starts covering me with my own waste, like he’s using a big paintbrush, working methodically, beginning with my feet and ankles and working his way up my legs. All the while he’s racially abusing me, cussing me: “Oh, the poor little negro, the poor little nigger.” He seemed to think it was funny.
As a result, he refused to speak to any interrogators for seven months. Despite the harshness of his treatment, however, the authorities began to doubt his status as a terrorist. James Crisfield Jr., a military lawyer, suggested that there was sufficient doubt about his reasons for traveling to various countries to question his definition as an “enemy combatant,” and said attempts should be made to contact his family, and several months later, the man who kept up the spirits of those in the cages around him by making up Jamaican-style raps about their predicament was finally released.
In the documents released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, the file relating to Mubanga was a “Recommendation to Retain under DoD Control,” dated February 28, 2004, in which it was noted that he was born in 1973, and had joint British and Zambian nationality.
In relating his story, it was claimed that he “fought Jihad in Bosnia,” whereas he had said that he had worked with a charity helping the victims of war, and that, in 2001, he was encouraged, by lecturers he heard, to travel to Afghanistan, where, according to the Task Force, he attended the al-Farouq training camp, and was then sent to the front lines in Kabul, later escaping to Zambia via Pakistan and South Africa.
The spurious reasons given for his transfer to Guantánamo on April 20, 2002 were that it was “because it was assessed he was able to provide information on the following: Al-Farouq training camp and basic training, The curriculum of mountain warfare, artillery and Urban warfare schools taught by Al-Qaida [and] General information on a safe house in Kandahar referred to as Al-Qatiba (The Battalion).”
The Task Force claimed that he had “admitted” to being an Al-Qaida member, who “fought against allied interests in Afghanistan and Bosnia,” and “would rejoin the fighting if he were released,” and it was also noted that the Criminal Investigative Task Force determined that he was “a candidate for a military commission,” and that he “often leads the other detainees in prayer and physical fitness,” and “often chants and raps anti-American lyrics” (although his “overall behavior” was regarded as generally “non-aggressive”). In addition, he was assessed as being “of high intelligence value,” and of posing “a high risk as he is likely to pose a threat to the US, its allies and interests,” and, as a result, Maj. Gen. Miller recommended that he be “retained in DoD control,” although he was released just over ten months later, and, on his return to the UK, was freed without charge.
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, “The Complete Guantánamo Files,” a 70-part, 700,000-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, and details about the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, and available on DVD here — or here for the US). Also see 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.
On Facebook, George Kenneth Berger wrote:
I think something is wrong with this Digg link. I tried two ways of getting it into Digg. Both failed.
Not sure what the problem is, George. I can access it OK.
George Kenneth Berger wrote:
It still doesn’t work. I’ll try it again later or tomorrow,
No worries, George. Thanks for your continuing interest. That’s 20 parts, and 263 stories completed — the first one-third of the prisoners (all released between 2002 and 2005), and all I’ve uncovered is a monstrous waste of time, effort and expense on the part of the Bush administration, its credibility lost in an orgy of failed intelligence and brutality, and the lives of 263 men and boys pointlessly ruined, damaged or challenged.
Thanks to everyone who’s supporting this project. Tonight I’ll start compiling the list for the next ten-parter — the prisoners released in 2006.
George Kenneth Berger wrote:
Nah Andy. Once again, this must get into the historical record. I’ll try using my IPad now. If that doesn’t work I will give up. Technical problems just make me curious.
George Kenneth Berger wrote:
I Dugg it by first sharing it, and then submitting that link to Digg. No problem. As soon as I can I’ll get the University Library to order The Guantanamo Files. That should be no problem. I can do that now.
Thanks, George. I’m trying to formulate a few plans for publicizing this better, and pitching for an article in some major publication for the 10th anniversary, and getting funding for a permanent record for this project, but that’s all very time-consuming, when it takes so long keeping this project going and also writing other articles. At least I’m not short of things to do …
Chris Dorsey wrote:
Thanks Andy sharing.
And thanks also, Chris. Much appreciated.
George Kenneth Berger wrote:
I just proposed that the university library order it. We’ll see what happens.
Monique D’hooghe wrote:
i’m gonna ask some uni libraries to order it too… and ask my local peace group to invest in it
Thanks, Monique. The DVD of “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantanamo” is also available:
Here for US sales ($10 post free):
Ghaliyaa Haq wrote:
Hi Andy. ::waves::
Monique D’hooghe wrote:
really admire your work andy… would love to become your brussels apprentice …
Thanks for the support, Ghaliyaa and Monique.
And Monique, I’ll drop you a line about that. Very interesting proposal.
Tamzin Jans wrote:
Andy deserves a medal for the years of hard work he has done for human rights. Please read and share.
Tamzin Jans wrote:
You deserve a lot of credit for bravery, downright stubborn journalism and courage to say your say throughout these many years. I am just sorry I don’t have a medal to give you myself. Bravo, Andy!
Again, thanks, Tamzin. Your support is very much appreciated.
Andy, thanks for your continuing excellent work. The two brothers who set up the clinic is one of the more heartbreaking stories. I hope it is okay if I offer some additional observations about their case.
My interpretation of the two brothers’ testimony is that the two men bringing their medical expertise back to an Afghanistan with a devastated infrastructure was a real good news story. Hamid Karzai appealed to Afghanistan’s educated expatriates to return. Afghanistan’s professional class had been devastated by decades of warfare. Afghanistan really needed doctors teachers, engineers to return. And that these brothers did so, went into debt to equip a modern clinic is really a good news story.
Expatriates trusting that it was safe to return was good news. Supplying modern medical care to a region that may never have had modern medical care, care supplied by trusted local boys, who were aware of and able to anticipate local superstitions was good news.
My reading of their testimony was that it was the commander of the local firebase who suspected them and apprehended them. He was the SECOND commander of the local firebase. My reading of their testimony, of the OARDEC documents, was that the FIRST commander of the local firebase tried to reach out to friendly elements in the region — including the newly returned local doctor, who spoke English. This too was good news. The doctor agreeing to help the firebase commander, to go with him to introduce him to the elders on the local village councils was good news.
These introductions seem to have been a success. It seems that the commanders of these firebases have a discretionary fund to enable them to pay locals for local improvement work, things like building or repairing irrigation ditches, bridges, roads, public buildings. This not only makes the occupiers look like friendly benefactors, it employs local youth, which may bring them on-side, and, at the very least, keeps them busy, and thus not available to join the Taliban. I see this too as a good news story.
Because the doctor provided the introductions, the local elders regarded the doctor as their intermediary with the commander of the firebase. He would write notes to the local CO, passing on the elders’ requests. This seems to have worked smoothly with the original CO, so this was still a good news story.
Everything seems to have gone very seriously wrong when the original CO was replaced. His replacement does not seem to have understood that the local doctor was an ally. He seems to have regarded the doctor’s notes not as attempts to help him keep the local population as allies who trusted the Americans. He seems to have regarded them as worse than some busybody telling him how to do his job — he seems to have regarded them as threats. This was very bad news.
So, the first time rockets are fired at night, this second CO instantly jumps to the conclusion that the doctor is responsible.
The unjust capture and disappearance of these innocent men must have had a devastating effect on efforts to convince the local population that the Americans were well intentioned. The snatching away of modern medical care must have been a terrible disappointment. How many lives would their clinic have saved? Over and above emergency care, they would have been providing important lifesaving preventative care, like pre-natal care. It is heartbreaking.
Elements of the story in the OARDEC memos don’t even make sense. The allegations say after the rockets were fired a vehicle was observed driving to the brothers’ house. But the men testified that their house was at the end of a roadway, and the Americans found no vehicle at their house when they raided it.
The documents indicate that the local CO who captured them didn’t believe they were medical professionals because he did not see any medical equipment, an examining room, or lab, in their home — easily explained because their clinic was not in their home, but in some more central location.
The allegations say the brother who ran the lab smelled of “rocket fuel”. I very strongly suspect he merely smelled of the chemicals, reagents and so on, that he used in the lab.
In March 2008 someone who represented themselves as the local commander who captured the men contributed some interesting comments to the wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Naqeebyllah_Shaheen_Shahwali_Zair_Mohammed&diff=202378804&oldid=182746661 I am skeptical of the comment, which I will quote here:
“This description of events fails to mention that the vehicle spotted departing the launch site was observed by a P3 platform – airframe – which tracked the vehicle from the launch site to the “Doctor’s” house, observered two individuals leave the truck and enter the residence. A security force was directed by the P3 into position as the P3 maintained eyes on target to ensure that no one entered or departed. When the assualt force entered the compound, three males were detained, Naqeebyllah, his brother Raul, and an elderly neighbor. The neighbor was released approximately 12 hours later. During questioning, I observed and later had independant confirmation, that Raul had 122mm rocket grease stains covering the entire front of his light blue clothing. His hair was also burnt from having stood close to the rear of the rockets as they fired. Insurgent cellphone activity made significant note of Naqeebyllah’s capture and said that they would have to find someone else to support operations in the area.”
Note the quote marks around “doctor”.
I suspect, in theory, this individual could face the same charges as Bradley Manning for revealing a P3 Orion observation craft was used during the capture. It is interesting that the observation aircraft was an Orion, not a Predator UAV, as, if I am not mistaken Orions are designed for maritime patrols.
I doubt the local CO was competent to distinguish between 122 mm rocket grease stains and any other kind of grease stain, or even chemical stains a lab technician might encounter any day in his lab. Was he sure it wasn’t 76 mm rocket grease?
Some of these firebases were very small, staffed by as few as a dozen soldiers. There was a firebase that was the center of controversy because the commander, who was just a warrant officer, a kind of senior non-commissioned officer, had led the men under his command into the torture and murder of Afghan troops who were nominally at least their allies. He had replaced a Captain. This warrant officer seems to have been high-strung, and dishonest. In addition to covering up the death by torture of one of Pacha Khan Zadran’s men, he wrote after action reports about firefights where “the air was thick with bullets”. I know it is unlikely, but I wondered if, in addition to torturing PKZ’s troopers, he also sent these two brothers to Guantanamo.
The brothers put up their life savings to equip that modern lab. I wonder what happened to their xray machine and other lab equipment? I wonder, once they were released, whether they returned to Pakistan, to recoup their finances, or whether they were willing to risk staying in Afghanistan?
The capture and detention of Shahzada, Abdullah Khan, and Nasrullah is one of the Guantanamo stories that most captured my imagination. Shahzada was interviewed recently, living in poverty, in Kabul. He had fled Kandahar because elements of the Taliban had put pressure on him, as a victim of the US, to join their attacks.
FWIW “shahzada” is a Persian word meaning heir apparent to a Shah, or king. I suspect it gets colloquially applied to the scion of any wealthy family. Abdul Matin who was also from what passes as a wealthy family by Afghan standards, also faced the allegation that he was a Taliban commander named Shahzada.
One of the clues that these men weren’t members of the Taliban that the JTF-GTMO analysts ignored was that Shahzada and Abdullah Khan were fans of dog-fighting and cock-fighting. Dog-fighting and cock-fighting, like bull-fighting, is generally regarded as barbaric in the US and (most of?) Europe. The Taliban outlawed a lot of things, including music, shaving, kite-flying, educating girls — and animal fighting. In this the west and the Taliban were in agreement. But Shahzada was a fan, and, when it looked like the overthrow of the Taliban made it safe for a Pashtun to travel to regions of Afghanistan where Afghans of Uzbek ethnic origins were a majority he used his relative wealth to go on a tour of other parts of Afghanistan to observe the dog-fighting scene elsewhere.
Both he and Abdullah Khan described how they reconnected after a couple of decades at a dog-fighting meet in the Uzbek region that was Abdullah Khan’s home. Even if we personally disapprove of making animals fight Shahzada’s tour was good news.
His renewal of his dormant friendship with someone from another region, another ethnic group, was a good news story.
Abdullah Khan gave Shahzada a dog, and, in turn, Shahzada invited him to come to Kandahar, to visit him. Inter ethnic friendship is a good thing, this was a good news story, until the men were falsely denounced.
I’d really like to know what happened to Abdullah Khan, after his CSR Tribunal. The denunciation of Shahzada and Nasrullah hinged around the main allegation against Abdullah Khan — that he was lying about his identity, that he was really former Taliban governor Khirullah Khairkhwa. How could the American intelligence officials who paid out bounties for the capture of a former governor have failed to check to see if Khirullah Khairkhwa was already in custody. Although I have known this since 2006, I am still shocked that Abdullah Khan’s interrogators, and the analysts assigned to integrate the results of the interrogations, never bothered to follow up on Abdullah Khan’s protestations, that they should check the prison roster, to confirm that Guantanamo already held the real Khirullah Khairkhwa.
The officers who sat on Shahzada’s CSR Tribunal could see that the allegations that triggered his capture, and that of Abdullah Khan, and Nasrullah, was ridiculous, and easily refuted by simply checking the prison roster. But it didn’t cause Abdullah Khan or Nasrullah to be released.
At Abdullah Khan’s 2005 annual status review hearing the officers were told by the officer whose job it was to invite him to participate, that Abdullah Khan chose not to participate. They were told he had chosen to live out the rest of his life in Guantanamo. I frankly don’t believe this.
Andy, feel free to strip out the portion of this message that addresses Abdullah Khan, until you get to the 2006 releases.
Andy, with regard to Jalil, who had been a Taliban conscript in 2000, can I share an important distinction with your readers?
There is a huge gap between the definition of “combatant” used in both the Geneva Convention, and the USA’s internal documents used prior to 9-11. Army regulation 190-8, which applies to all the USA’s armed services, echoes, and lays out in more detail than the Geneva Conventions, how the USA’s captives should be treated. These documents are all clear, any veteran, any former member of a military service who has been discharged, or demobilized, is considered a civilian. It doesn’t matter if they were a national hero, held their nation’s equivalent of the Victoria Cross, or Congressional Medal of Honor, if they are no longer in the armed services, they are a considered a civilian. Of course, a veteran who takes down their varmint rifle and takes some pot shots at invaders is a combatant, but most of the demobilized veterans the USA held weren’t accused of this, merely of having once been conscripted by the Taliban, or having some other military service in their background.
Of course the Bush administration’s wildly broad definition of an “enemy combatant” included anyone they captured who had once had some kind of military service. It included civilians who had been conscripted to fill the ranks of Afghanistan’s civil service. It included Arabs who had undergone their compulsory military service back in their home country. It included individuals who had served on the US side during the 1991 Gulf War. It even included Nasrullah, ISN 951, whose military service was in the King of Afghanistan;’s army in the 1960s.
Crazy. If the USA had honored its Geneva Convention obligations to guys like Jalil they would never have been classed as combatants in the first place.
Thanks as ever, arcticredriver, for these very useful additions.
Great additions to the story of the brother doctors, and how the change of CO was so disastrous. What a sad story of counter-productive activity on the part of the US.
As for Shahzada and Abdullah Khan, you write, regarding the Americans’ unwillingness to check whether they had another Khairullah Khairkhwa — the real one — in custody, “Although I have known this since 2006, I am still shocked that Abdullah Khan’s interrogators, and the analysts assigned to integrate the results of the interrogations, never bothered to follow up on Abdullah Khan’s protestations, that they should check the prison roster, to confirm that Guantanamo already held the real Khirullah Khairkhwa.”
I couldn’t agree more. As you know, that’s when I started going through these documents, and I was repeatedly shocked that establishing the truth about men who were falsely imprisoned was so irrelevant to those holding them. I now realize, after all this work on the documents released by WikiLeaks, how all that mattered was the perceived intelligence value of the men, and their perceived risk. Guilt and innocence were, you might say, “quaint” notions that had no place in the “new paradigm” of detention in Bush’s “War on Terror.”
Regarding those Thuraya satellite phones — I did a little homework. The allegations against Hukumran say he had both a Thuraya and a solar charger. Actually the Thuraya comes with a solar charger.
The Thuraya is a dual use phone, When the user goes to make a call it checks to see if it is within range of a cell tower, and uses the cell tower, if one is within range. It only uses the satellite if there is no nearby cell tower.
As I understand it the Thuraya is not designed to provide worldwide coverage, like some of those satellite phones that have large thick antennae that tune in to one of a fleet of satellites. The Thuraya connect to a single geo-synchronous satellite. The broadcast footprint of that satellite is about the same size as Canada, China or the USA, and covers a region roughly from the Indian subcontinent to the Arabian peninsula.
As near as I can tell the Thuraya is the obvious satellite phone to choose in that region, and anyone who wanted phone service would choose that phone. And yet the OARDEC documents treat ownership of one of these phones was tantamount to an admission of membership in al Qaeda.
If Hukumra Khan was the only guy in his town with a phone, was he supposed to turn away everyone who asked to borrow it?
As to whether a call made from your phone to a suspicious number proved one was a member of al Qaeda or the Taliban — there is a rumor as to why American satellite and cable technician Nick Berg first fell under suspicion, and was first detained,
Berg seems to have been a sweet, naive, trusting guy. He figured that, during the invasion, many Iraqi satellite and cable antennae would have been damaged. He figured that the Iraqis would need the help of guys like him who knew how to fix them.
Michael Moore interviewed Berg, before he left the USA, for his movie Fahrenheit 911.
One of the rumors about Berg was that when he was using his laptop, sitting in a cafe, like Starbucks, that provided wifi access, another guy in the cafe asked if he could use Berg’s laptop to send an important brief email. Berg agreed. According to the rumor the stranger was Zacarias Moussaoui, one of the half dozen or so individuals called the “20th hijacker”. According to the rumor the anomalous single email to a Zack Moussaoui contact from his laptop put him on a suspicion list.
The other rumor is that, during the week or so Berg was in official US/Iraqi custody, his dad made enough of a fuss that his complaints made it all the way to Donald Rumsfeld, and that Rumsfeld had such a bad anger management problem that he said, “Okay, release that SOB, but tell the Iraqis we pay to serve as the guards at that site that Berg is a Jewish spy.”
I guess if there is a lesson for the rest of us here — don’t allow even the friendliest stranger to temporarily use your laptop or phone.
Investigative journalist, author, filmmaker, photographer and Guantanamo expert
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