Clive Stafford Smith’s Support for an Independent Medical Evaluation for Shaker Aamer in Guantánamo


Following my recent article about a newly-submitted motion to a US court on behalf of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo, calling for him to be examined by an independent medical expert of his choice, I am pleased to be able to post a detailed declaration submitted by Clive Stafford Smith, one of his lawyers, and the founder and director of Reprieve, the London-based legal action charity whose lawyers represent 15 prisoners still held in Guantánamo. Please also see the declaration by Ramzi Kassem, posted on the “Close Guantánamo” website.

As I explained when I posted the original article:

Mr. Aamer’s legal team, who include Ramzi Kassem of City University of New York School of Law (who made this new motion available to me), Clive Stafford Smith, the director of Reprieve, and David Remes, note that, although their client was cleared for release from Guantánamo “years ago by the US government’s own interagency process,” he is still held, and, they maintain, “An examination by an independent medical expert is needed for the Court to exercise its jurisdiction meaningfully by accurately assessing the reliability and voluntariness of any statements Mr. Aamer reportedly gave American (and any other) interrogators.”

Mr. Kassem and the other lawyers also state that an independent medical examination will aid the Court and the lawyers “in determining if Mr. Aamer can fully participate in his habeas proceedings.” As in the cases of the majority of the prisoners still held, Mr. Aamer has not had a judge rule on the merits of his habeas corpus petition, even though the Supreme Court recognized over five years ago, in Boumediene v. Bush, in June 2008, that the prisoners at Guantánamo have constitutionally guaranteed habeas corpus rights.

The lawyers also note, “Additionally, as his past and continued mistreatment threatens irreparable harm, Mr. Aamer is entitled to the relief sought herein in the form of an injunction.”

Clive Stafford Smith and Reprieve played a major part in publicizing the prison-wide hunger strike that did so much to awaken — or reawaken — awareness of the ongoing injustice of Guantánamo, where 164 men are still held, even though 84 of them — including Mr. Aamer — were cleared for release in January 2010 by an inter-agency task force that President Obama established when he took office in January 2009.

I was happy to publicize reports of conversations between Shaker and Clive back in April (see here and here), and also to publicize the front page op-ed in the New York Times — by another Guantánamo prisoner, Samir Moqbel — which was also secured by Reprieve in April, and which played a major role in putting pressure on President Obama to promise action on Guantánamo. This involved a major speech on May 23, in which the president promised to resume releasing cleared prisoners. Since then, just two cleared prisoners have been released, which is a major disappointment, of course, but those of us campaigning for the cleared prisoners to be released can at least keep reminding the president of his recent words.

In the meantime, Clive Stafford Smith’s declaration, which provides further information about Shaker’s ongoing persecution at Guantánamo, is published below. If you find it informative, please feel free to share it as widely as possible.

Declaration of Clive Stafford Smith in support of petitioner’s motion to compel access to an independent medical evaluation

1. My name is Clive Stafford Smith.

2. I am the founder and Director of Reprieve, a not-for-profit human rights organization based in London.

3. I am counsel to Shaker Aamer in the above-captioned matter.

4. I make this declaration in support of his need for independent medical attention. I do not mean for this declaration to be in any way comprehensive of the mistreatment and injury that Mr. Aamer has suffered. Indeed, with respect to his habeas case — and also for the parallel criminal investigation being conducted by the London Metropolitan Police into British complicity in his torture — I have been working on a vastly more comprehensive declaration for Mr. Aamer himself to sign concerning his ghastly experiences in U.S. custody since late 2001. That declaration will run to well over one hundred pages.

5. It is important also to note that I have not had the opportunity to pass this declaration by Mr. Aamer himself to check its accuracy. While I try to take notes as accurately as possible when we talk, I sometimes do not get the notes back from the Privilege Review Team (PRT) for weeks after I visit Guantánamo Bay, which makes it difficult to remember the precise context of our discussion. When I talk to him on the telephone, we have limited time. Thus, if there should ultimately be anything inconsistent between this declaration and the one that Mr. Aamer subsequently executes, the latter should be considered more authoritative.

6. With these caveats, though, I am confident that the broad facts set forth in this declaration are accurate to the best of my knowledge and belief.

7. Mr. Aamer is a Saudi Arabian national who lived with his British wife and children as a legal resident of the United Kingdom. He has been imprisoned at the U.S. Naval Station at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba (“Guantánamo”) without charge for over eleven years. The U.S. military has assigned Internment Serial Number (ISN) 239 to Mr. Aamer.

8. Prior to being taken to Guantánamo, Mr. Aamer was held at Bagram Air Force Base (Bagram) and Kandahar Airport (Kandahar). At both Kandahar and Bagram, he experienced sleep deprivation and extensive physical abuse. At Bagram he was held in a cage in the middle of winter; while at Kandahar he was held in a square tent that was roughly 12 feet square in a cage surrounded with barbed wire.

9. During my meetings with Mr. Aamer, he informed me that he has faced brutal treatment at the hands of Guantánamo and other U.S. government personnel, and threats of being exposed to more of the same.

10. Guantánamo prison personnel have employed sleep deprivation — a recognized form of torture — against Mr. Aamer. They have done so in a variety of ways and they have referred to it by a number of euphemisms, including “sleep adjustment”.

11. “Noise treatment” is when the guards at Guantánamo have deprived Mr. Aamer of sleep by making loud noises at all hours. He explained to me that the guards often do this to him. There isn’t a single method the guards use for noise treatment but examples include banging on his cell door, moving furniture, playing music loudly, slamming doors, singing, shouting, and so forth.

12. Another way guards have denied Mr. Aamer sleep is a practice referred to as the “Frequent Flyer Program” which consists of keeping a prisoner moving at all times. Guards will move a prisoner to several different cells per day and also send him to multiple interrogations. Mr. Aamer says this is not only disorienting and exhausting, but physically damaging, as the guards consistently used violent force whenever moving him. The excessive force would range from over-tightening the restraints and being violent when lifting or otherwise moving him, to the use of Immediate Reaction Force (IRF) teams in full riot gear — also known as Forced Cell Extraction (FCE) or the Emergency Reaction Force (ERF) teams .

13. There are other ways in which he is deprived of sleep. To give just one representative example of the kinds of things that happened, on February 4, 2012, he was taken out for recreation time at 10:00 PM, and was then left out until 8:30 AM the next morning. Mr. Aamer informed me that it was very cold and that he got no sleep that night.

14. On December 13, 2011, the guards at Guantánamo began a concerted effort to deprive Mr. Aamer of sleep through noise treatment. Until March 30, 2012, the noise making was continuing for most of the time, interrupting prayer time and sleep.

15. Beginning March 15, 2013 the guards began a fresh round of noise treatment on Mr. Aamer, utilizing a wide range of techniques to deprive him of sleep.

16. Mr. Aamer recounted to me his experiences with the IRF procedure at Guantánamo. IRF is a particularly brutal procedure where a prisoner is forcibly removed by a team of guards from an area, often his cell, the recreation yard, or shower. The guard team consists of approximately six guards in full riot gear forcibly tackling the prisoner and often beating him or violently throwing him against walls or crushing on the floor by piling up atop him.

17. To give just one example of hundreds, on December 9, 2011, at 8:30 AM, the guards at Guantánamo subjected him to an especially violent “IRFing.” The guards damaged his knee and a guard twisted one of his little fingers back to the point that it almost broke. He was also choked by a guard and suffered a number of contusions as a result of this incident.

18. IRFing comes for all kinds of reasons, many of them caused by mistakes by the guards. For example, on January 28, 2012, he was taken out for recreation at 6:30 AM. When he refused to return to his cell at 8:00 AM, because he was not given the two hours of recreation time he was allotted, the guards subjected him to another “IRFing,” which resulted in severe bruises.

19. For many months, Mr. Aamer has been conducting a nonviolent protest which involves him sitting in the recreation yard and asking permission to stay for a week to protest the conditions of his confinement. This protest is one of the only forms of protest available to Mr. Aamer — he is, obviously, protesting the fact that he was cleared for release in 2007, cleared again in 2009, and informed in writing that he would go home as soon as arrangements could be made, and yet he is still there. For the months Mr. Aamer has conducted this protest, it has always been met by an IRF team. More recently, however, new and more abusive techniques have been added and Mr. Aamer is subjected to them every time he undertakes his act of protest.

20. The guards “IRFed” him roughly once daily from December 12, 2011, until March 17, 2012, and from that time on with less regularity until recently — when it has stepped up again.

21. Mr. Aamer told me he suffers from asthma and the guards purposely attempt to aggravate his condition. The guards often spray an excessive amount of different aerosols, usually Pinesol, in or near his cell. Sometimes the guards will simply spray Pinesol directly into his cell. Mr. Aamer recalled one occasion where a large amount of Pinesol was dumped outside his cell and another occasion in which the only blanket he was given was permeated in Pinesol.

22. Mr. Aamer has also been threatened with rendition to other countries where he will face further torture. This has often come in conjunction with the noise treatment and IRF techniques described above. The threats have credence to him because he knows of other prisoners who have been rendered to other countries where they faced torture. He said he was threatened with rendition to Saudi Arabia. In fact, he has been questioned several times at Guantánamo by interrogators from Saudi Arabia who attempt to pressure him into agreeing to being sent to Saudi Arabia.

23. Mr. Aamer informed me that he has faced excessive and nearly continuous solitary confinement since 2004. He said that while he may occasionally be granted relief, for him, isolation is the norm.

24. Matters have got much worse recently. On March 29, 2013 and April 11, 2013, I had a phone interviews with Mr. Aamer. During these interviews he explained that there was a major hunger strike that started around February 4, 2013. He said he had joined it around February 12, 2013, and that he had lost more than 30 pounds at the time of his call. He described the retaliation he has faced at the hands of the Guantánamo staff for his peaceful hunger strike.

25. On February 15, during prayer time, the guards came to Mr. Aamer’s block. They “IRFed” him along with the two other prisoners who were there. All three, including Mr. Aamer, were injured by this assault and one had to spend time in the Guantánamo hospital.

26. Guantánamo prison authorities have added yet more brutal techniques to their “IRFing” regime since Mr. Aamer’s hunger strike began. This includes binding Mr. Aamer’s hands and feet and carrying him by his arms. Previously, he was carried on a board because of his long term back injuries. This new method is extremely painful for him and has caused or exacerbated his injuries.

27. Since the hunger strikes, and the introduction of these techniques, some of the Guantánamo guards and staff have been hiding or simply not wearing their serial numbers, preventing them from being identified by Mr. Aamer and the other prisoners.

28. On March 20, Mr. Aamer complained to the medical corpsman about the new IRF treatment. The medical corpsman said this new technique was not permissible with Mr. Aamer because of his back injury. Despite this, the very next day, on March 21, Mr. Aamer was again subjected to an even more brutal form of the new IRF technique. Additionally, a large soldier weighing around 300 pounds put his full weight on Mr. Aamer, who heard his own back crack. This was repeated again on March 22. As of my April 11 call, they still do not use a board in their IRF technique.

29. These beatings have become so constant and so extreme that Mr. Aamer has begun to refuse to leave his cell. He is afraid that he will become paralyzed in the same way two other prisoners at Guantánamo have been paralyzed as a result of the IRF techniques. Mr. Aamer stated: “My back and my neck are getting worse day by day. I don’t want the end of this torture here to be paralyzed. I want to carry my kids when I get home; I don’t want my kids to have to wash me. I don’t want to be the third one paralyzed in this place.”

30. During my April 11 call, Mr. Aamer described for me his previous day’s experience to illustrate his treatment since his hunger strike. On that day, Mr. Aamer was subjected to IRF at 2:00 PM as the guards insisted to bring him lunch, even though Mr. Aamer was on hunger strike and made it clear he would not eat it.

31. Later, he asked for medications the doctor said was necessary. He was again “IRFed” and only then given the medication. He asked the Corpsman why he was subjected to IRF for medication. The Corpsman answered: “That’s the only way they will let you have it.”

32. In what was no doubt an effort to break his strike, the lunch was left in his cell until 9:45 PM. At that point, Mr. Aamer was again subjected to IRF so his dinner could be brought in even though he did not want it.

33. Despite the guard’s continued insistence on violently delivering food to the hunger striking Mr. Aamer’s cell, they have been denying him water. At the time of my April 11 call Mr. Aamer had received almost no water in 24 hours. The medical staff at Guantánamo said that whether Mr. Aamer received water was up to the guards. They suggested he instead drink from the sinks. Mr. Aamer says the tap water at Guantánamo is undrinkable and often not even clear. I personally can attest that the sinks where the lawyers stay at Guantánamo are clearly marked as being undrinkable and I have provided a photograph of one such sink taken in 2013. [Photo not included]

34. In addition to the new IRF techniques being used, Mr. Aamer reports that, since the hunger strikes began, the guards implement what is called a “Code Matrix.” This refers to the different codes used in response to the hunger strike (i.e. Code Yellow means someone collapsed from hunger striking, Code Orange Crush means there is a door open for an unauthorized reason). Evidently the guards use the Code Matrix to justify “IRFings” without video cameras, which are normally used by IRF teams to create a record.

35. Mr. Aamer reported that one prisoner was subjected to the Code Matrix for being in possession of a bottle of water and was beaten up without footage being recorded.

36. There is also a new practice that has been brought in which involves using a dog leash on the detainees. Normally, they would have the hand and leg shackles (which are still in use) and the hands would be held by a guard from behind as they walk (or, more generally, push) the detainee along. But now they are attaching a cloth dog leash to the waist chain, clipping it on as they might an animal. A sergeant tried to make Shaker a victim of a Code Matrix today when Shaker refused to have a dog leash, and be treated like an animal. However, in the end they backed off and went for the IRF team.

37. Starting March 15, 2013, the noise treatment and sleep deprivation have gotten worse. This was taken to another extreme when, on March 18, Mr. Aamer was moved to a cell designed for disabled prisoners that had not been used in several years. It is only a few feet from where the guards use the toilet, shower, eat, and so forth.

38. Along with his cell which is inherently noisy at all hours, the guards continue to conduct constant noise treatment throughout the night. Guards bang on the doors, which make a loud slamming sound 20 to 30 times a night. They also move heavy chairs across the floor, crash about with the ice chest. They have recently brought a large fan into Mr. Aamer’s cell block specifically to make noise. On March 28, the night before my March 29 call, a guard sang loudly through much of the night. Additionally the noise from the toilet was constant.

39. In a letter written July 4, 2013, Mr. Aamer informed me that these sleep deprivation techniques have grown increasingly brutal in the lead up to the holy month of Ramadan. Guards now slam the doors outside of Mr. Aamer’s cell up to 300 times a night.

40. Since his recent hunger strike began, Mr. Aamer has also reported:

Now, when they [IRF] me in Camp Five, they shackle my hands behind my back and then force my face into the toilet.

They [IRF’d] me five times in one day. The pretext was that I refused to close my bean hole which they use to push food into the cell. So they started to [IRF] me even if I asked for a cup of water. They come into my cell, slam me on the floor, shackle me, haul me out of the cell, put a bottle of water on my bed, pull me back in and cut the shackles off—with a few thwacks in between.

They [IRF’d] me soon after my last call with my lawyer. They didn’t say a word. They just came in, [IRF’d] me, then put me back in the cell and left.

I guess the water is the way they think they can get to me. I am very torn when it comes to giving up the bottled water for the yellow stuff that comes out of the tap, that we all know is not drinking water. My father died from kidney failure, and so did my oldest sister. I don’t want to come out of this place hooked up in a hospital for the rest of my life.

They have hand-picked medical personnel who are willing to participate in the abuse. One prisoner vomited while being force-fed. When that happens, they usually take the tube out, but he refused. The prisoner was left vomiting on himself while he was being force-fed.

41. According to Mr. Aamer, the vomiting was caused by metal-tipped feeding tubes that are now inserted twice a day into the stomachs of force-fed prisoners, causing them to automatically vomit on themselves.

42. In addition to the retaliation he faces for his hunger strike, Mr. Aamer continues to be abused for exercising his other rights. During my April 11 call, Mr. Aamer commented to me that he felt these legal calls were in many ways “a curse.” This was because the guards punish him after each of these calls and that his treatment is “harsh” any day when he participates in a telephone conference with his attorney. Mr. Aamer additionally told me that the guards listen to what he tells his attorney and use that against him.

43. Recently, guards confiscated his privileged legal materials. When Mr. Aamer demanded the materials back, they “IRFed” him. Pages were missing from his legal materials after they were returned.

44. Mr. Aamer told me that Guantánamo officials continue to deny him basic medical care. He shared the following examples, among many others: most recently several medical necessities have been taken from Mr. Aamer to punish him for joining the hunger strike. This includes his second sleeping mat for his back, his blanket for his arthritis, his second bottle of water, and his knee and back brace.

45. Mr. Aamer has not received medical supplements for his enlarged prostate, and has also not received follow up testing to determine whether it was cancerous.

46. He was denied the compression socks for the edema in his legs that he was supposed to receive. Mr. Aamer informed me that he has taken it upon himself to ask others about his condition and learned it is important to avoid salt when dealing with edema. However, the only food he receives has large amounts of salt.

47. Mr. Aamer has been prescribed “Peripads” for hemorrhoids but they have not been provided. The doctors at Guantánamo informed him that he needs three “donut pillows” for this condition but has only been allowed one, which does not alleviate pain.

48. Mr. Aamer informed me that he was prescribed an extra pillow because of his long term acid reflux and an extra sleeping pad for his tender feet, back problems, and sciatica. He informed me that he was often forced to choose one or the other of these two medically prescribed items and cannot have both.

49. Mr. Aamer cannot trust the medical personnel at Guantánamo. First and foremost, he identified the Behavioral Health Unit (BHU), a unit of the Guantánamo medical staff tasked with ensuring compliance among prisoners. He said he had his “benefits” taken away several times at the direction of BHU. This also occurred recently in retaliation for his participation in the hunger strike.

50. In addition to the BHU, Mr. Aamer is unable to work with the general medical staff at Guantánamo. He gave several reasons for this. First, they are disrespectful and uncaring about his needs. He only receives redacted notes from his doctors so he cannot obtain complete information about his treatment. This lack of important information about his health causes him great concern. Indeed, on a recent visit, I secured a copy of a manufacturer’s notice from him concerning an injection that he was entitled to for flu — the medical advice in the notice had been redacted. When I got the notice through the PRT censorship, a member of my staff located the original notice on the internet. I was therefore able to determine that the two things that had been redacted from the notice were (a) an indication of potential negative side effects that could be caused by the injection, and (b) information about liability that could be incurred by those giving the injection. From this one example, it would seem to me that Mr. Aamer’s concerns about what the military is keeping from him are well founded. He cannot be expected to make a mature, knowing and intelligent decision about his own treatment under these circumstances.

51. The medical treatment he receives is often subject to the discretion of the U.S. interrogators at Guantánamo. Mr. Aamer said interrogators have told him his “benefits,” meaning the necessary treatments the Guantánamo doctors prescribed to him, are subject to his compliance during interrogations. He sees such treatments, for this reason, as another form of coercion by the Guantánamo staff.

52. Guantánamo medical personnel have been participants in his abuse. He said that whenever he received an IRF, a medical staff member has been present to oversee the procedure but has been complicit in the abuse. This includes medical staff violently inserting feeding tubes to the point where Mr. Aamer bled. It also includes the BHU team overseeing the removal of Mr. Aamer’s “benefits” in retaliation for what they see as noncompliance.

53. On my April 11 call, Mr. Aamer described the effect the medical mistreatment by Guantánamo staff has had on him. He reported: “I can’t read. I am dizzy and I fall down all the time. I do not call them, as it is humiliating.” He went on to say that when he does fall down, they will call a Code Matrix on him, often they will end up just leaving him in a cell because the hospital is full with other hunger striking prisoners.

54. More recently Mr. Aamer has reported: “I am losing my mind, I am losing my health, I am losing my life. They are trying to do as much damage to us as they can before we leave here. They are humiliating us as much as they can. They are harming me as much as they can.”

55. Over the course of my meetings Mr. Aamer explained to me the combined effects the totality of his treatment has had on him. Mr. Aamer several times told me that it wasn’t so much he was “being tortured” but that he is “living torture.” He explained that the collective effect of all the different abuses carried out by the staff at Guantánamo against him weighs more on him, physically and mentally, than any individual act.

I declare under penalty of perjury under the laws of the United States of America that the foregoing is true and correct.

Executed on this 30th day of September, 2013.

Clive Stafford Smith

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 four-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.

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

29 Responses

  1. Tom says...

    Hi Andy. Hope you’re doing ok.

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    I’m mostly fine, Tom. Some issues with my medication, but I hope to get those resolved soon. Hope all is well with you.

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    Following my article about the motion submitted by Shaker Aamer’s lawyers to get him an independent medical evaluation in #Guantanamo, here’s Clive Stafford Smith’s detailed declaration about the abuse Shaker has suffered during this year’s hunger strike and in 2011 and 2012. Every time I hear his words I am appalled that this eloquent man can tell us about his mistreatment, and yet we remain powerless to bring it to an end.

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    J.d. Gordon wrote:

    Which eloquent man, Clive or Shaker? ICMYI, check out the latest craziness on Team Obama & Gitmo… though I didn’t think Obama’s weakness towards Al Qaeda & Taliban who happen to be detained could get any worse, it just did. He’s planning to release Ibrahim Idris, a Sudanese 30-year veteran Al Qaeda militant who was arrested at the Pakistani border along with 30 Bin Laden bodyguards after fleeing Tora Bora in Dec. 2001. And why? The doctors say he’s too crazy for Gitmo, and a federal judge agrees! Idris has Schizophrenia, a mental illness causing paranoia, delusions & hallucinations. That’s right — the same condition common to serial killers! A walking nightmare, “Al Qaeda’s Sybil.” Here’s my clip on Fox & Friends today.

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    J.d., Ibrahim Idris is appallingly ill, and has been throughout his imprisonment. Continuing to hold him is a monstrous cruelty. And it’s not Obama who’s getting him freed; it’s the Justice Department’s civil division refusing to contest his habeas petition. That’s a first. The civil division lawyers (generally the same lawyers who were in place under Bush) are notorious for contesting every habeas petition.
    Here’s my article about Ibrahim Idris from the summer:
    In it, I explained, with reference to his lawyers’ submission:

    The 14-page petition is backed by medical reports from the prison, and constitutes a sad indictment of a detention system that cannot deal fairly and appropriately with a severely mentally and physical ill prisoner. In page after page of the brief and the medical reports, the government’s myopic narrative — that he was at the Battle of Tora Bora in Afghanistan, the showdown between the US and al-Qaeda and the Taliban in December 2001 — is countered by the recognition by mental health professionals that Idris’s thought processes are “grossly disorganized,” as an Army psychiatrist explained in 2009, and that he operates “in a delusional reality system, with little foundation in his real-world circumstances.”

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Agastyan Daram wrote:

    Mr Gordon there is a difference between a Schizophrenia and Psychopathy. There are many people walking around our country with mental illness that couldn’t harm a fly if they tried. Their diseases make them unable to function in society and eventually homeless in most cases. Psychopaths on the other hand are highly functional and very dangerous. Know the difference, as you and your hate mongering are part of the problem..

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    Agastyan, thank you for your comments, making those very important distinctions.

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    J.d. Gordon wrote:

    Thanks Andy, I enjoyed reading your piece on Idris. We agree that Idris is appallingly ill, though so is Charles Manson. Most serial killers too. I imagine the two lads who beheaded Lee Rigby on a London street in the name of Islam were similarly ill. I also agree that the Obama administration DoJ’s Civil Division is quite unlike the place I knew during the Bush administration. It is easy to see why — with 9 senior Obama DoJ officials who represented Al Qaeda in court. Not that there’s anything wrong with legal representation of Al Qaeda in court. Though such people have no business in the US Govt, let alone in senior posts. And yes, DoJ does report to Pres. Obama via AG Holder. Thus Obama is responsible, should this “schizophrenic” detainee return to terrorism once released.

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    I don’t think the DoJ Civil Division is any different now than it was under Bush, J.d. – still doing their utmost to keep everyone at Guantanamo imprisoned for life, with just this one exception. As for people who represent people accused of crimes in a courtroom being prohibited from government posts – what a strange notion of justice you have.
    And as for Ibrahim Idris doing anything in future to harm the US – this is a man who can’t remember how a telephone works. You need to step back from your ill-conceived notion that all these men are all itching to do you harm. Most of them aren’t, and Ibrahim Idris is clearly in that category.

  10. Andy Worthington says...

    J.d. Gordon wrote:

    Thanks, Andy. Though having personally served alongside DoJ Civil Division for 4 years while at the Pentagon — I disagree entirely. The rank and file DoJ attorneys just do their jobs, and take orders from their bosses — the senior ones happen to be Obama political appointees. All those political appointees accepted senior posts in the Obama administration to close Gitmo, and other Obama-causes. So the leadership is obviously far more sympathetic to Gitmo detainees than during the Bush administration. For DoJ appointments, I don’t want Al Qaeda lawyers representing Al Qaeda interests, such as release from Gitmo… much as I don’t want John Gotti lawyers in charge of mafia prosecutions… it’s called CONFLICT OF INTEREST. As for Idris, I go back to a point I made months ago… if you can orchestrate “Chez-Worthington” as his half-way house for 6 months, I’d have a lot more respect for your position. But always good to hear your opinion, nevertheless.

  11. Andy Worthington says...

    J.d. Gordon wrote:

    Also, for Agastyan — thanks, Mr. Supermarket PhD. Appreciate your feedback. Just one problem — I never said they were the same thing, not in this thread, not on my FB page, not in interview clip. You did. So I will assume that you are simply mistaken, instead of a bold face liar. You are welcome for the correction. And for Andy — I forgot one more category of folks I don’t want in DoJ posts… lawyers who represented pedophiles. Speaking of which, did you see this story out of Yemen? Will you condemn what happened to this poor little girl? Or is that “cool” because it’s “Sharia-law” compliant? I look forward to your reply… and from your friends too. Have a good night!

  12. Andy Worthington says...

    Agastyan Daram wrote:

    Mr Gordon my street education has taught me a thing or two about folks with mental illness. While some give the appearance of being dangerous by their outbursts, the reality is their illness makes it virtually impossible for them to think about how to cause any real harm to others. The rest of what you are talking about has nothing to do with Guantanamo and is bad but completely off topic. There are a lot of problems in the world…

  13. Andy Worthington says...

    Agastyan Daram wrote:

    To clarify things even further.. Yes in the early stages of such a disease there is a chance for one to be a danger to others, like we saw in DC recently. But the person mentioned in your argument is in much worse condition and in the late stages of a terrible condition, thus more fitting to my argument.

  14. Andy Worthington says...

    Liz O Leary wrote:

    What’s child rape doing on this ? Maybe I could post about pedophile priests and tell Muslims that is the real face of Christianity?

  15. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes exactly, Liz. J.d., your mention of something terrible that happened in a Muslim country, and the conclusion you draw from it about Muslims reveals your racism and Islamophobia. As Liz says, are we to extend this type of thinking to conclude that paedophile priests are representative of Christians in general?
    Oh, and please don’t subject people who are my friends of Facebook to name-calling, like “Mr. Supermarket PhD” or I will be obliged to block you.
    To move on specifically to the DoJ, I’m amazed that you can say that the management are any different to how they were under Bush. Since Obama took office, DoJ lawyers have defended the detention of every prisoner until Ibrahim Idris. The leadership has shown no interest whatsoever in the decisions taken by President Obama’s inter-agency Guantanamo Review Task Force regarding the prisoners. Men approved for transfer by the task force have had their habeas petitions rigorously challenged by the DoJ. I can only conclude that you are blinded by your partisan view.
    And finally, your comments about “conflict of interest” and DoJ appointments don’t make any sense to me, if you read my analysis above of how the DoJ has done noting to facilitate the closure of Guantanamo. As for “Al Qaeda lawyers,” come on, J.d., there’s no one – in the government or elsewhere – for whom that is a valid description, unless you believe that no one held in the “war on terror” should have a trial at all. Am I to presume that you think the military defense lawyers appointed by the Pentagon to defend prisoners at Guantanamo in the military commissions are “Al Qaeda lawyers”?

  16. Andy Worthington says...

    Carol Brown wrote:

    ‘Idris has Schizophrenia, a mental illness causing paranoia, delusions & hallucinations. That’s right — the same condition common to serial killers! A walking nightmare, “Al Qaeda’s Sybil.”‘ Quote from Wiki
    ‘Individuals with severe mental illness including schizophrenia are at a significantly greater risk of being victims of both violent and non-violent crime. On the other hand, schizophrenia has sometimes been associated with a higher rate of violent acts, although this is primarily due to higher rates of drug use. Rates of homicide linked to psychosis are similar to those linked to substance misuse, and parallel the overall rate in a region.What role schizophrenia has on violence independent of drug misuse is controversial, but certain aspects of individual histories or mental states may be factors.’

    ‘Media coverage relating to schizophrenia tends to revolve around rare but unusual acts of violence. Furthermore, in a large, representative sample from a 1999 study, 12.8% of Americans believed that individuals with schizophrenia were “very likely” to do something violent against others, and 48.1% said that they were “somewhat likely” to. ….The perception of individuals with psychosis as violent has more than doubled in prevalence since the 1950s, according to one meta-analysis.’

  17. Andy Worthington says...

    Carol, thanks for your comments. Good to hear from you. I wanted to find out some information about how few people with schizophrenia engage in violent acts, and here’s T. M. Luhrmann, a professor of anthropology at Stanford University, in the New York Times just two weeks ago, in a piece inspired by the “debate” about Aaron Alexis, who you mentioned, I believe, Agastyan: “To be clear: a vast majority of people with schizophrenia — a disease we popularly associate with violence — never commit violent acts. They are far more likely to be the victims of violence than perpetrators of it.”

  18. Anna says...

    Shaker is being punished for non-compliance during INTERROGATIONS ?!
    12 years after the first ones and after having been cleared for release twice already, he is still interrogated? God help this man and his fellow prisoners, all over the world, as it would seem that they have no human -should I say Christian?- compassion let alone justice to expect.

    As for schizofrenia, I am no doctor even less a psychiatrist, but I regularly eat dinner in a cosy little restaurant run as a self-help project exclusively by -perfectly peaceful- schizofrenics. No problem at all, provided they get decent medical care and proper medication, which evidently is not the case in Guantanamo …

    If even the callous Guantanamo psychiatrists of all people want him to be freed, there can be no doubt that he is in a desperate state. We all probably to some degree suffer from some mental problem or other and put in the wrong circumstances might do afwul things to fellow human beings, no need at all to be mentally ill for that. Suffice reading up on Mr Zimbardo’s work, watching Ingmar Bergman’s film ‘The Serpent’s Egg’, reading William Golding’s ‘The Lord of the Flies’ -to name just a few famous examples- or talking to former guards who now regret the awful things they had agreed to inflict on their defenceless victims.

    So let’s not pass judgement about the potential for violence or the presumed previous guilt of a person we never even met on the sole basis of conjectures stemming from our own fears, but rather pray that we will never find ourselves ‘in the wrong place at the wrong time’ as the overwhelming majority of mostly innocent Guantanamo prisoners did and try to help them as much as is in our power.

  19. Andy Worthington says...

    Thank you for the outrage on Shaker’s behalf, Anna. Very understandable. Thanks also for the helpful comments about schizophrenia and schizophrenics, and your understanding that Ibrahim Idris must be in a terrible state if the authorities at Guantanamo – generally conditioned to think like J.d. – want him out.

  20. Anna says...

    Mr Gordon, I for one would be perfectly happy to create a ” “Chez-Anna” as his half-way house for 6 months, as my appartment would easily allow for it and as I’m sure a lot of other people would happily do. How big a chance you think that the US government, including the Pentagon, would allow this, in a country of the patient’s choice. So let’s not revert to sarcasm.

    As for your off-the-subject pedophile example, I couldn’t agree more with Liz and should I understand from your snide, that that aberration never occurs in the US?
    This -evidently- is a retorical question, no need to answer.

  21. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Anna. I meant to note that I too have no objection to creating a half-way house in general for former prisoners, but that (a) it wouldn’t be allowed, and (b) in Ibrahim Idris’s case, he clearly needs specialist care, of the kind that I’m not qualified to provide.

  22. Anna says...

    Yes Andy, I know that you for sure are one of those who would happily welcome Guantanamo victims, but sadly I expect that by now every single one of them will require specialist medical care, both physical and mental, before even being capable of accepting any ‘lay’ hospitality …

  23. Andy Worthington says...

    You may well be correct, Anna. What a disgraceful state of affairs …

  24. Andy Worthington says...

    Willy Bach wrote:

    Andy thanks, shared. Sickened once again by the barbarism of this treatment.

  25. Andy Worthington says...

    Mui JS wrote:

    Geebus, what a combination! Biased and erroneous thinking about schizophrenia and Islamophobia. Too much tv. So much vilification of people who don’t deserve it.

  26. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Willy and Mui. Good to hear from you both, and to have your succinct and powerful thoughts on barbarism and misplaced vilification.

  27. Andy Worthington says...

    J.d. Gordon wrote:

    Thanks, Andy Worthington. Always interesting and revealing to see your feedback, as well as from others on your threads. All I ask for is honesty in the debate. Without going on endlessly, just want to make two points. 1. Do you, or do you not condemn what happened to that poor little girl, and countless other children in her situation in places like Yemen, Afghanistan, etc.? There is a big difference between pedophile Catholic priests, who are exposed, fired and thrown out of the church when caught, than a deliberate sanctioning of adult-children marriages like what goes on Yemen. And yes, I condemn all pedophiles entirely. I hope you will too. 2. The defense attorneys in military commissions are “assigned” by the military and have no say in the matter, therefore it would be inaccurate to equate them to “volunteer” attorneys for Al Qaeda. And the 9 senior DoJ attorneys for Al Qaeda clients were of course, all volunteers. And lastly, you complain about name calling — yet just called me a racist and Islamaphobe? I hope you can be civil, is that too much to ask?

  28. Andy Worthington says...

    J.d., of course I condemn what happened to that girl. Why on earth would you think I wouldn’t? Your bringing it up when discussing Guantanamo, however, demonstrated a horrible generalization about Muslims on your part that is racist and Islamophobic. I’m afraid I don’t see any way of avoiding that conclusion.
    As for the “volunteer” attorneys you get so worked up about, it disturbs me that what underpins your indignation is a belief that prisoners in the “war on terror” shouldn’t have legal representation, or that if they do, the people who work on their cases are “Al-Qaeda” attorneys. The majority of the men who have had attorneys work on their cases aren’t members of Al-Qaeda. The majority of the men held at Guantanamo were Taliban supporters who should have been held as prisoners of war, or innocent people in the wrong place at the wrong time. That said, even KSM should, of course, have legal representation from civilian lawyers in the federal court trial that ought to be the venue for his prosecution, but tainting people who have represented any of the prisoners in Guantanamo as “Al-Qaeda” attorneys is monstrously unfair, and a betrayal of America as a nation founded on the rule of law.

  29. Watch the Shocking New Animated Film About the Guantánamo Hunger Strike by Andy Worthington | Dandelion Salad says...

    […] men whose stories are featured are Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, Younus Chekhouri (aka Younous Chekkouri), a Moroccan who […]

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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 and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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