Gitmo News & Propaganda

Title: US-Taliban Talks Collapsed Over Guantánamo Deal, Says Official
October 8, 2012

Abstract: Peace talks between the US and the Taliban broke down in March mainly because the Afghan insurgents refused to agree to a deal by which guerrilla commanders released from Guantánamo Bay would remain under Qatari government supervision in Doha, a senior US administration official said.

The official said contacts have continued between the Kabul government and Taliban representatives, and that the US was also ready to resume talks.

Negotiations broke down in March after a failure to agree the fate of five insurgents, including three Taliban commanders, held in the Guantánamo Bay detention camp. In return, an American soldier, Bowe Bergdahl, was to have been freed by a Taliban affiliate, the Haqqani network, as part of a sequence of confidence-building measures leading to a ceasefire and broader talks between Kabul and the insurgency.

The collapse has been widely blamed on resistance in the US Congress and the Pentagon to allowing any Taliban prisoners to be released or transferred from Guantánamo. However, a senior administration official insisted the Obama administration had been ready to transfer the five prisoners to Qatar had the Taliban agreed to the conditions in Doha. The transfer would have required a "certification" from the defence secretary, Leon Panetta, guaranteeing to Congress that the Guantánamo inmates would not re-enter the fight against US troops.

"We had made a very good arrangement with the Qataris that they would have been supervised but not in jail. It would have been high-end. It would have been a heck of a lot better than Guantánamo," the official said. "We worked our way quite a long distance on this and I think if the Taliban had agreed to the final couple of conditions on this I think we would have certified.

"As the secretary of defence, you would want to certify that once these people were transferred to Qatar they didn't leave Qatar – they didn't go back to Afghanistan or Pakistan or go to London or go to conferences at Chatham House [a UK foreign policy thinktank]. Among the things we said was that if they go to Qatar they have to stay in Qatar. And they were not able to agree."

The Taliban announced they were suspending talks on 15 March, accusing American negotiators of being "shaky, erratic and vague".

However, the American official, in an unusually detailed account of the diplomatic effort, argued the breakdown had been caused largely by internal rifts within the insurgency.

"We were asking them some very hard questions they were having a difficult time answering. They were having a hard time motivating their fighters at that time, who were asking: why should people fight when some were in Doha talking to the United States?" the official said. "We've said in public and private that we are interested in getting back into that conversation, but that is up to them."

The direct contacts began in November 2010 after nine years of war, in a safe house near Munich provided by German intelligence, where US officials met Tayyab Agha, a confidant of the Taliban leader, Mullah Omar, in an encounter brokered by German officials and the Qatari royal family.

Further rounds of preliminary talks followed in Doha in February last year and again in Germany three months later, leading to the establishment of a Taliban "political office" in Doha at the beginning of this year. The talks in Doha focused largely on the five Guantánamo detainees, who included three senior commanders: Noorullah Noori, Mullah Fazel, and former interior minister Mullah Khairullah Khairkhwa.

The administration official said the Doha process had not been a total failure as the Taliban had kept representatives in Doha who have had direct contact with the government of Hamid Karzai, and had dispatched an official to a meeting in Kyoto in June also attended by Masoom Stanekzai, a Karzai adviser who runs the Afghan high peace council.

With the collapse of the talks in Doha, there is declining optimism in Washington over the prospects of a deal before the end of 2014, when US and other Nato combat troops are due to leave, leaving a residual force for training, counter-terrorism operations aimed at al-Qaida, and possibly counter-narcotics operations.

Lieutenant General David Barno, who commanded US and allied forces in Afghanistan from 2003 to 2005, said: "The Taliban may feel that they will be in a better bargaining position after 2014 and they are prepared to fight on through the next two years" (Guardian, 2012).

Title: Guantanamo Prisoner's Opinion Of LeBron James Treated As Top Secret
October 16, 2012
Yahoo News

U.S. security restrictions governing the statements of former CIA captives held at Guantanamo are so stringent that one prisoner's assessment of basketball star LeBron James was treated as a top national secret for two months, a military defense lawyer said on Tuesday.

The incident was disclosed by Navy Lieutenant Commander Kevin Bogucki, a defense lawyer for Yemeni defendant Ramzi Binalshibh, one of five prisoners charged with orchestrating the September 11 plot to crash hijacked commercial planes into U.S. buildings.

Bogucki said another of his Guantanamo prisoner clients, former CIA captive Muhammed Rahim, wrote a note criticizing the National Basketball Association star's decision to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Miami Heat in 2010.

"LeBron James is a very bad man. He should apologize to the city of Cleveland," Bogucki quoted the note as saying.

Rahim has not been charged with a crime but because he was previously held and interrogated by the CIA, his communications are subject to restrictions similar to those of the alleged September 11 plotters - every word they write or utter is presumed to be "Top Secret" unless a government Security Classification Review Team declares them safe for public release.

"It took that classification authority approximately two months to determine that my client's opinion of LeBron James did not pose a grievous threat to national security," said Bogucki, who did not indicate when the note was written.

Defense lawyers say the security restrictions are overbroad and impair their ability to prepare a defense in a case that could end with their clients' execution.

The defendants, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the hijacked plane attacks that killed 2,976 people in the United States in 2001, are charged in the Guantanamo tribunal with conspiring with al Qaeda, attacking civilians and civilian targets, murder in violation of the laws of war, destruction of property, hijacking and terrorism.

Security restrictions surrounding their trial are a key topic at a weeklong pretrial hearing this week at the Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base in Cuba.

CIA Interrogation
Prosecutors contend that the restrictions are necessary to protect U.S. national security and safeguard CIA interrogation methods and sources.

The defense lawyers say the CIA gave up control of that information when it disclosed those methods and sources to the defendants, and that the restrictions are aimed at preventing them from discussing treatment that amounted to torture.

Binalshibh and defendant Walid bin Attash, a Yemeni raised in Saudi Arabia who is accused of training two of the September 11 hijackers at an al Qaeda camp in Afghanistan, were the only two defendants who showed up in the courtroom on Tuesday.

The judge, Army Colonel James Pohl, ruled on Monday that attendance in court was voluntary during pretrial hearings. Mohammed came to the court building but watched the proceedings on a monitor from another room.

Defendants Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, who is accused of providing money and travel assistance for the hijackers, and Mustafa Ahmed al Hawsawi, who is accused of being a key financial facilitator, stayed behind in their cells at a special high-security camp that holds the former CIA prisoners.

The judge also heard news organizations' request to limit closing of the courtroom when secret information is discussed. Attorney David Schulz said the law requires that any closures be narrowly tailored and can only occur if the judge finds that public disclosure of the information in question would severely damage national security.

"The public has a constitutional right to know what is being done in its name at this tribunal," said Schulz, who represents 14 news organizations, including Reuters (Yahoo News, 2012).

Title: Navy To Clean Offices That Guantanamo Lawyers Say Are Contaminated With Rat Droppings, Mold
October 18, 2012
Fox News

The U.S. Navy is promising to clean up offices at the Guantanamo Bay navy base that defense lawyers say are dangerously contaminated with rat droppings and mold.

A Navy official told the judge in the Sept. 11 war crimes tribunal on Thursday that a comprehensive cleanup will be completed before the court reconvenes at the U.S. base in Cuba next month. Capt. Michael Lebowitz said occupational health experts will ensure the offices meet safety standards.

Attorneys for some of the five prisoners charged in the Sept. 11 attacks have complained their offices are so contaminated that lawyers and paralegal have repeatedly suffered respiratory ailments. Some have required medical treatment at the tropical base. The issue has repeatedly interrupted this week's pretrial hearing in the Sept. 11 case (Fox News, 2012).

Title: Pentagon Prisons Revealed: WikiLeaks Publishes Terror Detainee Manuals
October 25, 2012

Whistleblowing website WikiLeaks is releasing over 100 classified documents detailing US Department of Defense procedures for running Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, Camp Bucca and other infamous prisons where terror suspects are detained.

The directives and manuals, which for more than a decade directed the US military’s policy for treatment of its detainees, will be released chronologically over the next month, WikiLeaks said in a statement.

The first batch of the documents released is the 2002 Camp Delta – Guantanamo Bay prison – Standing Operating Procedure manuals.

“This document is of significant historical importance. Guantanamo Bay has become the symbol for systematized human rights abuse in the West with good reason,” WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said.

Several of the documents slated for publishing “can only be described as ’policies of unaccountability,’” WikiLeaks said in its press release.

One document such document that has been previewed but not yet published is the ’Policy on Assigning Detainee Internment Serial Numbers’. Wikileaks claims it is a manual on how to "disappear" sensitive prisoners "by systematically holding off from assigning a prisoner record numbers".

Another apparently contains the notorious instructions to "purge" interrogations tapes, which became notorious following the Abu Ghraib torture scandals in the mid 2000s. WikiLeaks called on NGOs, activists and the general public to thoroughly read the documents to gain a better understanding of the evolution of the Pentagon's post-9/11 attitude towards prisoners (RT, 2012).

Title: Lawyers For Sept. 11 Defendants At Guantanamo Ask US Defense Secretary To Televise Trial
November 1, 2012
Fox News

The Pentagon is being urged to allow television broadcasts of the trial of five prisoners at Guantanamo who are charged in the Sept. 11 attacks on the U.S.

In a letter to U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, lawyers for the defendants say televising the trial is the only way to dispel what they call "pervasive" mistrust of American military tribunals.

Lawyers previously asked a military judge to allow television coverage. But the judge said Panetta would have to approve it.

A Pentagon spokesman, Army Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale, says Panetta has not yet considered the request. The letter was sent Thursday.

The public can watch the hearings at the U.S. base in Cuba by closed-circuit TV at Fort Meade, Maryland. The Sept. 11 trial is more than a year away (Fox News, 2012).

Title: Feinstein Commissions Report On Housing Gitmo Detainees In US, Calls It Viable Option
November 28, 2012
Fox News

Abstract: The Democratic chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence committee commissioned a federal report to identify prison facilities in the U.S. that are suitable for housing Guantanamo detainees, concluding the option is viable -- despite congressional opposition to such a plan when the Obama administration proposed it.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein's renewed interest in the proposal first came to light Wednesday after Fox News turned up an internal Government Accountability Office document that refers to “Source of Work: Ms. Dianne Feinstein, Chair, Select Committee on Intelligence, U.S. Senate” and lists the “Gist of Work” as an investigation into whether domestic facilities could house the approximately 170 detainees remaining at the controversial facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Two hours after Fox News' inquiry about the report, Feinstein's office posted the report online and released a statement confirming that the California senator thinks the Obama administration's controversial plan to relocate detainees to the United States is a viable option.

“This report demonstrates that if the political will exists, we could finally close Guantanamo without imperiling our national security,” Feinstein said. “The GAO report makes clear that numerous prisons exist inside the United States -- operated by both the Department of Defense and the Department of Justice—capable of holding the 166 detainees who remain at Guantanamo in an environment that meets the security requirements.”

Past discussion of moving the detainees stateside sparked a firewall of bipartisan opposition in Congress, which passed a measure barring that move.

The internal GAO document reviewed by Fox News noted the president’s executive order of January 2009, in which he promised to close the detention camps there within a year, and it referenced “legal prohibitions” that currently bar the transfer of detainees to the U.S. But the document also stated that Congress has continued to raise questions about whether civilian or military facilities in the United Sates could house the men.

“To address this, GAO is providing information on the current characteristic of the detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay, as well as descriptions of existing DOD (Defense Department), Department of Justice, and Department of Homeland Security correctional and detention facilities," it says.

The GAO's report on the facilities, which was completed Nov. 14, included four objectives: an analysis of the current Guantanamo Bay detention camps, examination of the extent Defense Department and civilian facilities could be used, an outline of how the Justice and Homeland Security departments manage individuals who “engage in terrorist-related activities” and an overview of the challenges of housing detainees in the U.S.

Congressional sources tell Fox News that Feinstein, a California Democrat, placed a 30-day hold on the report, which has the effect of limiting access to the report’s findings until its public release. Until that time, sources say, Feinstein can share the findings with whom she chooses. However her office disputed that characterization, saying that it is standard for the GAO to delay public release of one of its reports until after the requestor has reviewed it. 

Republican Rep. Frank Wolf of Virginia, who heads the powerful subcommittee on appropriations overseeing the Justice Department, said he thinks the department's acquisition last year of a prison in Illinois was “unprecedented in its violations of longstanding executive-legislative branch protocol."

It "could be the first step in transferring the world’s most dangerous terrorists from Guantanamo Bay to the U.S.,” Wolf said.

“Senator Feinstein’s request for this GAO report raises even more suspicion about plans by the Obama administration to transfer Guantanamo detainees to U.S. prisons, and even more troubling is the fact that the report’s findings were kept secret from the Congress and the American public,” Wolf said (Fox News, 2012).

Title: London Protest Marks 11 Years Since Establishment Of Guantanamo Bay Prison
January 11, 2013
Fox News

Abstract: Dozens of activists have staged a protest outside the U.S. Embassy in London to mark 11 years since the opening of the U.S. prison camp at Guantanamo.

About 50 protesters, some wearing orange jumpsuits and masks of President Barack Obama or a dark sack around their heads, turned out for the peaceful demonstration in central London.

The activists called for the release of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident still held at the prison. Aamer, originally from Saudi Arabia, was detained in Afghanistan in 2001 and has been held at Guantanamo since 2002. He has not been charged and has insisted he was in Afghanistan to do voluntary work.

Obama promised when he took office to close the prison but congressional opposition has prevented him from fulfilling that vow (Fox News, 2013).

Title: US Says 'Non-Lethal Force' Used In Guantanamo Incident But Won't Confirm Report Of Shot Fired
March 6, 2013
Fox News

Abstract: A spokesman for the Guantanamo Bay prison says guards used what he called "non-lethal force" to quell a disturbance in a recreation yard.

Navy Capt. Robert Durand won't say what measures were employed. And he won't confirm a lawyer's report that a guard fired a shot at a prisoner, possibly using some type of non-lethal projectile such as a rubber bullet.

The incident occurred Jan. 2 but the military only disclosed it this week after attorney Clive Stafford Smith sent a letter to the camp commander calling for an investigation.

Durand said Wednesday no detainees were injured and a review by officials found guards followed procedures.

Smith says an Afghan prisoner was injured in the throat, either struck by the projectile or from a ricochet (Fox News, 2013).

Title: Flight  From Guantanamo Naval Base Makes Emergency Landing At Miami Airport
March 15, 2013
Fox News

Abstract: A flight headed from Guantanamo Naval Air force Base to Andrews Air Force Base made an emergency landing at Miami International Airport after a light indicator came on.

Airport spokesman Marc Henderson says the flight landed safely Friday just after noon with 144 on board, mostly U.S. soldiers. Henderson says the passengers are out of the gate and waiting for a later flight to the base in Maryland.

Messages left with federal aviation officials were not immediately returned. No further details have been released (Fox News, 2013).

Title: 'Gitmo Created More Terrorists Than We Could've Ever Imagined'
March 18, 2013

Abstract: US Army Veteran Brandon Neeley - a former guard at Guantanamo Bay - speaks out against the abuses he witnessed at the prison, and lack of ongoing media attention given to them. Neeley enlisted for five years in 2000, heading to Guantanamo in 2002.

Neeley tells RT about violent incidents involving detainees, and expresses regret at his former role as a guard, mourning the lack of consistent media attention on the prison’s mistreated prisoners. He believes the hunger strike is now the detainees’ only possible option in garnering international attention given their plight - authorities have perpetually ignored their basic human rights.

You were there over 10 years ago - how were detainees treated during your time at the facility?

Brandon Neeley: They were treated horrible. We were told before we actually got to Guantanamo, that the Geneva Convention would not be held in effect. The detainees, when they first arrived, they weren’t even allowed to walk around in their cells -or cages, as I call them. They weren’t allowed to pray, they weren’t allowed to do nothing. When the International Red Cross came, some of the constraints loosened up and they were able to talk and stuff. But I mean they were treated horrible. They were abused by us guards and when it came to Internal Reaction Force team and…they were just mistreated all around, especially in the beginning.

RT: Did you take part in that abuse – did you take part yourself?

BN: Yeah, I’ve always been very open about this. I was actually involved in the very first incident that ever took place in Guantanamo. A detainee - an older detainee has tried to jerk away from us and I slammed him facing to the ground and held his face to the concrete until the Internal Reaction Force team pulled us off. I’ve always been very open. I was involved in an incident and witnessed more after that. In a nutshell, if I could do it again, I wouldn’t take part in it, I would’ve spoken about it sooner than I did.

RT: Are detainees treated any differently now?

BN: From the outside looking in at it, it has changed. As far as PR, the way the government tries to spin it, because the facility is a lot better. But the guards that have been there over the last few years, the treatment inside as far as the Internal Reaction Force team and the way the Koran is treated and stuff like that - not much has changed. Maybe the outside has changed but the inside has not changed too much.

RT: Does it surprise you that these detainees have gone on hunger strike and are now threatening their own lives?

BN: No, not at all. It has been eleven years. A lot of these guys, a lot of people forget that over half these people have been cleared for release, not only by the Obama administration but also by the Bush administration.

The sad part in all of this is, it’s really not covered in the mainstream media unless these detainees do go on hunger strike, so this is really their only way to protest.

Just think about it. They’ve just found out that the Obama administration has just got rid of the only office that was attempting to close Guantanamo and they’ve just publically announced that there is nothing in the works to send or repatriate those people cleared for release. So this is their form of protest and this is the only way they are getting any kind of media attention into Guantanamo, which is the sad part.

RT: If they are released, would they not just be moved on to another detention center? Would it make any difference to their future plight?

BN: A lot of them were cleared for release. They wanted to be sent to other countries like Somalia- like former detainees who were cleared - they were sent either back home or repatriated and sent to some other country to live their life.

And the fact is that a lot of these people are sitting in limbo, they are cleared for release. And they’re going to be indefinitely held for who knows how long? They don’t know when they’ll see their families again or where they’re going to go.  I think the fact that they don’t know what is going to happen is what makes them protest. And this is the only form of protest they have – to go on hunger strike.

RT: Looking back at your time there, do you feel any regret, remorse, guilt? Is this why you’re speaking out now about their conditions and what happened there?

BN: I feel a lot of regret and remorse for what I took part in. The fact is, I’ve never used the old say ‘I was just following orders.’ I’m guilty of what I’m guilty of. And the fact is that when whoever opened the camp decided to open Guantanamo , they knew from the go that it was wrong, it was illegal and it was a violation of human rights, and the fact is that it needs to be closed.

Detainees in orange jumpsuits sit in a holding area under the watchful eyes of military police during in-processing to the temporary detention facility at Camp X-Ray of Naval Base Guantanamo Bay in this January 11, 2002 file photograph. (Reuters/Stringer/Files)

I’ve tried to take something very negative in my life and tried to turn it into something positive and do some good. And hopefully by coming forward – by a lot of us that have come forward, you know- we put a lot of risk by coming forward - that it does make a difference.

And hopefully eventually Guantanamo will be closed and a lot of these detainees can go home and the guilty ones can be tried and sentenced…

RT: Do you think you’re helping this, because this case has not been covered a lot in mainstream media (Something you touched on a little bit earlier)? Do you think people are listening?

BN: I think it depends. I really believe that if we had a Republican president it would be a lot more in the mainstream media. The issue of Guantanamo goes through flurries where it would be real hot around the anniversary and everyone wants to talk about it or if somebody dies they want to talk about it. You know, at the beginning there was a lot of media attention once some of it did become public but it has kind of died down. I think a lot of it is that government is very good at spinning it, making it look like a straight place.

RT: What is the alternative though – if you have terror suspects or people who are charged with atrocities, is there an alternative to something like Guantanamo? Isn’t the world a safer place for it?

BN: No. I really believe Guantanamo has created more true terrorists around the world then we’ve gotten rid of. The fact is that we’ve held a lot of innocent people there and the fact is there are truly guilty people there that need to be dealt with. But we have a federal court system that has proven time and time over that we can try true terrorists and sentence them to whether it’s you know by death or life imprisonment in super max prison.

The US flag flies over the war crimes courtroom in Camp Justice in this photo taken at the US Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba on October 18, 2012 in this photo reviewed by the US Department of Defense. (AFP Photo)

The fact is the military commission is a kangaroo court – a lot of the stuff they went over, the federal court system has already rules intact for. They’ve spent a whole week under…well, once Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, he was allowed to wear camouflage. You know federal court has rules of what you’re allowed to wear or not wear in a courts system. It is a mockery.

The fact is they’ll never bring him into a federal court system because a lot of the information they have gotten has been gotten under the use of torture, so it is inadmissible in federal courts system.

But we’ve dropped the ball. We have a system here. We have an opportunity to show the world that our system and our way of life actually works. But we dropped the ball we’ve created more terrorist and enemies around the world than we could have ever imagined (RT, 2013).