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 23 of the 70-part series. 293 stories have now been told. See the entire archive here.
In late April, I worked with WikiLeaks as a media partner for the publication of 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. These documents drew heavily on the testimony of the prisoners themselves, and also on the testimony of their fellow inmates (either in Guantánamo, or in secret prisons run by or on behalf of the CIA), whose statements are unreliable, either because they were subjected to torture or other forms of coercion, or because they provided false statements in the hope of securing better treatment in Guantánamo.
The documents were compiled by the Joint Task Force at Guantánamo (JTF GTMO), which operates the prison, and were based on assessments and reports made by interrogators and analysts whose primary concern was to “exploit” the prisoners for their intelligence value. They also include input from the Criminal Investigative Task Force, created by the DoD in 2002 to conduct interrogations on a law enforcement basis, rather than for “actionable intelligence.”
My ongoing analysis of the documents began in May, 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. This was followed by a ten-part series, “WikiLeaks and the Guantánamo Prisoners Released from 2002 to 2004,” 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. This was followed by another five-part series, “WikiLeaks and the Guantánamo Prisoners Released After the Tribunals, 2004 to 2005,” dealing with the period from September 2004 to the end of 2005, when 62 prisoners were released.
This, as I explained, 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, a sham process designed to rubber-stamp their designation as “enemy combatants” who could be held indefinitely.
With just 38 prisoners cleared for release after the CSRTs, another review process — the annual Administrative Review Boards — took over, reviewing whether prisoners still had ongoing intelligence value, and whether they still posed a threat to the US. These were essentially the decisions being taken by JTF GTMO and CITF, and they reveal how, in the “War on Terror,” prosecuting criminals (the few genuine terror suspects in Guantánamo) and holding soldiers off the battlefield until the end of hostilities had largely given way to the strange mixture of threat assessments and intelligence assessments that fill the Detainee Assessment Briefs.
With 260 prisoners profiled in the first 20 parts of this project, this latest ten-part series covers the stories of the 111 prisoners released in 2006 (and the three who died at the prison in June 2006) and readers will, I hope, realize that almost all of these prisoners were freed because of political maneuvering rather than anything to do with justice. The largest groups released by nationality in 2006 were Saudis (45 in total — 15 in May 2006, 14 in June and 16 in December) and Afghans (35 in total — 7 in February, 5 in August, 16 in October and 7 in December).
I also hope that readers will reflect on the problems of over-classification 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.
For further information, also see Part One (which contained eleven stories about prisoners from a variety of countries, mostly captured in Afghanistan, and including Yasser al-Zahrani, who died in Guantánamo in June 2006), and Part Two (which featured another eleven stories, mostly of prisoners who survived the Qala-i-Janghi massacre in northern Afghanistan in November 2001). Part Three features another eleven stories, including some examples of prisoners who “returned to the battlefield” after their release, and the story of a Libyan prisoner whose file is full of statements made by other Libyans, including Abdel Hakim Belhaj, now active as a commander of the Libyan rebels, who were subjected to “extraordinary rendition” and torture in secret CIA prisons, before they were returned to Libya and imprisoned by Colonel Gaddafi. Also see Part Four, Part Five, Part Six, Part Seven, Part Eight, Part Nine and Part Ten.
Said Al Malki (ISN 157, Saudi Arabia) Released May 2006
In Chapter 6 of The Guantánamo Files, I explained how Said al-Malki (also identified as Saed al-Malki or Saed al-Maliki), a security officer with the Saudi police, who was 32 years old at the time of his capture, said in Guantánamo that he went to Afghanistan in January 2001 after a sheikh suggested that distributing food and clothing to the poor was a worthwhile pursuit for a devout Muslim. He said that he and a companion then spent ten months traveling around Afghanistan, distributing food, clothing and “books and tapes regarding Islam,” and he said of his arrest in Pakistan that the police “said I was Arabic and I was good value.” He also explained that he ran into problems because he sought advice from the Al-Birr Foundation, a Saudi charity, founded in 1987, which was put on a US terror watchlist in November 2002.
In the documents released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, the file relating to al-Malki was an “Update Recommendation to Transfer to the Control of Another Country for Continued Detention (TRCD),” dated June 12, 2005, in which he was also identified as Sa’id al-Malki and Sa’ed al-Maliki, and it was noted that he was born in 1969. It was also noted that, in common with many of the prisoners, he was “diagnosed with latent Tuberculosis,” although he “refused treatment in October of 2002.” It was also noted that he had “a history of asthma but [was] not on medication for it.”
In telling his story, the Joint Task Force noted that he had “provided at least four versions of his personal history,” and that only one was described in the file. According to this account, al-Malki had been a police officer for over ten years, for which he apparently only “received a salary of about $2,600 USD per year,” and had “left the police force to pursue a private business venture selling cars but never started the business.”
In this employment limbo, he met a man named Hassan El-Nashiri at the “Holy Temple Mosque” in Mecca, in July or August of 1999. El-Nashiri, the financier for the Al-Birr Foundation, apparently convinced al-Malki to travel to Afghanistan in 1999, although he did not travel until 2001. El-Nashiri apparently arranged and paid for his travel, and was “assessed to be an Al-Qaida facilitator,” although the evidence for this was not immediately forthcoming in al-Malki’s case, as he said that he “worked in Afghanistan as a volunteer” for Al-Birr, with El-Nashiri, and that the two men “bought goods on the border of Pakistan (PK), entered Afghanistan and delivered the goods to several small villages throughout Afghanistan.”
When “the bombing in Afghanistan became intense,” al-Malki said he “decided it was time to return home to Saudi Arabia,” although he also said that he was “robbed of his money and passport” while working in Afghanistan, and that, when he reached Pakistan, the Pakistani police captured him while trying to enter Peshawar on December 12, 2001. According to what was described as “altemate reporting,” he “was transferred from Kohat prison, Pakistani custody, to the Kandahar Detention Facility, US custody, on 30 December 2001,” and was sent to Guantánamo on January 17, 2002, allegedly to “provide information on foreign NGOs operating in Afghanistan.”
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), every prisoner who ended up in US custody had to be sent to Guantánamo, even though the majority were not even seized by US forces, but were seized by their Afghan and Pakistani allies at a time when substantial bounty payments for “al-Qaeda and Taliban suspects” were widespread.
In assessing his story, the Task Force was obviously perturbed by the perception that, as an analyst decried it, al-Malki was “not being open and forthcoming with his debriefers, and resist[ed] answering direct questions,” so that, as a result, his “veracity [was] in question due to the multiple versions of cover stories that he has used as well as his use of other individual’s [sic] names and portions of their stories.” This may indeed have been suspicious, but there was nothing in the way of evidence to establish that he was not what he said he was: a volunteer providing humanitarian aid to one of the most wretched countries on earth.
As the Task Force described it, al-Malki was assessed as “a member of Al-Qaida’s global terrorist network,” because he “traveled to Afghanistan with the help of a facilitator under the guise of working for the Al-Birr Foundation,” which “has been linked to Al- Qaida.” An analysis of the Al-Birr Foundation claimed that it was “established in part to perform charitable works; however, it also supports Islamic extremist activities worldwide and maintains deliberate and purposeful associations with terrorist organizations including Al-Qaida,” and noted that, “as of 8 April 2005, [it had] been designated as a Tier 4 NGO, defined as all other NGOs which are considered to be anti-US but are not included in Tiers 1-3NGOs,” To provide further context, Tier 1 organzations were those regarded as posing a direct threat, but even Tier 2 organizations were often nothing more than alleged fronts for terrorist activities, with no way of ascertaining how exaggerated these claims were.
In al-Malki’s case, there was nothing to link him to the purported terrorist support activities of Al-Birr, but the Task Force also drew on a claim that he “was identified as participating in a specialized course entitled, ‘mountain tactics training,'” which “was a seven-week course covering guerilla warfare in mountainous terrain taught at the Al-Qaida-run Al-Farouq training camp in Afghanistan,” which was actually established by the Afghan warlord Abdul Rasul Sayyaf in the early 1990s, but was associated with Osama bin Laden in the years before 9/11. Without even a mention of the source of this “identification,” it is the weakest sort of hearsay, although it undoubtedly contributed to the rationale for al-Malki’s continued detention, even though no other source suggested that he had undertaken training at Al-Farouq.
Also significant was a note that a previous — and thoroughly ludicrous — assessment was made that Hassan al-Nashiri “was possibly involved in the USS Cole incident” (the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000), when the prime suspect in the case is Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri (ISN 10015, a torture victim and former CIA “ghost prisoner,” who is still held at Guantánamo). The Task Force conceded that, “After much analysis, no reporting could be found to corroborate this statement,” and it was probably this that contributed largely to the decision to downgrade al-Malki from someone recommended to be retained in DoD control (as decided on January 17, 2004), to the revised decision to transfer him for continued detention in Saudi Arabia.
As the Task Force noted, leading up to the decision by Brig. Gen. Jay W. Hood, the commander of Guantánamo at the time, to recommend him for transfer, he was assessed as being “of medium intelligence value,” and “a medium risk, as he may pose a threat to the US, its interests and allies,” although personally I think that both assessments demonstrate how over-classification was built into the system at Guantánamo, as he was surely of very little interest for intelligence purposes, and was not a risk at all.
This was confirmed in the description of him as “a low threat from a detention perspective,” in which it was noted that his “overall behaviour ha[d] been cooperative,” and that he was “located in Victor block in Camp 4, and [was] at a Low Risk level, and [had] been at a Reward Level of one [the highest level in a reward system graded from 1 to 4] for approximately seven-hundred and twenty six days, which indicates that [he] is passive in his actions and has caused little problems for the guard force and staff.”
Even so, it took another eleven months for him to be freed, to be put through the Saudi government’s extensive rehabilitation program, and to resume his life.
Muhammad Ben Moujan (ISN 160, Morocco) Released October 2006
In Chapter 7 of The Guantánamo Files, I explained how Muhammad Ben Moujan (also identified as Mohammed Ben Moujane), who was 20 years old at the time of his capture, went to Afghanistan to visit his sister, who was married to Said Boujaadia (ISN 150, released in May 2008), and stayed at their house in Kandahar. In Guantánamo, he denied an allegation that he undertook weapons training in the mountains north of Kandahar, and explained that, after “fleeing from death and riots in Kandahar,” he crossed into Pakistan with numerous Afghans and Arabs, and was arrested by Pakistani soldiers on arrival. It was also alleged that he and Boujaadia “engaged in jihad in the Tora Bora mountains,” although Ben Moujan insisted that this was invented by Moroccan interrogators who questioned him in Guantánamo.
In the documents released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, the file relating to Ben Moujan was a “Recommendation for Transfer to the Control of Another Country for Continued Detention (TRCD),” dated November 25, 2005, in which it was noted that he was born in February 1981, and had been “seen for weight loss management and dehydration due to hunger strike and minor body aches and pain.” This, presumably, was a reference to his involvement in the prison-wide hunger strike that began in the summer of 2005, in which between 100 and 200 prisoners took part, as it was also noted, “As of 03 December 2005 detainee was no longer listed on a hunger strike.”
In telling his story, the Joint Task Force noted that, after completing middle school, Ben Moujan “attended various trade schools such as barber, auto mechanic, carpenter and locksmith, but failed to graduate from any of them,” and then, in mid-2001, traveled “with his immediate family” to Damascus, Syria where Said Boujaadia and a second brother-in-law, Riyadh, were already living. Then “he, his family and Boujaadia traveled from Tehran to Meshad, IR, by train and then rented a car and went to Kandahar, Afghanistan,” where they stayed at the house of Ben Moujan’s third brother-in-law, identified as Abu Zuhair al-Tbaiti.
After staying only a few days at this house, Ben Moujan apparently traveled to the Al-Farouq training camp, and (refuting the claim in the documents from his tribunal at Guantánamo) apparently “stated that he went to Al-Farouq of his own volition,” where he “trained on small arms firing, physical conditioning, map reading, topography, and explosive devices,” although he asserted that “he did not do any advanced training.” After “approximately one month,” his training “was suspended and the trainees were instructed to go home.” He “claimed he did not know at the time why training was suspended,” but, as the Task Force noted, “it was in September 2001,” and Al-Farouq closed immediately after the 9/11 attacks.
Ben Moujan said that he then “went back to al-Tbaiti’s house and stayed with his family until the bombing in Kandahar began,” when he said that “they traveled on the road out of Afghanistan, [until] it became too unsafe and he was instructed to go into the mountains of Tora Bora to wait until the Afghans cleared the road.” This contradicted his earlier account, but in another version of the story, he “traveled to the mountains north of Kandahar with an unidentified group and took up fighting positions against the Americans and the Northern Alliance.” In this version of events, he “claimed he did not do any fighting, but that he hid in a ditch while the US planes bombed his position.”
What is clear, however, is that, as he fled to Pakistan, “Pakistani Army units at the border arrested [him], and he was turned over to US forces several weeks later.” An unidentified report (presumably from Pakistani intelligence) indicated that he “was transferred from Kohat, PK, to US custody at the Kandahar Detention Facility on 30 December 2001,” and he was sent to Guantánamo on January 14, 2002, on the spurious basis that it was because he “[m]ay have limited information on Arab element operations in final days before his group was arrested in Pakistan.”
In assessing his story, the Task Force claimed that his “timeline and actions during his stay in Afghanistan are not consistent. He initially claimed he participated in training at Al-Farouq and then recanted that statement. He claims total ignorance of his brothers’-in-law extremist activities. He also does not provide any information about his actual activities at Tora Bora.”
There was certainly some truth to this assessment, although it is difficult to see that Ben Moujan was anything more than a lowly recruit, swept along in the wake of — possibly — more significant players in his extended family. The Task Force additionally assessed him as “an Islamic extremist who received training at Al-Farouq and was active in Tora Bora prior to his capture,” although that too may be an exaggeration, as the only witness who identified him at either location was Yasim Basardah (ISN 252), a Yemeni known as the most prolific and unreliable witness in Guantánamo, who “stated detainee began his training at Al-Farouq two weeks prior to [his] training,” and who “also alleged that detainee was at Tora Bora with him.” Further undermining Basardah’s claims, it was noted that “In at least one report, [Basardah] attended training at Al-Farouq around April/May 2001,” whereas Ben Moujan does not appear to have been in Afghanistan at that time.
In fact, the most troubling aspects of Ben Moujan’s story involved his “familial ties” — with Saad Boujaadia, allegedly caught after engaging US forces in combat, and particularly with his other two Saudi brothers-in-law, described as “Al-Qaida operatives who were planning attacks against western assets in the Straits of Gibraltar.” In Riyadh’s case, this information was based on an unverified claim that he was involved in the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000, but in the case of the other brother-in-law, Abu Zuhair al-Tbaiti, it is because, in June 2002, he was seized with six others (two Saudis and four Moroccans, including the Saudis’ wives) for “plotting to use explosive-packed boats to attack American and British ships in the Straits of Gibraltar.” The Task Force noted that al-Tbaiti “was captured after authorities put his Moroccan in-laws under surveillance,” and claimed that he had been “in the Tora Bora region of Afghanistan” before returning to Morocco and in outside reporting (see this New York Times article from 2004) it was claimed that the information about this “plot” had come from Guantánamo.
Al-Tbaiti was also identified as Zuhair Hilal al-Tbaiti, and it may be (although it is not conclusively confirmed) that he was also known as Abu Zubair al-Haili, otherwise known as “The Bear,” who was seized in Morocco in June 2002 and regarded as one of the 25 most significant figures in Al-Qaida. After a trial, he reportedly received a 10-year prison sentence in January 2003, although if they are not one and the same, then al-Haili’s whereabouts remain unknown.
Despite this, Ben Moujan’s “familial ties” were not proof of his own terrorist sympathies, and the most the Task Force could claim was that he “appears to have had limited access to operational information regarding his two brother-in-law’s [sic] terrorist activities, [although] it is probable that the Islamic extremist training he was receiving in Afghanistan was the initial stage of being incorporated into terrorist operations planned by his in-laws.” He was assessed as being “of medium intelligence value,” and of posing “a medium risk, as he may pose a threat to the US, its interests and allies,” and it was also noted that was “assessed as a moderate threat from a detention perspective,” because his “overall behaviour [was] typically compliant and non-hostile to the guard force and staff.”
As a result, Brig. Gen. Hood approved his transfer to continued detention in Morocco, updating a previous recommendation that he be retained in DoD control, which was issued on November 11, 2003. This, it was noted, was “[b]ased upon information obtained since [his] previous assessment” (which was not specified), although his transfer was only approved “if a satisfactory agreement can be reached that ensures continued detention and allows access to detainee and/or exploited intelligence.” The Task Force added, “If a satisfactory agreement cannot be reached for his continued detention, he should be Retained under DoD Control (CD).”
In February 2007, AFP reported that Ben Moujan (identified as Mohamed Ben Moujane), who, implausibly, was described as having been “accused of briefly being a member of Osama bin Laden’s personal bodyguard[s],” was “given a 10-year jail sentence by a Moroccan anti-terrorism court.” AFP added that he “denied terrorism but admitted visiting an Al-Qaida training camp and meeting Bin Laden in Afghanistan.” He was charged and convicted of “membership of a criminal group with the aim of preparing to commit terrorist acts” and “failing to denounce crimes against state security,” even though his lawyer, Idriss Oua Ali, had “called on the court to acquit the defendant, arguing that he had already spent five years in Guantánamo.”
As AFP noted, it was “the toughest sentence handed down by the court” to former Guantánamo prisoners,” although he was acquitted on appeal in May 2007. In June 2008, he spoke to the Associated Press, stating that he “interrupted his life as a construction worker for a ‘family visit’ in Afghanistan” that led to nearly five years in Guantánamo. Announcing his intention to “seek compensation” from the US government with the help of the legal action charity Reprieve, he said, “My brain is destroyed,” and “accuse[ed] his jailers of drugging” him and other prisoners, of being “regularly forced to eat pork,” and of being “beaten ‘like a sack of potatoes.'”
Describing himself as “a moderate Muslim,” Ben Moujan said “he did not feel hatred towards the Americans, but only those who had held him captive all these years.” In a mixture of Arabic, French and broken English, he said, “They stole my life … I’m like a skeleton that can still stand up.” After describing how he believed he had been sold to US forces in Pakistan, he said that he was then immediately transferred to the US prison at Kandahar airport. “There, I stopped being human,” he said. “I became number 149,” and the AP noted that he “referr[ed] to brutal interrogations and repeated violence.” In Guantánamo, he said, he took part in “numerous hunger strikes,” and was force-fed. He also said that “his last months in this prison were also the worst, because drugs were always mixed with water and food served to him.” “Every time I ate, I had visions,” he said. He also said that he “felt nothing” when he was told he would be released, and claimed that “Moroccan police were given videotapes showing that he had several times attempted suicide by strangulation with his long hair.”
It is not known whether Ben Moujan remained a free man. The AP report noted that the Moroccan authorities appealed to the Supreme Court and his case would be judged again in October 2008, but the only information I have been able to find is that the photo above (and another of Ben Moujan with his lawyer) was taken as he “walk[ed] out of the Sale courthouse … after his trial [was] postponed” on October 7, 2008, as the Associated Press described it.
Ali Al Tays (ISN 162, Yemen) Released December 2006
In Chapter 6 of The Guantánamo Files, I explained how Ali al-Tays, who was 24 years old at the time of his capture, admitted in Guantánamo that he attended the al-Farouq training camp (established by the Afghan warlord Abdul Rasul Sayyaf in the early 1990s, but associated with Osama bin Laden in the years before 9/11), but said that he only wanted to receive training to protect himself, because there were “tribal problems” in Yemen, and it was easier to receive training in Afghanistan than at home. In his tribunal, he took particular exception to claims that he had “fled to the Tora Bora mountains, and that the Pakistanis seized him “when attempting to flee the Tora Bora region.”
In the documents released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, the file relating to al-Tays was a “Recommendation for Transfer to the Control of Another Country for Continued Detention (TRCD),” dated October 8, 2004, in which it was noted that he was born in June 1977, and was “in good health,” although it was also noted that he had “a history of depression, chronic sinusitis, and had a tonsillectomy in June 2004.”
In telling his story, the Joint Task Force noted that he approached a man at his local mosque who evidently knew about training in Afghanistan, and, as he explained in his tribunal, said he wanted to receive training “because of tribal problems between his tribe and the Al-Dogha tribe.” He said he gave this man “money for a visa and airline tickets,” and, at the start of September 2001, flew with him to Karachi, Pakistan. They then took a bus to Quetta, where they stayed for one night, and then took a taxi across the border to Kandahar.
Al-Tays then began training at Al-Farouq, but he “was there only four days, when on 11 September 2001 the instructors woke everyone and told them to leave out of fear from [sic] US retaliation as a result of the US attacks that had taken place that day.” He was then “taken to Kabul, AF, and stayed 15 days in a guesthouse that used to be the Saudi Ambassador’s residence,” and then “left for Jalalabad, AF, where he was instructed to go into the Hindu Kush Mountains in the Tora Bora region of Afghanistan due to the bombing campaign,” and where, he said, he “hid amongst the trees of the mountains for fifteen days, six of which consisted of walking through snow towards the Pakistani border, when he got separated from the group.”
After successfully crossing the border, he said he “saw Pakistani police in a town and surrendered to them with the hopes of being returned to the Yemeni embassy.” However, he “was detained by the Pakistanis in Kohat, PK, and was eventually transferred to US custody on 30 December 2001.” He was sent to Guantánamo on February 9, 2002, on the spurious basis that it was to “provide information on: Recruiter and facilitator named Saif who recruited from the Al-Ghanari Mosque located in Saada, YM [and] The Al-Farouq Taliban and Al-Qaida training facility.”
In assessing his story, the Task Force could not find any compelling reasons to demolish his story, although analysts clearly doubted that, as he claimed, he did not know about Al-Qaida or the Al-Farouq camp’s affiliation with Al-Qaida and claimed that “it wasn’t until after hearing the term used by US debriefers that he first heard of Al-Qaida.” This sounds implausible, but it is possible — if not probable — that discussions amongst the recruits focused on their role as mujahideen rather than as “members of Al-Qaida,” which required an oath of loyalty to Osama bin Laden.
An analyst also noted that al-Tays had “repetitively used the excuse of a sore throat to terminate debriefings, even after being cleared medically on numerous occasions,” which led the analyst to suggest that he was “showing signs of resistance to hide parts of his true intentions and activities while in Afghanistan.”
Nevertheless, the US authorities could not find a single witness to speak out against al-Tays, and to suggest, for example, that he had been involved in anti-coalition activities in Tora Bora. It was also noted that he had not been a difficult prisoner at Guantánamo, as he had “a past history of passive behaviour,” had “a relatively short disciplinary history,” and had “no reported forced cell extractions.”
In recommending him for transfer to continued detention, Brig. Gen. Hood drew on conclusions reached by the Joint Task Force and the Criminal Investigative Task Force: that he was assessed as being “of medium intelligence value,” and also as “a medium risk, as he may possibly pose a threat to the US, its interests and allies,” because, although he was “seeking training to be a low-level combatant of the Taliban and Al-Qaida’s global terrorist network,” and “[did] not seem to be truthful in his claims of seeking training on behalf of his tribal affiliation and their disputes with neighboring tribes,” he also did not appear to be “a senior leader or have direct ties to senior leadership,” although he had “associations with known terrorist organizations and facilitators, and he may be vulnerable to recruitment for terrorist groups.”
Although it took another two years and two months for Ali al-Tays to be released, he and the five other Yemenis freed in December 2006 were amongst the few relatively fortunate Yemenis in Guantánamo, as only 23 have been released throughout the prison’s history, primarily because of institutional fears regarding security in Yemen, and as a result over half of the 171 prisoners who remain at Guantánamo at the time of writing are Yemenis.
Even so, on their return to Yemen, only one of these six men was released outright, and the others, including al-Tays, were “held in the National Security without any charges being brought against them,” as Khaled al-Anisi, a lawyer and the executive director of the Yemeni National Organization for Defending Rights and Liberties (HOOD), told Yemen Times on January 7, 2007. A Yemeni security official said they “would be released if investigations showed that they were not involved in any terrorist acts,” but al-Anisi said, “We have sent a letter to the General Prosecution and another one to the National Security Organization, in which we demanded the immediate release of the men or put them on trial.” He added that, even though previous prisoners had been released they were “facing another Guantánamo” in their own country. “They are put in jail for a long time without any charges,” he noted.
When he was finally freed from Yemeni custody, al-Tays (identified as Ali al-Taiss) reportedly joined up with Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (a Yemen-based Al-Qaida offshoot, which was reportedly formed in January 2009 as a result of the merger of Al-Qaida’s Saudi and Yemeni branches), but surrendered to the Yemeni authorities in August 2010, when he “expressed remorse for having served in Al-Qaeda” and said he was “ready to collaborate” with Yemeni authorities,” according to a report by AFP, citing a source quoted by the official Saba news agency.
Fahd Al Jutayli (ISN 177, Saudi Arabia) Released May 2006
In Chapter 6 of The Guantánamo Files, I explained how Fahd al-Jutayli, who was just 18 years old at the time of his capture, stated in Guantánamo that he went to Afghanistan for training, although he denied an allegation that he was specifically recruited by a sheikh “to fight in Kashmir and Chechnya.” Instead, he trained at Al-Farouq, but never made it out of Afghanistan, except to be captured by the Pakistani authorities and turned over to the US.
In the documents released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, the file relating to al-Jutayli was an “Update Recommendation to Transfer to the Control of Another Country for Continued Detention (TRCD),” dated April 1, 2005, in which it was noted that he was born in May 1981, and was “in good health.”
In telling his story, the Joint Task Force noted that, after graduating from high school, and working for two months as a cashier in a food market, he “quit his job to learn more about the Muslim religion.” He “attended the Mosque of Akbar for two months and then enrolled into the Al-Imam Mohammed Bin Saud University, where he only attended one term,” before he responded to a fatwa and “volunteered for military training in Afghanistan in August 2001.” He then followed a well-worn route, flying to Karachi, taking a bus to Quetta, and then traveling to “the Center for Arabs” in Kandahar, which was assessed to be a reference to the Al-Nebras guesthouse. There, he “handed over his passport and belongings to the person in charge of the house,” and, approximately four days later, was taken by bus, with four others, to the Al-Farouq training camp.
After two weeks of training, he and his fellow trainees were taken to a guesthouse in Kabul (probably after the 9/11 attacks), and, three weeks later, were driven by bus to Jalalabad, “During this time,” as the Task Force described it, he “and his group were armed with weapons,” but he then “informed Mehjad, the leader, who had provided food and clothing to the group, [that] he wished to go to Pakistan,” but was informed he would need to wait a while.” Approximately ten days later, in mid-November 2001, he said that he and Mehjad “traveled by car to the Tora Bora Mountains,” where he was handed over to a Yemeni guide responsible for taking him through the mountains to Pakistan. With nine others, he was led to a village, where “they were required to hand over their weapons,” and “were then captured by Pakistani authorities.”
He was apparently “transferred from the Kohat prison in Pakistan and turned over to US custody on 31 December 2001,” and was sent to Guantánamo on February 9, 2002, on the spurious basis that it was to “provide information on the following: Taliban training activities at Al-Farouq in Kandahar, Afghanistan (AF) and Camp Umar Seyf [the Omar Saif Center] in Kabul, AF, Taliban recruiting activities in Barayada [Burayda], SA, Hamza Al-Muhajir [an Al-Qaida explosives expert, who was a trainer at Al-Farouq, and is described in this file as the man who ran the camp], Abu Al-Munthir [presumably another trainer, although further details were not provided] [and] Escape routes and methodology from Afghanistan to Pakistan.”
In assessing his story, the Task Force took exception to his claims about what happened after Al-Farouq, stating that he had traveled with others from Al-Farouq to the front lines at Bagram, and that, when the front lines collapsed, he “fled with the others to Tora Bora,” before leaving for Pakistan. It was not entirely clear what the source of this assessment was, although two witnesses were cited. One, Ali Yahya al-Raimi (ISN 167, cleared but still held), apparently stated that, “following the closure of Al-Farouq training camp,and a quick stop at Al-Ansari Al-Nebras guesthouse in Kandahar, he traveled to Kabul with the remaining members of his training group,” although he failed to mention al-Jutayl by name, and the other witness was Yasim Basardah (ISN 252), a Yemeni known as the most prolific and unreliable witness in Guantánamo, who claimed that he had seen al-Jutayli “at the Al-Nebras guesthouse, Al-Farouq, and Tora Bora.”
The Task Force assessed al-Jutayli as being “of medium intelligence value,” and “a medium risk, as he is likely to pose a threat to the US, its interests and allies,” and also assessed him as “a low-level member of Al-Qaida who went to Afghanistan (AF) for the purpose of receiving jihadist training.” It was also noted that he “ha[d] been non-compliant during his detention,” and “ha[d] a relatively high amount of disciplinary reports,” having been “forcefully extracted from his cell two times.” In conclusion, although al-Jutayli was recommended to be retained in DoD control on November 22, 2003, Brig. Gen. Hood approved his transfer to continued detention, although it was not specified what had happened to change the assessment over the previous 16 months.
After his release, al-Jutayli was processed through the Saudi government’s extensive rehabilitation program, but in February 2009 he was included as one of eleven former Guantánamo prisoners in a list of the Saudi government’s 85 most wanted militants, all of whom had allegedly left Saudi Arabia. He was reportedly killed in September 2009 “during a shootout between the Yemeni Army and the Shiite Houthi rebels,” although it was unclear why he would have been fighting with Shiites, and in June 2011 former prisoner Ibrahim al-Rubeish (ISN 192, see below), reportedly the chief theologian of Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, stated in a video that al-Jutayli was actually killed in an accident during training. He “trained with some of his brothers with bombs, during which one of the bombs exploded at them and he was the closest to it” and “was instantly killed,” al-Rubeish said.
Issam Al Jayfi (ISN 183, Yemen) Released December 2006
In Chapter 6 of The Guantánamo Files, I explained how Issam al-Jayfi, who was 22 years old, described himself in Guantánamo as a government clerk and a wayward youth, who smoked, drank alcohol and loved the company of women, and was persuaded to go to Afghanistan by a religious friend called Sami. Never having been outside Yemen, he thought it would be like Europe, a place where he could live freely, but he explained that when they arrived Sami told him they had come to fight. He said he then fled to Pakistan, where some villagers turned him over to the police.
In the documents released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, the file relating to al-Jayfi was a “Recommendation [for] Release or Transfer to the Control of Another Country for Continued Detention (TRCD),” dated October 29, 2004, in which it was noted that he was born in September 1979 and was “in good health.”
In telling his story, the Joint Task Force noted that, in the summer of 2001, he “was approached by a neighborhood acquaintance,” who “encouraged [him] to travel to Afghanistan and made all the necessary travel arrangements,” telling him that “the Saudi Arabian and Yemeni governments had issued fatwas concerning the jihad in Afghanistan.” On August 22, 2001, he set off with this acquaintance, traveling to a guesthouse in Kabul via Karachi, Quetta and Kandahar. Two weeks later, his companion departed to fight the Northern Alliance, but he “refused to join him and stayed at the guesthouse for a total of seven weeks.”
However, as the Northern Alliance approached Kabul, he “and other members of the guesthouse were forced to flee,” and “were taken to the ‘Tunisian guesthouse’ in Jalalabad, AF, where they stayed for a couple of days until the situation there became dangerous,” and “then moved to a small village right outside Jalalabad where they remained for over one month.” He said that he “wanted to leave Afghanistan, but was told it was too difficult to leave at that time,” but he “eventually took a chance anyway” and set off for Pakistan with a group of about ten people. He also said that he “and three other men in the group were stopped by a group of Pakistanis,” who “convinced them to follow them to safety, and instead handed them over to the Pakistani authorities.” He was turned over to US forces in Kohat on December 31, 2001, and was sent to Guantánamo on January 17, 2002, although it was “not documented why [he] was transferred to JTF GTMO.”
In assessing his story, the Task Force determined that he was “of low intelligence value due to his limited knowledge of safehouses and activities of associates in Afghanistan,” and that he posed “a medium risk, as he may pose a threat to the US, its interests and allies.” The Task Force also claimed that his activities were “consistent with those of a low-level fighter or associate,” although “details regarding [his] true activities have yet to be extracted.” Elsewhere, it was noted that it was “difficult to assess the true nature of [his] role in Afghanistan,” and the Task Force stated that, although he had been “cooperative [and] consistent,” he had “revealed little.” Conflicting accounts included the fact that, although he said that he “was convinced to travel to Afghanistan for military training unavailable to him in Yemen,” he “did not receive any type of training while in Afghanistan”; and that, although he “admit[ted] he carried a weapon, he claim[ed] he never fired or felt the need to use the weapon while in Afghanistan and Pakistan.”
It was also noted that he did “not appear to have special skills, education, or the capability to organize or coordinate attacks against the US,” and that his “overall behaviour ha[d] been generally compliant and non- aggressive,” and he had only “one incident where he threw water on the guards.” As a result, Brig. Gen. Hood recommended him for release or transfer, although even the Task Force’s assessment was too severe for the Criminal Investigative Task Force, which had “assessed [him] as a low risk on 23 March 2004.” However, “In the interest of national security and pursuant to an agreement between the CITF and JTF GTMO Commanders, CITF [deferred] to JTF GTMO’s assessment that [he] pose[d] a medium risk,” and it took another two years and two months until he was released.
After his release in December 2006 with five others, only one of these men was released outright, and the others, including al-Jayfi, were “held in the National Security without any charges being brought against them,” as Khaled al-Anisi, a lawyer and the executive director of the Yemeni National Organization for Defending Rights and Liberties (HOOD), told Yemen Times on January 7, 2007. A Yemeni security official said they “would be released if investigations showed that they were not involved in any terrorist acts,” but al-Anisi said, “We have sent a letter to the General Prosecution and another one to the National Security Organization, in which we demanded the immediate release of the men or put them on trial.” He added that, even though previous prisoners had been released they were “facing another Guantánamo” in their own country. “They are put in jail for a long time without any charges,” he noted.
Othman Al Ghamdi (ISN 184, Yemen) Released June 2006
In “The Guantánamo Files: Website Extras (5) – Escape to Pakistan (The Yemenis),” I explained how Othman al-Ghamdi (also identified as Othman al-Omairah), who was 28 years old when he was seized, was listed by the Pentagon as a Yemeni, but was one of the 14 prisoners released to the Saudi Arabian authorities in June 2006. In the thin series of allegations in his Unclassified Summary of Evidence, it was alleged that he answered a fatwa and traveled to Afghanistan on a forged passport, provided a false name when captured, and trained for a month from October to November 2001 at Al-Farouq. Noticeably, this latter allegation was impossible, because Al-Farouq shut down after 9/11.
In the documents released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, the file relating to al-Ghamdi was an “Update Recommendation to Transfer With Conditions to the Control of Another Country (TWC),” dated June 6, 2005, in which it was noted that he was born in 1973, and was “in good health.”
In telling his story, the Joint Task Force noted that he “served in the Saudi military,” but deserted after he was overpaid accidentally and was unable to repay the amount because he had spent it. He then “worked in Steel and Iron construction in Jeddah, SA from 2000-2001,” when he traveled to Mecca (for the hajj, presumably) and his taxi driver “told [him] about the sufferings of the Muslims in Chechnya and encouraged [him] to fight there,” and “showed [him] videotapes on Chechnya and then spoke to him regarding routes of travel for foreign fighters going into Chechnya.” The taxi driver had reportedly “fought in the jihad in Kashmir and had contacts that would facilitate entry into Afghanistan, and eventually into Chechnya.” He also bought al-Ghamdi’s plane ticket to Afghanistan, although al-Ghamdi “claim[ed] to have financed the rest of his trip.”
It was then noted that he traveled to Afghanistan and “trained at Al-Farouq from October to November 2001,” and an analyst claimed that he “was there after the 9/11 attacks, but before the bombing of Al-Farouq by coalition forces,” which, as I mentioned above, doesn’t make sense, as every other account indicates that Al-Farouq closed immediately after 9/11, because those in charge feared instant retaliation from the US.
It was then noted that “he was captured by Pakistani police near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border without documentation,” and was transferred to US custody on December 31, 2001. He was sent to Guantánamo on January 14, 2002, on the spurious basis that it was to “provide information on the following: Military training conducted by Taliban instructors at Al-Farouq to include small arms training and physical fitness training [and] Location, security, and physical layout of Al-Farouq.”
In assessing his story, the Task Force noted that he had “stated that he hates America,” and also that he “believes all fatwas (religious declarations) which state that Americans should not be in the Arabian Peninsula.” It was also noted that he had lied about his name and nationality, which, of course, aroused suspicion. In addition, it was noted that he “ha[d] not been cooperative and ha[d] been hostile since being at GTMO,” because he “ha[d] determined that he will be in prison whether in American custody or Saudi custody, but prefers the former. By keeping his potential intelligence to himself and remaining a hostile-appearing detainee, he believes the US will see it as a requirement to keep him out of need to exploit him due to his threat level.” To back this up, the Task Force noted that he had said that, because he “went AWOL from the Saudi military and fled to Afghanistan,” he believed this would “lead to severe punishment in Saudi Arabia,” and also because, according to al-Ghamdi, “the Saudi delegation told him that if Saudi Arabia gets him, he would not go home.”
Following up on this, it was noted that his “overall behavior ha[d] been hostile and non-compliant,” and he was “often reported using refusals, harsh/threatening language and major/minor assaults in order to intimidate the guard force into getting what he wants.”
Nevertheless, the Task Force determined that he was “of low intelligence value,” and that he posed “a medium risk, as he may pose a threat to the US, its interests and allies,” and Brig. Gen. Hood recommended him for “transfer with conditions” updating a recommendation that he be retained in DoD control, which was issued on March 13, 2004. Even so, it took another year for him to be released to the custody of the Saudi government.
After his release, al-Ghamdi was processed through the Saudi government’s extensive rehabilitation program, but in February 2009 he was included as one of eleven former Guantánamo prisoners in a list of the Saudi government’s 85 most wanted militants, all of whom had allegedly left Saudi Arabia. The Saudi Gazette reported that, although he was married with a son, and, after passing through rehabilitation, had been living in Bahah, in the south of Saudi Arabia, working as a car dealer, he had suddenly disappeared. The speculation was that he was “believed to have sneaked into a neighboring country along with Adnan Al-Sayegh” (aka al-Saigh), another former Guantánamo prisoner, profiled in Part Two of this series. In May 2010, al-Ghamdi was featured in a videotape released by Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, in which it was stated that he had “risen to the rank of operational commander” within the organization.
Jabir Al Fayfi (ISN 188, Saudi Arabia) Released December 2006
In Chapter 6 of The Guantánamo Files, I explained how Jabir al-Fayfi, who was 26 years old at the time of his capture, said in Guantánamo that, having responded to a fatwa and traveled to Afghanistan, he received two weeks’ training and was then moved to the front lines, but added that “there was no fighting during my time there,” and that he was soon forced to retreat, crossing to Pakistan with a group of other people. Denying an allegation that he met Al-Qaida members in Tora Bora, he said that he only passed through the area on his way to Pakistan, and pointed out that, although he met some other Arabs, he did not know whether they were al-Qaeda, because “Al-Qaida do not have a special uniform for me to recognize and avoid them.”
In the documents released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, the file relating to al-Fayfi was a “Recommendation for Continued Detention Under DoD Control (CD),” dated December 16, 2005, in which it was noted that he was born in 1975, and it was also noted that he was “in good medical health,” although he had “a history of latent TB,” in common with many of the prisoners, but had “refused therapy.” It was also noted that he had “a history of left foot sensory neuropathy and GERD [Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease aka acid reflux or heartburn],” and that he “went on hunger strike in June 2005,” at the start of the prison-wide hunger strike that summer, when between 100 and 200 prisoners went on a hunger strike.
In telling his story, the Task Force noted that, after dropping out of high school, and spending two years at a technical school, he “joined the Saudi military and worked as a military policeman for two and a half years,” and was then discharged and spent three to four years as a taxi driver. An analyst noted that he “claimed to have five brothers and one uncle who were serving in the Saudi military or police force at the time of his capture.”
In late 2000, he met a man at a mosque, identified by the US authorities as a recruiter known to have “identified young men for jihad in Chechnya and Kashmir,” who persuaded him to travel to Kashmir to fight. He was reportedly “motivated to join the jihad by feelings of solidarity with his fellow Muslims and the reward of heaven,” and traveled to Kashmir in February 2001, where he undertook military training and “admitted to conducting at least three attacks on Indian forces,” although he claimed not to know whether the camp was run by the militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed, as the US authorities believed. In June 2001, he was asked if he wanted to travel to Afghanistan,” and said that he “initially declined, but was convinced to fight alongside the Taliban after reading an article” in which a Saudi sheikh “issued a fatwa against the violators in Afghanistan.”
He then apparently traveled by bus to Kabul, and then on to the Said Arab Center in Bagram, where he stayed for about three weeks, and then moved with the shifting of the front lines, where he served with approximately 25 other Arabs for a four-month period, until, after the US-led invasion, and “[d]ue to the increased intensity of the coalition bombing campaign, a retreat to the caves in Tora Bora, AF, was ordered in November of 2001.”
There, he said, he “and three Pakistanis who were fighting alongside the Taliban evaded through the cave complex for seven to twelve days.” Explaining more about his perception of the differences between himself and Al-Qaida, he said that “[s]ome of the caves contained all Arabs and [he] heard that others contained Al-Qaida,” and that “these individuals could be identified because they carried radios and served in various leadership roles.”
Al-Fayfi also stated that he “and his group surrendered to the Pakistani army on 19 December 2001 in the Tora Bora/Pakistani border region,” and that he “was arrested and,imprisoned for two to three weeks and then delivered to US custody on 31 December 2001.” He was sent to Guantánamo on January 16, 2002, on the spurious basis that it was to “provide information on the following: The Jaish-e-Mohammed organization and information on weapons training, training camp locations, and camp instructors near Kandahar.”
In assessing his story, the Task Force concluded that he was “of low intelligence value,” but posed “a medium risk, as he may pose a threat to the US, its interests and allies.” Although he was also identified as being “a high threat from a detention perspective,” because his “overall behaviour ha[d] become increasingly non-compliant and hostile to the guard force and staff,” it was noted that he had been cooperative with his interrogators, and had been “forthcoming about his recruitment, initial training and operations in Kashmir, as well as his subsequent decision to travel to Afghanistan.” It was also noted that he may have arrived in Afghanistan before 9/11, rather than afterwards, and, without commentary, it was also noted that, “While he admits to serving in a primarily Arab unit, he denies being a member of Al-Qaida.”
He was also assessed as “a probable member of Al-Qaida and a highly trained fighter,” who had “probably minimized any combat he may have seen against US or coalition troops in Bagram and Tora Bora,” but all that could be drawn on to identify him as anything more than an extremely peripheral Arab fighter (no doubt because he had come from Kashmir rather than through an Afghan training camp) were dubious claims about variations of his name or his purported aliases being found on documents recovered from computers during house raids.
Of particular importance was the fact that, in July 2002, a delegation from Saudi Arabia “identified detainee as of low intelligence and law enforcement value to the US, and unlikely to pose a terrorist threat to the US or its interests.” In addition, the Saudi delegation “indicated that the Government of Saudi Arabia would be willing to take custody of detainee for possible prosecution as soon as the US determined it no longer wanted to hold him.”
Presumably as a result of this, Maj. Gen. Hood recommended him for continued detention (following up on a previous recommendation that he be retained in DoD control, which was issued on May 21, 2004), but with the proviso that, “If a satisfactory agreement can be reached that ensures continued detention and allows access to detainee and/or to exploited intelligence, detainee can be Transferred Out of DoD Control (TRO).” In addition, it was reiterated that a visiting Saudi delegation “indicated that the Government of Saudi Arabia would be willing to take custody of detainee for possible prosecution.” A year later, he was released.
After his release, al-Fayfi was processed through the Saudi government’s extensive rehabilitation program, but in February 2009 he was included as one of eleven former Guantánamo prisoners in a list of the Saudi government’s 85 most wanted militants, all of whom had allegedly left Saudi Arabia. The Saudi Gazette reported that his family “declined to talk about his life,” so little more was heard about him until October 2010, when he turned himself in to Saudi authorities.
According to AFP, he “contacted the Saudi government in recent weeks saying he wanted to return home and a handover was arranged through Yemen’s government, interior ministry spokesman General Mansour al-Turki said.” Just a few weeks later, he was credited with providing “the key tip-off that led to the discovery of the two mail bombs sent from Yemen to the US” at the end of October 2010, indicating that not all the “recidivism” stories end badly.
Saleh Al Khathami (ISN 191, Saudi Arabia) Released June 2006
In Chapter 6 of The Guantánamo Files, I explained how Saleh al-Khatami, who was 20 years old at the time of his capture, said in Guantánamo that he arrived in Afghanistan in August 2001 and traveled “from village to village staying with Afghan families and teaching the Koran.” He also “stated that he could have possibly admitted to some things that were identified in the unclassified summary because he was pressurised and tortured by the Pakistani police” — presumably the claims that he “stayed at Najm Al-Jihad, a known terrorist organisation housing compound owned by Osama bin Laden,” and trained at Al-Farouq.
In the documents released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, the file relating to al-Khathami was an “Update Recommendation to Retain in DoD Control,” dated July 25, 2005, in which it was noted that he was born in November 1981, and was “in good health,” although it was also noted that he had latent TB, in common with many of the prisoners, “but ha[d] not been compliant with treatment,” and also that he had “a history of mild malnourishment and ha[d] been followed by the weight program.” No further information was provided about his “history of mild malnourishment,” and whether it was to do with being on a hunger strike, but in “Guantánamo’s Hidden History: Shocking Statistics of Starvation,” a report I compiled in 2009, based on weight records released by the Pentagon in 2007, I noted that he weighed 134 pounds on arrival at Guantánamo, but that his weight then dropped to just 106 pounds in October 2002.
In telling his story, the Joint Task Force noted that he had just finished studying at school, and had “enrolled in a summer sports center program for two months,” when he attended a lecture given by a sheikh who “proclaimed that Russian soldiers were killing innocent Muslims in Chechnya and that the situation warranted every Muslim, no matter what fighting skills they had, to join the struggle.” The sheikh and a student friend of al-Khathami’s “encouraged [him] to train in Afghanistan and then fight in Chechnya,” and so he set off for Afghanistan in August 2001, traveling to the Al-Farouq training camp near Kandahar via Karachi and Quetta.
He then traveled to Jalalabad, via Kabul, where he apparently stayed at Osama bin Laden’s Najm Al-Jihad compound for three weeks “while trying to come up with a way to get out of Afghanistan” — and, as was stated elsewhere in the file, because “he became ill with jaundice-like symptoms” — and then “joined a group of Arabs heading to Tora Bora, AF, where he remained for approximately six weeks until the massive withdrawal from Tora Bora to the border of Pakistan.”
According to “reporting by Pakistani intelligence,” he was “transferred from Kohat Prison, Pakistani control, to Kandahar Detention Facility, US custody, on 31 December 2001,” and was sent to Guantánamo on February 13, 2002, on the spurious basis that it was to “provide information on the following: Al-Qaida-run Al-Farouq training camp in Kandahar, AF, Personalities involved with training fighters in Afghanistan, to include but not limited to Al-Jarah [this reference was not identified further], Sheikh Abdullah Abdah Rahman Jabrin, who directed him to go fight [and] Abu Said Sharki,who was in charge of the Arab safehouse in Jalalabad, AF.”
In assessing his story, the Task Force described him as “a probable member of Al-Qaida due to his name being found on a number of documents associated with that group.” This was a reference to dubious claims that his name and/or his supposed aliases were found on documents recovered from computers seized in house raids, but even if they were true, the reference to being “a probable member of Al-Qaida” tends to obscure the fact that he was only involved in the military wing of Al-Qaida, in a specifically Afghan conflict that only mutated into a war against the US after the US-led invasion, and not with that part of Al-Qaida that was devoted to international terrorism.
The Task Force assessed al-Khathami as lying when he “tried to refute his claims by stating that his admissions of traveling to Afghanistan for jihad [were] a lie and that he was forced by the Pakistani authorities to make those admissions.” This was “deemed false due to his knowledge of the front lines of Afghanistan,” and was appropriate, but there was nothing else in his file to identify him as anything other than an insignificant foot soldier, barely trained, and unable to shed any light on significant personalities, and in fact, the Task Force assessed him as being “of low intelligence value,” but claimed that he posed “a medium risk, as he may pose a threat to the US, its interests and allies.”
It was also noted that, in Guantánamo, his “overall behaviour ha[d] been non-compliant, but not hostile in nature,” and, as a result, it was not entirely clear why Brig. Gen. Hood recommended him for continued detention in Guantánamo (updating a previous recommendation that he retained in DoD control, dated March 6, 2004), rather than recommending him for a transfer to continued detention in Saudi Arabia, although this evidently took place eleven months later.
Ibrahim Al Rubeish (ISN 192, Saudi Arabia) Released December 2006
In Chapter 6 of The Guantánamo Files, I explained how Ibrahim al-Rubeish, who was 22 years old at the time of his capture, was only in Afghanistan for three months. In Guantánamo, he admitted training at al-Farouq and passing through Tora Bora on his way to Pakistan, but said that he went to Afghanistan primarily to “train for the jihad for God.” When asked who he was training to fight, he replied, “Whoever fights Muslims,” and when asked if he thought that this included the US, he said, “the United States is a partner with Saudi Arabia, so how could I consider it an enemy of Islam if it’s a friend of Saudi Arabia?”
In the documents released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, the file relating to al-Rubeish was a “Recommendation for Continued Detention Under DoD Control (CD),” dated November 30, 2005, in which his name was spelt Arbaysh, Al-Rabeesh, Al-Rubaish, El-Roubish and Al-Rubaysh, and it was also noted that he was born in 1978, and was “in good health,” although he “refused treatment for latent TB,” and “went on a hunger strike in March 2002.”
In telling his story, the Joint Task Force noted that he had studied Islamic law, and “claimed he received an inheritance and did not need to work.” He apparently “decided to participate in jihad” at the urging of a sheikh who was particularly concerned at the atrocities in Chechnya, and followed a familiar route to Afghanistan to be trained, via Karachi and Quetta, where “an Afghan met [him] at the airport, and they traveled to a guesthouse in Kandahar, Afghanistan (AF), circumventing checkpoints at the border.” There, he “was instructed to stay at what he believed was an Arab guesthouse for a few days,” and “then traveled to Al-Farouq, arriving in what he believed to be the end of May 2001.”
At Al-Farouq, he said, he “was searched, allowed to retain his passport and other personal belongings, and instructed to fill out an application,” and then received military training for approximately three weeks,” after which “he was told that the camp was to be evacuated because of the risk of coalition bombing,” which indicated that he probably arrived at Al-Farouq in August 2001, and not in May, as the risk of coalition bombing followed the 9/11 attacks.
He was then “told to go to a guesthouse in Kabul” — or, more probably, he was taken there — where he stayed for seven to ten days, and then departed for Jalalabad, where he stayed in a guesthouse for approximately a month. A commander from Tora Bora then turned up and “told him to ‘return’ to Tora Bora since Jalalabad was about to fall,” and, when he arrived in Tora Bora, his unit commander issued him a Kalashnikov. He said that it was in Tora Bora that he lost his passport, although the Task Force doubted this, believing that, despite what he said, he would have been obliged to hand it over “for safekeeping” at the guesthouse.
He was then seized by Pakistani authorities as he was fleeing Afghanistan into Pakistan, and was transferred to US custody on December 31, 2001 in Kohat. He was sent to Guantánamo on January 16, 2002, on the spurious basis that it was to “provide information on the following: Jaish-e-Mohammed (JEM) and its weapons training, training camp locations, and camp instructors near Kandahar.” This did not appear to make sense, as al-Rubeish had not mentioned Jaish-e-Mohammed, a Pakistani militant group, but elsewhere in his file it was noted, “It is unclear why officials at Bagram believed [he] had information related to Jaish-e-Mohammed (JEM),” and its mention here was obviously following up on that.
In assessing his story, the Task Force concluded that he was “of medium intelligence value,” and posed “a medium risk, as he may pose a threat to the US, its interests and allies.” It was also noted that he was “a moderate threat from a detention perspective,” because his “overall behavior ha[d] been non-compliant and rarely hostile to the guard force and staff.”
What should have counted in his favor was the Saudi government’s opinion about him, because it was noted that, “After the 2002 Saudi delegation visit, detainee was identified by Mabahith [the Saudi secret service] as one of the seventy-seven Saudi nationals of low intelligence and law enforcement value to the US Government but of whom [sic] the Saudi Government would attempt to prosecute if transferred to their custody from Guantánamo Bay.”
The main reason that Maj. Gen. Hood recommended him for continued detention at Guantánamo (updating a recommendation to retain in DoD control, dated October 15, 2004) instead of recommending him for transfer to continued detention in Saudi Arabia appears to be because of certain doubts about him — primarily because he was “assessed as an Al-Qaida member who traveled to Afghanistan intent on training for jihad in Chechnya, but stayed and joined the Taliban,” because he “stayed in Al-Qaida guesthouses” and attended what was described, in exaggerated terms, as “that group’s Al-Farouq terrorist training camp,” because he participated in hostilities in Tora Bora,” and also because he was “linked to known Al-Qaida members.”
The latter claim was probably the most troubling to the Task Force, which specifically noted that he “had the name Ibad al-Maki and a phone number in his pocket litter,” which was assessed to refer to Ibada al-Makki, described as “a known Al-Qaida facilitator and fundraiser,” and “a close contact” of Abu Zubaydah (ISN 10016, still held), who was described as “a senior Al-Qaida operative,” but is more aptly described as the mentally damaged gatekeeper for the Khalden training camp, and one of the Bush administration’s most notorious torture victims and CIA “ghost prisoners,” prior to his arrival at Guantánamo in September 2006. It was also noted that, when Abu Zubaydah was “asked to review the names” on a list allegedly recovered from a house used by Khalid Sheikh Mohamed (ISN 10024, still held), “detainee’s name/alias was familiar to Abu Zubaydah.”
That means nothing, as Abu Zubaydah seems regularly to have claimed to identify people he did not know, and had no reason to know, presumably only to stop his torture, but what also probably convinced the Task Force of al-Rubeish’s significance was a statement by Abdul Aziz al-Baddah (ISN 264, released in June 2006 and also identified as Abd al-Aziz Abd al-Rahman), who apparently claimed that al-Rubeish had “some type of leadership role among detainees and strongly influence[d] them,” and also had “deep and strong information.” An analyst noted that it was unknown whether this referred to “information about Al-Qaida or about others at Guantánamo Bay,” but it was certain that, in the paranoid atmosphere at Guantánamo, it would have been regarded as significant. As a result of all the doubts above, he was not released for another 13 months.
After his release, al-Rubeish was processed through the Saudi government’s extensive rehabilitation program, but in February 2009 he was included as one of eleven former Guantánamo prisoners in a list of the Saudi government’s 85 most wanted militants, all of whom had allegedly left Saudi Arabia. In November 2009 (identifying him as Ibrahim al-Rubaish), the Jamestown Foundation published an article identifying him as the Mufti, or chief theologian of Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. The article noted that he “was born in the ultra-conservative region of Buridah in al-Qasim in 1980, where he studied until graduating from Imam Muhammad bin Sa’ud University with a BA degree in Shari’a,” and that, after his time in Guantánamo and in the Saudi rehabilitation program, he “decided to complete his Master’s degree, but suddenly disappeared,” and it later emerged that he “left his wife and three children behind to join al-Qaeda in Yemen in April 2008.” He is now regarded as one of the most significant members of Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.
Also see “A Poem From Guantánamo: “Ode to the Sea” by Ibrahim al-Rubaish,” included in the book, Poems from Guantánamo: The Detainees Speak, published in 2007.
Mohsin Moqbill (ISN 193, Yemen) Released December 2006
In Chapter 6 of The Guantánamo Files, I explained how Mohsin Moqbill (also identified as Muhsin Moqbill), who was 20 years old at the time of capture, was one of several Yemeni prisoners recruited for jihad by Ibrahim Baalawi (aka Ba Aloui), also known as Abu Khulud (or Abu Khalud) and regarded by the US authorities as a facilitator for Osama bin Laden, who escaped from Tora Bora (the site of a showdown between Al-Qaida and US forces in December 2001) and would clearly have been a much bigger catch than any of the foot soldiers rounded up instead.
Moqbill said in Guantánamo that Baalawi recruited him by teaching him about fatwa and jihad, which he described as the obligation “to help others, to give what you can.” However, he said that when he arrived at Al-Farouq, he regretted his decision, and pointed out that many of the militant sheikhs in the Gulf had now “recalled all their fatwas.” Captured after staying in a village in the Tora Bora mountains for 26 days and then crossing into Pakistan with a dozen other people, he and his group surrendered their weapons in a border village and were then taken to the Pakistani police.
In the documents released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, the file relating to Moqbill was a “Recommendation to Transfer to the Control of Another Country for Continued Detention (TRCD),” dated October 1, 2004, in which it was noted that he was born in 1980, and was “in good health.”
In telling his story, the Joint Task Force elaborated on the story he told at Guantánamo, noting that, as he was “approaching the completion of his high school education, he spoke about the jihad in Afghanistan (AF) with a friend of his,” after hearing a fatwa in his family’s local mosque, and “decided to go fight for the Taliban, whom he revered for favoring Arabs and treating them well.” Around October 2000, he traveled to the Al-Farouq training camp near Kandahar, via Karachi and Quetta, where, he said, he “trained for 10 days,” and then “went to the Mullah Ibrahim Center north of Kabul, AF, where he spent 11 to 12 months on the second line near Bagram.” There, he said, he “was issued an AK-47, but didn’t participate in any battles,” although “he did witness artillery and tank activity during that time.” Instead, he said, “he spent most of his time eating, reading and playing soccer.”
Moqbill said that, “[w]hen the US airstrikes began in November 2001, [he] and his group fled to Jalalabad,” where they “stayed at an unidentified Taliban center,” and were then taken to a location “one hour outside of Jalalabad in the direction of Tora Bora where they stayed for another 26 days.” He and his group were then led for four days by an Afghan guide “across the border to a small Pakistani village where he was taken into custody by Pakistani authorities.” He was reportedly handed over to the US authorities on December 31, 2001, in Khost, Afghanistan (although no explanation was forthcoming as to why he was not handed over in Pakistan), and was then flown to Kandahar “for initial debriefings.”
He was sent to Guantánamo on May 3, 2002, on the spurious basis that it was to “provide information on: Al-Qaida or Taliban recruiter/travel facilitator Ibrahim Ba Aloui, aka Abu Khalud, Safehouses in Quetta, PK, Kandahar, AF, Kabul, AF, and Jalalabad, AF, The Al-Farouq Al-Qaida basic training camp [and] The second line in the Bagram area of Afghanistan.”
In assessing his story, the Task Force described him as being “of low intelligence value,” and of posing “a medium risk, as he may possibly pose a threat to the US, its interests and allies,” primarily because he was assessed as “a low-level combatant of the Taliban and Al-Qaida’s global terrorist network,” who had “participated in combatant training, and participated in hostile actions against the US or allies as part of a jihad.” It was also assessed that his “associations with known terrorist organizations and facilitators” meant that “he may be vulnerable to recruitment for terrorist groups.”
However, it was also noted that “he does not appear to be a senior leader or have direct ties to senior leadership,” and that JTF GTMO believed he had been “truthful in his claims” and had been “fully exploited.” As a result, and also because he “[did] not have any disciplinary history in the camp,” and was “now fully cooperative with his debriefers, often showing signs of extreme remorse,” Brig. Gen. Hood recommended that he be “transferred to the control of another country for continued detention,” although he was not freed for another two years and two months.
After his release, with five others, only of these men was released outright, and the others, including Moqbill, were “held in the National Security without any charges being brought against them,” Khaled Al-Anisi, a lawyer and the executive director of the Yemeni National Organization for Defending Rights and Liberties, known as HOOD. told Yemen Times on January 7, 2007. A Yemeni security official said they “would be released if investigations showed that they were not involved in any terrorist acts,” but Al-Anisi said, “We have sent a letter to the General Prosecution and another one to the National Security Organization, in which we demanded the immediate release of the men or put them on trial.” He added that, even though previous prisoners had been released they were “facing another Guantánamo” in their own country. “They are put in jail for a long time without any charges,” he noted.
Muhammad Al Futuri (ISN 194, Libya) Released December 2006
In a footnote to Chapter 7 of The Guantánamo Files, I explained how Muhammad al-Futuri (also identified as al-Futri), who was 33 years old at the time of his capture, had been living in Jalalabad. In Guantánamo, he denied allegations that he was a member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, and presented himself as an economic migrant.
In the documents released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, the file relating to al-Futuri was a “Recommendation for Continued Detention Under DoD Control (CD),” dated March 8, 2006, in which he was also identified as Muhammad al-Rimi, and it was noted that he was born in December 1968, and was “in good health,” although it was also noted that he had “a history of latent tuberculosis,” in common with many of the prisoners, but had “refused INH therapy.” It was also noted that he had “congenital clubbed feet,” and “was on hunger strike in August 2005, October 2005, and January’ 2006.”
In telling his story, the Joint Task Force noted that “he claimed to be a merchant selling used furniture, clothing, and home appliances in the outdoor bazaar in Benghazi” between 1987 and 1998, but that, “[i]n approximately June 1999, [his] neighbors informed him that the Libyan Secret Service (LSS) came to his house to question him.” Al-Futuri said the LSS “was arresting ‘all bearded, committed Muslims,'” but that, [w]ith the assistance of ‘some brothers’ (NFI), he was smuggled out of Libya and into Egypt (EG) with $1000USD.”
According to an analyst, he said he left Benghazi in a traveling group of the vast missionary organisation Jamaat al-Tablighi (JT) as a volunteer, “traveling around Islamic countries, visiting madrases and preaching Islam” until 2001. However, in another account, he left Egypt after two months and traveled to Saudi Arabia, where he met a Yemeni, and the two men, motivated for jihad by fatwas, traveled to Pakistan. In Peshawar, they met a Pakistani and an Afghan who took them to Jalalabad. From there, he said, his companion went to the front lines north of Kabul, whereas he remained in Jalalabad, and “claimed to have traveled frequently to Kabul, AF, and Pakistan as a JT member.”
He then said that, when the Northern Alliance took Jalalabad, he “fled back to Pakistan where he was arrested, jailed for a couple of days, and then turned over to US custody in Kandahar.” However, Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, the emir of the independent Khalden training camp, which was closed down by the Taliban in 2000, because al-Libi would not let it be run by Osama bin Laden, claimed that al-Futuri was seized with him, as part of a large group captured at the time. The problem with this story is that statements credited to al-Libi are thoroughly unreliable because, after his capture, al-Libi (identified by the number ISN 212, even though he was never held at Guantánamo), was sent by the CIA to Egypt, where he was tortured until he made a false confession that there were links between Al-Qaida and Saddam Hussein. He later recanted this claim, but it was used to justify the illegal invasion of Iraq in March 2003. After this, he was held in a variety of secret prisons, and was returned to Libya, probably in 2006, where he died in prison, allegedly by committing suicide (although this was disputed by those who knew Gaddafi’s regime well) in May 2009.
Whether there was any truth to al-Libi’s claim, al-Futuri “was transferred from Pakistani authorities in Kohat, PK, to US custody on 31 December 2001,” and was sent to Guantánamo on January 16, 2002, although there were “no reasons for transfer documented in [his] record.”
In assessing his story, the Task Force described him as being “of medium intelligence value” (adding that his “most recent interrogation session occurred on 26 January 2006”), and of posing “a medium risk, as he may pose a threat to the US, its interests and allies.” He was “assessed to be deceptive,” partly because he “initially claimed to be Yemeni and attempted to change nationalities several times before admitting he [was] a Libyan in 2003,” but primarily because he “provided conflicting timelines and accounts of his travels, associations and activities.”
It was specifically noted that his claim that he “departed Libya in 1999 for religious purposes and avoiding arrest” was set against what was suggested by other sources — that he “departed Libya much earlier for activities associated with jihad, LIFG [the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, opponents of Colonel Gaddafi] and possibly Al-Qaida.” It was also noted that there were “numerous corroborating accounts from Al-Qaida and LIFG members that contradict[ed his] account or provide[d] details of his activities and travel that [he had] entirely omitted.”
These accounts did not entirely justify the US authorities’ assessment of him, which also included a claim that he “was a member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) and associated with Al-Qaida members and facilitators,” as Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, for example, stated that he “was a simple man with a bad leg, which prohibited him from training,” and that, “[d]ue to [his] condition, [he] lived off the charity of others and had no relationship with Al-Qaida or LIFG.”
In addition, the torture victim and CIA “ghost prisoner” Abu Zubaydah, who claimed to have seen him in Peshawar in 1994, and in Afghanistan in 2000 and 2001, said that, when he saw him at a training camp in 2000, he “was not training at the camp, but simply ‘sitting with the brothers.'” In addition, he “recalled that detainee walked with a limp, and added [that he] was a ‘simple person who could not make explosives and had bad security.’ He also said that, when al-Futuri was staying at the Khalden guesthouse in Kabul (in September 2001), he “gave [him] $1000USD” so that “he could marry a woman in Jalalabad, AF.” (Al-Libi also stated that, in late 2001, “as the Arabs were evacuating Jalalabad, detainee collected money from several of the Arabs in order to get married”).
It was also noted that Hassan Ghul, another CIA “ghost prisoner,” seized in Iraq in 2004, and subjected to the Bush administration’s torture program, whose current whereabouts are unknown (although it is claimed that he was held in a CIA prison in Romania and then freed), recognized al-Futuri “as a Libyan he had seen in Jalalabad, AF, after 11 September 2001,” although he “added that [he] was not an Al-Qaida member.”
Other sources identified him as a member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, contradicting Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, although their testimony may also be unreliable because of the circumstances in which it was gathered. Abu Zubaydah, for example, “said that he “may have joined LIFG in 1995, but later left the group,” which means very little on examination. More came from three Libyans, Ayoub al-Libi, Adnan al-Libi, and Muhammad Ahmad al-Shuru’iya (aka Hassan Raba’i), but they too were CIA “ghost prisoners,” held in secret prisons, where torture was used, for several years before they were returned to Libya.
Ayoub al-Libi, for example (identified as Ayuub Al-Libi and described as being “responsible for LIFG finances in Pakistan”), “identified [al-Futuri] as Abu Bakr Al-Libi and a member of LIFG,” and added that he “believed [he] wanted die a martyr’s death, but could not have received any rigorous training because he had a bad right leg.” He also “confirmed [al-Futuri] had left the LIFG and thought [he] had been caught at Tora Bora.” (Also note that, in a separate entry, Abu Hazim Al-Libi aka Muhammad Dawud was credited with identifying al-Futuri as Abu Bakr Al-Libi, and mentioning that he “walked with a noticeable limp and was captured in a group leaving Tora Bora,” all of which is remarkably similar to the above because Abu Hazim al-Libi is Ayoub al-Libi, but the US authorities failed to notice).
In addition, Adnan al-Libi, described as an “Al-Qaida and LIFG facilitator,” identified [al-Futuri] as Abdul Haleim,” said that he met him in 1992 in Peshawar, and “claimed [he] was an LIFG member who left the group in 2000 due to some unspecified disagreement.”
Muhammad Ahmad al-Shuru’iya, described as an LIFG member, stated that he knew al-Futuri “as Abu Bakr al-Libi or Abu Haleem,” and said that he met him in Pakistan in 1997 or 1998. He added that al-Futuri “was a member of LIFG but did not know any details about [him] participating in any training because he had some form of disability to one of his feet.” When he met researchers from Human Rights Watch at Abu Salim prison in Tripoli in 2009, al-Shuru’iya (aka al-Shoroeiya) stated that, in mid-2003, in a place he believed was a secret facility in Bagram prison in Afghanistan, “the interpreters who directed the questions to us did it with beatings and insults. They used cold water, ice water. They put us in a tub with cold water. We were forced [to go] for months without clothes. They brought a doctor at the beginning. He put my leg in a plaster. One of the methods of interrogation was to take the plaster off and stand on my leg.”
Another Libyan who mentioned al-Futuri was Abd al-Hakim al-Khuwayladi al-Misri Bilhaj (aka Abu Abdullah al-Sadiq), described as the leader of the LIFG in Pakistan, who recently came to prominence in the media as Abdel Hakim Belhaj, a prominent military commander of the NATO-backed Libyan rebels, who, it turned out, had been seized in Bangkok in an operation in which MI6 played a major part, and was then held and tortured in a secret CIA prison before being turned over to Colonel Gaddafi. Belhaj apparently said that al-Futuri traveled to Pakistan sometime during 1990 or 1991, undertook military training and fought for a while (presumably in Afghanistan), and then traveled to Sudan in 1993, to Syria in 1996, and to Turkey in 1997, before returning to Peshawar, and moving to Jalalabad, were he stayed at a guesthouse.
A final Libyan witness — and former “ghost prisoner” — was Sami Mustafa al-Sadi (aka Abu al-Munthir al-Sadi aka Sheikh Yusif), identified as the leader of the religious committee of the LIFG, but better known recently as Sami al-Saadi or Abu Munthir, who, with MI6 in the driving seat, was kidnapped with his family from Hong Kong, and, like Belhaj, held and tortured in a secret CIA prison before being turned over to Colonel Gaddafi. Al-Saadi said that al-Futuri had trained and fought “in several Afghan battles, primarily the Battle of Jalalabad,” and also stated that, “when the Pakistanis launched their campaign against Arabs in 1993, [he] probably fled to Sudan.” He also said that he “did not see [him] again until 1999 in Jalalabad, “and added that he “publicly withdrew from the LIFG in 2000-2001 because the jihad groups were not united.”
While these accounts are primarily of interest because of what they expose about the Bush administration’s interconnected web of prisons outside the law, about how “intelligence” was derived through statements based on photo-identifications, and about the desire of senior US officials to ingratiate themselves with Colonel Gaddafi in the “War on Terror” (and how, in two cases, the British were also deeply involved), it is also clear that the picture that emerges of al-Futuri was of a drifter rather than a major player.
In concluding its assessment, the Task Force noted that he was “assessed as a high threat from a detention perspective,” because his “overall behaviour ha[d] been non-compliant and hostile to the guard force and staff,” but although Maj. Gen. Hood recommended him for continued detention at Guantánamo (updating a recommendation for transfer to the control of another country for continued detention, dated April 29, 2005), it was also noted that, “If a satisfactory agreement can be reached that ensures continued detention and allows access to detainee and/or to exploited intelligence, [he] can be Transferred Out of DoD Control (TRO),” and this evidently happened nine months later.
Nearly four years after his release, in an article in September 2010, I explained how al-Futuri (identified as Muhammad al-Rimi or Abdesalam Safrani), who was one of only two Libyans to voluntarily accept repatriation, had been approved for release from Guantánamo by a military review board, although he did tell the authorities, “I have a problem with the Libyan government and it is a long story.” According to a Human Rights Watch report in September 2008, the Gaddafi Foundation stated that al-Rimi was treated for tuberculosis upon his return. An official also said that he would “go back to his family soon,” but by all accounts he was still held in Abu Salim prison, three years and eight months after his return.
The US State Department told Human Rights Watch in January 2008 that US officials visited al-Rimi in August and December 2007 and stated that “Libyan security forces were detaining him but were treating him well.” Human Rights Watch also noted that, at the meeting in December 2007, which took place in the presence of Libyan officials and an official from the Gaddafi Foundation, al-Rimi was not informed of the charges against him, and apparently explained that he “had not seen a lawyer since his return” and “had received no family visits.”
This latter claim seems not to have been true, as, in a US diplomatic cable released by WiiLeaks, detailing a US visit to al-Futuri in June 2008, it was noted that:
[Al-Rimi] said he had been detained at an External Security Organization (ESO) detention facility between December 2006 and June 2007, when he was transferred to the Abu Salim prison … Al-Rimi said he remains in solitary detention in a 15 foot by 15 foot cell and has not been mistreated. He is able to walk outside regularly, and is able to speak with other prisoners during exercise periods. He is provided with drinking water, tea and three meals a day. He does not have access to books, radio or television. He has access to medications and has been visited by a prison doctor on the occasions when he has been ill. Al-Rimi stated that members of his family have visited him three times since his return to Libya, most recently in March 2008. (Note: As reported … their previous visits were in January and May 2007).
Asked about the condition of his arm and his teeth, about which he had previously complained … al-Rimi said both were better. He repeated his earlier claim … that he sustained the injury to his arm in 2004 or 2005 during a scuffle with US soldiers who entered his cell to punish him for allegedly instigating a disturbance among several other prisoners.
At the time of the US visit, al-Rimi was awaiting a trial, and his understanding was that “he face[d] four charges: 1) membership in the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group; 2) membership in al-Qaeda; 3) forging a passport and travel documents and using them to exit the country, and; 4) failing to secure permission to exit the country when he left to fight in Afghanistan.”
In another visit, in September 2008, “Al-Rimi stated that he had received one family visit — his sisters came to see him in July — since our last meeting with him on June 10,” and “said he would like to receive more family visits, if possible.” Crucially, it was also noted:
In our previous meeting on June 10, al-Rimi said he understood his case was being deliberated at that time by a panel of judges, who were to render a verdict and issue a sentence on/about June 16. Al-Rimi said he was not present when his verdict and sentence were issued, but heard from other prisoners who were present in the courtroom on June 16 in connection with their own cases that he was found guilty of some charges (NFI) and sentenced to 25 years imprisonment … Al-Rimi has received no information from Libyan officials about his trial, verdict or sentence. He met with his court-appointed legal counsel on one occasion about two months before his reported conviction and sentencing on June 16, and has not heard from him since.
Finally, it is presumed that he was freed when Abu Salim was liberated in August this year, but his story has not been reported.
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, million-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:
Thanks, George. I can see that trying to keep people’s interest alive over a 70-part series of a million words is rather demanding! I’m always grateful for your interest, and that of my other indefatigable followers and supporters.
Nevertheless, although it’s hard work doing this series, it’s rewarding. I’m learning a lot about the workings of US intelligence, the absurd classification system at Guantanamo, and the particularly popular “informants,” whether willing or involuntary, who keep turning up in the files.
This latest article was challenging, as it yielded a number of “recidivist” stories (which also sidelined me into additional research for a forthcoming article), and also, at the very end, the story of a Libyan whose file was full of statements made by other Libyans held in secret CIA prisons, including Abdel Hakim Belhaj and Sami al-Saadi, whose stories recently came to light because the British were involved in their rendition to Gaddafi’s torture prisons.
George Kenneth Berger wrote:
My pleasure, Andy.
Thanks again, George. I also need to sort out funding to get all this information up on a brand-new website, rather than a blog, with separate profiles for all the prisoners, rather than a dozen or so profiles in each article, and a word count of between 10,000 and 15,000 words!
On Digg, wanacare wrote:
If we cared about the rights of “All Men, Women & Children and their Rights” we would have good governing and less torture, murder, devastation of lives and families. If you really want to know the Truth about Guantanamo read Andy Worthington’s writings.
Thanks, wanacare. Your support is much appreciated, as ever.
Andy, more excellent work, congratulations! Can I mention to your readers something about Mohamed Ben Moujane I think I might have mentioned before? There are many signs that the DoD was rushed when it released the files that contained transcripts from the captives’ CSR Tribunals on March 3rd, 2006.
One of those signs was that the versions of some of the files made available for download were silently replaced with modified versions. A document from Ben Moujane’s CSR Tribunal was the very last page of the very last file that contained transcripts and other documents from the Tribunals. As the last page in the last file I think whatever junior GI was scanning and compiling the documents for distribution made a mistake.
The last page of the last file, as originally distributed was a file we haven’t seen any other examples of. We have seen 179 memos from the Tribunals summarizing the unclassified justifications for further detention. Cruelly, all but one of these memos said that the unclassified “evidence” against the men was insufficient, and the officers had to rely on the classified evidence the captives were not allowed to learn or try to refute.
Originally, the last page of the last file was the CLASSIFIED summary of Ben Moujane’s tribunal.
Oh, why couldn’t the DoD just leave this page out, when they silently replaced the original file with the replacement file? Because each page in the entire set of CSR Tribunal transcripts has been given a sequential “bates number”. In the documents you will see some blank pages that sit where pages xxx to yyy should have been found, that say “pages xxx to yyy” were unused. This probably means a decision was made to withhold those pages. You will also find the occasional place where additional pages are added. Those page numbers will bear the number of page that preceded them , with a letter added to distinguish them from one another.
I think it is only because the page is the last page in its file that they had to generate a dubious replacement document to take the place of the original page 3959, as the name of the file included the starting and ending bates numbers of the pages it included.
It is transcribed and available for download from wikisource, as is the replacement document
I don’t know whether I should surrender to the temptation to call the replacement document a forgery.
The classified summary is much briefer than I would have expected. Most of the unclassified summaries are at least 2 pages long. Lots of them are 3 pages.
Ben Moujane’s classified summary refers to two classified documents, “exhibit R12”, and “exhibit R15”. The “R” means the Tribunal’s “Recorder” was responsible for presenting the document. In Tribunal-speak the officer who serves as the Recorder is a combination Prosecutor and Court Clerk. The actual recording of the Transcript is the responsibility of an enlisted GI.
Recorder exhibits 1 through 3, 4, or 5 are unclassified documents, like the “summary of evidence” allegation memos, and the remainder are classified. So, why is there no mention of the other classified documents in Ben Moujane’s classified summary?
It is reassuring that the Tribunal officers chose to discount Exhibit R-12, where they wrote:
“This document purports to be information regarding this Detainee, but the name of the person referred to in the document does not appear to be that of the Detainee in question or any of his known aliases.”
One has to wonder why the Recorder/Prosecutor included it, if it did not give any indication it was about Ben Moujane.
Regarding the replacement document — while the collected transcripts include lots of documents entitled “Summarized unsworn detainee statement” and lots of documents entitled “Sumarrized Sworn detainee statement”, this is the only “Summarized Unsworn Statement on Behalf of Detainee”.
The classified summary says his status was renewed by tribunal panel 1. He would have been one of the first captives to have his status reviewed. He may have been the first captive to have his status reviewed.
The 179 dossiers record which Tribunal panels reviewed which captives. Among those 179 captives there is no record of anyone else having their status reviewed by tribunal panel 1. Among those 179 there were 8 captives whose status was reviewed by tribunal panel 2, in August and September. The OARDEC officers must have been on short gigs as the highest numbered Tribunal panel is 34.
Andy, you have written many times of heroic Stephen Abraham.
Stephen Abraham sat on tribunal panel 23, which reviewed the status of Abdullah Hamid Abdalsalam Alghazawy, one of the captives initially determined to have been innocent, only to later have one of the infamous “do-overs”. Tribunal panel 23 is the only tribunal panel we definitively know only reviewed a single captive’s status before Admiral McGarrah shut it down. Those 179 dossiers document six other captives who had do-overs.
Andy, I will happily email you a table where I recorded which captives were seen by which panel, and the dates those panels convened.
Hi arcticredriver. Excellent work, as ever. Thank you very much for sharing your thoughts.
I would also be interested in seeing the table you compiled regarding the different CSRT panels.
I posted my notes on tribunal panels to
Interpolating, if there are indications of half a dozen “do-overs” in these 179 dossiers one might guess that there might be 3 times as many “do-overs” in the entire cohort of 558 captives whose status was considered by a CSR Tribunal.
There might be even more “do-overs” if there were captives whose “do-overs” weren’t recorded in their habeas dossier.
I didn’t record the date of the “convening order” memo for every panel. If that is useful, I should add the missing ones.
I could sort these records by date, if that would be useful.
Thanks, arcticredriver. That’s great research. I don’t know if date order for all the tribunals would show any kind of pattern, as I imagine that the panels acted independently of each other, but I may be wrong.
Writer, campaigner, investigative journalist and commentator. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
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