The Stories of the Two Guantánamo Prisoners Released to Saudi Arabia


I wrote a version of the following article, under the heading, “Who Are the Two Guantánamo Prisoners Released to Saudi Arabia?” 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.

On Monday December 16, the Pentagon announced that two Guantánamo prisoners — Saad al-Qahtani and Hamoud al-Wady — had been released to Saudi Arabia over the weekend. In the Miami Herald, veteran Guantánamo reporter Carol Rosenberg noted that, “according to government sources, the Saudi repatriations, carried out in a secret operation Saturday night, were voluntary.”

The Obama administration is to be commended for releasing these two men, as it shows a commitment to the promise to resume releasing prisoners from Guantánamo that President Obama made in May, after a two and a half year period in which just five prisoners were released, even though over half of the 160-plus prisoners held throughout this period were cleared for release in January 2010 by a high-level, inter-agency task force that President Obama established shortly after taking office in 2009. These releases bring the prison’s total population to 160 prisoners, of whom 80 have been cleared for release.

The release of prisoners had largely ground to a halt because Congress had imposed onerous restrictions on the Obama administration, requiring certifications to be made guaranteeing that no released prisoner would be able to take up arms or engage in terrorism against the US — promises that were extremely difficult, if not impossible to make.

It must be noted, however, that a waiver had been included in the legislation, allowing President Obama to bypass Congress if he regarded it as being “in the national security interests of the United States.” However, the president chose not to use the waiver, preferring not to spend political capital on Guantánamo when it would have brought him short-term political discomfort through criticism by Republicans, even though he has repeatedly stated that keeping Guantánamo open harms America’s national security interests.

Nevertheless, after a prison-wide hunger strike awakened — or reawakened — the world’s media to the plight of the Guantánamo prisoners, and international bodies including the UN and the European Parliament criticized Obama’s handling of Guantánamo, there was renewed progress from the administration. The president not only promised to resume releasing prisoners; he also dropped a ban on releasing Yemeni prisoners (who make up two-thirds of the prisoners cleared for release but still held), which he imposed in January 2010, after a failed airline bomb plot that was hatched in Yemen, and appointed two envoys to work towards the release of prisoners and, it is to be hoped, the eventual closure of the prison — Cliff Sloan at the State Department and Paul Lewis at the Pentagon.

Following the release, Paul Lewis issued a prepared statement that stated, “The US has made real progress in responsibly transferring Guantánamo detainees despite the burdensome legislative restrictions that have impeded our efforts.” He added, “The United States coordinated with the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to ensure that these transfers took place with appropriate security assurances and in a way that is consistent with our humane treatment policy.” On Monday morning, Cliff Sloan issued his own statement, calling the men’s release “an important step on the road to closing the Guantánamo Bay detention facility.”

In addition, the Senate Armed Services Committee, under the leadership of Sen. Carl Levin, who had been instrumental in securing the waiver in the legislation relating to Guantánamo (the annual National Defense Authorization Act), introduced changes to the legislation making it less arduous to release prisoners, which, it seems, will be authorized by Congress in the very near future.

Crucially, these changes not only show the growing influence of lawmakers who understand that Guantánamo’s continued existence is toxic to the values that America professes to hold; they also reassure the president that he can now count on support from Congress that he was unable to count on before, something that is clearly of great importance to him.

Since President Obama’s promises on Guantánamo in May, six prisoners have now been released. Two Algerians were released in August, and two others were released just two weeks ago, although the administration was criticized by lawyers and human rights activists for the release of these two men — Djamel Ameziane and Belkacem Bensayah — because they did not want to return to the country of their birth, and had legitimate fears that they would face persecution, from the government and/or from militant Islamists, if they did so.

There are no such fears with Saad al-Qahtani and Hamoud al-Wady, who have been waiting for many long years for the administration to resume releases to Saudi Arabia — and, in al-Wady’s case, to send home someone mistakenly listed throughout his imprisonment as a Yemeni, when he is, apparently, a Saudi national.

The story of Saad al-Qahtani

The story of Saad al-Qahtani (ISN 200, also identified as Said Qahtani), who was born in 1978 and is 35 years old today (December 17), was told by his lawyer, Patricia A. Bronte, in “11 Years and Counting: Profiles of Men Detained at Guantánamo,” a document put together by the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights, and submitted to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in March this year, as supporting documentation in the case of Djamel Ameziane.

Bronte explained how al-Qahtani, who arrived at Guantánamo on January 16, 2002, just five days after the prison opened, “is bright, engaging, and speaks at least six languages fluently.” She added that, during his nearly 12 years of imprisonment, “he taught himself to speak, read, and write English,” and that his “extraordinary language skills and his ability to mediate disputes between prison staff and other prisoners” made him “a favorite among his guards and interrogators.”

She also described his upbringing, noting that he was brought up by his mother and grandmother in Khamis Mushayt, in the south west of the country, along with his five brothers and sisters, after his father died when he was eight years old. However, both his mother and grandmother died in November 2007. At that time, as Bronte explained, the prisoners “were not allowed to speak with their families by telephone or videoconference,” and, as a result, his mother died without having seen her son or having heard his voice for the last five and a half years of her life.

As Bronte described it, Saad al-Qahtani “is not and has never been a threat to the United States or its allies,” and only traveled to Afghanistan “because he was curious about the Taliban government (recognized by his home country as legitimate), and because he wanted to help the Afghan people, who had endured decades of war.” She added that the only time he fought anyone was “when he intervened to stop Taliban soldiers from beating an Afghan truck driver.”

After the US-led invasion, in October 2001, al-Qahtani, who had no interest in the fighting, “made his way to Pakistan, went to the first police station he could find, and asked for help in returning home,” as Bronte described it, but, instead, he was turned over to US forces, who took him to their brutal prison at Kandahar airport and then on to Guantánamo.

According to Bronte, “Within the first year of his imprisonment, United States and Saudi authorities determined that Saad did not belong in Guantánamo.” Civilian advisors recommended his release in 2008, as did President Obama’s Guantánamo Review Task Force in 2009. Bronte also explained that Saudi government officials told him and his family in the spring and summer of 2012 that his repatriation was imminent, and the guards told him the same thing. However, although he refused to complain about “the harsh and degrading treatment” he endured in Kandahar and at Guantánamo, he had “suffered from depression and insomnia for several years,” and, earlier this year, was “sinking into despondency over the repeatedly broken promises to release him from Guantánamo.”

It may be that al-Qahtani was not freed in 2009 because he had briefly met Abu Zubaydah, the alleged “high-value detainee,” seized in Pakistan in March 2002, for whom the CIA’s torture program was initially developed. As I explained in an article in 2010:

Zubaydah’s case reveals the true horror at the heart of the “war on terror,” because, despite being waterboarded 83 times and held in secret CIA prisons for four and a half years, he was not a senior al-Qaeda operative at all, and was, instead, the mentally troubled gatekeeper of the Khaldan training camp in Afghanistan.

However, although the US authorities have steadily distanced themselves from making grand claims about Zubaydah, al-Qahtani’s brief association with him has probably counted against him in Guantánamo. In his [Combatant Status Review] Tribunal in 2004, he said that he didn’t know that Zubaydah was allegedly involved with al-Qaeda, and asked, “just because somebody stays at someone’s house, who may not be the best person in the world, does that make the people who stayed at that house bad people?”

In his tribunal, where it was stated that he had briefly served as a Taliban guard before fleeing to Pakistan, he pointed out that he was in Afghanistan before 9/11, and told the tribunal members, “Even if you say I am right or wrong, I don’t think I did anything wrong. At the time I didn’t think I did anything wrong, and I still don’t. I didn’t do anything illegal or bad to anyone. I want you to understand this.”

Following his release, Patricia A. Bronte explained, “He wants to rejoin his family and resume his education, then get a job.” She added, reiterating her earlier analysis of his character and skills, “He should be highly employable, he speaks English and several other languages fluently and is very, very smart and personable.”

The story of Hamoud al-Wady

Hamoud al-Wady, in a photo included in the classified US military documents (the Detainee Assessment Briefs) released by WikiLeaks in April 2011.Less is known about the second man to be freed, Hamoud al-Wady (ISN 574, also identified as Hamood Abdulla Hamood), who is 48 years old, although, as I explained in an article in 2010, he stated in Guantánamo that he went to Afghanistan for jihad because he swore that he would do so if his wife bore him a child, but once he was in Afghanistan he said that the “picture about the fight in my head” — which he conceived as a fight between Muslims and Communists, as it had been in the conflict between North and South Yemen — was incorrect, and his supposed enemies were all Muslims.

He said that he then undertook humanitarian work with an Arab who explained that “not everybody comes to Afghanistan for fighting,” and then fled to Pakistan after the US-led invasion began, staying at the house of a Pakistani whose phone number he had been given in Afghanistan, where he was arrested. “I did not plan to go to that particular house,” he explained. “I had only the telephone number and I did not know if it belonged to a house or something else, a shop, for example.”

Some indication of quite how long generally insignificant prisoners have been deprived of their liberty at Guantánamo can be gleaned from an Associated Press report in September 2007 about the reviews that took place at the prison in 2006. This was the second round of military reviews known as the Administrative Review Boards (ARBs), which followed the first reviews, the Combatant Status Review Tribunals (CSRTs), in 2004-05.

In that article, written after the AP secured the transcripts of the ARBs through a Freedom of Information Act request, it was noted that al-Wady, who was mistakenly described as an Afghan, told his panel, “I am entering the fifth year. I want to see American justice. Where is it?” In response, the AP noted that the military officer heading the panel merely told him that the review board was his opportunity to “clear up some of the allegations that have been presented to us.”

Al-Wady and al-Qahtani were in their 12th year of detention by the time their release finally came. But while the Obama administration is to be commended, there are still 80 other men in a similar situation, and two-thirds of those men are Yemenis. If any of these men have strong connections to Saudi Arabia, it may be acceptable for them to be freed there, but if not they need to be returned home to Yemen — and, for that, President Obama needs to find more courage than he has summoned up to date.

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.

See the following for articles about the 142 prisoners released from Guantánamo from June 2007 to January 2009, and the 75 prisoners released from February 2009 to the start of December 2013, whose stories are covered in more detail than is available anywhere else –- either in print or on the Internet –- although many of them, of course, are also covered in The Guantánamo Files: June 2007 –- 2 Tunisians, 4 Yemenis (herehere and here); July 2007 –- 16 Saudis; August 2007 –- 1 Bahraini, 5 Afghans; September 2007 –- 16 Saudis; September 2007 –- 1 Mauritanian; September 2007 –- 1 Libyan, 1 Yemeni, 6 Afghans; November 2007 –- 3 Jordanians, 8 Afghans; November 2007 –- 14 Saudis; December 2007 –- 2 Sudanese; December 2007 –- 13 Afghans (here and here); December 2007 –- 3 British residents; December 2007 –- 10 Saudis; May 2008 –- 3 Sudanese, 1 Moroccan, 5 Afghans (herehere and here); July 2008 –- 2 Algerians; July 2008 –- 1 Qatari, 1 United Arab Emirati, 1 Afghan; August 2008 –- 2 Algerians; September 2008 –- 1 Pakistani, 2 Afghans (here and here); September 2008 –- 1 Sudanese, 1 Algerian; November 2008 –- 1 Kazakh, 1 Somali, 1 Tajik; November 2008 –- 2 Algerians; November 2008 –- 1 Yemeni (Salim Hamdan) repatriated to serve out the last month of his sentence; December 2008 –- 3 Bosnian Algerians; January 2009 –- 1 Afghan, 1 Algerian, 4 Iraqis; February 2009 — 1 British resident (Binyam Mohamed); May 2009 —1 Bosnian Algerian (Lakhdar Boumediene); June 2009 — 1 Chadian (Mohammed El-Gharani), 4 Uighurs to Bermuda, 1 Iraqi, 3 Saudis (here and here); August 2009 — 1 Afghan (Mohamed Jawad), 2 Syrians to Portugal; September 2009 — 1 Yemeni, 2 Uzbeks to Ireland (here and here); October 2009 — 1 Kuwaiti, 1 prisoner of undisclosed nationality to Belgium; October 2009 — 6 Uighurs to Palau; November 2009 — 1 Bosnian Algerian to France, 1 unidentified Palestinian to Hungary, 2 Tunisians to Italian custody; December 2009 — 1 Kuwaiti (Fouad al-Rabiah); December 2009 — 2 Somalis4 Afghans6 Yemenis; January 2010 — 2 Algerians, 1 Uzbek to Switzerland1 Egyptian1 Azerbaijani and 1 Tunisian to Slovakia; February 2010 — 1 Egyptian, 1 Libyan, 1 Tunisian to Albania1 Palestinian to Spain; March 2010 — 1 Libyan, 2 unidentified prisoners to Georgia, 2 Uighurs to Switzerland; May 2010 — 1 Syrian to Bulgaria, 1 Yemeni to Spain; July 2010 — 1 Yemeni (Mohammed Hassan Odaini); July 2010 — 1 Algerian1 Syrian to Cape Verde, 1 Uzbek to Latvia, 1 unidentified Afghan to Spain; September 2010 — 1 Palestinian, 1 Syrian to Germany; January 2011 – 1 Algerian; April 2012 — 2 Uighurs to El Salvador; July 2012 — 1 Sudanese; September 2012 — 1 Canadian (Omar Khadr) to ongoing imprisonment in Canada; August 2013 — 2 Algerians; December 2013 — 2 Algerians.

31 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted on Facebook the link to the version of this article published on “Close Guantanamo” yesterday, I wrote:

    Good news for a change, as the Obama administration releases two men from Guantanamo who wanted to go home. Back in Saudi Arabia are Saad al-Qahtani (a Saudi citizen) and Hamoud al-Wady (a Yemeni with Saudi connections). Both men had long been cleared for release. You can read their stories here, in my latest article for “Close Guantanamo.”

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Christopher Caster wrote:

    He’s freed two people long recognized as completely innocent, after promising to shut down the whole thing. When was that, at his first inauguration?

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Christopher. Yes, that’s certainly an appropriate analysis of Obama’s failure to fulfill the promise to close the prison that he made nearly five years ago.
    On innocence and guilt, I should point out that these aren’t really terms that apply in Guantanamo. What we have instead are, largely, civilians and soldiers packaged up as terrorists, a malevolent false narrative that has generally been embraced by people who should know better.

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Christopher Caster wrote`:

    Absolutely… They should ALL be freed. I wonder how much one session of waterboarding ought to be worth in damages, including punitive.
    Maybe the judge ought to have himself waterboarded just once, to get the feel of it.

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Patricia Sheerin-Richman wrote:

    Do we know for sure they wanted to go to Saudi Arabia? It will be interesting to see if they are ever heard of again.

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    I understand your concerns, Patricia. However, Carol Rosenberg at the Miami Herald, whose reporting I trust, stated that, “according to government sources, the Saudi repatriations, carried out in a secret operation Saturday night, were voluntary,” and al-Qahtani’s lawyer, Patricia Bronte, who evidently cares about her client, didn’t express any doubts about his repatriation. She stated, “He wants to rejoin his family and resume his education, then get a job.”

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    Please, my friends, if you haven’t done so already, join us at “Close Guantanamo,” and ask your friends and family to do so too – 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:

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    J.d. Gordon wrote:

    Two members of Al Qaeda, both members of Bin Laden’s 55th Arab Brigade who fought on the front lines in Afghanistan. One volunteered for a suicide mission, the other is a money courier. From reading their profiles in the New York Times, they sound like ideal candidates for returning to terrorism. And thus in the cross hairs for future drone strikes. Congrats, Andy.

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    J.d., you can’t spout information from the classified military files and not expect me to regard you as incredibly credulous. The information in those files is not reliable, and I very much doubt that either of the men in question volunteered for a suicide mission or was a money courier. Here’s a brief analysis I made of unreliable witnesses in the files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011:
    And here’s the Guardian on the most notorious of those alleged witnesses and his false statements:
    And a hugely important story from the Washington Post before his release:
    And here’s a Guardian graphic showing Basardah’s unreliable statements and those of another unreliable witness, Abu Zubaydah (although in his case because of his torture):
    And this, J.d., is just scratching the surface of the fundamental unreliability of the supposed evidence in the files.

  10. Andy Worthington says...

    Patricia Sheerin-Richman wrote:

    Are trolls paid to search social media around the clock looking for an opportunity to spread propaganda/misinformation – or is it a labour of love?

  11. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, Patricia, they are employed – and often lavishly so – by right-wing think-tanks and media outlets to spread misinformation. It tends to be those exposing the crimes the trolls attempt to defend who have to do it as a labour of love!

  12. Andy Worthington says...

    Steve Hynd wrote:

    Jeffrey D. “J.D.” Gordon (born October 24, 1967) is an American communications consultant and retired career United States Navy officer. He has worked with numerous conservative Washington, DC-based think tanks as a Senior Fellow on national security, foreign policy and communications issues. Gordon is also a contributing columnist to Fox News, AOL News, The Washington Times and other media outlets. According to The Washington Times, Gordon founded Protect America Today, a national security-themed Super PAC in February 2012.
    Previously, he served as a spokesman for the Navy and for the Department of Defense in the Western Hemisphere, retiring as a Commander. He managed communications and press relations in a wide variety of conditions over a 20-year career, including posts in Europe, Latin America and Asia. As a spokesman for the Pentagon in his last assignment from 2005-2009, he dealt with sensitive issues related to the extrajudicial detention of captives since 2002 at the Navy’s base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

  13. Andy Worthington says...

    Steve Hynd wrote:

    Protect America Today (2012 Election) – US Campaign Committees

    So, a PAC that raised $24k but only gave $4k of it to candidates, founded by a man who has backed Sarah Palin and Herman Cain. ..

  14. Andy Worthington says...

    J.d. Gordon wrote:

    Yep, that’s me Steve. And I don’t get a dime for challenging Andy, et al, over false narratives on Gitmo. I’m every bit as dedicated as he is, a “labour of love” as his calls it. A question for all of you… do any of you think it would have been reasonable to release Nazi prisoners in 1943? If so, do any of you support Adolf Hitler? He was also an anti-semitic, supremacist, just like the Al Qaeda types @ Gitmo. Sorry folks, you are on the wrong side of history.

  15. Andy Worthington says...

    Well, you are, of course, entitled to your opinion, J.d., but the last eight years of my life has been devoted to showing that, actually, it is you and the senior Bush administration officials (up to and including the president, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld) and their lawyers and key figures in the CIA and those who generally defend Guantanamo and the “war on terror” who are on the wrong side of history. I absolutely believe that the actions you defend will be viewed as a particular low point in US history, and a monstrous betrayal of American values.

  16. Andy Worthington says...

    Steve Hynd wrote:

    “A particular low point in US history, and a monstrous betrayal of American values.” Exactly, Andy. Nice to see Mr Gordon try so hard to Godwin himself completely, since the Nazis were tried at Nuremberg for two main crimes. 1) Subjecting people to illegal rendition to indefinite detention without trial and 2) waging aggressive war. Gitmo and Iraq, Mr Gordon?

  17. Andy Worthington says...

    J.d. Gordon wrote:

    Yes, Steve, the U.S. and allies have struggled to defend themselves after 9/11 attacks (NYC/Washington & now Benghazi), Bali nightclub bombings, USS Cole bombing, Jakarta Marriott bombing, and scores of other major attacks by Al Qaeda. And to defend themselves against the world’s largest propaganda campaign, of which you appear to be a party. It is one which curiously turned Al Qaeda & Taliban @ Gitmo into the victims despite the fact they murdered tens of thousands, to include in the Afghanistan War. As for Andy, I respect your commitment and dedication. As you know, I’ve also spent 8 years on Gitmo issues, day in and day out. You got me the first four years as a Pentagon spokesman. The past 4 have been for free! Though you know Gitmo “on paper” as well as anyone, I’ve actually been there… over 30 times in fact. And I’ve been privy to info that you haven’t. Have looked detainees in the eyes, which you haven’t. Walked the blocks, which you haven’t. Part of the reason I defend Gitmo so vigorously is because I know how distorted the propaganda campaign against it has been. So consider yourself an inspiration! And since neither of us essentially have any funds to show for it, as Steve alluded to for my case, your fundraising appeals for yours, yes, it is most certainly a “labour of love” for all those involved, at least on this thread.

  18. Andy Worthington says...

    Steve Hynd wrote:

    J.D. (You’ve been so casual with my name) you’re offering a red herring there if you’re saying AQ or the Taliban were reasons to invade Iraq, perhaps the clearest war crime since the invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany. Likewise, there’s no defending AQ or the taliban in what I wrote. The thing that supposedly makes the US and its allies better than AQ and the Taliban is adherence to the Rule of Law, something that wasn’t done by practising illegal rendition to indefinite detention or by torturing detainees – again, both crimes the Nazis stood trial for. Still, I don’t think you’ll ever agree with me on this, and that sorry realization makes me very glad you’re no longer in any official position and makes me hope you never will be again.

  19. Andy Worthington says...

    J.d. Gordon wrote:

    Yes, Patricia, it is a tangled web. But to be clear, the US didn’t “create” Al Qaeda & Taliban. The 1980’s proxy war against the Soviets in Afghanistan did help bring them into existence, however. The US is at war to defend itself against religious supremacists acting in the name of radical Islam. Like during WWII, trying racist supremacist Nazi enemy combatants in US civilian courts wasn’t feasible either. There simply isn’t the evidence available to convict most of them at Gitmo, either by civilian or military trial. Though that doesn’t make them any less dangerous, or less likely to kill civilian populations if/when released. Many cleared cannot be released due to the security situation in some of their own home countries, esp. Yemen, and “actual” torture/human rights violations in other home countries like Algeria and China. For instance, of the 22 Uighurs ever held at Gitmo, there’s little doubt that the Chinese govt would execute them if given custody. The last two Algerians released this month didn’t want to be returned, for fear of persecution if sent back home. Obama sent them anyway.

  20. Andy Worthington says...

    Julien Arbor wrote:

    A mere fraction of Nazis were tried & we DID release many of them & brought them to the U.S. as part of Project Paperclip. As for supporting the Nazis I would suggest that you do your historical research on the Bush family as well as the family of Allen Dulles & those responsible for MKULTRA. And you can continue with the propaganda about that being over as well. I can assure you that it’s not & Victor Marchetti & others would be in agreement. Here’s a question: What happened to Wernher Von Braun’s dossier?

  21. Andy Worthington says...

    Julien Arbor wrote:

    Soviet Union Spent $1B On ‘Psychotronic’ Arms Race With US

  22. Andy Worthington says...

    Patricia Sheerin-Richman wrote:

    An interesting article just published in the New Statesmen, written by one of your “terrorists” in Guantanamo concentration camp, Mr. Jd.Gordon.

  23. Andy Worthington says...

    Muhammad Imran wrote:

    hey Andy its a good news for all of us. Special Thanx for your efforts

  24. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Muhammad, for the supportive words. And thanks also, Steve and Julien, for your comments, and the ongoing discussion with former Cmdr. Gordon.
    J.d., my experience “on paper” is rather more than that. I have spent many years speaking to former prisoners about their fellow prisoners (and one man in particular whose opinion I trust), as well liaising with the prisoners’ attorneys, and reading between the lines in all of the publicly available information about the prisoners. The problem with your analysis, and that of many other defenders of Guantanamo, is that you think the men held there are terrorists who have killed tens of thousands of people. You repeat this incessantly, when the truth is that very few of the 779 who have been held at Guantanamo were involved with terrorism. Apart from the hundreds of civilians apprehended through faulty intelligence or through being bought, many of the men held there had been involved in some way or another with the Taliban, in the civil war with the Northern Alliance that was taking place long before 9/11. Many of these men probably never killed anyone, but if they did it was probably soldiers of the Northern Alliance, who were also Muslims.
    One of the main problems with Guantanamo, which you simply don’t understand, is that the interrogations provided large amount of false information, making out, whether by accident or design, that low-level soldiers with the Taliban were more than that, when they weren’t.

  25. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted my version of the article, having found a photo of Saad al-Qahtani, I wrote:

    Yesterday was the first time I had seen a photo of Saad al-Qahtani, shown above, and it very much fits for me with the description of him by his lawyer, Patricia A. Bronte, as someone who is “bright, engaging, and speaks at least six languages fluently,” who “taught himself to speak, read, and write English” at Guantanamo, and whose “extraordinary language skills and his ability to mediate disputes between prison staff and other prisoners” made him “a favorite among his guards and interrogators.”

  26. Andy Worthington says...

    Mark C Lord wrote:

    Good news for the festive period Andy, let`s hope it`s the start of a change of heart within Washington

  27. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Mark, although I think it more appropriate to think of it as a return to a position held by parts of the Obama administration, and some lawmakers, at the start of Obama’s presidency. There are important players involved in progress now, since the hunger strike awakened international criticism of the status quo at Guantanamo – Sen. Carl Levin and the majority on the Senate Armed Services Committee, who helped to persuade a majority of Senators to vote for their version of the NDAA, which makes it easier for Obama to release prisoners; President Obama himself, for finally taking the initiative; and Obama’s envoys, Paul Lewis and Cliff Sloan, neither of whom took their jobs in the hope or the expectation that they would fail.

  28. Andy Worthington says...

    Willy Bach wrote:

    Andy, I am relieved that these two men were released and voluntarily agreed to go to Saudi Arabia. It is important that their wishes are respected and that they can have a chance to rebuild their lives. I hope this is a lesson well-learned by US President Obama.

  29. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Willy. Good to hear from you. It’s a sign of how cowed Obama had become that he couldn’t even bring himself to release these two Saudis prior to this, despite the close links between the US and Saudi Arabia. The next step, however, along with the release of Shaker Aamer (to the UK) needs to be progress on releasing Yemenis. Every day there is a delay is another day that Obama tries and fails to justify holding men his own inter-agency task force said should no longer be held, on the basis that their own country – one rocked repeatedly by US drones strikes, it should be noted – is a security risk. Such a disgraceful situation.

  30. Andy Worthington says...

    Kai Sanburn wrote:

    Good news.

  31. Andy Worthington says...

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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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Afghans in Guantanamo Al-Qaeda Andy Worthington British prisoners Center for Constitutional Rights CIA torture prisons Close Guantanamo 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