So here’s a fascinating document from the trial of Sulaiman Abu Ghaith in New York — a 14-page statement by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, written in response to questions Abu Ghaith’s lawyers submitted to him at Guantánamo, where he has been held since September 2006, following three and half years in “black sites” run by the CIA, and where, notoriously, he was subjected on 183 occasions to waterboarding, an ancient torture technique that is a form of controlled drowning. I am posting a transcript of the statement below, as I believe it is significant, and it is, of course, rare to hear directly from any of the “high-value detainees” held at Guantánamo, because every word they speak or write is presumptively classified, and the authorities generally refuse to unclassify a single word.
Abu Ghaith (also identified as Sulaiman Abu Ghayth) is charged with conspiracy to kill United States nationals, conspiracy to provide material support and resources to terrorists, and providing material support and resources to terrorists, primarily for his alleged role as a spokesperson for Al-Qaeda immediately after the 9/11 attacks. Following the US-led invasion of Afghanistan, he fled to Iran, where he was held under a form of house arrest — and where he met and married one of Osama bin Laden’s daughters, who was also held under house arrest — until January 2013, when he was released to Turkey.
It was at this point that the US authorities became aware of his release from Iranian custody. At the request of the US, he was briefly detained, but soon released because he had not committed any crime on Turkish soil. The Turkish government then apparently decided to deport him to Kuwait, but on a stop-over in Amman, Jordan, he was arrested by Jordanian officials and turned over to US officials, who subsequently extradited him to the United States.
Abu Ghaith’s lawyers are seeking to have Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (also identified as Khalid Shaikh Mohammad) testify by video link from Guantánamo. As they explain in a motion calling for this to be allowed, “The materiality of Mr. Mohammad’s testimony goes well beyond ‘unsubstantiated speculation,’ is highly relevant to the central issues of the matter before this Court, and is exculpatory. Although the defense has long believed that Mr. Mohammad’s testimony to be material and exculpatory with respect to Mr. Abu Ghayth, his responses … remove all doubt.”
As the lawyers point out, Mohammed’s responses address a number of “topics currently at issue in the trial of Mr. Abu Ghayth,” perhaps the most significant being his alleged “Knowledge of al Qaeda Military Operations, Including the ‘Shoe Bomb’ Plots,” to which KSM stated that Abu Ghaith “did not play any military role [in al Qaeda] and to the best of my knowledge he did not receive any military training at any of the training camps for the Mujahideen in Afghanistan,” and also stated that “those commissioned with playing a role in the media,” like Abu Ghaith, “such as reporting on letters or speeches, do not know the extent of them or what is behind them.”
It remains to be seen whether Judge Lewis Kaplan, the judge in Abu Ghaith’s case, will allow the defense’s motion, but it seems to me that he should. As the most significant Al-Qaeda figure in US custody, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed clearly understood the workings of the organization, and is able to state, with authority, what Abu Ghaith knew and didn’t know, and why it makes no sense to charge him with anything involving leadership or the planning or execution of terrorist activities.
As Abu Ghaith’s lawyers explain, “Mr. Mohammad’s testimony does not consist of hearsay. [H]e will offer direct and first-hand observations of the times, places, and events underlying these charges and testify to his knowledge of Mr. Abu Ghayth, Mr. Abu Ghayth’s lack of participation in any conspiracy to kill United States nationals or to provide material support to terrorists, and other material issues.”
Of particular interest in Mohammed’s testimony, it seems to me, are (1) his paranoia, in which he suspects that the US government has had “a hand in these questions because they correspond precisely with the way the CIA and the FBI posed questions,” (2) his brief history of the last 35 years in Afghanistan, in which he highlights western hypocrisy with regard to the Mujahideen, who were transformed from freedom fighters to terrorists, (3) his description and explanation of the “war of attrition” waged by Al-Qaeda on the US, and (4) his description of Al-Qaeda’s aims with regard to the US (one that seems to have been very successful); primarily their “strategic goals of exhausting our enemy’s efforts, capabilities, and financial assets to the greatest extent possible.” As he explains, “Every state of emergency declared and every change of alert level that inflicts specific procedures on the military and civilian sectors costs the country millions of dollars. It is enough that the US government has incurred losses upwards of a trillion dollars in the wars it has waged in the aftermath of 9/11, the bleeding of which continues to this day.”
Another key element of the document is (5) Mohammed’s mention of lists, which was discussed by Marcy Wheeler in an article on Sunday. As she explained, “One of the key pieces of evidence the government used against many Gitmo detainees — and Abu Ghaith — was the list of names found on various computers captured in raids.” Mohammed wrote that “there was not a single, fixed system for dispersing funds, especially the expenses and financial guarantees distributed by Al-Qaeda and its beneficiaries,” adding, “There were tables and charts and lists of names of the families who received aid and these lists did not delineate the affiliation of the person on record.”
In response, Wheeler noted, “I suspect KSM is partly blowing smoke here, and he’s not talking about the specific list at issue in this trial. But I also suspect there’s some truth to what he says, and that the government has been overstating the value of these lists in large numbers of terrorism trials and, more importantly, Gitmo habeas cases.” This is something that I have persistently noted as true from my own analysis of the allegations against the prisoners — from those released publicly in 2006 to the classified military files released by WikiLeaks in 2011 — and I think it is important that Mohammed chose to include it in his statement.
See below for Mohammed’s full statement.
In the name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful
Praise be to Allah
To Whom It may Concern
I received the set of questions from the lawyer for Sulaiman Abu Ghayth (Allah preserve him) consisting of 34 pages and 451 questions. It reminded me of the interrogations at the Black Sites and the questions from the dirty team at Guantánamo.
I will not answer all of the questions because I have doubts about the goal behind some of them. Because of time constraints, the impending trial, and the fact that these questions — like all interrogation questions — are similar to one another and repeat the same question in a different way, I won’t constrain myself to the same format. My answers will be in paragraph form instead, covering most of the subjects.
I want to help my brother, Sheikh Sulaiman Abu Ghayth (Allah preserve him) but — as I have mentioned before to my attorney — only if the request comes from him and not from the lawyer. My answers are according to the best of my knowledge and beliefs about him.
I want to inform Sheikh Sulaiman Abu Ghayth’s lawyer that I suspect the U.S. government has a hand in these questions because they correspond precisely with the way the CIA and the FBI posed questions. I may be right or wrong in this assumption, but I feel that most of the questions do not serve the interests of his client or anyone for that matter; yet they are primarily directed to me. Therefore, he should know in advance that I will not agree to give any video or audio recorded testimony at the request of the government or the defense. These answers should suffice.
There are extensive areas about which I have no knowledge because of the nature of my work with Al-Qaeda during which I held many different positions during different periods of time and under different conditions. Therefore, my answers in these areas will be based upon my general knowledge.
For instance, in the case of all the questions about the training camps, I do not have any information on them during this period because I was appointed by Sheikh Osama bin Laden (Allah have mercy upon him) as head of operations abroad, meaning all the jihadist operations conducted outside of Afghanistan. It was administrative work consisting of receiving trained operators from the military officials such as Sheikh Abu Hafs Al-Masri or Sheikh Osama bin Laden (Allah have mercy upon them) without getting involved in training matters. The candidates for operations were sent to me and I had other means of training them apart from the well-known camps. I did not need the camps to prepare my men because of the nature of the special operations that were conducted outside Afghanistan.
– He was an imam and the Friday sermon speaker at one of the mosques in Kuwait (to the best of my knowledge).
– He is a pious man and has memorized the Holy Qur’an in its entirety.
– Generally speaking, the Mujahideen respected all the Imams or Sheikhs and afforded them opportunities to give lectures at any time.
– I first came to know him through audiocassette tapes of Friday sermon prayers. These cassette tapes were widely distributed among the people and in Islamic libraries.
– He did not play any military role and to the best of my knowledge he did not receive any military training at any of the training camps for the Mujahideen in Afghanistan.
– I do not recall that I ever met him or saw him at a training camp considering my limited visits to the training camps during that period of time.
– He did not know me by any name other than the one I was using in Afghanistan (Mukhtar Al-Balushi) so he never knew my real name: Khalid Al-Shaikh or Khalid Shaikh Mohammad. I think that Sheikh Sulaiman Abu Ghayth (Allah preserve him) learned my real name through the media after my arrest, just as I learned real name of Abu Hafs Al-Masri (Allah have mercy upon him) through the media after he was killed. Allah only knows.
The relationship between Al-Qaeda and the government of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.
Al-Qaeda and the Arab Mujahideen who sacrificed their blood, souls, and money for the victory of the Afghan people were part of the people who partnered with them to defeat and expel the Russian forces in the previous war. The Mujahideen, regardless of their ethnic or organisational affiliation had their own activities, whether it be involvement with the military, charitable institutes, or relief organizations.
At that time, during that particular war, the U.S. government was against the Russian force for political and strategic reasons of their own. Thus they gave their proxies in the Arabian Peninsula countries the green light to flood the Afghan Mujahideen with money, resources, and Arab fighters; and they also opened the doors for merchants and businessmen to donate money without conditions or restrictions. The selfishness and stubbornness of Uncle Sam pushed the U.S. government to flood their agent, the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (lSI), with millions or billions of dollars in order to defeat the Russian Army by supporting the Afghan Mujahideen. This indirect support was the principle cause of the development of the non-Afghan groups and organizations in Afghanistan and their ability to achieve what they desired without any security pressures imposed by U.S. allies such as Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and other countries around the world. They never supported the non-Afghan groups directly with money or weapons, but by allowing absolute freedom for young people to spend their own money and take advantage of the open land contributed to attaining these achievements. In the end, Uncle Sam destroyed his own country by his own hand with his stupid foreign policy.
It was in this climate of complete inattention from the West that the groups in Afghanistan were able to develop their capabilities. The countries in the West were busy settling scores with the Russians and licking their chops over Mujahideen victories, and for the most part remained completely blind to what was happening in the camps and on the non-Afghan Mujahideen front.
When the Mujahideen prevailed and the Russians withdrew, the Americans awoke from their state of inattention; but it was too late. The American media had not yet used terms such as “foreign fighters” or “Afghan Arabs” or “terrorists” or even “the Afghan resistance”, rather the fixed term in the Western media policy at that time was “Mujahideen”. CNN, BBC, Reuters, France Press were all united in using the term “Jihad” to describe the Afghan resistance and “Mujahideen” to describe the fighters, whether Afghan or Arab, and the term “martyrs” for those among them who were killed.
All of this was to impart international legitimacy on the Western and Islamic support for the Mujahideen in an effort to limit the expansion of the Red Bear and prevent it from obtaining a warm-water port. At the time, Jihadist speeches were accepted and even supported and applauded by the West because they mirrored their strategic interests. Speeches by Sheikh Abdullah Azam or Sheikh Tamim Al-Adnani or addresses by Sheikh Osama bin Laden (Allah have mercy upon them) were accepted by the West. Every one of them was able to move freely from north to south and from east to west in the country.
If Sheikh Sulaiman Abu Ghayth (Allah preserve him) had given speeches at this time and collected money and incited people in mosques in New York or Brooklyn to go join the Jihad in Afghanistan to kill the Russians and the Afghan soldiers, no one would have prevented him or arrested him. In fact, they would have described him as a Mujahid and called him a hero. However, he was not part of that fabric and did not participate in Jihad at that time.
Western hypocrisy became apparent when these same Arab Mujahideen started supporting their Muslim brothers in Chechnya against Russian occupation or when they set off to Bosnia to help their Bosnian brothers prevail against the savage brutality of Serbian attacks.
It was then that the term changed from “Mujahid” to “terrorist” and from “Jihad” to “terrorism”. It was as if the Russians who occupied Afghanistan were not the same Russians who occupied Chechnya or support for the Bosnians was not the same as support for the Afghans. It was as if the charges of conspiracy, material support to terrorism, and killing civilians did not apply to killing Russians and Afghan soldiers and incurring civilian casualties in Afghanistan; but after the Russian defeat, they became charges affixed to anyone who practiced the same Jihad or self-defense or defense of the oppressed in a place or manner incompatible with Western strategic interests.
When the West under U.S. leadership had achieved its goals in Afghanistan, and the Russians had withdrawn leaving the Mujahideen victorious, they left behind them a mass of warring Afghan factions and focused on clearing the Arabs out of the area. Thus began a campaign of mass arrests and deportations to Pakistan.
But it was too late because some of the organizations had become a part of the Afghan people. As for Afghanistan itself, the West did not support the Afghan organizations in order to bring about peace, prosperity, and security in Afghanistan. The U.S. proxies in the lSI under American control foiled every attempt to reconcile or integrate the various Afghan organizations. Every time they saw a strong leader or an organization, they supported him in order to split his organization off from the others. They split the group Hezb Al-Islami Hekmatyar into two parties — one by the same name and one by the name Hezb Al-Islami Younis Khalis and so on.
All of that was done to ensure that even if the Mujahideen prevailed and expelled the Russians they would be left powerless and Afghanistan would remain dependent on Pakistan, India, Iran, or Tajikistan, just as the West desired. But when the pillaging, looting, killing, rape, and gang violence spread and security in Afghanistan disappeared, the people were compelled to revolt, and an appropriate movement for change emerged from the south of Kandahar. Thus the Taliban movement came on the scene and spread like wildfire. They did not meet any resistance from anyone as each Afghan province fell to them one after the other. The people welcomed them, having grown weary and desperate from the deteriorated security situation; and it was only a few months before they entered Kabul and declared an Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.
Security finally prevailed in the cities of Kabul, Kandahar, Jalalabad, etc. to the extent that they become even more secure than American cities such as Chicago, New York, Dallas, and Los Angeles. The peace in which the people lived became almost engraved in the heart of each Afghan person and will never leave the memory of the Afghan people or the history of Afghanistan until judgment day. By the admission of the United Nations, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan was able to stop drug cultivation in the entire country for the first time in over 200 years.
A traveler could travel from the south of the country from Jalalabad to Kabul then go west to Kandahar and turn north to Herat without being robbed. Moreover, shops and crowded markets did not close their doors during prayer times. A storeowner could safely leave his store open to go perform his prayers in the mosque, and he would come back knowing that nothing would be missing from his merchandise. Sometimes, he would find money left on the table by someone who purchased something and left. Such stories had spread in the Islamic world while the hypocrite West besieged Afghanistan from every side, preventing the Afghan airline from flying, and putting pressure on Pakistan to halt support and close the roads.
Even with all that, the price of cars in Afghanistan was three times cheaper than what they cost in Pakistan, and the fuel was much cheaper as well. The curiosity of some sheikhs, scholars, and other Muslims grew, prompting them to come to Afghanistan and confirm for themselves the glowing stories they had heard about the great turning point in the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan from a state of bandits, crime, killing, and narcotics to a state of security and peace.
That was a momentous turning point in the history of the Islamic movements since the fall of the Islamic Caliphate. It constituted a turnaround in which Islamic Sharia law would rule, far removed from subordination to colonial powers and without appeasing or making concessions to the secularists in the country. With total success in removing the differences between different nationalities and ethnicities, Afghanistan, under the leadership of the Emir of the Believers, Mullah Omar (Allah preserve him) was the first Islamic state that treated all Muslim men equally, whether they be Chinese, Indian, Chechnyan, Arabs, or Westerners. This prompted some Muslin scholars, preachers, and regular Muslims to travel to Afghanistan to confirm what was being told about this unique experience and to learn from it. Moreover, some moved with their families to live there and to escape the religious persecution they faced in their countries. They wanted to live in peace and observe their religious practices. An example of this was the Uighurs and people from Myanmar. Many also came from Iraq to escape Saddam, along with numerous people from other countries. Some even came from the West with their families to live in peace in a land governed by Islam.
Even though the existence of Jihadist groups and their camps predated the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, the government did not bother them or their camps because they were associated with the Ministry of Defense and aided the state against the Northern Alliance. This is how complications arose for some analysts. Is every non-Afghan Arab Muslim a member of Al-Qaida? Or has everyone in Guantanamo fought against the Americans? The U.S. government intentionally fosters these misconceptions in order to achieve its goal. Many dignitaries visited Afghanistan including Sheikh Abdullah Al-Turki, the Saudi Minister of Islamic Endowments; Sheikh Yusif Al-Qardawi, head of the Islamic Scholars Association; the Grand Mufti of Egypt at the time, Sheikh Farid Wasil; the head of the Sharia courts in Qatar, Sheikh Thaqil Al-Shammari; Dr. Ali Al-Qaradaghi; the thinker Fahmi Huwaidi, and other scholars from Pakistan such as Al-Mawlawi Nizam Al-Deen Shamzi; the head of the Pakistani Council for Observing the Crescent, Al-Mawlawi Abdallah Ghazi; and his son, Al-Mawlawi Abd-Al-Rashid Ghazi. There were other types of visit from Emirs from the United Arab Emirates to practice the sport of falconry. They would travel to Kandahar in their private jets.
Some visitors of every type met members of the government of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and some even visited the Mujahideen camps if they were considered trustworthy from a security point of view. That does not mean that anyone who visited a Mujahideen camp or gave a lecture was a member of the group or agreed with their ideology. During the school vacations in the Arab peninsula, Kandahar would be filled with visitors, but that doesn’t mean that anyone who gave a lecture in the Mujahideen guesthouses planned military operations. It was commonplace for visiting scholars at these camps to give religious lectures warning them against radicalization, unlawful killing, and “takfir” — the act of declaring someone an infidel. Such visitors would return back to their countries after their vacations were over.
The Media and Abu Ghaith
Sheikh Osama bin Laden (Allah have mercy upon him) appointed me to serve as head of the As-Sahab Foundation for Media Publication, the media front for Al-Qaeda, for a period of time.
Al-Qaeda’s media policy in its war against the enemy occupiers is clear and appropriate to the nature of the war. It is a war of attrition since we are not confronting our enemies in conventional warfare due to the lack of balance between the two sides and the asymmetrical nature of the conflict.
The enemy occupier of the Islamic World is a super power with millions of soldiers and a budget of billions while we are a small organization whose members are limited in numbers and capabilities. There is no comparison between the two sides, so it is obvious that we would have to resort to a long war of attrition to which the military and media alike contribute.
Anyone who reviews the history of our publications and compares them to the events that happened before, during, and after September 11th knows this very well. The U.S. government canceled some joint military maneuvers in Jordan and closed some embassies in the period of time before 9/11 as a result of some media publications, some leaked news, the release of some simple clips of a speech by Osama bin Laden, and the publication of the video “Destroying the Destroyer” at that time as well as the appearance of pictures of Mujahideen camps and their military training.
All this was not in vain because, while the enemy has capabilities that we do not possess, we have the same mental capacity Allah gave to all; and while they use their muscles, we use our minds. Sheikh Osama (Allah have mercy upon him) was very wise in every order he gave us; all of this was part of our media policy to achieve our strategic goals of exhausting our enemy’s efforts, capabilities, and financial assets to the greatest extent possible. Every state of emergency declared and every change of alert level that inflicts specific procedures on the military and civilian sectors costs the country millions of dollars. It is enough that the U.S. government has incurred losses upwards of a trillion dollars in the wars it has waged in the aftermath of 9/11, the bleeding of which continues to this day.
As for the question about whether every person tasked with making statements knows the purpose behind them, the definitive answer is that those commissioned with playing a role in the media, such as reporting on letters or speeches, do not know the extent of them or what is behind them or that this is only a war of attrition. The operations which the leadership intends to undertake and the plans for them are known only to the leader of the operation and the military and security officials involved; those carrying out the operations are not privy to the specific plans until the goal or time of the operation approaches for fear that the operation will be botched or miscarried.
Perhaps there is another reason for a person to be tasked regardless of his affiliation and that is the rhetorical ability of the person or the strength and discipline of his speech or his literary fortitude — especially if he is an eloquent, spellbinding speaker. Perhaps that is one of the reasons why Sheikh Sulaiman Abu Ghayth was commissioned for this mission.
List of Names
There were a number of lists of recorded names in addition to cards, IDs, and charts located in different places, either houses or other places around Pakistan and Afghanistan.
You should know that most of the Arab families had alternate sources of income. Some of them practiced business while others did full-time work to support the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan whether it be as teachers, engineers, Mujahideen, or those who cooperated with the Ministry of Defense.
There were wealthy philanthropists who would send donations through various means according to the number of groups in a given area of Afghanistan. There were Arab communities of non-Afghans in Jalalabad, Khost, Kabul, Herat, Kandahar, and so on; so there was not a single, fixed system for dispersing funds, especially the expenses and financial guarantees distributed by Al-Qaeda to its beneficiaries. It did not limit its members, families, and sympathizers, rather it gave freely to all needy families, regardless of their loyalties or affiliation, for two reasons: one, because it was a religious obligation ordering them to consider all the needy equally and fairly and without discriminating between them; and two, because it was a requirement for many donors to not limit funding to any particular category of people but to give to all those who needed it. There were tables and charts and lists of names of families who received aid and these lists did not delineate the affiliation of the person on record. At one point the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan was trying to keep track of the number of Arabs and arrivals from abroad, so there were permits and cards to facilitate their legal dealings. Many of the Arab brothers had lost their legal papers, travel visas, and all their official documents; so some of the groups tried to make lists of names of everyone who wanted to obtain Afghan ID cards without distinguishing between groups, or for anyone who needed one.
One of the problems the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan suffered from as a result of the oppressive sanctions imposed by the U.S. and its regional allies was that it did not have an effective wired communication network while a mobile phone network was completely non-existent.
Thus, many Arab families and others would resort to using wireless radios or walkie-talkies. Since wireless radio networks are open to all, it was necessary to arrange a schedule and codes to organise most of those using these devices whether they be Arabs or Afghanis in order to prevent overlapping signals and interference and to facilitate communications, as well as save power on these devices considering all the different channels being used during times of heavy communication.
Accordingly, these cards were put into use because they included most of the important facilitates such as hospitals, workshops, schools, or other codes written on the chart along with a list of people who use them. This was not limited to Al-Qaeda or Arabs. One studying the cards would find that they are not related to Al-Qaeda members alone, but also contain names of Taliban members and others.
When the Americans bombed the city of Kandahar and the number of killed and wounded was mounting, it became necessary to add appropriate terms in light of the bombings. In Kandahar there was no front line of battle since the U.S. forces contented themselves with intense air strikes and wireless communication networks were used to transport the injured and evacuate families from homes that had been bombed. Thus, it was necessary to adopt appropriate codes for those situations.
When the U.S. invasion commenced in October of 2001 and the number of people killed or injured began to rise, and when the Emir of the Believers, the president of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (Allah preserve him), decided to preserve the blood of civilians from the worst of the attacks, the order came for all Arab families to leave the country entirely. The defense strategy of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan changed and a guerilla war began against the occupying crusader forces in the country. They did this in order to prevent mass civilian casualties due to the intense air strikes in the cities.
So the non-Afghan families began to leave Afghanistan and I personally oversaw all the families leaving Kandahar for Pakistani Baluchistan. There were many different families from all the Afghan provinces and each area had a specific exit route. All the Arab families were dispersed throughout Jalalabad, Herat, Khost, Kandahar, and other cities and there was no fixed system for removing the families; however high priority and concern was given to the aged and the newly arrived, die to their unfamiliarity with the language and the country which prompted the Sheikhs to make specific and general provisions for them. Sheikh Sulaiman Abu Ghayth was not included in the list of families from Kandahar because his family was not with him; they were in Kuwait.
Bayat is an oath taken by a member in the introductory phase obligating him to hear and obey [the one to whom he has sworn] as long as the orders do not contradict Islamic principles.
There is no specific rite or ceremony to swear bayat. The swearer has only to extend his hand to Sheikh Osama bin Laden and say a few words expressing his willingness to be obedient and undertake migration and jihad for the sake of Allah.
There is no one in Al-Qaeda whose mission it is to give speeches pushing people to swear bayat. I myself was one of the ones who worked with the Sheikh, was responsible for media production, and attended Shura meetings with him but did not swear bayat to him. He never once spoke to me about swearing bayat because he knew me well and trusted me. Then one day I swore bayat to him on my own without anyone pushing me to do so. Swearing bayat to the president of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, the leader of the faithful, Mullah Omar was mandatory; whereas swearing bayat to Sheikh Osama bin Laden was not.
The United States tries to fabricate charges against innocent people, saying they swore bayat or incited others to do so. Swearing bayat does not mean that a person is placed on a list to carry out an operation; even the cook has sworn bayat.
As for the question of whether I saw Sheikh Sulaiman Abu Ghaith giving lectures or participating in activities to push Arab Mujahideen to swear bayat to Sheikh Osama bin Laden, the answer is no. To tell the truth, I do not even know if Sheikh Sulaiman Abu Ghaith personally swore bayat to Sheikh Osama bin Laden or not.
Sheikh Sulaiman Abu Ghayth and the Shoe Bomb Operation
I personally never spoke with Sheikh Sulaiman Abu Ghayth about the Shoe Bomb Operation. As I mentioned before on page two, Sheikh Sulaiman Abu Ghayth was not a military man and had nothing to do with military operations. Also, as I mentioned on page seven, those tasked with giving statements to the media do not necessarily know all the details of an operation and are sometimes even unaware of the very existence of the operation. I do not recall ever seeing Sheikh Sulaiman Abu Ghayth with my brother Abdul-Jabbar (Richard Reid, Allah preserve him).
Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer and film-maker. He is the co-founder of the “Close Guantánamo” campaign, and 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. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here — or here for the US).
To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to Andy’s RSS feed — and he can also be found on Facebook (and here), Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. Also see the six-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, and “The Complete Guantánamo Files,” an ongoing, 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011. Also see the definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.
If it weren’t for its idealisation of the Taliban regime (although in the beginning they certainly were appreciated for having put an end to the lawlessness of the civil war) and without passing judgement on the veracity and/or moral value of every single detail of his statement, it is a far more coherent, logical and non-hysterical assessment of the subject than any I have yet seen from any of the belligerents involved. And those include legal governments with supposedly superior intelligence and analysts.
Amazing also, that this man after so many years of torture and 183 waterboardings, is still capable of drafting such coherent comments.
With 451 questions asked, I’m not even sure one needs to be a paranoiac to wonder whether some of them aren’t by chance ‘the usual ones’ rather than ones specifically connected with the subject and person being tried.
Yes, I agree about his analysis of Afghanistan being more coherent than most commentators, Anna. I also think that, uncomfortably, he also puts the case for the Taliban well from the point of view of someone who admires the order of a hardline Islamist regime.
I only questioned his paranoia because Abu Ghaith’s lawyers are so clearly in opposition to the US authorities (although working within a legal framework accepted by both parties, of course). However, another way of looking at it would be that when you look closely at KSM’s suspicions, they don’t betray any sort of trauma, demonstrating, I think, how he has not been “broken,” unlike other victims of the torture program – Abu Zubaydah and Ramzi bin al-Shibh, for example.
Andy, thank you very much for republishing KSM’s statement.
I am reading through it, and I just got to a paragraph that I think makes an excellent point. In writing about the period when the USA tacitly supported foreign volunteers in Afhganistan, trying to oust a foreign occupier (The Soviets), he writes:
If Sheikh Sulaiman Abu Ghayth (Allah preserve him) had given speeches at this time and collected money and incited people in mosques in New York or Brooklyn to go join the Jihad in Afghanistan to kill the Russians and the Afghan soldiers, no one would have prevented him or arrested him. In fact, they would have described him as a Mujahid and called him a hero. However, he was not part of that fabric and did not participate in Jihad at that time.
I think I mentioned already having a sweet old Professor emeritus who traveled to Spain when he was 19 years old, and enlisted in the Abraham Lincoln Brigade.
His situation was not really that different than the foreign volunteers who fought beside Afghan resistance fighters against the Soviets.
On the other hand, my sweet old Professor was different than anyone involved in war crimes, atrocities against civilians, or atrocities against POWs who legitimately surrendered and were entitled to food, shelter, medical treatment — not summary execution, torture, or even public humiliation.
Maybe nation-states should put roadblocks in the way of their citizens who want to volunteer to fight in foreign wars. The USA, Canada, France, England, did put some roadblocks in the way of their citizens who wanted to help the legitimately elected Republican side in that civil war. Still, tens of thousands of volunteers did make it over there. I think, nominally, the troops Mussolini’s Italian government sent, and the Luftwaffe’s Condor Legion, were not an expeditionary force. I think the official line was that they too were merely individual volunteers. I think the Soviet Union touted a similiarly deceitful line, when they sent some units.
Maybe nation-states should put roadblocks, so those foreign volunteers can’t be pointed at as violators of neutrality, as the Italian, German, and Soviet troops were in fact during the Spanish Civil War, and as the volunteers bankrolled by the CIA were during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s, or as the Contras were in Nicaragua, at that same time.
I am not a lawyer, but I suspect that in a truly fair trial, a distinction could be made between encouraging individuals to volunteer to fight in ways that conformed to the Geneva Conventions, and encouraging individuals to engage in acts of terrorism.
I am not a lawyer, but I read, with regard to another individual who stood accused of making “recruiting videos”, that actual lawyers thought a strong argument could be made that videos, even recruiting videos, even recruiting videos for militant muslims, might be protected in the USA under the amendment that allows free speech. If it turns out that those lawyers got that wrong, but Abu Ghaith’s encouragement was only to volunteer to fight in ways that conformed with the Geneva Conventions, his punishment should be for that — not for encouraging anyone to engage in terrorism.
Thanks, arcticredriver. Yes, I think KSM accurately pointed out how those perceived as freedom fighters became perceived as terrorists, and that quote illustrates it well.
The first amendment issue you mention concerns Ali Hamza al-Bahlul, who made a promotional video for Al-Qaeda. His lawyers have indeed made a point of arguing that making a video is not a war crime, and that the conviction of al-Bahlul could have a chilling effect on the freedom of speech of any non-American – myself, for example.
I can’t recall quite where this argument ended up, although al-Bahlul’s sentence was vacated by the DC Circuit Court last January, but for different reasons – because the crimes of which he was convicted were not recognized as war crimes when the legislation was passed – and, in fact, had been invented by Congress. In the meantime, however, those first amendment issues returned to the fore with the Hedges v. Obama lawsuit challenging the military detention provisions in the NDAA, which seems to have the potential to allow anyone – including US as well as foreign journalists – to be perceived as supporters of terrorism and imprisoned without trial.
Tenzin Angmo wrote:
The only “crime” he has committed is questioning U.S. imperialism. Good and rare article.
Holly Marie wrote:
I have to re-read his whole response again, but my first knee-jerk reaction is – what a manipulative liar and, of course, he was insulated from lower al Qaeda members. I tried to be open-minded reading the article, but he is still the guy who came up with the idea of flying hijacked airplanes into buildings and many other sick atrocities. Do I still think the prisoners at Guantanamo deserve to be charged or let go? Of COURSE. But why KSM’s testimony matters a whit is beyond me – he appears to be framing everything to bash the US and suit his needs. He is not a credible witness at all regardless of what happened after his capture and especially because of that – he has an axe to grind and he always will. It’s interesting how he framed responses, skipped answering some altogether.
Pauline Kiernan wrote:
Thank you Andy. Sharing this important post.
Agastyan Daram wrote:
He really points out how the west created an environment in Afghanistan for the Taliban to grow. Regardless of how anybody views him, he is a living historical record of an piece of world history. I hope more people will read this article for there is a lot to learn from it. I hope they allow him to testify and I think he makes his case in a manner of honesty. In his position he has nothing to lie about. Furthermore it is out of character of his religious beliefs to do so. If we had helped Afghanistan after the Soviets had left, instead of leaving them in the cold, think how different the history of the world would be today.
Thanks, Tenzin, Holly, Pauline and Agastyan, for the varied responses. It’s exactly why I thought it was important to make it available. KSM is not necessarily trustworthy, but he does have a coherent narrative about the failures of the US (and to a lesser extent the west in general) – the support for the Mujahideen followed by a dangerous loss of interest in Afghanistan after the Soviet withdrawal, and the way in which those regarded as freedom fighters, supported by the west, became perceived as terrorists. Because he has been silenced throughout most of his eleven years in US custody, I believe it’s important to hear his words, even if he may not necessarily be trustworthy on some issues.
I came across a disturing article from the LATimes, about a guy held for a month when his name and birthdate were the same as a guy with an outstanding warrant. He had been arrested years ago, based on this mistaken identity, and had been given a letter to confirm he was not the wanted man. Upon his arrest he informed the police he was the wrong guy, and that the paperwork to confirm this was in the dossier.
Nevertheless the police didn’t bother to check the file, and the innocent man was held for a month.
He sued, and in a split decision the appeals court ruled he did not have grounds to sue.
I thought this kind of malicious incompetence was confined to the intelligence establishment, and wasn’t found in the law enforcement. Mind you, captives of the US intelligence establishment can be held for years based on mistaken identity.
Andy, may I direct a reply directly to respondent Holly Marie?
Prior to the transfer of KSM and the other CIA captives to military custody on 2006-9-6, I think essentially all legal scholars assumed KSM and the other torture victims could never be tried. I thought what they were saying was that President Bush had two incompatible choices.
One choice was to interrogate KSM and the other men in the normal law enforcement way, where they had rights like the right to avoid self-incrimination. The advantage would be that Americans who had a thirst for justice, or vengeance, could see that trial.
The other choice was to use extreme interrogation methods — torture if you like. The advantage was (if you believed torture can work) wringing him dry of information, while ignoring his human and legal rights, might wring out information that could prevent an imminent attack. The disadvantage is that by authorizing stripping him of the legal right to avoid self-incrimination, President Bush had insured those who wanted to closure of a trial would have to be disappointed.
Is KSM genuinely guilty of some terrible crimes? I don’t think anyone denies this. Under torture he almost certainly confessed to crimes he didn’t commit.
Should KSM be punished? Almost everyone would say that is desirable. But how many years of regular incarceration equals a single year of detention in a CIA torture prison? Is secret detention in a prison where your guards imply they may secretly kill you equivalent to sitting on death row?
Although they haven’t admitted it, the CIA may have subjected some of their captives to summary extrajudicial detention.
He has already received quite a lot of punishment.
In theory all of the confessions that will be used against KSM and the other high value captives were made to a clean team — new interrogators who weren’t torturing them, or threatening to torture them.
If someone has only been tortured once, if he isn’t still kept in custody, maybe after a period of time, the previous torture will no longer influence the answers they give. But KSM was waterboarded 183 times.
If KSM can’t be tried, it won’t be the fault of pointy-headed liberals. It will be the fault of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld.
Thanks, arcticredriver. I had not seen that story. I don’t know how frequent – or infrequent – it is in law enforcement circles, but it is certainly a disturbing part of the Guantanamo landscape, as you have written about here on several occasions, pointing out, for example, how the guards sometimes brought the wrong prisoners to interrogations, but no one necessarily noted it in the files, if they had even understood that the wrong prisoner had been delivered to them. Interestingly, just before Abu Ghaith’s trial began, three weeks ago, his lawyers unsuccessfully tried to get the judge to accept that their client had been mistaken for a prisoner in Guantanamo: http://www.latimes.com/nation/nationnow/la-na-nn-sulaiman-abu-ghaith-20140227,0,2029401.story#axzz2wNFYF7Zv
Andy, I’d like to further address Holly Marie’s concerns over KSM’s credibility. I agree, there are reasons to doubt his credibility.
It sounds to me as if once he decided he couldn’t withstand torture any farther, without “breaking,” he used his torture against his interrogators, as he didn’t just confess to his actual crimes — I think he decided he would make up all kinds of new plots, and confess to them as well.
I think it is worth considering how lacking in credibility the witnesses against KSM are.
Some of them will turn out to be unreliable stool pigeons. Some of them will turn out to be other CIA captives, who after years of terrifying detention in the CIA camps, have lost their minds. And yet others, I am afraid, will turn out to be other captives who are being blackmailed into perjury.
The prosecution aims to use Majid Khan as a witness against KSM. Was Majid Khan really connected to KSM,or al Qaeda? Maybe, but I think there is room for a heck of a lot of doubt. He negotiated a plea deal — one a lot worse than anyone else’s so far.
The Washington Post wrote a disgusting editorial, crowing about his “tough but fair” sentence. His plea deal is conditional. He has to testify against KSM, and other high value captives. The Wapo editorial stated if he didn’t testify “truthfully” his plea deal would be thrown out. But, I am very concerned that Khan may be an innocent man, and what the Wapo editorial calls “truthful” really means testimony that is consistent with the Prosecution’s narrative. ie. perjury.
Holly Marie, innocent men don’t usually agree to plead guilty, when they face a fair trial, but almost all of those convicted before the Guantanamo military commissions did so because, under the Guantanamo system being acquitted doesn’t guarantee release. It is only through a guilty plea that a captive can look forward to a definite fixed release date.
Thanks, arcticredriver. The way I see it is that prosecuting tortured prisoners was supposed to be possible when Cheney and Addington brought the military commissions back to life in November 2001, but it didn’t work out that way because of the brave resistance by military lawyers and, eventually, the Supreme Court’s ruling in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld that the commissions violated the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the Geneva Conventions. I haven’t actually read much about what legal experts think about the admissibility (or not) of the government’s so-called evidence (primarily, whether statements obtained by clean teams can, essentially, wipe out the earlier use of torture), because the commissions have faced more fundamental challenges regarding their legitimacy, and I believe the main struggle is still to get them dropped and trials moved to federal court.
There, I have always thought, any supposedly untainted evidence could be used (and, if credible, would convince a jury to convict), but the use of torture would also have to be opened up to scrutiny, which would involve accepting some sort of accountability (at the highest levels of the Bush administration) that the Obama administration has been completely unwilling to pursue. In short, I find it difficult to imagine a messier situation, legally and ethically.
Thanks again, arcticredriver. I found the Washington Post editorial you were referring to, “A terrorist’s fair deal,” with its mention of what the editors referred to as a “fair but appropriately tough plea deal,” and I share your concern that Khan was pressurized, and that the truth may have been lost along the way. The editorial’s here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/a-terrorists-fair-deal/2012/03/02/gIQAVJiRrR_story.html
My only quibble with your comment would be that, in the US federal court system, innocent men often agree to plead guilty because, if convicted, they would face hugely punitive sentences. This applies in particular to people who face biased juries – black men, for example, or, since 9/11, Muslims, for whom the conviction rate in alleged terrorism cases is not far off 100 percent.
You are absolutely correct to point out, however, that, at Guantanamo, “It is only through a guilty plea that a captive can look forward to a definite fixed release date,” and that’s an absolute disgrace, of course, as it indicates that the concepts of innocence and acquittal have been eradicated at Guantanamo, just as the Bush administration intended when the commissions were first established. There was a famous exchange on just those issues between Col. Morris Davis and “Jim” Haynes, the Pentagon’s Chief Counsel, and one of the major architects of the torture and lawlessness of the “war on terror,” which I reported here, and which contributed significantly to Davis’s resignation as chief prosecutor in 2007: http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2008/02/27/guantanamos-shambolic-trials-pentagon-boss-resigns-ex-chief-prosecutor-joins-defense/
Andy, you are correct about some innocent men pleading guilty in the US justice system. The cases I have heard about have all had an exceptional element: a suspect with an exceptionally bad legal advice; a suspect with exceptional mental health issues; or who faced an exceptionally bad court. I know the US justice system relies on plea bargains to an extent that would surprise legal scholars of decades ago. I don’t really know how often innocent men nevertheless plead guilty in the US justice system. So I should probably use the term “in a truly fair justice system”, rather than specifically name the US civilian justice system.
But let me bring up the new development of Senator Dianne Fienstein’s accusations that the CIA was improperly monitoring the use she and her staff were making of a library of classified documents the CIA had made available to them.
Feinstein is on the Senate Intelligence Commitee. So to a much greater extent than the rest of her Senate colleagues, she has a responsibility to monitor the activities of all the USA’s amazingly large number of agencies with intelligence or counter-intelligence mandates. As a member of a Congressional Intelligence Committee she also has the authority to review those agencies’ secret documents.
Apparently she worked for three years to get the CIA to let her and her staff review documents on the CIA’s use of torture. The CIA finally stopped stalling, or exhausted all the excuses it could think of to stall, and they assembled a collection of secret documents.
Andy, it won’t surprise you to learn that the CIA employed the same technique the DoD employed when it released the transcripts from the OARDEC hearings in 2006. They made a very large collection of documents available — but without any index as what documents were present, or what they contained.
The documents could only be reviewed in a “secure compartmentalized facitily” — which means that those reviewing the documents can’t make copies, or print out pages, from those documents. I think when Candace Gorman wrote about visiting a similiar facility, after getting a security clearance that allowed her to review secret documents about her clients, she described how those with permission to review secret documents had to leave personal notes they made behind, in the facility. Their personal notes would also become classified.
Nevertheless, Feinstein and her plucky staff did find documents with new details, at least details that were new to the staff on the Senate Intelligence Committee with clearances that should have entitled them to learn those details a decade ago.
In particular they found a long and incomplete document or set of documents, now known as the Panetta Report. When Leon Panetta became the DCI — the Director of Central Intelligence Agency — he called for a secret internal report to be prepared for him on the torture program, what did the secret files say was done, candidly, not for publication, had it been of any value.
There are Kafkaesque, and Orwellian elements to this story.
Feinstein says the CIA removed the Panetta Report from this secure library. She says this shows the CIA was monitoring her and her staff. The FBI has the mandate to use surveillance inside the USA. The CIA’s mandate restricts it from spying on Americans, inside the CIA. And, if I understand her correctly, she is mad as heck that the CIA thinks it can pick and choose which secret documents she can access, as she can’t effectively oversee its operations if they get to withhold documents.
The CIA is claiming executive privilege. They are also claiming members of her staff removed a printed copy the Panetta Report from the secure facility.
The CIA’s attempts to rewrite its history by destroying documents, or withholding them from legislators authorized to see them? Orwellian.
Some critics of Feinstein have complained that she had no objection of intelligence officials at the NSA monitoring ordinary Americans, she only objects when intelligence officials monitor her personally.
I just checked Leon Panetta at wikipedia, to confirm my recollection that he was not a career CIA officer — so he wouldn’t have been following the torture program through CIA water-cooler gossip. He must have anticipated that he would be called to answer for the decisions and actions of his predecessors, and I think it shows some measure of competence and responsibility, on his part, to insist on a candid report — not a whitewash.
Mind you, to my way of thinking, the truly competent and responsible thing to do when that report confirmed (1) laws were broken all over the place; and (2) torture was a failure, never produced any “valuable intelligence” — [would be to lay] charges against all law-breakers and publish most of the report.
The report is still secret, but leaks imply that the analysts Panetta trusted to prepare it independently reached the same conclusions Feinstein’s staff reached, that you and I and your human rights and journalistic colleagues reached — namely that torture was a flawed technique, just plain didn’t work.
Thanks, arcticredriver. Yes, I didn’t have time to report this story last week, so thanks for the recap. Isn’t it about time that someone just leaked the report?
Suzanne Schroeder wrote:
Judge Kaplan ruled today that no way would KSM’s testimony be considered. Still a little unclear whether DoD and DoJ officials would have been present, if KSM had been interviewed. According to Stanley Cohen, Kaplan is, um, difficult.
Thanks, Suzanne. CNN report here, which captures something of the day’s clashes: http://edition.cnn.com/2014/03/18/us/osama-bin-laden-relative-trial/
Holly Marie wrote:
Even so, Andy, don’t forget who KSM is. He is responsible for horrible things and has a warped ideology. He killed Daniel Pearl and he planned the 9/11 attacks on America. Don’t think for one second he is truthful. The muslims I know, would never have done the things he has done and would never, ever, call him a ‘freedom fighter”, nor would I. He is responsible for some of my friends dying in the WTC on 9/11 in unimaginable ways. I would never believe a word he said. And, we don’t need an evil liar to remind us that Reagan originally armed the mujahideen, but a lot of those camps were converted to al Qaeda and are terrorists.
Hi Holly, I should have written “those regarded as freedom fighters” rather than “freedom fighters,” so I’ve changed it. What interests me in particular is how KSM has been treated by the US. He should have been interrogated without the use of torture, and prosecuted in federal court. If that had happened, he would have had a limited opportunity to make his case, and, if the allegations about him are true, would, I’m sure, have been convicted and presumably executed. Instead, he has been a victim of torture and of a trial system (the military commissions) that is not fit for purpose and he has also, in general, been silenced by the US authorities. The lesson of it all, I believe, is that it is necessary to work within the laws as they existed on 9/11 if justice is to be done.
Holly Marie wrote:
Thanks for clarifying that, Andy. I agree.
You’re welcome, Holly.
Agastyan Daram wrote:
“A clearly aggravated Kaplan dismissed Cohen’s claim and instead said the defense team “sat on their hands” as the case headed for trial. Kaplan also noted that the attorneys were offered the opportunity last month to conduct an in-person interview with Mohammed at Guantanamo Bay, but for some reason changed their minds and submitted written questions only. When Cohen rose to respond, he was told to sit back down.
Cohen and co-counsel Zoe Dolan told CNN after the hearing that they abandoned the plan to interview Mohammed when they were told representatives for the Department of Defense and the Department of Justice would be present.”
I took this part out of the article you posted… clearly these judges are hard to deal with.. maybe the defense team should have gone through with the interview anyways dod present or not.
Yes, with hindsight the lawyers may be thinking that too, Agastyan, but it’s understandable that they didn’t want an interview with a minder present as the first option. I think the written version worked well for their purposes, although there’s nothing that can be done if Judge Kaplan isn’t willing to let them use KSM. I’m just not sure who else the lawyers are supposed to be able to call on to try and establish their client’s version of events. If Abu Ghaith really was no more than the newsreader, it doesn’t seem fair that the US gets to present its other, serious allegations about him being involved in terrorist plots in an uncontested manner.
Ajo Muhammad wrote:
Thanks for sharing this Andy!
You’re welcome, Ajo. Good to hear from you.
Agastyan Daram wrote:
Everything about GTMO appears to be Orwellian in nature. It seems that the defense lawyers are going to have to learn to work with their opposition peering over their shoulders at any given time. Forget about attorney, client privilege..
Yes, that’s a very good point, Agastyan. The history of Guantanamo, since lawyers were allowed in (from late 2004 onwards) is one of the authorities trying to destroy the attorney-client privilege, either through bugged cells, or raids in which confidential materials were confiscated. With the “high-value detainees,” the most significant clampdown has been the authorities’ almost complete refusal to allow anything any of them have ever said to be made public. It is all very alarming and unacceptable, to be frank.
Holly Marie, with Andy’s indulgence, I am going to respond to your most recent comment.
Can I remind you of something we were all taught in Kindergarten?
Two wrongs don’t make a right.
Yes, I understand that some people would like to get payback from him equal to all the pain and suffering of those who choked to death on 9-11, or threw themselves from windows, and equal to the pain of all those who suffered shocking loss of a loved one. Realistically, some survivors feel so much pain that even if KSM was tortured every day for a thousand years they still wouldn’t feel he had suffered enough.
Unfortunately, for everyone who wants the closure of a fair trial President George W. Bush, upon the advice of his senior advisors, like Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, made decisions that mean KSM can never get a fair trial. Given that he can never be given a fair trial I would prefer we skip the show trial.
As to your comment that we can’t believe a word KSM said? So, why would you believe his confession that he killed Daniel Pearl? People will confess to anything under torture. Did you know another man was convicted of that crime in Pakistan, and is still serving his sentence for that? Following KSM’s confession we have been told that KSM was confirmed as Pearl’s killer by analyzing the pattern of the veins on the backs of the hands of the murderer, as seen in the grainy video.
Maybe, on one level, some might suggest that it doesn’t matter whether KSM is innocent of some of the crimes he confessed to, as those that he did actually commit already merit the harshest possible punishment. To that I have two responses.
First, public safety is very badly served by following wild goose-chases. We can no longer allow public policy to be shaped by the wild sick fantasies of the deranged individuals who tortured patently false confessions from this man.
Second, I suggest, KSM has already been subjected to the harshest possible punishment consistent with the provisions in US law that bar “cruel and unusual punishment”. In fact his torture went far beyond “cruel and unusual punishment”.
A further Orwellian element — a couple of years ago the defense went through six months or more of fruitless complaints because they found the offices they were issued were unusable because they were so heavily infested by rats and cockroaches, and the Office of Military Commissions wouldn’t clean them up or issue the alternate office space.
Thanks again for your thoughts, arcticredriver. There is something about the rat-infested office for the defense team that serves as a perfect metaphor for the disdain for justice enshrined in the military commissions.
If I may join Arcticredriver in his latest reaction to Hollie Mary, I would suggest getting acquainted with the association of family members of 9/11 victims called ‘Peaceful Tomorrows’.
They have chosen not to let hatred and revenge perpetuate a vicious circle of violence, but to use their personal experience of this tragedy to promote peace and understanding, so that no 9/11 will ever happen again. They clearly distinguish lawful justice from any form of revenge and I imagine that this attitude helps them much better to come to terms with their loss, than hatred ever could.
Or take organisations of war veterans like Veterans for Peace or IVAW, whose members both suffered and inflicted suffering and also have understood that revenge is not the way forward.
And last but not least, Moazzam Begg, who is one of those who unjustly paid a very high price for 9/11 while they were not in any way responsible for it happening, and yet he too is focusing on peaceful solutions and reconciliation, not revenge for what he and his loved ones were made to suffer.
Thanks for your comments, Anna. This year, albeit briefly, I saw Valerie Lucznikowska of 9/11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows at the protest in Washington D.C. on the 12th anniversary of the opening of Guantanamo. It was very good to see her.
Sarah K Hogarth wrote:
One of the difficulties with this case is that over the 12 years since the actions that Mr. Abu Ghaith is charged with, most of the central witnesses have either been killed by the U.S. and its allies, or they have been isolated at Guantanamo where defendants in U.S. courts do not have the same level of access that they would have to, for example, someone in a federal prison (who can be visited and interviewed by defense lawyers without a representative of the government prosecutors present). The question of having a “minder” there was a concern expressed by KSM – and I’d say that’s not surprising given that he is in the midst of being prosecuted himself. In my view, this situation is yet another example of how the due process nightmare that is Guantanamo is reaching into and tainting the process in courtrooms in the U.S. as well. And re the CNN story – one major error in their reporting is stating that Abu Ghaith was extradited. He was not – he was renditioned- the U.S. put a bag on his head and put him on a gulfstream, when he thought he was simply changing planes in a third country on his way back to Kuwait. Another sad indicator of the state of our expectations of due process when we start referring to that as extradition (which is a legal process, pursuant to treaties, and where the person being extradited has access to legal assistance).
Thanks, Sarah, for highlighting some of the particular difficulties with the case – the lack of witnesses, for example, and, of course, the huge difficulties involved in getting unmolested access to prisoners in Guantanamo. I was impressed that KSM was even allowed to answer written questions.
Thanks also for pointing out the inaccuracy in the CNN report. Very sloppy, although mistaking rendition and extradition is indicative of how legal norms have been disregarded since 9/11.
A few days after KSM’s answers were published press reports seemed to indicate some scrambling among the spooks and public affairs officers, trying to figure out who authorized this and whether it was a leak or bad judgment on the part of someone who should have prevented the publication.
Sarah’s comment above reminds me of the Orwellian, Kafkaesque tragicomic elements of the whole Guantanamo mess. Mark Twain’s other youthful and exuberant protagonist, Tom Sawyer, was raised by an aunt, who spent a lot of energy trying to civilize him through punishment. After one punishment for an infraction for which he may have been innocent, she acknowledges he may have been innocent — that time. But she expressed confidence he was guilty of other infractions she hadn’t yet become aware of, so she was unapologetic over disciplining him.
Many of the comments by those who are willing to take shortcuts in the prosecution and punishment of the Guantanamo captives remind me Tom Sawyer’s aunt. When I read the transcripts I was struck by something you also noted in your comments. Some of the officers at some of the Tribunals would be unable to determine a justification for their detention, so they would ask the captives to explain why they were detained. They assumed that IF they had been detained, there must have been a good reason for their detention. It might have been absent from the documents due to a clerical error. When captives responded by saying they honestly had no idea, the officers seemed to assume they were lying — because those captives were never cleared for release.
Like Tom Sawyer’s aunt, it was inconceivable to them that innocent men had been sent to Guantanamo, in error. Like Tom Sawyer’s aunt, they assumed that even if they were innocent of the particular crime with which they were charged, all Guantanamo captives were guilty of something worthy of punishment.
Thanks, arcticredriver, for that analogy, which ought to be particularly pertinent to American readers, brought up on Mark Twain. So Tom Sawyer’s aunt “acknowledges he may have been innocent […] But she expressed confidence he was guilty of other infractions she hadn’t yet become aware of, so she was unapologetic over disciplining him.”
That definitely captures something of the horrors of pre-emptive detention, which, of course, is partly what Guantanamo is about, even though that ought to be anathema to civilized people. Of course, it also indicates that the US wishes to hold people for what they might have done, as well as for what they might do in future, which is also fundamentally unacceptable to decent people with respect for the law. Also, while reading and writing this, it occurred to me that people ought to be aware that, while Guantanamo exists, there are people in power who want to use the example of Guantanamo to push for imprisonment without charge or trial – on suspicion, essentially – on the US mainland as well as on that remote base in Cuba.
Writer, campaigner, investigative journalist and commentator. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
Email Andy Worthington
Please support Andy Worthington, independent journalist: