Guantanamo, Bagram, and Another Hope(less) Presidential Campaign

Marcy Wheeler has written quite a piece on Adnan Farhan Abd Al Latif, a Yemeni detainee at Guantanamo in danger of being jailed for life and deprived of habeas corpus rights because of Obama’s tyrannical policy of indefinite detention.

At issue is a Yemeni detainee, Adnan Farhan Abd Al Latif, picked up in Pakistan in December 2001 and alleged to have trained with al Qaeda. Judge Henry Kennedy granted Latif’s habeas petition last summer, largely because he found the government’s single most important piece of evidence–an intelligence report of some kind (which I’ll call the Report)–unreliable. The DC Circuit–with Judges Janice Rogers Brown and Karen Henderson in the majority and David Tatel in dissent–remanded the case on the issue of the detainee’s credibility. But on the more important issue–whether Kennedy was correct in dismissing the Report–they overturned the district decision.

…There are a number of reasons why such a report, by itself, would be unreliable. First, the sheer number of men being transferred from Pakistani to US custody at the time–over a hundred in a bunch. To make things worse, in the process of transferring these detainees to Peshawar, a busload tried to escape, killing 6 Pakistani guards and a number of detainees (some of the detainees whose reports cite TD-314/00684-02 are alleged to have been among those who tried to escape). In addition, there’s the likelihood the Pakistanis did the interrogations. Since Pakistanis were getting bounties for each “al Qaeda fighter” they turned over, they had an incentive to claim the detainees had been fighters. Even worse, for the Arabic men in question, the interrogation would have required translation between Arabic and Urdu or Pashto (for the interrogation itself), and then translation from that into English (to go into the CIA report). There are all sorts of reason why you shouldn’t indefinitely detain a man based on such a report!

Apparently Latif’s entire detention was based on a single document, which Wheeler speculates was written up by the Pakistani government in December 2001 when it was rounding people up to give to the U.S. for a bounty. Essentially, the government and the judges ruling against Latif want such “evidence” admitted to the court to be granted a presumption of accuracy. But, as Benjamin Wittes of the Lawfare blog has written “to presume the accuracy of evidence would be to presume the evidence establishes that which it is offered to prove.” In other words, if the government says so, close your eyes and take their word for it. That’s a rather sick way to deliver justice.

To back up a bit, the anecdote of Latif should bring home to people how prevalent these issues still are in the Obama era. I’ve written recently about a few other individuals susceptible to indefinite detention without a fair trial. Abd al-Rahim al Nashiri, the Guantanamo detainee accused of planning the 2000 attack on the USS Cole, is currently in hearings for his arraignment. He was captured in 2001 and brutally tortured and has yet to face a real trial. But with the start of his hearings, the government recently announced that even if he is found not guilty and acquitted of all charges, they may still keep him prisoner. Because al-Nashiri is being held in military detention, the government claims, he can be held for “the duration of hostilities,” regardless of his verdict…which basically means forever since the War on Terror is endless.

Shaker Aamer, a former UK resident of Saudi descent has been in Guantanamo for about a decade without trial, also a victim of torture. He was cleared for release by the Bush administration in 2007 due to a lack of any evidence that he had committed any crime. In 2011, he is still imprisoned.

Mohammed Ahmed al Kandari, a Kuwaiti national, has also been detained at Gitmo for a decade, is a victim of torture, and is facing a military tribunal. He was rounded up while, according to him, he was doing charity work in Afghanistan. A legal study of his proceedings quoted the Tribunal’s legal advisor as saying, “Indeed, the evidence considered persuasive by the Tribunal is made up almost entirely of hearsay evidence recorded by unidentified individuals with no first hand knowledge of the events they describe.” His lawyer says he is likely to be detained indefinitely.

And that’s just Guantanamo, where almost 200 men still reside. The story continues at Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan. As I wrote recently, there are now about 3,000 detainees in Bagram, up from 1,700 since June and five times the amount there when Barack Obama took office. Most of them have not been charged, have seen no evidence against them, do not have the right to be represented by a lawyer, and the U.S. claims it is not even obligated to explain why these people are detained. Attorney for Human Rights First Daphne Eviatar said in a recent CBS interview that “It’s worse than Guantanamo, because there are fewer rights.” There is strong evidence of serious abuse and torture in black cites near Bagram (not to mention the U.S.-supported Kabul government’s implementation of systematic torture in multiple Afghan jails throughout the country).

As Glenn Greenwald thoroughly pointed out, there is a bipartisan consensus on such national security issues. The GOP has been scrambling to delineate themselves from Obama on foreign policy and civil liberties, being forced to inch into fascism in order to do so. All of the fundamentals of Bush administration extremism have been cemented in place under the guise of the cool-headed pragmatism of Barack Obama’s Hope & Change. I thought this was depressing in 2008 when I predicted Obama’s betrayal of the rule of law and a humanitarian foreign policy, but the reality is even harder to swallow now that the GOP is attempting to challenge him in 2012.