41 Attorneys from the Cincinnati Area Call on Donald Trump to Close Guantánamo

Campaigners from Witness Against Torture and other organizations call for the closure of Guantanamo outside the White House on January 11, 2012, the 10th anniversary of the prison's opening.Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months of the Trump administration.

 

Last week, 41 attorneys from the Cincinnati area, in Ohio, wrote a column for the Cincinnati Enquirer calling for Donald Trump to close Guantánamo. Founded in 1841, the paper is the last surviving daily newspaper in Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky, and is traditionally regarded as a a conservative, Republican-leaning newspaper.

Nevertheless, on August 26 it gave space to the 41 lawyers, including some who have represented Guantánamo prisoners over the 16 long years of the prison’s history, for them to argue that the 41 men still held at Guantánamo should either be freed or charged and tried in federal court.

It’s a position that I agree with, as regular readers will know, and it’s reassuring to see so many lawyers come together to make such a definitive statement in the face of Donald Trump’s refusal to acknowledge that the prison is, as the lawyers describe it, “a great shame that hangs over the American legal system.”

Imagine if, across the country, thousands and thousands of lawyers got together to repeat this message, and to send it out through regional and national media.

I’d love to see it happen, and the lawyers themselves close their column by stating, “Join us in calling on bar associations, elected officials and fellow citizens in closing this awful stain on our legal system and our country,” but in the meantime I’m delighted to cross-post their article, in the hope that it gets out to interested parties who may have missed it. 

The article notes that, because the US Constitution applies at Guantánamo, the men should be freed or tried, because “[o]ne bedrock principle of due process is that extended detention without affording a trial for the individual is illegal.”

However, as they also make clear, the trial system established at Guantánamo — the military commissions — is irredeemably broken, as the experiences of one of their number, Rick Kammen, lay bare. Kammen worked on the commissions as a defense lawyer until he was obliged to resign because, fundamentally, the government was spying on the defense teams, and there was no effective way of challenging them.

I hope you have time to read the article, and will share it if you find it persuasive — and if you can help with getting or lawyers on board, let’s do it! If 41 lawyers can do this in Cincinnati, one for each prisoner still held, we surely ought to be able to get 5,000 lawyers across the country to say to Donald Trump, “No more! Close Guantánamo now!” — or perhaps, more appropriately, 6,081 lawyers, one for each day Guantánamo has been open.

Due process: Guantánamo detainees should be released
By Robert Newman and Michael O’Hara, the Cincinnati Enquirer, August 26, 2018

There is a great shame that hangs over the American legal system: the injustice of the Guantánamo detainees. Today, 41 Muslim men remain at Guantánamo. Thirteen have cases in the military commission system. The remainder have been held for up to 16 years without charges filed against them. Five of these have been cleared for transfer, meaning that the Pentagon and the intelligence agencies have agreed that they pose no security threat. Many of the 41 detainees have been tortured at either CIA “black sites” or at Guantánamo itself.

President George W. Bush released 532 detainees by the end of his second term, and President Barack Obama released 197 and sought to close Guantánamo, but was prevented by congressional action. Nine detainees have died since the prison opened, several by suicide. Now President Donald Trump has vowed that he would “absolutely authorize” torture techniques such as waterboarding on the grounds that terrorism suspects “deserve it,” and that he would fill Guantánamo back up with “bad dudes.”

Since the United States claims Guantánamo Bay pursuant to a 1903 lease authorizing a naval station and coaling station which later became a “perpetual lease,” the U.S. Constitution extends to this property and its inhabitants. One bedrock principle of due process is that extended detention without affording a trial for the individual is illegal.Sixteen years is beyond any shred of due process. Even a year cannot be justified. For this reason, all 41 detainees should be released.

Yet there are other reasons for the releasing of the detainees. Two of them, Toffiq Al-Bihani and Abdul Latif Nasser have been approved for transfer to other countries who are willing to receive them. Their continued detention is senseless and punitive.

Twenty-eight of the detainees have not even been charged. How can someone be imprisoned with no trial, no judgment of guilt and no charges? Such conduct by our government and military courts utterly betrays the constitutional promise of due process. Honoring this fundamental principle would demand immediate release of these unconstitutionally detained individuals.

Some commentators have suggested the that military commissions should be allowed to continue and that some or all of the detainees should be tried before these commissions. A criminal defense attorney from Indianapolis, Richard Kammen, spent nine years assisting with the defense of Abdul Rahim Al-Nashiri, a Guantánamo detainee charged with involvement in the bombing of the USS Cole. Al-Nashiri was charged in 2003. He has yet to be tried.

At the 2018 Kentucky Bar Annual Convention, Kammen described how it became impossible to provide meaningful legal representation due to restrictions imposed by the military commissions that offend the principles of due process we as Americans take for granted. He described how guards confiscate privileged legal materials from the cells of the detainees and how the military prosecutors read defense counsel’s correspondence to their clients.

The commander of the prosecution issued an order requiring military officials to review all legal correspondence between defense counsel and their clients, and counsel who refuse would not be allowed to visit their clients. Kammen and his colleagues discovered that the rooms in which defense counsel had been meeting with their clients for years were wired with microphones disguised as smoke detectors.

The government also intruded into defense counsels’ emails. In 2013, it was discovered that the FBI had recruited an informant on a defense legal team. When the military judge prohibited Kammen and his legal team from informing their client of concerns about attorney-client confidentiality on grounds that would result in disclosing classified information, Kammen decided that he could not ethically continue to represent his client, as he was prevented by our government and the military courts from providing constitutionally adequate representation. Thus, he was ethically compelled to withdraw.

Moreover, these same military commissions have denied detainees any effective opportunity to challenge the government’s use of detainees’ confessions that were obtained through torture and “enhanced interrogation” methods that would never survive scrutiny in any court in the United States. Counsel for detainees have been denied access to evidence relating to the circumstances under which confessions were obtained.

The government and military commissions have done this under the shadowy rubric “national security” or protection of “classified information.” Everything about the conduct of these military commissions is antithetical to the fundamental principles of the right to effective assistance of counsel and to a fair trial, rights that have long since been embedded in the Fifth and Sixth Amendments to our Constitution.

It should be obvious to any lawyer or jurist that trials comporting with due process are not possible with military commissions. To the extent that the government can provide any justification for detaining anyone, those people should be brought to American soil and tried in federal courts. The government is reluctant to do this because of the scrutiny that would necessarily focus on statements obtained from the detainees by the most brutal forms of interrogation yet devised.

This is not American justice. This is not America. We are lawyers, and we are deeply offended by the injustices of Guantánamo. Join us in calling on bar associations, elected officials and fellow citizens in closing this awful stain on our legal system and our country.

This column was jointly written by the following 41 Cincinnati-area attorneys: Robert B. Newman; Michael J. O’Hara; Timothy M. Burke; Nora Dean Burke; Louis H. Sirkin; Nicholas J. DiNardo; John L. Heilbrun; William R. Gallagher; Joseph J. Dehner; Maurice O. White; Alphonse A. Gerhardstein; Richard Ganulin; Stephen R. Felson; Marc D. Mezibov; Kathleen M. Brinkman; Lisa T. Meeks; Elizabeth Asbury Newman; John Woliver; Richard Boydston; Elizabeth A. McCord; John D. Holshuh, Jr.; Sherri Goren Slovin; Phyllis G. Bossin; Barbara J. Howard; Peter L. Cassady; Michael T. Mann; David S. Mann; William A. DeCenso; Erin M. Heidrich; Mark W. Napier; Noel M. Morgan; Matthew W. Fellerhoff; Amanda R. Toole; Joseph H. Feldhaus; Lucian J. Bernard; Terence D. Bazeley; Carrie H. Dettmer Slye; Carla L. Leader; Danielle C. Colliver; Elaine J. Fink; James B. Robinson; and Amy L. Detisch.

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer, film-maker and singer-songwriter (the lead singer and main songwriter for the London-based band The Four Fathers, whose music is available via Bandcamp). He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign (and see the latest photo campaign here) and the successful We Stand With Shaker campaign of 2014-15, and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (click on the following for Amazon in 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), and for his photo project ‘The State of London’ he publishes a photo a day from six years of bike rides around the 120 postcodes of the capital.

In 2017, Andy became very involved in housing issues. He is the narrator of a new documentary film, ‘Concrete Soldiers UK’, about the destruction of council estates, and the inspiring resistance of residents, he wrote a song ‘Grenfell’, in the aftermath of the entirely preventable fire in June 2017 that killed over 70 people, and he also set up ‘No Social Cleansing in Lewisham’ as a focal point for resistance to estate destruction and the loss of community space in his home borough in south east London.

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, The Complete Guantánamo Files, the definitive Guantánamo habeas list, the full military commissions list, and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.

Please also consider joining the Close Guantánamo campaign, and, if you appreciate Andy’s work, feel free to make a donation.

The Complete Collapse of Abd Al-Rahim Al-Nashiri’s Military Commission Trial at Guantánamo

Col. Vance Spath and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, both at the heart of a meltdown in the military commission trial system at Guantanamo.Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months of the Trump administration.

 

I wrote the following article for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January 2012, on the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, with the US attorney Tom Wilner. Please join us — just an email address is required to be counted amongst those opposed to the ongoing existence of Guantánamo, and to receive updates of our activities by email.

It’s three weeks since a judge in Guantánamo’s military commission trial system, Air Force Col. Vance Spath, indefinitely halted proceedings in one of the trials’ only active cases — that of Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, a Saudi accused of masterminding the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000, when 17 US sailors were killed.

Carol Rosenberg of the Miami Herald, who first reported the story, announced that Col. Spath “shut down the proceedings because of his inability to get defense lawyers back to the death-penalty case.” In October, three civilian lawyers quit the case for reasons that were not specified, but that observers presumed related to them discovering that they were being spied on by prosecutors — or, at least, by the military authorities at Guantánamo, on whose behalf the prosecutors are working.

I reported this story in November, when, adding insult to injury, Judge Spath briefly imprisoned Brig. Gen. John Baker, the Chief Defense Counsel of the military commissions, for refusing a request by him to reinstate the defense team — Rick Kammen, Rosa Eliades and Mary Spears — even though Brig. Gen. Baker was entirely justified in doing so. The loss of Kammen was a particular blow, as he is a death penalty expert, who has been on the case since al-Nashiri was first charged nearly ten years ago, and, by his own reckoning, has “devoted at least 10,000 hours working on the case, traveled to at least seven foreign countries in trial preparation and to Guantánamo 50 times to meet with Nashiri or appear in court,” as Carol Rosenberg explained in October. Read the rest of this entry »

The Latest Scandal of the Military Commissions at Guantánamo: A Death Penalty Case Without a Death Penalty Lawyer

The US flag, seen through barbed wire, at Guantanamo.Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months of the Trump administration.

 

The military commissions at Guantánamo, since they were ill-advisedly dragged out of the history books by the Bush administration, have persistently failed to demonstrate anything more than a tangential relationship to justice, as I have been reporting for over ten years. Last September, I summarized the trial system’s many failures in an article entitled, Not Fit for Purpose: The Ongoing Failure of Guantánamo’s Military Commissions.

Under Donald Trump, there has been no improvement. Pre-trial hearings drag on, seemingly interminably, as defense lawyers seek to expose evidence of the torture of their clients in CIA “black sites,” while prosecutors, for the government, do everything they can to hide that evidence. Earlier this month, however, as I explained in a recent article, a new low point was reached when, astonishingly, the chief defense counsel, Brig. Gen. John Baker, was briefly imprisoned for defending the right of three civilian defense attorneys to resign after they found out that the government had been spying on them.

The loss of the attorneys led to a disgraceful situation in which the government insisted on limping on with the capital case — against Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, a victim of CIA torture, and the alleged mastermind of the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000 — even though it is illegal to pursue a capital case without a qualified death penalty lawyer on board. That role was filled by Rick Kammen, who had been on al-Nashiri’s case for nine years. Read the rest of this entry »

A New Low for Guantánamo’s Credibility: The Brief But Absurd Imprisonment of the Military Commissions’ Chief Defense Counsel

A collage of Brig. Gen. John Baker and Camp 6 at Guantanamo, produced by the Daily Beast.Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months of the Trump administration.

 

I wrote the following article for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January 2012, on the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, with the US attorney Tom Wilner. Please join us — just an email address is required to be counted amongst those opposed to the ongoing existence of Guantánamo, and to receive updates of our activities by email.

In the “you couldn’t make it up” department of Guantánamo absurdity, the prison last week secured its first new prisoner since March 2008 — not an ISIS- or al-Qaeda-related prisoner sent there by Donald Trump, as he persistently threatens to do — but Brig. Gen. John Baker, the Chief Defense Counsel of the troubled military commission trial system.

Writing in Slate, Philip Carter, a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security and adjunct professor of law at Georgetown University, who briefly served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Detainee Policy under President Obama, correctly identified Brig. Gen. Baker’s only offence as having been to “stand[] up for the rule of law and being held in contempt by a judge overseeing the military tribunals at Guantánamo.”

Carter proceeded to explain that the US has two legal systems: the best, “on display every week in federal courthouses, where processes unfold neatly and along well-worn lines established by centuries of statute and precedent,” and the worst, “on display at Guantánamo, where a dispute over government surveillance of defense counsel has resulted in a Marine general being detained (and released two days later) and civilian counsel being threatened with the same fate.” Read the rest of this entry »

The Absurdity of Guantánamo: As US Prepares to Release Ahmed Al-Darbi in Plea Deal, Less Significant Prisoners Remain Trapped Forever

The sign and flags at Camp Justice, Guantanamo, where the military commission trials take place.Please support my work! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months of the Trump administration.

 

I wrote the following article for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January 2012, on the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, with the US attorney Tom Wilner. Please join us — just an email address is required to be counted amongst those opposed to the ongoing existence of Guantánamo, and to receive updates of our activities by email.

In the long and cruel history of Guantánamo, a major source of stress for the prisoners has been, from the beginning, the seemingly inexplicable release of prisoners who constituted some sort of a threat to the US, while completely insignificant prisoners have languished with no hope of release.

In the early days, this was because shrewd Afghan and Pakistani prisoners connected to the Taliban fooled their captors, who were too arrogant and dismissive of their allies in the region to seek advice before releasing men who later took up arms against them. Later, in the cases of some released Saudis, it came about because the House of Saud demanded the release of its nationals, and the US bowed to its demands, and in other cases that we don’t even know about it may be prudent to consider that men who were turned into double agents at a secret facility within Guantánamo were released as part of their recruitment — although how often those double agents turned out to betray their former captors is unknown.

Under President Obama, an absurd point was reached in 2010, when, after Congress imposed onerous restrictions on the release of prisoners, the only men freed were those whose release had been ordered by a judge (as part of the short-lived success of the prisoners’ habeas petitions, before politicized appeals court judges shut down the whole process) or as a result of rulings or plea deals in their military commission trials. Just five men were freed in a nearly three-year period from 2010 to 2013 — with former child prisoner Omar Khadr, low level al-Qaeda assistant Ibrahim al-Qosi, and military trainer Noor Uthman Muhammed all released via plea deals — as President Obama sat on his hands, and refused to challenge Congress, even though a waiver in the legislation allowed him to bypass lawmakers if he wished. Read the rest of this entry »

More Farcical Proceedings at the Military Commissions in Guantánamo

I wrote the following article for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January 2012 with US attorney Tom Wilner. Please join us — just an email address is required to be counted amongst those opposed to the ongoing existence of Guantánamo, and to receive updates of our activities by email.

Last week I published “The 9/11 Trial at Guantánamo: The Dark Farce Continues,” the first of two articles providing updates about the military commissions at Guantánamo.

The commissions were established under President George W. Bush in November 2001, were ruled illegal by the Supreme Court in June 2006, revived by Congress in the fall of 2006, suspended by President Obama in January 2009, and revived again by Congress in the fall of 2009, but they have always struggled to establish any credibility, and should not have been revived by the Obama administration.

Last week’s article, as the title indicates, covered developments — or the lack of them — in pre-trial hearings for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other men accused of involvement in the 9/11 attacks, who were held and tortured in CIA “black sites” for years before their arrival in Guantánamo in September 2006. Read the rest of this entry »

Back to home page

Andy Worthington

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

CD: Love and War

Love and War by The Four Fathers

The Guantánamo Files book cover

The Guantánamo Files

The Battle of the Beanfield book cover

The Battle of the Beanfield

Stonehenge: Celebration & Subversion book cover

Stonehenge: Celebration & Subversion

Outside The Law DVD cover

Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo

RSS

Posts & Comments

World Wide Web Consortium

XHTML & CSS

WordPress

Powered by WordPress

Designed by Josh King-Farlow

Please support Andy Worthington, independent journalist:

Archives

In Touch

Follow me on Facebook

Become a fan on Facebook

Subscribe to me on YouTubeSubscribe to me on YouTube

Andy's Flickr photos

Campaigns

Categories

Tag Cloud

Afghans in Guantanamo Al-Qaeda Andy Worthington British prisoners CIA torture prisons Close Guantanamo David Cameron Donald Trump Four Fathers Guantanamo Housing crisis Hunger strikes London Military Commission NHS NHS privatisation Periodic Review Boards Photos President Obama Reprieve Shaker Aamer The Four Fathers Torture UK austerity UK protest US courts Video We Stand With Shaker WikiLeaks Yemenis in Guantanamo