COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Afghan President Hamid Karzai has pressed for the closure of the Guantanamo Bay prison as President Barack Obama mulls a renewed push before a reluctant U.S. Congress.
Karzai says he has "from the very beginning been a very strong supporter" of closing down the prison at the U.S. naval base in Cuba, a goal that has eluded Obama since he took office. Obama signed an executive order for its closure, but Congress has used its budgetary power to block detainees from being moved to the United States.
Karzai said during a visit to Denmark on Thursday that he also wants the release and return of Afghan prisoners in Guantanamo.
The Afghan leader was speaking on the third leg of a visit that also took him to Finland and Estonia.
The guards there already handle the Qur'an with great care, in tacit admission that they really are unclean kuffar, and know it. Now the jihadis there are pressing for their Qur'ans to be off limits to inspection, even by the "Muslim linguists" who inspect them now (the kuffar guards are apparently unworthy to perform such an inspection). They'd be able to plot all sorts of things in that event -- but at least the military wouldn't be "Islamophobic." "Qurans at crux of Guantánamo hunger strike," by Carol Rosenberg for the Miami Herald, April 5 (thanks to Darcy):
A senior Pentagon official said this week that Muslim captives at the detention center in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, have hidden weapons inside their copies of the Quran, a claim the U.S. military has yet to substantiate.
“There have, in the past, been incidents of detainees storing contraband in their Qurans; items found have included improvised weapons, unauthorized food and medicine,” wrote William K. Lietzau, deputy assistant secretary of defense for rule of law and detainee policy.
He made the claim in a one-page letter dated April 1 to the Center for Constitutional Rights, a New York law firm. The firm wrote Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel on March 14, seeking a meeting to discuss the ongoing hunger strike at the Guantánamo prison, which they said started over a Feb. 2 Quran search and grew to present “a serious threat to the health and life of detainees.”
Lietzau, responding for Hagel, offered a broad defense of Quran search policy and told the lawyers he was “aware of reports that many detainees are engaged in a hunger strike.”
The Miami Herald has been asking the military since mid-March to provide specific details, including photographs, of items found concealed in detainees’ Qurans. n [sic] light of the Lietzau letter, The Herald asked additionally for specific incident reports. No details have been provided.
A dispute over Quran searches has been the underlying issue of the hunger strike that lawyers for the captives say is more widespread than the military acknowledges. On Friday, Navy medical staff considered 41 of the 166 detainees to be weak enough or to have lost enough weight to be classified as hunger strikers. Eleven were getting tube feedings of nutritional supplements, the camps said, and no hunger strikers were hospitalized.
Lawyers have proposed that, if the Pentagon cannot agree to stop having staff search Qurans, it should let the captives turn them in for safekeeping. Prison officials refuse. Navy Capt. Robert Durand, a spokesman, said letting captives return their individual Qurans would amount to a concession of desecration.
Several defense lawyers were asked whether they had ever heard an allegation of captives hiding contraband in Qurans.
“They’re not going to desecrate their own Qurans,” said attorney David Remes, who met with several hunger-striking Yemeni detainees and likened a weapon hidden in the holy book to hiding “a saw in a birthday cake.”
Remes called the military’s claim “desperate, grasping at straws” surfacing weeks into complaints about the prison staff’s searching the captives’ Qurans.
“If they were searching and they had found any kind of weapon they certainly would’ve made that claim when the hunger strike began,” Remes added. “Either they made it up or it was so long ago it was irrelevant.”
In the past when contraband was found in prisoners’ cells — but not Qurans specifically — the details were documented in a database.
A review of leaked, classified U.S. military risk assessments covering detainee behavior from the prison’s opening until 2008 show the prison camps painstakingly recorded items seized from prisoners’ cells. Examples cited included a razor found inside a detainee’s legal materials, a flexi pen wrapped in toilet paper, food hidden under a mattress, a sharpened spoon, “a pen that had been reinforced with paper and string,” a cup adorned with drawings of planes striking the World Trade Center.
But there’s no entry in the voluminous reports of a captive’s having hidden a weapon in his Quran.
Durand said the Quran searches Feb. 2 went this way in Camp 6, the communal camp where the hunger strike started: Guards collected the Qurans without touching them, in what looked like “a postal box,” and then turned them over to a Muslim linguist for inspection. The prison has not said whether that search yielded any contraband.
When Durand was asked for specific examples, he replied with a general statement: “We always find contraband,” he said in an email Wednesday morning. “Every search, every time. From improvised weapons (clubs, shanks, knives, garottes) to hoarded medications to unauthorized electronics (audio/video recorders, games, etc.). Sometimes in the Quran, but every search results in something.”...
The horror! The horror! "Harry Potter films for hire, strawberries for tea and shoes laid out by the bed with military precision... The images that show what life is REALLY like in Guantanamo Bay," by Sarah Johnson for the Daily Mail, March 11:
It holds some of the world’s most dangerous prisoners and is a byword for terror.
But astonishing new pictures have given a fresh glimpse of what life is really like inside Guantanamo Bay - the top-security, barb-wired holding pen for extremists captured in the war on terror.
Far from languishing in a dank and desolate dungeon as many in the outside world imagine, inmates are in fact able to rent Harry Potter movies, borrow car magazines and even get strawberries for their tea.
Detainees wake up each morning in a room equipped with a private lavatory, sink and toilet paper before dressing in the camp's standard issue clothing, laid out neatly on their bed.
At mealtimes detainees can choose, depending on their dietary requirements, from a selection of vegetarian or fish dishes - with lemons to drizzle - with vegetables on the side and a juice to wash it all down.
For those who eat meat, halal beef is often on offer at lunch and dinnertime with a similar selection of side dishes.
To relax, prisoners can visit the camp's in-house library, which contains a host of books, in Arabic and English, Hollywood blockbuster DVDs and magazines.
Guantanamo Bay has long been a subject of controversy in the United States and around the world and the Obama administration made it a policy pledge to shut the prison camp on his first full day in office in January 2009.
Since then, however, he has been blocked by Congress from doing so and the 166 inmates there have been left in legal limbo, despite the president ruling out sending any more terror suspects to Guantanamo.
The Joint Task Force Guantamano is responsible for housing and feeding prisoners who have been captured in the war in Afghanistan and elsewhere since the September 11, attacks in 2001.
The base has hit the headlines recently after defense lawyers for Guantanamo Bay detainees claimed that inmates at the high security facility were starving themselves to death, refusing to sleep in their cells and have been engaged for weeks in widespread protests.
Attorneys for the terror detainees allege that guards at the prison camp on the island of Cuba 'desecrated' a Quran, which sparked February's hunger protest and claim that conditions have deteriorated to the 'darkest days under Bush'
The alleged troubles come as U.S. military officials confirmed on Thursday that a guard at the U.S. owned facility fired a 'non-lethal' plastic bullet round to disperse prisoners, hitting an inmate - after one of them tried to climb a fence and others threw rocks at one guard tower.
The incident happened in Camp 6, the area reserved for cooperative captives where the government just spent $744,000 on renovations that included a soccer field for prisoners.
The military says it was just a ploy to win attention....
After all, there are more U.S. Consulates to attack.
"Al Qaeda, ex-Gitmo detainee involved in consulate attack, intelligence sources say," from FoxNews.com, September 20:
Intelligence sources tell Fox News they are convinced the deadly attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, was directly tied to Al Qaeda -- with a former Guantanamo detainee involved.
That revelation comes on the same day a top Obama administration official called last week's deadly assault a "terrorist attack" -- the first time the attack has been described that way by the administration after claims it had been a "spontaneous" act.
"Yes, they were killed in the course of a terrorist attack on our embassy," Matt Olsen, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, said during a Senate hearing Wednesday....
Sufyan Ben Qumu is thought to have been involved and even may have led the attack, Fox News' intelligence sources said. Qumu, a Libyan, was released from the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in 2007 and transferred into Libyan custody on the condition he be kept in jail. He was released by the Qaddafi regime as part of its reconciliation effort with Islamists in 2008.
And reconciliation was wonderfully achieved!
His Guantanamo files also show he has ties to the financiers behind the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The declassified files also point to ties with the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, a known Al Qaeda affiliate.
Olsen, repeating Wednesday that the FBI is handling the Benghazi investigation, also acknowledged the attack could lead back to Al Qaeda and its affiliates.
"We are looking at indications that individuals involved in the attack may have had connections to Al Qaeda or Al Qaeda's affiliates, in particular Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb," he said at the Senate Homeland Security Committee hearing....
"Obama to Release One Third of Gitmo Inmates," by AWR Hawkins for Breitbart, September 22 (thanks to Alonzo):
President Barack Obama is about to release or transfer 55 Gitmo prisoners, despite reports that the Libyan believed to be behind the killing of US Ambassador Christopher Stevens was a former Guantanamo inmate transferred to Libyan custody.
The large percentage of those scheduled to be released are Yemeni, according to a list made public by the Obama administration.
Obama stopped the release or transfer of Yemeni inmates in 2010, because the conditions in the country were viewed as too "unsettled" at the time.
A release or transfer of 55 inmates means Obama is moving out one third of the prisoners at Guantanamo. And while it doesn't represent a shutdown of the facility, it's certainly indicative of a move toward that end....
The ACLU has praised the releases as "a partial victory for transparency."
But never fear, they're working on a plea deal. "Pentagon charges Saudi with aiding terror in al-Qaida sea attacks," by Carol Rosenberg for the Miami Herald, August 29 (thanks to Kenneth):
The Pentagon war crimes prosecutor on Wednesday revived a Bush-era prosecution and charged a Saudi captive at Guantánamo with a 2002 terror attack on a French oil tanker in the Gulf of Aden, and other al-Qaida-connected crimes.
If convicted by a military commission, Ahmed al Darbi, 47, could receive a maximum penalty of life in prison, the Pentagon said in an announcement.
All the other non-capital cases brought to the war court during the Obama administration resulted in plea deals that traded shortened sentences for cooperation in other Guantánamo cases. Darbi’s defense attorney, Ramzi Kassem, did not return calls and an email seeking a comment.
The deputy chief Pentagon defense counsel, Bryan Broyles, said Wednesday evening a deal “wouldn’t surprise me. The government is pursuing that assiduously in every case they can.” Broyles was earlier assigned to defend Darbi. He said he had no specific knowledge of a Darbi deal.
Allegations in Darbi’s case overlap with the ongoing death-penalty prosecution of another Saudi-born Guantánamo captive, Abd al Rahim al Nashiri, the alleged architect of the October 2000 suicide bombing of the USS Cole off Yemen. Like Darbi, Nashiri is also accused of conspiring to bomb the French oil tanker MV Limburg in October 2002.
The Pentagon said Darbi allegedly joined al-Qaida in 1997, trained as a fighter with the blessings of Osama bin Laden and then “committed multiple overt acts in support of a plot to bomb civilian oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz and off the coast of Yemen.”
The Pentagon did not release the charge sheet Wednesday night but said Darbi “aided and abetted” in the Limburg attack that “severely injured multiple civilians and caused a large oil spill in the Gulf of Aden in 2002.”...
Darbi was last seen at the Guantánamo war court on the eve of Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2008, on similar charges. At that time, he held up a newspaper photo of Obama and said he hoped the new president would make good on his pledge to close the detention in southeast Cuba. He has been described as the brother-in-law of one of the Sept. 11 hijackers because his wife, the mother of his two children, is the sister of a hijacker’s widow.
Not only is Ghezali a demonstration of how Islamic antisemitism all too often is manifested in blood and murder; he is also a vivid illustration of how the Left's vociferous opposition to anything and everything that the U.S. does to defend itself kills people. I wonder if Leftist lawyer Clive Stafford-Smith, who assured authorities that other Gitmo detainees deemed dangerous were actually harmless, will have any comment on this. (I knew Clive slightly when we were both students at the University of North Carolina; Clive, if you're reading this, send me an email at director[at]jihadwatch.org: I'd love to interview you about Mehdi Ghezali and Guantanamo.)
Note also the role that mainstream media whitewashing of Islamic jihad played in this: instead of alerting Swedish citizens to the danger Ghezali posed, The Local downplayed his jihad activity -- and no doubt smeared anyone who tried to sound the alarm as a greasy Islamophobe.
"Anti-Israel Bomber in Bulgaria Was Released From Gitmo Thanks To Left," from Breitbart, July 19 (thanks to Pamela Geller):
Leftists who hate Israel can rejoice; their efforts at securing the release of a Gitmo detainee and their subsequent lionizing of him allowed him to murder five Israelis in the bombing Wednesday in Burgas, Bulgarian. The bomber has been identified as Mehdi Ghezali, who was detained at Gitmo Bay in Cuba from 2002 to 2004.
According to Wikileaks documents, Ghazali was “uncooperative, unforthcoming and deceptive during interrogations.” His father had met with Abdolrahman Barzanjee, an Al Qaeda associate and possible Ansar Al-Islam coordinator for Europe (Ansar Al-Islam is a group of Sunni Muslims trying to turn Iraq into an Islamist state), and Ghazali was friends with a Swedish operative who was a close associate of Abu Zubadayah, a high-ranking official with Al Qaeda.
Ghazali, who was a Swedish citizen, was visited by members of the Swedish government frequently while he was in custody at Gitmo, and the Swedish media played up his incarceration. While Ghezali was detained at Gitmo, he was featured in the documentary Gitmo – The New Rules of War, a film that savaged Guantanamo Bay detention camp by film directors Erik Gandini and Tarik Saleh.
In February of 2004, Ghazali was reassessed and regarded as an enemy combatant who had gone to Afghanistan to support the Taliban, but although Gitmo concluded that he was a “medium risk, as he may possibly pose a threat to the US its interests and allies,” the decision to release him to Sweden followed: “Recommendation: JTF Gitmo recommends that this detainee be transferred to the control of another country for continued detention.”
He was released to Sweden on July 8, 2004. And guess how much he meant to the Swedish? He was flown home to Sweden by the Swedish Air Force on a Gulfstream IV jet, at the expense of the Swedish government.
Ghazali joined a July 4, 2006 demonstration held outside the U.S. Embassy in Stockholm, Sweden calling for the closure of the Guantanamo Bay facility.
But the liberal Swedes weren’t done with nurturing Ghazali yet. He was arrested in September of 2009 in Punjab, Pakistan, on suspicions of having ties to al-Qaeda; Pakistani police chief Mohammad Rizwan described Ghezali as "a very dangerous man". But the Swedish newspaper The Local described his actions as "a harmless meeting with a Muslim revivalist movement, Tablighi Jamaat."
One month later, Ghezali was released to Sweden. The Swedish Ambassador even accompanied him on the flight home.
With all the help Ghezali received from the liberal media and liberal governments, it’s obvious they have blood on their hands. But the blood is Israeli, so don’t expect the Left to shed a single tear.
What a torture chamber Guantanamo is, eh? It's so horrifically draconian that the terrorized, tortured prisoners lounge around reading the propaganda that their own side, the avowed enemies of the United States, puts out.
Meanwhile, a French judge is seeking access to Guantanamo in order to confirm allegations prisoners have made of Qur'ans being desecrated there. This dhimmi judge should ask himself this question: if Gitmo is so lax and politically correct and clueless that al-Qaeda literature can make its way there, is it really likely to be the kind of place where rogue "Islamophobic" American troops fiendishly desecrate Qur'ans in defiance of official U.S. policy?
"U.S.: Al Qaeda magazine got into Guantanamo cell," by Richard Lardner for the Associated Press, January 18 (thanks to Kenneth):
FORT MEADE, Md. (AP) — A copy of a magazine published by an arm of al Qaeda made its way to a terror suspect at the Guantanamo Bay prison, leading to an inspection of cells and a contentious new policy requiring special review teams to examine correspondence between prisoners and attorneys, U.S. prosecutors said Wednesday.
Navy Cmdr. Andrea Lockhart told a military judge during a pre-trial hearing that a copy of Inspire magazine got into a cell. She provided no details on who received the magazine or how. But she said the breach showed that prior rules at the base governing mail review were not adequate. Yemen’s al Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula launched the online, English-language magazine in 2010. An early issue contained tips to would-be militants about how to kill U.S. citizens.
Lockhart is part of the U.S. team prosecuting the case against Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, a Saudi national charged with orchestrating the attack in 2000 on the USS Cole that killed 17 sailors. Al-Nashiri, 47, is considered one of the most senior al Qaeda leaders. He has been held at the U.S. Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, since 2006 after spending several years held by the CIA in a series of secret prisons.
How mail between Guantanamo prisoners and their attorneys should be handled consumed several hours of the al-Nashiri’s pre-trial session on Tuesday and Wednesday. At issue is whether even a cursory examination of the legal correspondence violates the attorney-client privilege.
The dispute reflects the untested nature of this latest attempt to resume the military tribunals at Guantanamo. The prosecution of al-Nashiri is already underway and the U.S. is preparing to prosecute five other prisoners accused in the Sept. 11 attacks, yet defense lawyers and government prosecutors are still fighting to establish basic legal ground rules....
Earlier reports suggested they would be transferred to Afghan custody. This report also speculates about a possible prisoner exchange for the abducted U.S. soldier Bowe Bergdahl, but notes there is no clear indication that this arrangement is under discussion.
Instead, "the releases would be to reciprocate for Tuesday's announcement from the Taliban that they are prepared to open a political office in Qatar to conduct peace negotiations." So, once again, by all appearances, the U.S. is trading risky American actions for pledges from the Taliban.
"Taliban leaders held at Guantánamo Bay to be released in peace talks deal," by Julian Borger and Jon Boone for the Guardian, January 3:
The US has agreed in principle to release high-ranking Taliban officials from Guantánamo Bay in return for the Afghan insurgents' agreement to open a political office for peace negotiations in Qatar, the Guardian has learned.
The Taliban are set to be the beneficiaries of "negotiations" Homer Simpson described best: "You help me, and I, in turn, am helped by you."
According to sources familiar with the talks in the US and in Afghanistan, the handful of Taliban figures will include Mullah Khair Khowa, a former interior minister, and Noorullah Noori, a former governor in northern Afghanistan.
More controversially, the Taliban are demanding the release of the former army commander Mullah Fazl Akhund. Washington is reported to be considering formally handing him over to the custody of another country, possibly Qatar.
The releases would be to reciprocate for Tuesday's announcement from the Taliban that they are prepared to open a political office in Qatar to conduct peace negotiations "with the international community" – the most significant political breakthrough in ten years of the Afghan conflict.
The Taliban are holding just one American soldier, Bowe Bergdahl, a 25-year-old sergeant captured in June 2009, but it is not clear whether he would be freed as part of the deal.
"To take this step, the [Obama] administration have to have sufficient confidence that the Taliban are going to reciprocate," said Vali Nasr, who was an Obama administration adviser on the Afghan peace process until last year. "It is going to be really risky. Guantánamo is a very sensitive issue politically."
Nasr, now a professor at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, said the Taliban announcement on the opening of an office in Qatar was a dramatic breakthrough.
"If it had not happened then the idea of reconciliation would have been completely finished. The Qatar office is akin to the Taliban forming a Sinn Féin, a political wing to conduct negotiations," Nasr said, but added: "The next phase will need concessions on both sides. This doesn't mean we are now on autopilot to peace."....
He was released in 2007, even though "the U.S. determined he was a 'probable facilitator for Al-Qaida members' and was also thought to have links to Pakistan's intelligence service." One hopes his compound yielded some useful intelligence as well. "NATO kills ex-Gitmo detainee in Afghanistan," by Rahim Faiez for the Associated Press, September 3:
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — NATO and Afghan forces killed a former Guantanamo detainee who had become a key al-Qaida affiliate after returning to Afghanistan, officials said Saturday.
Sabar Lal Melma, who was released from Guantanamo in 2007 after five years of detention, had been organizing attacks in eastern Kunar province and funding insurgent operations, NATO spokesman Capt. Justin Brockhoff said.
A NATO statement described Melma as a "key affiliate of the al-Qaida network" who was in contact with senior al-Qaida members in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Troops surrounded Melma's house in Jalalabad city on Friday night and shot him dead when he emerged from the building holding an AK-47 assault rifle. Several other people were detained.
A guard at the house, Mohammad Gul, said a group of American soldiers scaled the walls of the compound around 11 p.m. and stormed the house, shooting Melma in the assault. Three others were detained, Gul said.
Melma had been detained for about five days in August, Gul said.
Melma is not the first former detainee to rejoin the insurgency. In 2009, the Pentagon said 61 detainees, or approximately 11 percent, released from Guantanamo had rejoined the fight. Experts have questioned the validity of that number.
About 520 Guantanamo detainees have been released from custody or transferred to prisons elsewhere in the world.
After the fall of the Taliban, Melma, 49, was given the rank of brigadier general and placed in charge of approximately 600 border security troops in Konar province, according to his military file made public by WikiLeaks.
He was captured in August 2002 while attending a meeting with U.S. military officials in Asadabad and transferred to the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay in October that same year. He was suspected of helping carry out rocket attacks against U.S. troops.
While imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay, the U.S. determined he was a "probable facilitator for Al-Qaida members" and was also thought to have links to Pakistan's intelligence service.
He was sent back to Afghanistan in September 2007.
But they got no goat to sacrifice -- see how they suffer? "Former Army Prosecutor: Some Prisoners ‘Asked to Stay in Gitmo’ Rather than Go Home," by Katie Bell, Andrew Herzog and Pete Winn for CNS News, June 30 (thanks to Weasel Zippers):
(CNSNews.com) - Former Army Gitmo prosecutor Kyndra Rotunda told CNSNews.com that some prisoners at Guantanamo Bay have asked to stay there in U.S. custody rather than be released to return to their home countries.
“Interestingly, some detainees were offered release, and asked to stay in Gitmo. They prefer captivity in Gitmo to freedom in their own countries!” Rotunda told CNSNews.com by e-mail.
Far from being tortured, as some protestors outside the White House alleged last week, Rotunda said prisoners at Gitmo are allowed to take classes (with some even receiving “home-schooling”), can read Harry Potter books in Arabic and are given their choice of athletic shoes for playing sports.
What’s more, the Defense Department has even flown in special fruits and nuts for detainees to observe Ramadan, Rotunda said, although the detainees’ request for a goat to be sacrificed was declined--in deference to PETA.
“Most Gitmo detainees live in group housing with open bays and about 10 people to a bay,” she said.
“They are outside of their housing bays for up to 12 hours a day. During that time, they can take classes, visit the library--which has over 5,000 titles, including the Harry Potter series translated into Arabic, which are very popular--exercise, check out movies or games, play sports--detainees can chose from a selection of athletic shoes--or even visit the computer lab.”...
The cocky murderer and war criminal, Omar Khadr, got off with a shockingly light sentence as it was. And the denial of clemency keeps him from going back to the rest of his family of jihad sympathizers and supporters -- in Toronto -- any sooner. "U.S. military tribunal rebuffs Khadr's bid for clemency," by Steven Edwards for PostMedia News, May 26 (thanks to Ima Freeman):
NEW YORK — The U.S. military tribunal that oversaw Omar Khadr's war crimes case has refused the Canadian's bid for clemency with a statement Thursday that simply confirms the eight-year sentence he received in a plea deal.
The Toronto native had, through his military lawyer, sought to have the sentence reduced, arguing in part that the prosecution had been guilty of "misconduct" in its calling of a key prosecution witness.
The confirmation of the eight-year sentence — in exchange for which Khadr admitted to five war crimes, including the murder of a U.S. serviceman — was issued by retired Vice-Admiral Bruce MacDonald, who serves as the tribunal "convening authority," or overseer.
By not addressing the defence allegations of prosecutorial misconduct — which the prosecution had vigorously denied — MacDonald effectively ruled for neither side.
"While we are disappointed that Omar did not receive clemency, we are confident that the convening authority carefully considered all the defence submissions prior to final action," said army Lt.-Col. Jon Jackson, Khadr's Pentagon-appointed lawyer for the military commission at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The plea deal called for Khadr to serve one more year in Guantanamo, then seven in a Canadian prison.
Jackson said applications had already been made before U.S. and Canadian authorities for Khadr's transfer to Canada "on or before Nov. 1" — the date marking a year following the end of his sentencing hearing.
"Omar continues to be focused on the future, his education and repatriation to Canada," Jackson said.
The defence had claimed prosecutors had "strong-armed" them into dropping a bid to challenge the credibility of Dr. Michael Welner, a forensic psychiatrist appearing for the government. But insiders said the convening authority would have had difficulty ruling one way or the other since the issue appeared to be very much one of "he said, he said."
MacDonald's confirmation of the sentence means that Khadr, 15 when captured in a 2002 firefight in Afghanistan, has met all his obligations set out in the pre-trial agreement, Jackson said.
The wording of MacDonald's statement implicitly refers to the symbolic 40-year sentence military officers serving as the jury handed down after hearing sentencing witnesses. But MacDonald's confirmation of the plea agreement overrules the longer sentence....
But who cares? What could go wrong? "Detainees Transferred Or Freed Despite 'High Risk,'" by Tom Gjelten, Dina Temple-Raston and Margot Williams for NPR, April 25 (thanks to Weasel Zippers):
An NPR investigation of secret military documents from the detention camp at Guantanamo Bay details the system used to assess how dangerous the detainees would be if released.
More than 160 of the prisoners released or transferred from the Guantanamo detention camp under Presidents Bush and Obama had previously been judged as "likely to pose a threat to the U.S." The decision to release or transfer these detainees, despite their former classification as "high risk," contradicted the Pentagon's own recommendation that prisoners in this category should remain in detention....
The large number of detainees who were transferred or released from Guantanamo despite their "high risk" assessment is nonetheless striking. Of 600 detainees known to have been transferred out of Guantanamo since 2002, at least 160 were previously in the high-risk category. The repatriation of more high-risk detainees appears likely.
The Obama administration has not yet named the 89 current Guantanamo detainees it says are due to be transferred, but only about 40 of those still in detention at the camp were assessed as "medium" or "low" security risks as of early 2009, according to the investigation by NPR and The New York Times. Some risk assessments have since been revised. The Obama administration carried out a new review of all Guantanamo detainees after it took office in January 2009, and those reports are not included in the documents reviewed by NPR.
Among the "high risk" detainees who have been transferred from Guantanamo since 2002, NPR and the Times have identified at least a dozen who have returned to terrorism or otherwise reassociated with al-Qaida, including two Saudis who became leaders of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula....
Democracy on the march, with air cover courtesy Barack Hussein Obama.
"Libya: Former Guantánamo detainee is training rebels," by Nick Allen in the Telegraph, April 3 (thanks to all who sent this in):
A former detainee at Guantánamo Bay has taken a leading role in the military opposition to Col Muammar Gaddafi, it has emerged, alongside at least one other former Afghan Mujahideen fighter.
Rebel recruits in the eastern port city of Derna are being trained by Sufyan Bin Qumu, a Libyan who was arrested following the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, and held at Guantánamo for six years.
Abdel Hakim al-Hasidi, a senior Libyan rebel commander in Derna, was also held following the invasion of Afghanistan and handed over to Libyan custody two months later.
Both men were said to have been released from prison in Libya in 2008 as part of a reconciliation process with Islamists in the country.
Mr Qumu, 51, a Libyan army veteran, was accused by the US government of working as a truck driver for a company owned by Osama bin Laden, and as an accountant for a charity accused of terrorist links.
The appearance of Islamists in the country's revolution, and supportive statements by Islamist groups, has led to fears that Western military action may be playing into the hands of its ideological enemies....
Actually, the Zionist-Crusader conspiracy against Islam wins that prize. That recalls, incidentally, what Al-Qaeda's Adam Gadahn, the first American to be charged with treason since World War II, called me: a "Zionist Crusader, missionary of hate, counter-Islam consultant."
During a press conference on December 22, President Obama was asked about the difficulties his administration has encountered in trying to close Guantanamo. The president explained (emphasis added):
Obviously, we haven't gotten it closed. And let me just step back and explain that the reason for wanting to close Guantanamo was because my number one priority is keeping the American people safe. One of the most powerful tools we have to keep the American people safe is not providing al Qaeda and jihadists recruiting tools for fledgling terrorists.
AndGuantanamo is probably the number one recruitment tool that is used by these jihadist organizations. And we see it in the websites that they put up. We see it in the messages that they're delivering.
President Obama and his surrogates have made this argumentbefore, but they have provided no real evidence that it is true. In fact, al Qaeda's top leaders rarely mention Guantanamo in their messages to the West, Muslims and the world at large.
No journalist in attendance had the opportunity to challenge President Obama's assertion. The president should have been asked: If Guantanamo is such a valuable recruiting tool, then why do al Qaeda's leaders rarely mention it?
THE WEEKLY STANDARD has reviewed translations of 34 messages and interviews delivered by top al Qaeda leaders operating in Pakistan and Afghanistan ("Al Qaeda Central"), including Osama bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahiri, since January 2009. The translations were published online by the NEFA Foundation. Guantanamo is mentioned in only 3 of the 34 messages. The other 31 messages contain no reference to Guantanamo. And even in the three messages in which al Qaeda mentions the detention facility it is not a prominent theme.
Instead, al Qaeda's leaders repeatedly focus on a narrative that has dominated their propaganda for the better part of two decades. According to bin Laden, Zawahiri, and other al Qaeda chieftains, there is a Zionist-Crusader conspiracy against Muslims. Relying on this deeply paranoid and conspiratorial worldview, al Qaeda routinely calls upon Muslims to take up arms against Jews and Christians, as well as any Muslims rulers who refuse to fight this imaginary coalition.
This theme forms the backbone of al Qaeda's messaging - not Guantanamo....
What a shock, considering that the Qur'an commands Muslims to fight against and subjugate "the People of the Book," i.e., primarily Jews and Christians.
Claiming Victim Status, Conspiracy Paranoia and Islamic Antisemitism Updates: "Former Inmate: Guantanamo Jews Used Witchcraft on Prisoners, Made Me Feel a Cat Was Trying to Penetrate Me," from MEMRITV, December 12 (thanks to Michael):
Following are excerpts from an interview with Walid Muhammad Hajj a Sudanese released from Guantanamo Prison, which aired on Al-Jazeera TV on December 12, 2010: [...]
Walid Muhammad Hajj: Yes. The most common method to wear down the brothers was witchcraft.
Interviewer: How did they do this?
Walid Muhammad Hajj: There were, of course, Jews among the [staff of] the Guantanamo Base, and they would set traps for the guys.
Interviewer: Give me an example of witchcraft.
Walid Muhammad Hajj: Witchcraft was used on most of the guys.
Interviewer: They would cast a spell on them?
Walid Muhammad Hajj: Yes, but by the grace of Allah, through frequent reading of the Koran and invocation of the names of Allah, they managed to withstand this.
Interviewer: How did you know that somebody was under a spell?
Walid Muhammad Hajj: Someone like that would change.
Interviewer: In what way?
Walid Muhammad Hajj: For example, somebody would take his clothes off, all of a sudden, or would sit on his bed for three days straight without sleeping.
They would use all kinds of witchcraft against the guys.
Interviewer: Tell me more.
Walid Muhammad Hajj: I will tell you how the witchcraft affected the guys. A person would suddenly see his brothers and sisters naked before him.
Interviewer: And they weren't really there?
Walid Muhammad Hajj: Absolutely not. It was as if he was in a different world.
Interviewer: You mean, his brothers and sisters from back home.
Walid Muhammad Hajj: That's right. I remembered an incident with a guy who sat next to me in the morning. When they brought the milk, he began to urinate into the milk.
Interviewer: In front of you?
Walid Muhammad Hajj: Yes. I said to him: "Why are you urinating in the milk?" That's when we knew that he was under a spell. After he had recovered a little, after we read Koranic verses to him, he said to me: "The birds on the barbed wire would talk to me, and tell me to urinate in the milk. When the guards pass by my cell, the sound made by their pants talks to me."
Interviewer: They tell him to urinate in the milk?
Walid Muhammad Hajj: Yes.
Interviewer: Did they ever use witchcraft on you?
Walid Muhammad Hajj: There was one attempt.
Interviewer: How did they do it?
Walid Muhammad Hajj: Once, when I was sleeping - on the floor, not on a bed - I suddenly felt that a cat was trying to penetrate me. It tried to penetrate me again and again. I recited the kursi verse again and again until the cat left.
"The kursi verse," or ayat al-kursi, the Verse of the Throne, is Qur'an 2:255: "Allah! There is no deity save Him, the Alive, the Eternal. Neither slumber nor sleep overtaketh Him. Unto Him belongeth whatsoever is in the heavens and whatsoever is in the earth. Who is he that intercedeth with Him save by His leave? He knoweth that which is in front of them and that which is behind them, while they encompass nothing of His knowledge save what He will. His throne includeth the heavens and the earth, and He is never weary of preserving them. He is the Sublime, the Tremendous."
Interviewer: But there wasn't really any cat there?
Good thing we're closing Guantanamo and giving these poor innocents a new chance at life, eh? Gitmo Recidivism Update: "Gitmo Recidivism Rate Soars," by Thomas Joscelyn in the Weekly Standard, December 7:
150 former Guantanamo detainees are either "confirmed or suspected of reengaging in terrorist or insurgent activities," according to a new intelligence assessment released by the Director of National Intelligence's office on Tuesday. In total, 598 detainees have been transferred out of U.S. custody at Guantanamo. 1 out of every 4, or 25 percent, of these former detainees is now considered a confirmed or suspected recidivist by the U.S. government.
The DNI's latest assessment is a significant increase over previous estimates. In June 2008, the Department of Defense reported that 37 former detainees were "confirmed or suspected" of returning to terrorism. On January 13, 2009 -- seven months later -- Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said that number had climbed to 61. As of April 2009, the DoD found that same metric had risen further to 74 -- exactly double the Pentagon's estimate just 11 months before.
In February 2010, President Obama's top counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, confirmed that the estimated number of recidivists had increased to 20 percent. At that recidivism rate, and based on the total number of detainee transfers at that time, between 110 and 120 former Guantanamo detainees were on the U.S. government's recidivist list in early 2010.
Thus, the DNI's latest assessment of the Gitmo recidivism rate is higher than all previous estimates by an appreciable margin....
GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba - Eight years after he was taken to Guantanamo as a teenage prisoner, a Canadian pleaded guilty Monday to killing a U.S. Army sergeant during a battle in Afghanistan, in a deal that will send him home in a year to serve his sentence.
Defenders say Omar Khadr, who was 15 at the time of his capture, was a "child soldier" pushed into becoming an al-Qaida fighter by his father, an associate of Osama bin Laden.
The plea deal ends a widely criticized trial that made the United States the first Western nation since World War II to prosecute a child offender for alleged war crimes. The exact terms were not immediately disclosed, but Khadr's sentence was reportedly capped at eight years, in addition to time already spent at the Guantanamo detention camp.
The now 24-year-old prisoner, who was seriously wounded when he was seized in a gunbattle in 2002, admitted to throwing a grenade that killed a special forces medic during a fierce raid on an al-Qaida compound. He also pleaded guilty to building and planting roadside bombs and receiving weapons training from al-Qaida. He is the last Western detainee at Guantanamo.
The Toronto-born Khadr's trial had been scheduled to start Monday and he faced a possible life sentence.
The chief military prosecutor, Navy Capt. John F. Murphy, said the government welcomed the deal, which was initiated by the defense, because it removes any doubt about Khadr's guilt.
"What you saw puts a lie to the long-standing argument by some that Omar Khadr is a victim," Murphy told reporters in an aircraft hangar near the courthouse on the U.S. base in Cuba. "He's not. He is a murderer and he is convicted by the strength of his own words."
Khadr did not explain why he changed his plea, though Dennis Edney, one of his Canadian attorneys, said it was a "very, very difficult" decision made only because Canada agreed to repatriate him after a year.
It came down to a choice between a trial his lawyers called "illegal" trial and going home -- and he chose the latter, Edney said. [...]
Khadr was charged with murder in the death of U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Speer, a special forces medic from Albuquerque, New Mexico. The U.S. says the Canadian is a war criminal because was not a legitimate soldier. He also faced charges of spying, material support for terrorism, conspiracy and attempted murder. [...]
Another soldier who was blinded in one eye during the firefight said he was pleased Khadr admitted guilt but is concerned the Canadian may not serve a sufficiently long sentence. Several Canadian media outlets, citing anonymous sources, have reported he would serve one year at Guantanamo and seven in his native country.
"It's way too short but I think you probably couldn't give him a sentence that I thought was too long," said Layne Morris, a retired Army sergeant who now lives in a suburb of Salt Lake City, Utah. "We have put him on a track to freedom in the prime of his life."
Better hurry up and release the rest of them, eh, Barack? "Former terror inmate arrested," from AFP, July 8 (thanks to all who sent this in):
PESHAWAR (Pakistan) - PAKISTAN on Tuesday arrested a former Guantanamo Bay inmate, alleging that he had rejoined Taleban insurgents in the country's north-west, security officials said.
They said Issa Khan, a homeopathic doctor who previously spent around four years in the notorious US military jail in Cuba, was arrested in Bannu town, about 180 kilometres south of Peshawar.
'We have arrested doctor Issa Khan. He was wanted on different terrorism charges,' Bannu city police chief Sajjad Khan told AFP by telephone.
Pakistani security officials said Issa had been practising homeopathic medicine in northern Afghanistan in 2002 when he was arrested by American forces following the 2001 US-led invasion to bring down the Taleban regime.
They said they believed he rejoined the Taleban after his release from Guantanamo.
A local intelligence official said Issa was considered to be a commander in Tehreek-e-Taleban, the group responsible for some of the worst bombings in Pakistan in recent years. -- AFP
Bon appetit! "Chef convicted of helping Osama escape GIs," from Reuters, July 8:
A Sudanese prisoner accused of guarding Osama bin Laden and helping him escape US forces in Afghanistan pleaded guilty at Guantanamo yesterday, giving the Obama administration its first conviction in the controversial war-crimes court.
Ibrahim al Qosi, whose job description also included cooking for the terrorist at the Star of Jihad compound in Afghanistan, has been held at Guantanamo for more than eight years.
His sentence could range from no additional time to life....
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