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 28 of the 70-part series. 348 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 featured another eleven stories, including some examples of prisoners who “returned to the battlefield” after their release, and the story of a Libyan prisoner whose fie is full of statements made by other Libyans, including Abdelhakim Belhaj, now active as a commander of the Libyan rebels, who were subjected to extraordinary rendition and torture in secret CIA prisons. Part Four told eleven more stories, of prisoners seized, for a variety of reasons, crossing from Afghanistan to Pakistan after the US-led invasion in October 2001, and Part Five featured more of those stories, including four accounts of the Uighurs, Muslims from China’s oppressed Xinjiang province, who persuaded the US they were held by mistake, but had to wait until 2006 to be freed, when they were resettled in Albania, and not in the US, which accepted that it could not return them to China, but refused to allow them to live in America. Part Six involved more stories of Saudis and Afghans, including the particularly unfortunate story of a Saudi-born Uighur, who was tortured by Al-Qaida for allegedly plotting to assassinate Osama bin Laden, liberated from a Taliban prison, and then sent to Guantánamo. Part Seven featured more Saudis, a Yemeni, two Kazakhs, an Iranian and some Afghans, including some prisoners with serious mental health issues (and one juvenile prisoner), and the sad — and unresolved — story of Mani al-Utaybi, another of the three prisoners who died in June 2006, and this part features more mental health issues, another juvenile, three men sent to live in Albania because it was not safe for them to be returned to their home countries, and the last of the three prisoners who died in June 2006. Also see Part Nine and Part Ten.
Abdullah Al Qahtani (ISN 652, Saudi Arabia) Released May 2006
In Chapter 14 of The Guantánamo Files, I explained how, after his release, Abdullah al-Qahtani, who was 22 years old at the time of his capture, told the newspaper Asharq Alawsat that, in Afghanistan, he had taken part in the Taliban’s military conflict, which he described as “skirmishes with the Russians and allies such as Ahmad Shah Massoud,” and also said that, after the US-led invasion began, he and a number of other Arabs negotiated a surrender with the Northern Alliance, and were surprised when they were handed over to the Americans.” In contrast, the Pentagon’s limited allegations are here.
In the documents released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, the file relating to al-Qahtani was a “Recommendation [for] Transfer to the Control of Another Country for Continued Detention (TRCD),” dated December 3, 2004, in which he was also identified as Abdulla Hamid al-Qahtani and Abdullah Mohammed, born in 1979, and it was also noted that he had latent TB, in common with many of the prisoners, but refused therapy “after three treatments.” It was also noted that he had “been seen for tooth decay” and “had a left 5th metatarsal fracture (foot) noted on x-ray after ankle injury,” for which he “received therapy” — for “chronic ankle pain.”
In telling his story, the Joint Task Force noted that, after one year of high school, “he worked for his father in a family owned business,” and then, in January 2001, met Abdallah Aiza al-Matrafi (ISN 5, released in December 2007, and also identified as Abdul Aziz al-Matrafi) who was identified as “the national director of Al-Wafa in Afghanistan/Pakistan.” A Saudi-based charity which was demonstrably involved in humanitarian work in Afghanistan, Al-Wafa was also regarded as a front for terrorism, and was blacklisted by the US, and defined by the Intelligence Interagency on Counter Terrorism (IITC) “as a Tier 2 NGO,” meaning an organization that has “demonstrated the intent and willingness to support terrorist organizations willing to attack US persons or interests.”
Al-Matrafi apparently recruited al-Qahtani, and his cousin Jabir al-Qahtani (ISN 650, released in November 2007), “to establish an Al-Wafa organisation in Lahore, Pakistan,” and in early February 2001 gave him $200 for travel expenses. After he and his cousin took a three-week vacation in Egypt, they met al-Matrafi in Lahore in April 2001, and “were driven to a large storage facility in Lahore,” where al-Matrafi told them “they would be accountable for all goods received from the United Arab Emirates and take regular inventories.” They apparently “lived on the second floor of the storage facility and were told by [al-Matrafi] to keep a low profile and not to be seen by the local populace.” Al-Jabrani explained that he “was told this [was] because he was a foreigner and it would make people in the area suspicious,” and said that he was also “introduced to a local Pakistani, Muhammad Gola, who was the acting director of the Al-Wafa office in Lahore, PK, and was told if he needed anything [to] talk to Gola.”
In September 2001, having not been paid, al-Qahtani said that he asked al-Matrafi “to pay him so he could travel back to Saudi Arabia,” and al-Matrafi told him that “if they travel[ed] to Afghanistan they would be paid the back wages plus any time worked while in Afghanistan.” He and his cousin agreed and traveled to Kabul, where they met al-Matrafi “in his villa” in the Wazir Akbar Khan District of Kabul, and where, according to al-Qahtani, he “was only paid $3000.00 USD.” He and his cousin then “continued working for Al-Wafa in the Wazir Akbar Khan District until captured by Northern Alliance on [sic] November 2001.”
He was sent to Guantánamo on May 3, 2002, allegedly to “provide information on the following: Activities of the Al-Wafa organisation under Abdul Aziz aka Abdallah Aiza al-Matrafi, Aspects of Al-Wafa funnelling financial support to illicit purposes, Lahore, PK, and Kabul, AF, offices of Al-Wafa [and] Recruitment procedures and network for Al-Wafa in Mecca, SA.”
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 Chris Mackey, 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.
Given what he said after his release, it may be worth considering that, in this latter period, he may not have been working for Al-Wafa as he stated, but I see no reason to dispute the whole of the story of his humanitarian work with Al-Wafa, although this is what the Task Force did. Noting that he was assessed as being “affiliated with Al-Wafa” and “a member of Al-Qaida and/or its global terrorist network,” the US authorities were deeply suspicious about al-Qahtani’s claim that he “was promised over $6000.00 USD for working six months in Pakistan,” which was regarded as “an excessive amount of money since the average employee of Al Wafa was paid between $250- $300 USD per month.” It was claimed that Al Wafa “was known for providing money transfers for Al-Qaida” (although this allegation was never actually tested in an objective manner), and that, as a result, it was “possible that [al-Qahtani] was involved in that activity or distributing money to Mujahideen as they were exiting Afghanistan.”
In addition, it was noted that it had been “assessed that he [was] possibly a higher-ranking employee in the Al-Wafa or other extremist organization and received weapons training at Al-Wafa’s training camp in Kabul, Afghanistan (AF), and did not work in an alleged ‘warehouse’ in Lahore, PK, which research has proven to be non-existent.”
As a result of all these doubts, al-Qahtani was assessed as being “of medium intelligence value,” and of posing “a medium risk, as he may possibly pose a threat to the US, its interests and allies.” It was also noted that he was “assessed as a high force protection threat,” with “a past history of aggressive behaviour,” and “multiple acts of assault on his disciplinary record,” who had “routinely been aggressive and ha[d] two incidents of forced cell extractions,” had “incited disturbances on many different blocks and fail[ed] to act within the detention facility SOP.” As a result, Brig. Gen. Jay W. Hood, the commander of Guantánamo at the time, recommended him for transfer to continued detention in Saudi Arabia, although he was not released for another 17 months, when he was repatriated to be put through the Saudi government’s rehabilitation program.
Khudaidad (ISN 655, Afghanistan) Released February 2006
In Chapter 14 of The Guantánamo Files, I explained how Khudaidad (aka Khudai Dad), who was 45 years old at the time of his capture, was seized in a night-time raid by Afghan soldiers in Uruzgan in April 2002. It was alleged that his compound was used by Mullah Berader, a senior figure in the Taliban, that he himself was a Taliban official and that he was supposed to “assume a prominent leadership role in Kandahar,” but he said that he was actually just a poor farmer.
In the documents released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, the file relating to Khudaidad was an “Update Recommendation to Retain under DoD Control,” dated March 6, 2004, in which he was identified as Kudai Dat, born in 1957, and it was noted that he had been “diagnosed with Schizophrenia,” although it was also claimed that he was “otherwise in good health.”
In fact, Khudaidad had severe mental health problems, as was revealed in an attachment from the “JTF GTMO Behavioral Health Service and the Behavioral Science Consultation Team,” who reported that he “began to report symptoms of anxiety in November 2002, which resulted in his being hospitalized for acute symptoms of psychosis.” In January 2003, “he was referred to the transfer assessment team, which conducted a final interrogation,” and “was not interrogated again” for several months “while his file was being processed.” According to JTF GTMO’s daily incident reports, “he often refused his medication during this period,” but “[h]is condition improved, and he was cleared for a polygraph examination.” However, when this was to take place, he “began to have hallucinations again, and the polygraphers determined he was mentally unfit to examine.” It was also noted that it was “consistent with a diagnosis of Schizophrenia, controlled with medication, for an individual to react to increased stress with psychotic symptoms.”
In July 2003, “he was started on a monthly dose of an antipsychotic to assist with compliance with his medication regimen.” It was noted that he then “responded well” to monthly does of Haldol Decanoate, and was “free of psychosis.” However, it was also noted that he could “be expected to experience intermittent difficulties related to psychosis over time without constant supervision of medication compliance,” and would “require continued psychiatric follow-up upon return to his native country.” Regarding his planned repatriation, it was noted that he would “require a mental health escort and supplemental medications ‘as needed’ in-flight,” and it was also noted that “[h]is long-term prognosis appear[ed] poor.”
Despite this, the “Update Recommendation,” following up on a recommendation that he be “considered for release or transfer to the control of another movement,” which was based on an assessment that he “was not affiliated with Al-Qaida or a Taliban leader” (dated March 22, 2003), included “New Information,” which led to Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller’s recommendation that he be retained in DoD control, and was “contrary to his statements that he [was] nothing more than a farmer.”
According to “sensitive reporting,” which was not specified, Khudaidad was “referred to as a Mullah,” and “was possibly involved in negotiations between Mullah Omar and other Pashtun commanders for control of Kandahar during the disintegration of the Taliban regime.” According to this account, he “would have been acting in a leadership position,” but this was not convincing, given the use of the word “possibly.”
It was also noted that, “according to new information,” his claim that “he had only two brothers,” was untrue, as “he may have as many as seven brothers,” although, again, this was not presented as a hard fact. Related to this was a claim that he “supplied biographical information on a senior Taliban facilitator by the name of ‘Zainullah,'” who was regarded as a “possible brother” of his.
In addition, although it could not be confirmed that there was any significance to the claim that the compound where he was seized was “identified as the last known location of Mullah Berader and other top Taliban commanders,” and Khudaidad “denie[d] any knowledge of these individuals or of Taliban involvement in his town,” it was noted that his home “remain[ed] the center of Taliban resistance to the current government of Afghanistan,” and the authorities were deeply suspicious about that.
In conclusion, the Task Force assessed him as being “of medium intelligence value,” and of posing “a medium risk as he may pose a threat to the US, its interests or its allies.” It was also noted, evidently by the guard force, and evidently without having ever been apprised of his severe mental health issues, that he had “shown by his actions in the cell that he ha[d] little regard for himself and [would] not listen to authority,” and that he had “refused medications, banged his head against the floor, exposed himself to others, and in general ha[d] been non-compliant.” Most alarmingly, given what was indicated elsewhere about his mental health, it was also noted that, “at many times, [he] trie[d] to make it appear that he [was] suffering from a mental breakdown,” when, in fact, he probably was.
As a result of the Task Force’s intelligence and threat assessments, Maj. Gen. Miller made his recommendation, although the Criminal Investigative Task Force (CITF) disagreed, having assessed him as a low risk. 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.” CITF’s opinion may eventually have prevailed, but not for another 23 months.
Rashid Al Uwaydah (ISN 664, Saudi Arabia) Released May 2006
In “The Guantánamo Files: Website Extras (9) – Seized in Pakistan (Part One),” I explained how Rashid al-Uwaydah, who was 25 years old at the time of his capture, said in Guantánamo that he arrived in Pakistan in July 2001 “to escape possible arrest by the Saudi authorities for drug dealing,” but hoped nevertheless to buy drugs in Pakistan to sell in Saudi Arabia. After losing his passport, he was arrested in Islamabad with some Libyans he had met, who, he said, were from an official group recognized by the Libyan government, but who the Americans claimed were “helping Arabs get out of Pakistan.” It has not, to date, been possible to identify what happened to the Libyans seized with al-Uwaydah.
In the documents released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, the file relating to al-Uwaydah was a “Recommendation [for] Transfer to the Control of Another Country for Continued Detention (TRCD),” dated October 15, 2004, in which he was also identified as Rashid Awwad Rashid al-Uwaydha, born in 1976, and it was noted that he was “in good health, although he complain[ed] of acid reflux.”
In telling his story, the Joint Task Force noted that he said, as he did in his review board at Guantánamo, that he “left Saudi Arabia to avoid being arrested for selling and smuggling pills in Saudi Arabia,” and “was advised by a Pakistani hashish smuggler” to go to Pakistan, where he was provided with a contact. He apparently arrived in Pakistan in June 2001, and planned to stay for a month before returning to Saudi Arabia.
Al-Uwaydah said that “he never attended any Taliban or Al-Qaida (AQ) affiliated training camps,” either in Pakistan or in Afghanistan, where, he said, he had never set foot. On approximately January 20, 2002, he was arrested by the Pakistani police “while residing at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Islamabad.” He was transferred to US custody on April 5, 2002, and the circumstances of his transfer to Guantánamo were not known to the Task Force, as it was stated that he was sent to Guantánamo on January 14, 2002, which was obviously impossible, and, in addition, it was “not documented in [his] file why he was sent to JTF GTMO.”
In assessing his story, the Joint Task Force noted, bluntly, that his “cover story of going to Pakistan to buy drugs and never entering Afghanistan [was] untrue,” although there was little information provided to establish if this was indeed the case. The Task Force noted that it was “unclear if [he] was arrested with a group of Libyans that were operating in the same hotel,” as he claimed, but the US authorities had no witnesses to any of his activities, only a few dubious claims that his name was found on Al-Qaida-related documents recovered from house raids.
Particularly significant was the fact that his name “was listed as one of 77 Saudi nationals whom a visiting Saudi Delegation considered to be of low intelligence value,” and “indicated the Government of Saudi Arabia would be willing to have these 77 detainees transferred to Saudi Custody for possible prosecution.”
In conclusion, the Task Force assessed him as being “of medium intelligence value,” and of posing “a medium to high risk, as he is likely to pose a threat to the US, its interests and allies,” although it should be noted that he was assessed as being a high risk, and the words “medium to” were added in a hand-written note. In assessing the risk he allegedly posed, the Task Force claimed that he “appear[ed] to be well connected to key facilitators in the Al-Qaida’s [sic] intemational terrorist network, ha[d] probably participated in terrorist training and hostilities against the US and coalition forces, and maintain[ed] the capability to continue to do so if released,” and therefore, it was “imperative” that he be “retained in the custody of the US Government or the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Govenment,” because his “continued detention [would] allow for further exploitation of his past affiliation with various terrorist groups and prevent him from engaging in further terrorist activity.”
The Task Force also declared him to be “an extremely hostile, radical Islamic,” whose threat assessment was “high,” because he had “a past history of aggressive behaviour,” had “aggressively assaulted the guards and ha[d] made many threats towards the guards.” As a result, it was perhaps surprising that Brig. Gen. Jay W. Hood, the commander of Guantánamo at the time, recommended him for transfer to continued detention in Saudi Arabia, although it was noted that this decision only applied “if a satisfactory agreement can be reached that allows access to detainee and/or access to exploited intelligence,” and that, “If a satisfactory agreement cannot be reached for his continued detention in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, he should be retained under DoD control.”
The Criminal Investigative Task Force (CITF) disagreed, having assessed him as “a medium risk on 7 May 2004,” but CITF deferred to JTF GTMO’s assessment that he posed “a medium to high risk,” in “the interest of national security and pursuant to an agreement between the CITF and JTF GTMO Commanders,” but even with the Task Force’s conditions, he was not released for another 19 months, and was then put through the Saudi government’s rehabilitation program.
Zakirjan Asam (ISN 672, Russia) Released in November 2006 (in Albania)
In The Guantánamo Files, I explained how Zakirjan Asam (aka Zakirjan Hassam), from Saratov Oblast, part of the Russian Federation bordering Kazakhstan, who was 27 years old at the time of his capture, was one of three prisoners released in Albania in November 2006 because the US authorities feared for their safety if they were returned to their home countries, although he was actually cleared for release in 2005. He was one of the 38 prisoners cleared of being “enemy combatants” after the Combatant Status Review Tribunals at Guantánamo which took place from July 2004 to March 2005, and which led to the swift release of all 38, except a Uighur and Saudi resident, Saddiq Ahmed Turkistani (ISN 491, profiled here), and those who could not be safely repatriated — five Uighurs profiled in Part Four and Part Five, and the two others released in Albania in November 2006, who are profiled below — the Egyptian Ala Salim (ISN 716), and the Algerian Fethi Boucetta (ISN 718).
In Chapter 14, I explained how Asam, a refugee, said in Guantánamo that he was deported from Kazakhstan to Afghanistan in spring 2001, and was betrayed, after the US-led invasion began, by Afghan villagers anxious to avail themselves of the reward money offered by the Americans for vulnerable individuals who could be passed off as members of Al-Qaida or the Taliban. He explained that the inhabitants of two villages in Kunduz province negotiated between themselves and asked him to pay them a $3,000 bribe or they would hand him over to the Americans. He said that “they knew they could sell me to the Americans for $5,000,” and that they explained to him that “because I am a Muslim they lowered the price for me.”
In the documents released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, the file relating to Asam was an “Update Recommendation [for] Transfer to the Control of Another Country for Continued Detention (TRCD),” dated March 25, 2005, in which he was misidentified as an Uzbek, and it was noted that he was born in May 1974. It was also noted that he “was diagnosed with a major depressive disorder with psychotic features and a non-specific psychosis,” and that he “suffer[ed] from migraine headaches.” It was also noted that he was taking “three psychiatric medications to control his illness,” and that the only restriction on his ability to travel (in other words, to be released from Guantánamo) was the requirement “to have his migraine and psychiatric medications available for the flight.”
In telling his story, the Joint Task Force noted that, according to his own account, after working as an auto mechanic, he moved to Kazakhstan in 1999, where he “was employed as a wheat farmer and construction laborer” until the spring of 2001, when Kazakh officials arrested him “due to lack of identification paperwork.” He was then apparently turned over to Tajik government officials “and was housed for two and a half months in a house with two unarmed guards,” before being “placed on a helicopter with a ‘Red Crescent’ emblem on the side and flown to Afghanistan,” where he was “put in a truck and transported to Kunduz.”
There, he said, he studied in a mosque, and, from May to November 2001, shared a house outside of the city “with eight women and three other males,” where he “maintained the generator for room and board.” When the US-led invasion reached Kunduz, he “fled to the mountains where he stayed for three days,” until Northern Alliances forces captured him “while he and two Uzbek-ethnic Afghans were sitting by a fire,” although “he was the only individual arrested.”
He was then taken to Dasht-e-Archi, where he was held in a house with “a group of unidentified Afghans for 25 days,” and where his captors said that, if he could raise $300, he would be freed. They then “released him to be able to acquire the funds,” but he “was later recaptured and jailed for one month before being turned over to US forces.” He was sent to Guantánamo on June 14, 2002, on the spurious basis that it was to “provide information on the following: IMU [Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan] and their activities in Tajikistan and Afghanistan.”
In assessing his story, the Task Force noted that Asam was “assessed as being a probable member of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan,” although no witnesses were found who had identified him, and all that the Task Force had to go on were similarities to the stories of others, which is hardly very convincing. It may be that he was an IMU recruit, as his story was full of holes, although there were certainly also a number of other strange stories circulating, concerning Afghanistan, the IMU and the countries to the north, indicating that men like Asam had been deported to Afghanistan, or deported and pressed into military service, meaning that his willingness, if he was indeed recruited, was difficult to gauge.
Above all, though, his mental health problems plagued his case, and, it seems to me, made any kind of objective assessment impossible. He was assessed as being “of medium intelligence value,” and of posing “a medium risk, as he is likely to pose a threat to the US, its interests and allies,” but part of that assessment involved a claim that his “psychological disorders may make him vulnerable to recruitment or manipulation by Islamic extremist organisations, who would exploit this vulnerability to utilize him to conduct terrorist activities.” It was also noted, in an analysis of his conduct (presumably submitted by the guard force) that he was “extremely violent and ha[d] been labeled as a psychiatric patient,” that he had “a past history of aggressive behaviour,” and that he had “six self-harm incident reports on record.”
Although it had been recommended that he be retained in DoD control on December 20, 2003, Brig. Gen. Hood drew on “information obtained since [his] previous assessment” to recommend that he be transferred to another country for continued detention, although this “information” was not specified. Of course, as the government evidently regarded it as unsafe to return him to Russia, the transfer recommendation was meaningless, as no third country would accept a former prisoner and then imprison them on America’s behalf. As a result, the trigger for his release was the decision, by his Combatant Status Review Tribunal, that he was not an “enemy combatant,” although it still took over a year and a half for a country to be found — Albania — that was prepared to accept him.
Since his release, no information has been provided regarding his mental health issues or how he has coped with his new life in a country that has offered him shelter, but very little in the way of support.
Salah Ahmed Al Salami (ISN 693, Yemen) Died in Guantánamo June 2006
As I explained in Chapter 19 of The Guantánamo Files, al-Salami (generally identified in Guantánamo as Ali Abdullah Ahmed), who was 25 years old at the time of his capture in Afghanistan in December 2001, was one of three prisoners who died at Guantánamo on June 9, 2006. having allegedly hanged themselves in a coordinated suicide pact. The other two were Yasser al-Zahrani, a Saudi (who was just 17 at the time of his capture), and Mani al-Utaybi, another Saudi, and all three were long-term hunger strikers, who had been force-fed on a daily basis for many months before their deaths.
The administration’s response to the deaths was extraordinarily callous. Rear Adm. Harry Harris, the commander of Guantánamo, said, “This was not an act of desperation, but an act of asymmetric warfare committed against us,” and Colleen Graffy, the deputy assistant secretary of state for public diplomacy, described the suicides as a “good PR move to draw attention.” Stung by international criticism, the administration rapidly back-tracked, and Cully Stimson, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs, was put forward to say, “I wouldn’t characterize it as a good PR move. What I would say is that we are always concerned when someone takes his own life, because as Americans, we value life, even the lives of violent terrorists who are captured waging war against our country.”
In an attempt to stifle further dissent, and to bolster their view that the three men were hardened terrorists, the Pentagon released details of the allegations against them, which served only to highlight almost everything that was wrong with the system at Guantánamo. In the case of al-Salami, one of 15 men seized in a raid on a student house in Faisalabad on March 28, 2002, the same night that Abu Zubaydah, who was later tortured and became one of the CIA’s most notorious “ghost prisoners,” was seized. After al-Salami’s death, the Pentagon alleged, without providing any evidence at all, that he was “a mid- to high-level Al-Qaida operative who had key ties to principal facilitators and senior members of the group.”
Although none of the men had taken part in any tribunals, more detailed allegations against al-Salami surfaced in the alleged evidence against him in his CSRT, although a close inspection of the allegations reveals that they were mostly made by unidentified “members” of Al-Qaida, either in Guantánamo or in other secret prisons: “a senior Al-Qaida facilitator” identified him, another senior Al-Qaida figure — a “lieutenant” — identified him as being “associated with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed,” the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, and the “Al-Qaida weapons trainer from Tora Bora” allegedly identified him from his time in Kabul and at the Khaldan training camp. He was also identified as “an Al-Qaida courier,” and as someone who “worked directly for Osama bin Laden’s family.” Shorn of these allegations, which summon up images of various supposedly “significant” prisoners being shown photos of tier fellow prisoners — in what was known as the “family album” — in painful circumstances, the only other allegation was that the “Issa” guest house received the equivalent of jihadi junk mail: apparently, the residents of the house “routinely received endorsement letters from a well-known Al-Qaida operative” to attend the Khaldan camp.
In the documents released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, the file relating to al-Salami was a “Recommendation to Retain under DoD Control,” dated October 1, 2004, in which he was not identified by his real name, but only as Ali Abdullah Ahmed and Ali Abdullah Saleh, and it was noted that he was born in August 1979, and was “in good health,” although it was also noted that he had “a history of hunger striking and nephrolithiasis (kidney stones).”
In telling his story, the Joint Task Force noted that, according to his own account, he “was a street vendor who sold clothing,” but “had been thinking about religious education for a long time and was prompted to travel to Pakistan to receive this education upon hearing God’s calling.” Around May 2001, “he quit his job, left his young wife, spent $500 USD on a passport, visa, and plane ticket,” which “was good for a return trip up to one year after purchase,” and flew from Sana’a to Karachi.”
After a week in Karachi, he took a bus to Faisalabad, where he “enrolled in Jamea Salafia University and began religious studies.” He said that he “was living in on-campus dormitories for five to six months,” but, about one month after the 9/11 attacks, “was asked to move out of the dorms on-campus,” and, “with several other Arab students, moved to an off-campus safehouse ran [sic] by a man named Issa.” He explained that, by the end of March 2002, he “was planning on staying in Pakistan until his plane ticket was just about to expire (another month and a half), but his plans were cut short” when Pakistani authorities raided the house, which was identified as the Crescent Textile Mill, on March 28, 2002.
He was then turned over to US authorities, and was sent to Guantánamo on June 19, 2002, on the spurious basis that it was to “provide information on: The safehouse in Faisalabad, PK, which was used to house foreign students who were attending the Jamea Salafia University [and] Routes of ingress between Yemen and Pakistan.”
In assessing his story, the Task Force stated its belief that he was “using the guise of studying Islam at the Jamea Salafia University while residing at the Issa safehouse as a cover story to conceal his true activities in Pakistan/Afghanistan.” An analyst pointed out that the Jamea Salafia University was “a religious madrassa (school) and not a state-funded or state-regulated school,” and that “[r]eligious madrassas in Pakistan are perceived to encourage militancy, religious extremism, and intolerance while thriving on anti-Western sentiment,” which may well have been true, but it did not mean that al-Salami was not a student.
It was also noted that he was captured “with fifteen others, many of whom have been identified by senior Al-Qaida personnel,” although this claim was extremely difficult to corroborate. What was clear was that Abu Zubaydah had some sort of connection with the house, but it was unclear exactly what that connection was, beyond being a place where, on occasion, men fleeing Afghanistan — whether as combatants of civilians was unclear — could be housed.
It was certainly not appropriate for the Task Force to declare that “The Issa safehouse was under the control of Abu Zubaydah, an Al-Qaida top lieutenant and aid to Osama bin Laden,” as the house was under the control of the Pakistani named Issa, and the claims about Zubaydah were and are wildly exaggerated.
As a result, it was worth regarding with skepticism an analyst’s note that, although “[s]everal Arabs captured at the Issa safehouse ha[d] used the same rigid cover story that they were merely educating themselves and studying Islam,” it was possible that “the house could have been used as a collection point for Al-Qaida members seeking and returning from Al-Qaida terrorist training.”
There are also grave doubts about the legitimacy of a raft of other claims made by Zubaydah and others seized with him in another house raid in Faisalabad on March 28, 2002. Zubaydah, for example, allegedly “identified” al-Salami, claiming that he had seen him in Kandahar with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and that “he might have seen detainee in Kandahar three or four times,” but there is no reason to trust this statement, and nor is there any reason to trust a statement made by Abu Yasir Al-Jaza’iri, described as “a senior Al-Qaida facilitator,” who “identified” al-Salami, and made a number of outlandish claims about him, as al-Jaza’iri was a “ghost prisoner,” also seized in Pakistan in March 2003, whose whereabouts have never been explained by the US government. Either held in secret CIA torture prisons, or in Pakistani custody, his testimony is, therefore, probably as unreliable as that of Abu Zubaydah.
Al-Jaza’iri apparently said that al-Salami’s cousin was arrested on arrival in Karachi in 1999 “due to visa violation issues,” and al-Salami “was sent by the family to secure his cousin’s release from jail.” He also said that he first met al-Salami at a guesthouse in Kandahar in the spring of 2000 and “place[d] him back in Pakistan in late 2000 assisting in efforts to release his cousin.” It was also al-Jaza’iri who claimed that he was “an Al-Qaida courier,” and he also claimed that he “was the younger brother of Assadallah al-Sindhi, a popular Al-Qaida member killed in 1996,” and also, most outrageously, it seems to me, that al-Salami “and his cousin Nadim were responsible for caring for the logistics of the families of [Osama bin Laden]’s son-in-laws, Awa al-Madani and Abdallah al-Madani, that included travel arrangements, lodging, and healthcare arrangements.” An analyst noted that this claim “establishe[d] the detainee’s stature in relation to UBL and adds validity to Zubaydah’s statements identifying that detainee associated with Senior Al-Qaida Operational Planner KSM,” but it does no such thing, as there is no indication that any of it is true.
Other dubious claims were made by Noor Uthman Muhammed (ISN 707, captured with Zubyadah), and described as the “Al-Qaida trainer from Tora Bora,” who allegedly identified al-Salami as having been in Kabul and at the Khaldan camp, although no further details were provided to corroborate his claims, and Walid bin Attash (ISN 10014), another “high-value detainee” held in secret CIA prisons, and sent to Guantánamo in September 2006 with Zubaydah, KSM and 11 others. Bin Attash, described as a “senior Al-Qaida operational planner,” said that he “recognized detainee by his distinct birthmark, but cannot remember any details,” which is also meaningless as an allegation.
In conclusion, the Task Force assessed him as being “of medium to high intelligence value,” and of posing “a high risk, as he is likely to pose a threat to the US, its interests and allies.” It was also noted that he had “a history of aggressive behaviour in the camp, often defiantly failing to comply with instructions.” As a result, Brig. Gen. Hood recommended that he be retained under DoD control, and he went on to resume the “history of hunger striking” and resistance to his detention identified in his file until his death 20 months later. What is particularly sad, reading through this file, is that, although JTF GTMO notified the Criminal Investigative Task Force of its recommendations on October 1, 2004, CITF did not agree, having “assessed [him] as a low risk on 12 April 2004.”
In spite of the government’s official account of the men’s deaths, the claim that they committed suicide was doubted by their fellow prisoners at the time, and also by other commentators, although it was not until December 2009 and January 2010 that serious doubts were expressed in a concerted and thoroughly researched manner.
In December 2009, the Seton Hall Law School in New Jersey published a 136-page report, “Death in Camp Delta” (PDF), which comprehensively undermined the conclusion of the official investigation by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, and in January 2010, Harper’s Magazine published an extraordinary article by law professor Scott Horton (which I discussed here), revealing the story of Army Staff Sgt. Joe Hickman, and a number of other soldiers — the tower guards who “had the responsibility and ability to observe all activity in the camp, [but] were not interviewed” by the NCIS — who suggested that, earlier in the evening on which the men allegedly committed suicide, they had been taken from the cell block in which they were held to a secret facility outside the main perimeter fence of Guantánamo — known to the soldiers as “Camp No” — where they had either been deliberately killed, or had a died as the result of particularly brutal torture sessions. “They didn’t die in their cells,” Sgt. Hickman explained to me in March 2010.
Despite these claims, the Justice Department shut the door on a proposed inquiry in November 2009, and an attempt by family members (including al-Zahrani’s father) to pursue accountability in the US courts was turned down in September 2010, and is currently being appealed.
Jamal Kiyemba (ISN 701, Uganda) Released February 2006
In Chapter 13 of The Guantánamo Files, I explained how Jamal Kiyemba, who was 22 years old at the time of his capture, was born in Uganda, but had been a British resident since the age of 14, when he was granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK following the death of his father and came to live in the UK with his mother, eventually embarking on a degree in pharmacy at Leicester De Montfort University that he never completed.
Although he lived in the UK for eight years, Kiyemba never claimed British citizenship, and on his release, he was sent to Uganda, and home secretary Charles Clarke prohibited him from setting foot in the UK again. As was reported in an article about him in the Mail on Sunday after his release, he told his lawyer Clive Stafford Smith, the director of the legal action charity Reprieve, “I may not be British according to some bit of paper but in reality I am a Brit and always will be. My doctor, my local mosque, my teens, my education, employment, friends, taxes, home and above all else my family — it is all in Britain.” In contrast to this account, the limited allegations against him in Guantánamo are available here.
Kiyemba was arrested in March 2002 in Pakistan, where he went to study Arabic and the Koran because it was “very cheap,” without ever having set foot in Afghanistan, although he admitted that he was taught how to use a Kalashnikov by a Pakistani he met, and that he “left England with the intention of finding a way to fight jihad” in Afghanistan, “to defend the Muslims who were being killed.” After his arrest, he was held for two months, beaten by Pakistani intelligence officers, threatened with torture and then transferred to Bagram.
In Chapter 14, I explained how, in describing Bagram, Kiyemba recalled a 48-hour period, when he was “hung on the door for two hours and then allowed to sit for half an hour but never allowed to sleep,” and was then taken for interrogation for two hours at a time, adding, “I had to kneel on the cold concrete throughout the interrogations with my cuffed hands above my head.” He was also interviewed by MI5 officers, who showed him photos of supposed terrorists in the UK and told him they would only be able to help him if he helped them, but he didn’t know any of them. He recognized Abu Hamza and Abu Qatada, but had only ever seen them on TV.
In the documents released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, the file relating to Kiyemba was an “Administrative Review Board Input,” dated November 3, 2004, in which the Joint Task Force recommended that he be “transferred to the control of another country for continued detention,” following his last assessment, dated August 2, 2004, in which he was actually recommended for “Release or transfer to the control of another country for continued detention (TRCD).” The full details of this assessment were not included , although it was noted that he was assessed as being of low intelligence value, and of posing a medium risk.
In assessing his threat level, the Task Force claimed that he was “an admitted jihadist who attempted travel to Afghanistan following the 9/11 attacks,” and that he was “committed to defending Islamic nations against aggression, citing any system like democracy which tries to end Islamic law is worthy of Jihad against it,” and “adding that such systems are ultimately oppressive.”
It was also claimed that he “had acquired support in the UK and abroad from tiered organisations” including the vast, apolitical missionary organization Jamaat al-Tablighi (which was regarded by the US authorities as a front for terrorism), and the Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Tayiba, and, additionally, it was claimed that he “received military training in the use of the AK-47 while in Peshawar, PK, from support members belonging to the LET.”
It was also noted that “Pakistani police arrested [him] near Peshawar where he was attempting to enter Afghanistan with three other men who also ended up in Guantánamo — Mohammed al-Amin (ISN 706, a Mauritanian released in September 2007, but described as having been “assessed as a low level jihadist”), Mustafa al-Hassan (ISN 719, a Sudanese prisoner released in October 2008, but described as “a suspected Al-Qaida operative”), and Amir Yacoub al-Amir (ISN 720, another Sudanese prisoner, released in May 2008, but “assessed as a probable Al-Qaida operative”).
On his return to Uganda, Kiyemba was “confined to a ‘safe house'” for two months, according to the Ugandan press, although it would seem fairer to explain that he was held under a form of house arrest for this period. On April 17, 2006, he told a reporter, Emmy Allio, “I am now a very happy man because I am free to live my life. I have visited all my relatives. This is the first time I am free since 2002.” He also said, “I did not expect anything good in Uganda but I was instead treated quite fairly. I thank the Uganda security for being good to me. I thank all Muslims in Uganda and elsewhere who have been praying for me.”
He added, “Last week, the Uganda security told me that I am a free man. The officer told me, ‘You are free to go out and live your life but be careful with wrong groups out there.'” A security source told the reporter that the Ugandan government “did not find any cause to continue to detain him,” although the official added, “He is a free man, but we shall nab him if he falls in wrong groups.”
Even so, as the reporter described it, “his joy upon being released has quickly brought misery. Kiyemba is afraid of the future, saying he does not know what to do, having dropped out of university in 2001 to join ‘an Islamic cause against western imperialists in Afghanistan’ after the Taliban fell.” At the time, he said, “I was ready to assist my brothers there in any possible way, financially or by holding a gun, to defend them,” but now, he said, “I am looking for a job. I want to complete the university course. I want to be independent. I need help. I am determined to complete my studies but I need my independence. I need to sustain myself, not be a burden to relatives.”
He was unwilling to speak about his experiences in US custody, stating only, “In Guantánamo Bay, it was more of psychological torture. As a Muslim, you must be prepared to suffer and die for your religion. Being in Guantánamo Bay taught me one thing: to be patient and to put my trust in God.”
There have been no recent reports about Jamal Kiyemba.
Ala Salim (ISN 716, Egypt) Released November 2006 (in Albania)
In The Guantánamo Files, I explained how Ala Salim (aka Allah Saleem), a religious scholar who was 34 years old at the time of his capture, was one of three prisoners released in Albania in November 2006 because the US authorities feared for their safety if they were returned to their home countries, although he was actually cleared for release in 2005. He was one of the 38 prisoners cleared of being “enemy combatants” after the Combatant Status Review Tribunals at Guantánamo which took place from July 2004 to March 2005, and which led to the swift release of all 38, except a Uighur and Saudi resident, Saddiq Ahmed Turkistani (ISN 491, profiled here), and those who could not be safely repatriated — five Uighurs profiled in Part Four and Part Five, and the two others released in Albania in November 2006, who are profiled in this article — the Russian Zakirjan Asam (ISN 672, see above), and the Algerian Fethi Boucetta (ISN 718, see below).
In Chapter 13, I explained, drawing on the Pentagon’s documents, how Salim was one of several dozen prisoners seized in house raids in Pakistan in 2002 (mainly in April and May) who were mostly working for charities regarded by the US authorities as fronts for terrorism. Those seized were, in general, office workers or teachers, but in some cases people who just happened to live at an address regarded as a house where “terror suspects” were being “harbored” were also seized.
Salim, who became an influential figure to the Arabs in Guantánamo, had lived until the age of 22 in Egypt, where, like thousands of other young men, he was arrested several times but never charged, and after living in Saudi Arabia he moved to Pakistan, where he was distributing humanitarian aid to Afghanistan for the International Islamic Relief Organization at the time of his capture.
In an interview conducted for McClatchy Newspapers’ major report on 66 released Guantánamo prisoners that was published in 2008, Salim, identified as Abd al-Maqsut Muhammad Sagim Mazruh, spoke to reporter Matthew Schofield, although the reporter noted upfront that, “After years of imprisonment, alleged torture, countless interrogations and unrelenting psychological pressure, there are some things that Abd al-Maqsut Muhammad Sagim Mazruh won’t talk about. He won’t say why he was in Pakistan in late 2001 or early 2002, when he was arrested. He won’t talk about how he made a living. He won’t discuss why he can never return to Egypt, his country of birth, or his three previous arrests and — according to documents filed with the Albanian government — torture in those prisons.”
He did, however, discuss why he thought “there can be no doubt that he’s innocent of all terrorism charges and suspicions, and why “there can be no doubt that the US never had any evidence against him.” As he said (via an interpreter), “I’m sitting here, aren’t I? Is there any reason to believe that if the United States could produce any evidence against me, any evidence at all, they would have set me free? I was innocent when I was arrested. I am innocent now.”
Mazruh (Salim) said that “a US military tribunal at Guantánamo told him in 2005 that he was innocent.” McClatchy noted that “there are no public records to confirm that,” but added that the decision to “declare him no longer an enemy combatant” was “the closest [the US government has] come to admitting that it made mistakes.”
Describing him as a “timid, soft man,” the McClatchy article also noted that he recalled that the allegations against him — and specifically, a claim that he was a bodyguard for Osama bin Laden — “created waves of laughter” from his fellow prisoners, who, he said, told him, “You were his bodyguard? And he’s still alive? He’s still free, and he hires the likes of you to protect him? You need a bodyguard; how could you be one?”
Turning to his limited freedom in Albania, McClatchy noted that it was not “a freedom he cherishes.” Living in “a small room in a refugee center, in a walled complex on the edge of the capital, in a neighborhood of rutted and pitted gravel roads cut through by a trash-filled creek,” he was, in Schofield’s words, “trapped without knowing the language, without work or even a permit to work. His wife and children wait in northern Africa, and he’s filed a petition with the Albanian government to allow them to join him, a petition that other former detainees are watching closely because they haven’t seen their families since they were arrested, either.”
In the documents released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, the file relating to Salim was a “Recommendation to Retain under DoD Control,” dated July 2, 2004, in which he was identified as Allah Muhammed Salim, born in January 1967, and it was noted that he was “in good health,” although he “had a lung biopsy prior to detention,” had “a history of migraines,” and had also been a hunger striker.”
In telling his story, the Joint Task Force noted that, after graduating from an Egyptian university in 1989, he was sponsored by a mosque in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, to travel to Islamabad to assist Afghan refugees. After explaining that he was “not allowed to train or fight in the Soviet-Afghan War due to his poor hearing and vision,” he said that he traveled to Peshawar, where he worked as an assistant storage supervisor for the [International] Islamic Relief Organization” until 1991, when he began ten years of religious study — six at a university in Peshawar, and four more at a university in Sadiqabad.
After the 9/11 attacks, however, “he heard that Americans were rounding up Arabs in Pakistan,” and an acquaintance “advised him to go to a larger city [Lahore] and stay with a Pakistani man called Wasim.” He did so, staying at the house “with five unidentified men,” but just ten days after his arrival he was seized by Pakistani police. he said that he “spent nearly 70 days in a Lahore, PK, prison, followed by two months in an Afghanistan prison.”
He was sent to Guantánamo on August 5, 2002, on the spurious basis that it was because he “possibly has information pertaining to: Beit Al-Ansar, a Saudi charitable organization operating in Peshawar, PK [who he stayed with for ten days in 1989], A facility near the Pakistan border belonging to Jalal Al-Din Al-Haqqani [the Afghan warlord Jalaluddin Haqqani] in 1989 [and] Refugee operations and weapons training taking place at the “Center” [elsewhere described as being close to the Afghan/Pakistan border, and a place where, in 1989, he reportedly “went to see a famous, but unidentified, fighter who fought against the Russians”]. Ironically, when it came to attempts to justify his detention, the Task Force noted that he had “admitted that he [was] a jihadist, that he traveled to Pakistan to assist the Muslims in Afghanistan who were fighting the Soviets,and that he would kill Russians if he had the opportunity” — exactly the same sentiments that, when he traveled to Pakistan in 1989, were being financially supported by the US government to the tune of billions of dollars every year.
Despite having no information about him indicating that he was involved in any way with militancy or terrorism, the Task Force nevertheless stated that he had been “associated with three terrorist organisations” — Egyptian Islamic Jihad, Al-Qaida and Harkat Ul-Mujahideen (HUM), a Pakistani militant group that he allegedly “attempted to train with,” and with whom he allegedly worked, at “the Center,” which was “affiliated” with Jalaluddin Haqqani, according to US analysts. The main problem with this allegation was that this alleged involvement took place in 1989, when Haqqani was a US-funded ally against the Soviet Union.
The US authorities suggested that he had been “arrested twice in Egypt for distributing propaganda for the EIG [Egyptian Islamic Jihad],” and that he admitted in one interrogation that he was actually deported from Saudi Arabia to Pakistan, rather than being sponsored by a mosque, but it is uncertain how much truth there is to these accounts, or how relevant what Salim was doing in the late 1980s was to his activities nearly 15 years later.
No satisfactory reason was given for his alleged involvement with Al-Qaida, although, in assessing the risk he posed, the Task Force stated that it was assessed that he was “very intelligent/educated” and had “provided support to multiple terrorist groups by organizing their finances and personnel.” Even though no evidence was provided to support this assertion, it was further claimed that his “poor vision and hearing and other medical problems [we]re probably valid, but this would make the perfect cover as being not useful to the fighting force and being underestimated by anti-terrorist forces.” In addition, it was claimed that “[t]hese disabilities would not hinder him from distributing material, collecting data, organizing records and delegating tasks to be completed by junior personnel.”
In conclusion, he was assessed as being “of high intelligence value,” and of posing “a high risk, as he is likely to pose a threat to the US, its interests and allies,” because of the groundless assessment above, and an additional claim that, “by examining his attitude to pursue jihad,” the Task Force had decided that he had “performed hostilities against the US and coalition forces by supporting terrorist organizations in an administrative role.” It was also noted that his “overall behavior ha[d] been generally non-compliant and aggressive,” that he had been “preaching and teaching to the other detainees in an angry manner,” and, “[w]hen asked to stop, he continue[d],” that he had “involved himself in a riot,” had “participated in hunger strikes,” and had been “caught hoarding food.” In general, this section concluded, he had “refused to follow the guard force’s instructions.”
For this, he was, no doubt, regularly punished, but for the authorities, all that counted were the assessments of the risk he posed and his intelligence value, leading to Brig. Gen. Hood’s recommendation that he should be retained in DoD control, which lasted until a tribunal concluded, instead, that he was not an “enemy combatant,” and should be released, setting in motion the process that eventually led to his release in Albania.
Fethi Boucetta (ISN 718, Algeria) Released November 2006 (in Albania)
In The Guantánamo Files, I explained how Fethi Boucetta, a teacher who was 38 years old at the time of his capture, was one of three prisoners released in Albania in November 2006 because the US authorities feared for their safety if they were returned to their home countries, although he was actually cleared for release in 2005. He was one of the 38 prisoners cleared of being “enemy combatants” after the Combatant Status Review Tribunals at Guantánamo which took place from July 2004 to March 2005, and which led to the swift release of all 38, except a Uighur and Saudi resident, Saddiq Ahmed Turkistani (ISN 491, profiled here), and those who could not be safely repatriated — five Uighurs profiled in Part Four and Part Five, and the two others released in Albania in November 2006, who are profiled in this article — the Russian Zakirjan Asam (ISN 672, see above), and the Egyptian Ala Salim (ISN 716, also see above).
In his tribunal in Guantánamo, Hamad Gadallah (ISN 712, released in July 2005), who was a Sudanese accountant for a charity, the Revival of Islamic Heritage Society, that had fallen under US suspicion, mentioned that his downstairs neighbor, who did not work for the RIHS, had also been seized on the same day as him, May 27, 2002. The neighbour was Fethi Boucetta, one of three teachers, working in a school run by the Saudi Red Crescent, and the other two teachers were also captured at the same time. The Pentagon’s limited allegations against him are available here.
A doctor who fled Algeria in 1996 to avoid military service, Boucetta sought asylum in Pakistan, where he was taken on as a teacher by the Red Crescent. Speaking of the circumstances of his arrest, his lawyer told the Washington Post in May 2006 that the Pakistani police “went to his house and asked to speak with somebody else [Hamad Gadallah], and Fethi said he didn’t know that person and that he wasn’t there. [They] came back with Americans in plain clothes, and they said they wanted to question him. That’s when he was arrested.”
Despite being arrested by mistake, it took until May 2005 for the Americans to accept that he was a completely innocent man, and in the meantime the allegations that mounted up against him were staggering. It was alleged that he “reportedly was an active member of the Islamic Salvation Front” (the Algerian political party whose suppression by the army in 1992 provoked the civil war that began the following year), that he traveled to Afghanistan from the Yemen, where he taught from 1993 to 1996, “at the request of the Taliban” (he actually travelled to Pakistan and carried on teaching), that he “reportedly organized combatants to fight for the Taliban,” and that he “reportedly has organized extremist networks in Arab countries and has contacts throughout the Middle East.”
In an interview conducted for McClatchy Newspapers’ major report on 66 released Guantánamo prisoners that was published in 2008, Boucetta, identified as Abu Mohammed, told the reporter Matthew Schofield that, “[o]n the night the soldiers came for him, [he] was resting at home with his pregnant wife and five children.” He added that they “showed him a list of the men they were looking for,” and that “[t]he address for his building was on the list, but his name was not.” He added, “As they turned to leave, he asked the soldiers what they needed, but was told it was none of his concern.”
However, the soldiers returned 15 minutes later, and “asked whether they could look through his apartment.” He said that he remembered “thinking he had nothing to hide, so he stepped aside,” and was handcuffed, while the soldiers searched the house. They then “uncuffed him, apologized for the inconvenience and departed,” but they returned for a third time, and it was on this occasion that his nightmare began, when “they asked him to accompany them to a nearby office, to answer questions.”
Boucetta told McClatchy’s reporter, “I did not like to leave my family at night, but knew in my heart I had done nothing wrong, and I was not on their list — they showed it to me — so I knew I had nothing to fear.” That should have been the case, but instead, he did not see his wife and children again, and still had no idea “why he was taken away that night or why he then was told he was being taken home but instead was shackled, then flown to a US prison in Bagram, Afghanistan. Or why, after two months there, he was told that he was being taken home to his family but instead was flown to Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, half a world away, where he was kept locked up for four more years, including 18 months after he was told that he was, in effect, innocent of charges that he says were never fully articulated.”
After asking, “So why was he arrested?” McClatchy analysed the supposed evidence, noting that, beyond simply dismissing the charges against him as laughable — the claim that he was a member of the Algerian Islamic Salvation Front, that he left Yemen for Afghanistan at the request of Al-Qaida, and that he helped recruit fighters — Boucetta “said he doubted that these could really be the reasons he was picked up.”
He explained that the Islamic Salvation Front “formed after he left Algeria in 1989,” and in any case he “was never a member,” and he also explained that he had “worked as a doctor for a non-governmental organization in Afghanistan until 1992,” adding that it “would have been easy to find out that he hadn’t been back since,” and that “he’d been working for and with the United Nations and Red Crescent, the Islamic-nations version of the Red Cross, from that point on.”
The details in his story were pretty compelling. He explained that, from 1996 to 2002, his “medical license and passport needed to be renewed,” but he had “refused to return to Algeria and instead lived in a United Nations refugee camp in Pakistan,” where “he taught math and Arabic in a Red Crescent-sponsored school.” As a result, “there were multiple witnesses to his presence and many sign-in documents, none of which was brought before the tribunal” at Guantánamo. This was unsurprising, as the presumption was that everyone had been correctly designated as an ‘enemy combatant” on capture, even though no effort was made to ascertain whether or not prisoners had been seized by mistake, and it was, therefore, something of a miracle that even 38 prisoners were, like Boucetta, found not to be “enemy combatants” by their tribunals.
Highlighting further omissions, Boucetta said that, “although United Nations workers could have vouched for his presence in Pakistan — and, according to his attorney, spent years working for his release — US officials refused to listen to them,” and in the end he “boycotted his own hearing because he thought it was a sham.”
He also explained that throughout his detention — “both in Afghanistan, where he was made to stand for hours with his hands cuffed high above him, and in Cuba, where the punishment was far more psychologically than physically challenging” — he was repeatedly interrogated about Algeria, even though, as he said, “I told them, ‘I have not been in Algeria for 15 years.'” Despite this, he said, “They would ask about political movements there, and I had to say, honestly, that I had no idea what they were talking about.” All the questions, he explained, related to radical Islamist groups which “formed after he’d left Algeria.”
After explaining that he had been in Guantánamo “with two men he used to commute to work with in Pakistan, men with whom he was seen every day teaching at school and who, like him, were subjected to occasional home searches as refugees,” he said that the fact that he had become a refugee in Pakistan had aroused US suspicions, but stated that the reasons he didn’t want to return home had nothing to do with terrorism, and were, instead, to do with “a personal feud.”
As a result, he was stuck in Albania, reflecting on a broken promise by officials at Guantánamo, who “had promised him a home, a place where he could bring his family and start a new life.” Instead, he said, there was no work, and “no hopes of ever being able to provide a home and education for his children.” When asked about his life, he replied, “My life here? I wake in time to go to breakfast at the refugee center. That’s my life. There is nothing more.”
Even though he had so obviously been seized by mistake, the US authorities were determined to find reasons to justify his detention, hence the long list of allegations that I mentioned in The Guantánamo Files, which duly surfaced in the classified documents released by WikiLeaks in April 2011. The file relating to him was a “Transfer Recommendation to Another Country for Continued Detention,” dated August 30, 2003, in which he was identified as Fatai Busita, born in 1963, and it was noted that he had been diagnosed with latent tuberculosis, in common with many of the prisoners, but was “otherwise in good health.”
In telling his story, the Joint Task Force presented all the allegations that were later dismissed by his tribunal at Guantánamo. It was noted that the left Algeria in 1987 after completing medical school, but an analyst claimed that this was because of the alleged terrorist connections that he later dismissed. It was also noted that he stated that he then traveled extensively through Afghanistan and Pakistan from 1989 to 1993, working for five different NGOs, including the Revival of Islamic Heritage Society, which were all regarded as “known cover organisations for several terrorist groups including Al-Qaida,” even though this was generalized scaremongering at its worst, as the organizations he was working for were actually involved in humanitarian aid and charitable work.
The Task Force noted that he then traveled to Yemen in 1993, where, he said, he “got married, and found employment until 1996, when he bought a forged passport, and moved back to PK because he feared a crackdown on non-Yemeni Arabs,” and added that he “claimed” that “he worked as a teacher for primary and middle school, and as an Arabic teacher at a school funded by the Saudi Red Crescent Organization.”
Regarding his capture, it was stated that the Pakistani Inter Services Intelligence Directorate arrested him in Lahore “as part of a crackdown on Arabs in Pakistan in May 2002,” which was perhaps not meant to be what it sounded like — a confession that social cleansing was taking place, using terrorism as a cover. In further explanation, the Task Force claimed that the ISI “conducted a series of raids against suspected Al-Qaida residences and support facilities connected with the Afghan Support Committee,” adding that “[n]ine individuals were arrested including the detainee, all on suspicion of being Islamic extremists,” but neglecting to mention that Boucetta’s arrest was, very literally, an afterthought. It was also noted that he was sent to Guantánamo on August 5, 2002, on the spurious basis that it was “because of his knowledge of NGOs in the Peshawar, PK area.”
In assessing his story, the Task Force claimed that he was “of minimal intelligence value to the United States,” but posed “a medium threat to the US,” because he had been “assessed as being a member of Al-Qaida,” and, more specifically — again without anything resembling evidence — that he was “an Al-Qaida member and ha[d] severed [sic] in that capacity for many years, becoming a hardened and trusted terrorist operative.” It was, however, particularly noted that he was “considered a high threat risk to the government of Algeria,” and also “a significant threat,” who “may be wanted there for his subversive activities.” In addition, although the Task Force claimed that he “refuse[d] to be cooperative concerning his role as an operative” — because he had no role as an “operative” — it was nevertheless claimed that he “may still also possess intelligence information that the Algerian government would find beneficial in its efforts to curtail extremism within Algeria.”
As a result, Brig. Gen. James E. Payne III of the US Army, who signed the memo, recommended him for transfer to another country for continued detention, although he was not actually released for another three years and three months, and, after his tribunal intervened to discredit the allegations against him and to conclude that he was not an “enemy combatant,” it was also obvious that he could not be returned to Algeria, hence the long search for another country that was prepared to take him.
Shams Ullah (ISN 783, Afghanistan) Released October 2006
In “The Guantánamo Files: Website Extras (11) – The Last of the Afghans (Part One) and Six ‘Ghost Prisoners’,” I explained how Shams Ullah was seized by US forces, some months before his arrival at Guantánamo in October 2002, and, as I also explained in “The Pentagon Can’t Count: 22 Juveniles Held at Guantánamo” and “WikiLeaks and the 22 Children of Guantánamo,” was just 16 or 17 years of age when he was seized.
According to the US military, he had fired “a whole magazine of ammunition” at the American and Afghan soldiers who had stopped him during a patrol, but although Shams himself had vague recollections of the events, his uncle, Bostan Karim (ISN 975), who was seized some months later by US forces (and is still held in Guantánamo), noted that he had “a mental problem,” and gave an alternative explanation for the circumstances surrounding his capture, when he appeared as a witness at his review board hearing. “When the Americans came to our house there was a Kalashnikov in our house and he knew that the Americans would take this gun,” Karim said. “So, he took the gun and went to the mosque. The Americans asked him to stop and he didn’t stop, so they shot him and he became lame.”
As with all but three of the 22 confirmed juveniles held at Guantánamo, Shams was never treated with anything approaching the kind of care that juveniles are required to receive under the terms of the Optional Protocol to the UN Conventions on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, and in fact, in his book Enemy Combatant, the released British prisoner Moazzam Begg explained how the authorities’ disregard for Shams’ age — and his wounds — was apparent when they were held together at the US prison in Kandahar airport. “Shams had been shot in the upper thigh, and the bone was shattered so he couldn’t walk,” Begg wrote. “He couldn’t make it to the toilet, he couldn’t get his own medications, or his water, or his food. And he couldn’t wash, so he started smelling quite badly.”
Begg ended up teaching the boy how to walk again, and also explained the story of his capture, as it had been explained to him, which backed up the story told by Bostan Karim: “Shams told me the story of his wounds: US helicopters had descended one night and attacked his house during a sweep of the area. He fired his uncle’s weapon at them. They fired back. He was hit, and captured.”
In the documents released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, the file relating to Shams Ullah was an “Administrative Review Board Input,” dated October 26, 2004, in which, essentially confirming his story, it was noted that he “was captured during a raid on his family compound in Khost, Afghanistan (AF), conducted by US Special Forces and Afghani Military Force (AMF) personnel,” and that, when the raid began, “he grabbed his AK-47 and went to hide it,” and, when the AMF ordered him to stop, “a firefight broke out,” and he fired his magazine full of ammo at the AMF forces, threw down his weapon and attempted to flee,” but “was shot in the hip and captured.”
It was also noted that the compound he was captured in belonged to his uncle, Bostan Karim, described as “a suspected Al-Qaida cell leader and bomb-maker” (although this has not been proved) “who was captured by Pakistani Forces at the Khurgi checkpoint in Pakistan on 13 August 2002 along with Abdallah Muhammad aka Wazir” (ISN 976, released in December 2007).
In addition, it was claimed that he was “a member of the Arbaqi security group,” which “provide[d] security to all merchants and their businesses at the bazaar located in Khost,” and, when it came to assessing him, the Task Force concluded that he was “of low intelligence value,” and that, “[a]fter extensive searches on national-level counter-terrorism databases, no further intelligence ha[d] been collected or found” concerning him. It was also noted that he was assessed as posing “a Medium threat to the US and its allies,” and Brig. Gen. Hood, updating a recommendation that he be retained in DoD control, dated November 11, 2003, in which he was assessed as being a high risk, and of medium intelligence value, recommended instead that he be “transferred to the control of another country for continued detention (TRCD),” although he was not released for another two years.
Abdul Salaam (ISN 826, Afghanistan) Released February 2006
In Chapter 14 of The Guantánamo Files, I explained how Abdul Salaam, who was 27 years old at the time of his capture, was part of a family of businessmen from Bermel, in Paktika province, who were caught up in what the Americans described as “a sweep of the Bermel town bazaar,” which was as random as it sounds. Khan was seized with his brother Haji Osman Khan (ISN 818, released in March 2004), who was 50 years old, and 19-year old Noor Aslam (ISN 822, also released in March 2004), who was his cousin, and the family ran a hawala (a money exchange/forwarding business) with branches in Pakistan and the UAE. Salaam explained in a review board at Guantánamo that he was seized at his shop by American and Afghan soldiers, but he insisted that he was an honest businessman and had never received money on behalf of the Taliban or al-Qaeda. He also explained that the money the family received at the hawala was from families outside the country who were supporting their families in Afghanistan.
In the documents released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, the file relating to Abdul Salaam was an “Update Recommendation to Release or Transfer to the Control of Another Country (TR),” dated May 13, 2005, in which he was also identified as Abdul Salam Ghulamjohn, born in 1975, and it was noted that he was “in good health,” although he had been seen for “chronic low back pain, acid reflux, and constipation,” and was “currently on Zantac and Metamucil.”
In telling his story, the Joint Task Force managed only to flesh out the story he and his relatives had repeatedly told, Abdul Salaam said that his family business, established 30 years before, consisted of a “Hawala (money exchange/forwarding business), telephone public call office business, and limited travel reservations,” and that, after living with his family as a refugee in Miram Shah, Pakistan from 1983 to 2000, where he and his cousin opened a money transferring business that they operated for nine years, returned to Afghanistan and opened another money transferring business in Bermal with his brother, Haji Osman Khan.
It was also noted that, when pressed about the money transferring business, he “finally admitted to transferring large amounts of money, the largest being 2.5 million rupees, which equals to [sic] about 42 thousand US dollars,” and also explained how the business also involved another branch in the UAE, couriers, and an accountant in Afghanistan responsible for keeping money in a safe and distributing it.
The intention of all these questions was, of course, to demonstrate that the hawalas had been involved in transferring significant funds for Al-Qaida and/or the Taliban, but there was no truth in those suspicions, as the US authorities finally realized, although not until after he had been seized, sent to Guantánamo and held for up to three years before his innocence was more or less admitted.
In telling the story of his capture, he said that he “went to work on the morning of 7 September 2002,” but, approximately twenty minutes later, “three Afghan army soldiers and three US soldiers entered his shop” and “took his telephones and searched his store,” and “also confiscated five personal photographs that he had of himself, relatives and friends.” The soldiers also searched the shop next to his, where his accountant had his shop (and the safe), and then “led him away from his shop and took him to the Afghanistan Government building in town.” He “did not know why he was arrested, but believed that someone must have provided false information to the US or Afghan Governments,” which sounds like an accurate analysis.
After his capture, he was held first at Bagram, and was then sent to Guantánamo on October 28, 2002, on the spurious basis that it was to “provide information on the following: Economic issues in Pakistan and Afghanistan, Foreign trade in Pakistan, Afghanistan,and the United Arab Emirates [and] Hawala money transfer system in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the United Arab Emirates.”
In assessing his story, the Task Force concluded that he was “of low intelligence value to the US,” and also that he posed “a low risk, as he is unlikely to pose a threat to the US, its interests and allies.” This was, to be honest, another example of over-classification, as he was clearly of no intelligence value and did not pose a threat to the US at all, because, in a more thorough analysis of his case, it was stated unequivocally that he was “assessed as not being a member of the Taliban and/or Al-Qaida’s terrorist network,” and that, although it “was first assessed [that he] was involved in money laundering operations,” the Task Force had concluded that “nothing ha[d] been found to support this claim,” after “reviewing all of the available documentation.”
It was also noted that it was “highly probable” that his “statements that he and his family [we]re honest businesspeople, ha[d] no connections to the Taliban or Al- Qaida, and ha[d] never transferred any money for or on behalf of the Taliban or Al-Qaida [we]re truthful.” The Task Force added “Through debriefings with relatives of detainee and other individuals who operated Hawalas in Pakistan (PK) and Afghanistan, it cannot be confirmed [he] was doing anything illegal.”
It was also noted that his “overall behavior ha[d] been generally compliant and non-aggressive,” and, as a result, the only remaining problems with his case were that, even after his release was recommended by Brig. Gen. Hood, it took another nine months for him to be freed, at which point he had pointlessly spent three years and four months in Guantánamo.
Qadir Khandan (ISN 831, Afghanistan) Released October 2006
In Chapter 14 of The Guantánamo Files, I explained how Qadir Khandan, who was 32 years old at the time of his capture, was a pharmacist, who seems to have been a victim of the warlord Pacha Khan Zadran and his nephew, Jan Baz Khan, who lied about him to the Americans to get him arrested. Zadran was a US ally until it was finally realized that he was using them for his own ends, but along the way he was responsible for sending several men to Guantánamo on the basis that they were involved in anti-coalition activities, when they were actually his own enemies.
Khandan insisted in Guantánamo that he was “enemy number one of Jan Baz and Pacha Khan,” and got into trouble with them because, he said, he realized that, when they were working with the Americans, they were using them for their own ends. Arrested at his home in September 2002 and accused of running a safe house for a bomb-making cell, Khandan pointed out that he was working for the Karzai government in the National Security Office in Khost, and that, as a pharmacist, bombs were “truly against my ideology.”
He also explained that he was badly abused by American soldiers in a prison in Khost. “They put tight round glasses around my eyes, had my ears shut with plugs and I was covered with a bag,” he said, adding, “I was ordered to stand up 24 hours for 20 days in a row. I had blood coming out of my body and my nose for days because I was tortured so much.” Describing what appear to be otherwise unreported murders in US custody, he also said, “I saw four people die right in front of me.”
In an interview conducted for McClatchy Newspapers’ major report on 66 released Guantánamo prisoners that was published in 2008, Khandan (identified as Qadar Khandan) he said that, “no matter how many times the American soldiers struck him,” he insisted that “he’d worked as a nurse for warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s organization during its fight against Soviet forces in the 1980s — when the US supported Hekmatyar — but that he’d broken off all links afterward.”
He told the same story to McClatchy’s reporter, but Ismail Khosti, the head of the Khost office of the Afghan Commission for Peace and Reconciliation, said that, despite sticking to is story, Khandan “was closely aligned with Hekmatyar.” Khosti said, “He was a commander for them in this province, not the top commander, but a commander. When the Taliban left Khost, there was a mujahideen (holy warriors) council formed, and Khandan was the only representative of Hezb-e-Islami on that council.”
McClatchy’s reporter noted that this association “appear[ed] to be what sent US troops to his door,” although Khandan was concerned to explain how US forces had abused him, stating that, when Special Forces operatives “took him to a nearby base and questioned him,” they “made him stand for two days straight with no food or water,” and “frequently punched him” and “played loud music and brought dogs in to bark and snap at him.”
Khandan “said he wouldn’t break down and confess,” and, McClatchy’s reporter noted, “it appears that he never did,” also noting that he remained angry about his experiences in US custody. From Khost, where, he said, he was deprived of food and water, he was sent to Kandahar for four days and then to Bagram for about five months.
On arrival at Bagram, he said, “he and a group of other detainees were stripped naked and photographed,” and then the questioning began again, and the Hekmatyar allegations that he persistently denied. “They told me to accept their charges or they would send me to isolation,” he said. “I told them they could send me to isolation for 10 years and those things would still not be true.”
He added that he was indeed sent to an isolation cell, “a small plywood box with metal bars over the top,” where guards “hung him by his wrists from the bars” and “left him there for 20 days, taking him down only for three 15-minute meal breaks and for the bathroom when he needed it.” He explained, “My heels weren’t touching the ground, only my toes, and I had on earphones, goggles and a hood. Three or four times I became unconscious. The guards would open the gate and come in and punch me in the stomach.”
Discussing Guantánamo, where he was sent early in 2003, Khandan said that his “experience with the interrogators was the same,” but that “no one hit him at Guantánamo.” He also said that he “told them, repeatedly, that he’d left Hekmatyar’s fold many years before,” but “was questioned every day during his first month,” although “then the sessions dropped to once a month, then once every two months and, at one point, almost a year.” He also said that “he spent much of the time between interrogations in isolation cells, twice for seven-month stretches,” and estimated that “he spent some 17 months in isolation” during his three and a half years at Guantánamo.
In the documents released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, the file relating to Khandan was a “Recommendation for Transfer to the Control of Another Country with Conditions (TWC), Subject to the Conclusion of an Acceptable Transfer Agreement,” dated September 3, 2005, in which he was identified as Khadan Kadir and Khandan Kadir, born in 1969, and it was noted that he was “in good health,” although he had “a history of a panic disorder with agoraphobia.”
In telling his story, the Joint Task Force noted that he attended school at a refugee camp in Pakistan, and then “participated in an Afghan refugee medical training program,” and “received his nursing certification in 1989 and worked at a Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin (HIG) hospital during the war against the Soviets.” It was also stated that he “worked with HIG between 1987 and 1992, and completed high school in Peshawar, PK, in 1991.”
It was also noted that, from 1995 to 2002, he worked at his own pharmacy in Khost, and claimed he also worked in the National Directorate of Security (NDS) in Khost, during the Karzai government, “working in office number 7, which was responsible for monitoring open sources i.e. radio, newspapers.” He also admitted that “he owned a Kalashnikov and a pistol, but he only used these weapons for protection,” and also insisted that he had “never been a member of any terrorist organization.”
The Task Force also noted that US and Afghan forces came to his house in Khost on September 20, 2002, but he “jumped a fence, and hid in a room housing women and children,” until one of the women told US forces that the was hiding there. After he surrendered, he was “found to have several documents and a small address book.” After being held at Bagram, he was sent to Guantánamo on February 6, 2003, to “provide information on the following: Security services, Security forces, Intelligence, security programs and capabilities, Counter Intelligence services [and] International terrorism.”
In assessing his story, the Task Force noted that he was apparently seized with Pacha Khan Zadran’s son, Abdul Walid, and his nephew,Jan Baz, but an analyst, revising history to erase the fact that Zadran was initially a US ally, described him as “a significant warlord who appointed himself governor of the Paktia province, AF, undermined US and Coalition forces along the Afghan/Pakistan border, [and] opposed the Afghan Transitional Administration (ATA), and President Hamid Karzai’s appointments for local leadership positions in Khost, Paktia, and Paktika Provinces.” It was also claimed that he was related to Pacha Khan Zadran, and it was noted that he said he “was jailed for not supporting Zadran’s bid for Provincial Governor.”
There were more allegations concerning Khandan’s supposed ties to three other Guantánamo prisoners — Bostan Karim (ISN 975, still held), Obaidullah (ISN 762, also still held) and Shams Ullah (ISN 783, released in October 2006, see above), which will be discussed in detail in articles dealing with Karim’s and Obaidullah’s cases.
Overall, his story was quite confusing, and I’m not sure that the US authorities knew what to make of it either. However, 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.” It was also noted that he was “assessed as a low-moderate threat from a detention perspective,” because his “overall behaviour ha[d] recently been compliant and non-hostile to the guard force and staff.” As a result, Maj. Gen. Hood, updating a recommendation that he be transferred for continued detention in Afghanistan (on August 20, 2004), recommended him for “transfer with conditions,” although he was not released for another 13 months.
After his release, following the McClatchy interview, Khandan was also interviewed by the BBC, when, in a broadcast in June 2009, he said, “They did things that you would not do against animals let alone to humans. They poured cold water on you in winter and hot water in summer. They used dogs against us. They put a pistol or a gun to your head and threatened you with death.” He added, “They put some kind of medicine in the juice or water to make you sleepless and then they would interrogate you.”
Nothing more was heard about Khandan until January 15, 2010, when the Pentagon responded to a FOIA request submitted by the ACLU in April 2009, and released the first ever list of prisoners held at Bagram, as of September 22, 2009, when Khandan, identified by his Guantánamo number, and named as Khadan Kadir, was included, although no further information has been provided to explain what he was supposed to have done to be recaptured, when it took place, and whether he was still held.
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:
Rob Kinsey wrote:
Shine on . Keep on shining . Shine on !
Thanks, George, for always being there! And Rob, thanks very much for the supportive words.
George Kenneth Berger wrote:
I’m putting your article on London on the page Occupy the Netherlands. A friend added me today.
Thanks, George. I had hoped to get down to St. Paul’s today, but I got bogged down with writing about the torture case against George W. Bush in Canada — and watching the largely unenlightening Gaddafi coverage on TV. Off to Aberdeen tomorrow for the screening of “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantanamo,” with plenty of time on the train to hammer out a few more articles and work on part 29 of “The Complete Guantanamo Files.” What happened to that age of leisure we were promised in sci-fi visions of the future when I was a kid? Or, for that matter, to the quaint notion that our leaders have our best interests at heart …
George Kenneth Berger wrote:
Age of leisure? must have been asleep—like Rip van Winkel.
Actually, I think what happened was Thatcher and Reagan. Before that there was hope and fantasy. After that, just money.
Reena Carnation wrote:
I’m so glad you have done this. Thank you.
Thank you for noticing, Reena.
Maureen McDermott Gill wrote:
Andy, you are doing some of the most extraordinary journalistic work in US history (probably safe to say world history). You are amazing.
Wow! Thanks, Maureen. That’s really great to hear!
Rosie Much wrote:
Yes I wrote of Reagan and Thatcher only yesterday…….
Sadly, their baleful influence lives on …
[…] Files: WikiLeaks and the Prisoners Released in 2006: Andy Worthington has published parts eight and nine in his series on Guantanamo prisoners released in 2006. The stories cover prisoners with […]
[…] Groups Call for the Arrest of George W. Bush for Torture as He Arrives in Canada 24. WikiLeaks: The Complete Guantánamo Files: WikiLeaks and the Prisoners Released in 2006 (Part Eight of Ten) 25. Guantánamo and Congress: Obama vs. Congress: The Struggle to Close Guantánamo, and to Prevent […]
Jamal Abdullah Kiyemba was apprehended by heavily armed security officials, that included American officials. From my reading of the press reports I am afraid this may be yet another instance of circular reasoning — circular reasoning that erodes public safety. A senior Ugandan Prosecutor was assassinated on March 30th.
Nicholas Bariyo, writing in the Wall Street Journal, quoted a local lawyer who said: “…the move stemmed from a witch hunt amid fears of a terror attack.” It seems there is no actual evidence, at least not evidence made public, to justify his arrest, other than a “round-up of the usual suspects”.
Sadly, the DNI’s rules for classifying “recidivists” allows them to move someone to the “confirmed recidivist” category if there are multiple press reports. So, if he wasn’t already on the “confirmed recidivist” list, he would be on it now.
Some of the press reports say that Ugandan security officials were grateful to American security officials for their help in tracking down Mr Kiyemba — when it sounds like he was living openly, and didn’t need “tracking down”. I suspect this means those local official had received a generous grant of counter-terrorism equipment in return for his arrest.
Thanks, arcticredriver. Very well put. I had read the BBC report, which made clear that there was no actual evidence against Jamal Kiyemba at the time of his arrest, but obviously should have read the Wall Street Journal article as well. It is significant that a local lawyer felt justified in saying that “the move stemmed from a witch hunt amid fears of a terror attack,” and that it was therefore, as you say, a “round-up of the usual suspects.”
Even more importantly, as you also note, is that it is also possible that this will make him a “confirmed recidivist” according to the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), which compiles those terrible “recidivism” reports every six months, which the right-wingers – and lazy mainstream media – love, despite the DNI providing no evidence to back up the hysterical claims of 1 in 6 former prisoners having returned to the battlefield. I wrote most recently about that here: http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2015/03/27/please-read-dispelling-the-myths-of-guantanamo-bay/
And my archive of recidivism articles is here: http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/category/guantanamo-and-recidivism/
I think you are also correct to state that the US role in all this has been overstated, or, one might say, invented, and that this almost certainly means that the Ugandans received some sort of favours as a result.
Investigative journalist, author, filmmaker, photographer and Guantanamo expert
Email Andy Worthington
Please support Andy Worthington, independent journalist: