Archive for December, 2008

These Interrogation Methods are the Norm at Guantanamo

December 30, 2008

In an LA Times article Matthew Alexander discusses how an interrogator in Iraq gleaned more valuable information from a subject by simply talking than he would have through fear and intimidation techniques. Although not specifically focused on interrogation at Guantanamo, it is illustrative of what the real processes of interrogation at the facility are all about.

So-called “enhanced interrogation methods” were used only in a brief 6-week period in late 2002-early 2003, then were rescinded by the Pentagon. Subsequently a range of approved methods, published in open-source documents and available for the public to read, have been the standard procedure in Guantanamo.

On several of my visits to the facility I had frequent opportunities to observe interrogations (unknown to the interrogators) and to interview interrogators. I saw, and was told repeatedly, that the most effective way to persuade a subject to talk was to win rapport, gain mutual respect, and show that it was in the subject’s best interests to speak openly.

While the procedures are not generally recognized by an activist community bent on painting as vile a portrait of Guantanamo as possible, they are, in fact, the norm.

Released detainees – which includes about 2/3 of those originally held – often vociferously complain of abusive treatment and torture at the facility. They have been instructed to do so by al Qaeda training manuals captured in England.

Some others, including a large number of Afghanis – speak of the humane treatment they received including medical and dental treatment, English language lessons, and good food.

Ultimately the command at Guantanamo is forced to prove a negative: how does it prove that there is no torture going on? Only by full transparency, and the Guantanamo facility is the most open, frequently inspected such facility in the world.

In the final analysis, you can read Inside Gitmo and draw your own conclusions.

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Close Guantanamo? “Saying it is a lot easier than doing it.”

December 30, 2008

Those are the words of Air Force Colonel Mo Davis, former chief prosecutor at Guantanamo, discussing the almost certainty that incoming president-elect Obama will close Guantanamo. As reported by Alan Gomez in USA Today, relocation of Gitmo detainees – particularly those acknowledged by all but the most intransigent Guantanamo opponents as being al Qaeda hard men – is rapidly emerging as a serious problem.

Campaign promises, so easy to make on the trail, can become quite thorny when one wins office and discovers ownership of the problem. Such is the case of Guantanamo, that within weeks will be Mr. Obama’s issue.

Gomez quotes several sources familiar with the situation of the so-called “Gitmo 110,” men who are seen as medium and high level, highly committed al Qaeda jihadists, whose fate is going to pose extraordinarily challenging problems for the new administration and ultimately for the American people.

Guantanamo “Child” Soldier: Victim – Or Second-Gen Terrorist?

December 28, 2008

Omar Khadr, a Canadian citizen by birth, second generation al Qaeda terrorist by training and inclination, was picked up off an Afghan battlefield. Since 2002 he has been held in Guantanamo, the youngest man there, charged with several acts of war crimes including throwing a hand grenade that mortally wounded Delta Force’s SFC Christopher Speer. A fighting medic, Speer had run into a minefield two days prior to his wounding to rescue two Afghani children caught among the deadly devices.

Khadr, because of Canadian and US activists primarily, has received largely sympathetic media coverage. He has been variously portrayed as an innocent caught up in events, as too juvenile to have made rational decisions about his alleged terrorist activities, and as a victim of a heartless US military. In fact, Khadr is none of those.

The saga of Omar Khadr is detailed and documented in my book Inside Gitmo. He comes from Toronto’s notorious fanatical Muslim community, the son and brother of terrorists killed on the battlefield. Others in his family have been charged with acts supporting terrorism. Khadr was especially trained by high-level al Qaeda operatives after his father moved them to Afghanistan. He is said to have received high marks for precociousness in regard to his adept learning skills in deadly arts.

Now Khadr is in the process of being tried by Military Commission at Guantanamo for his actions and apologists are stretching for excuses to absolve him of personal responsibility. In an LA Times article, outspoken Guantanamo opponent Carol Williams, frets about Khadr’s age and status. Williams quotes Diane Marie Amann, a UC Davis law professor: “…children caught up in combat are to be protected, not prosecuted.” Williams urges that Khadr ought to be treated as if he were a hapless child. “Underage combatants should be treated as victims, not responsible adults who made conscious decisions to join the fight.”

That case can be made for children torn from families in Uganda and elsewhere who are brutalized and forced to fight. (See articles on Child Soldiers on the Inside Gitmo site.) But there is no convenient one-size-fits-all measurement when dealing with terrorist and gang movements. Some youths barely into their teens make conscious decisions to commit heinous acts and must be held accountable. Some are victims; others are acting by choice.

It is not appropriate, as we see in Khadr’s case, to toss the umbrella of protection automatically over his head.

Acts by human beings require individual evaluation. It is common – indeed quite usual – in this country to hold juveniles accountable for their actions, although in more than a few instances the savvy teens use built-in sympathies to game the court and the system. Each case requires examination, evaluation, and ultimately a decision as to how it will be handled. As I write this, an 8-year old boy in Texas may be charged as an adult with first degree murder.

As Inside Gitmo readers will learn, Khadr’s case is unique in many aspects, but his involvement in terrorism is not in question. He was not abducted but indoctrinated into al Qaeda’s ranks, and in his case the apple did not fall far from the tree.

China Wants Guantanamo Uigher Detainees Returned – Should the US comply?

December 26, 2008

US authorities have backed themselves into a corner regarding the 17 Uigher detainees now held in Guantanamo. Bit of background: the Uigher’s live in southwestern China, a largely Muslim population distinct from the Han Chinese who form the core ethnic group in that country. They are members of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, a group long on the State Department’s terrorist group list.

But these detainees have been judged by review boards not to pose a threat to the US. The detainees say that they were in Afghanistan for training in al Qaeda camps with the intent of taking those skills back to China. They were scheduled for release but are held pending relocation to a country that would agree to accept them.

Why not simply send them back to China? China wants them back. US policy has been that detainees would not be released to countries that might torture or execute them, and that includes the People’s Republic of China. Previously five Uighers were released to Albania but other potential receiving countries have demurred US requests for resettlement due to Chinese pressure.

Meanwhile Federal Judge Ricardo Urbina in December 2008 ordered in favor of a petition raised by the 17 Uigher detainees that they be released into the US. Specific communities in Northern Virginia and Tallahassee, Florida were named. The government filed an appeal to this decision that is pending.

Two critical points emerge: Shall Guantanamo detainees be released into US soil? Judge Urbina’s ruling, if upheld, paves the way for more of these men to be freed here in America. That many are committed terrorists against whom sufficient evidence is not available to make a case under strict US judiciary standards is indisputable. The clear and present danger this presents to US citizens and communities is ignored in what many consider frivolous court decisions that focus on the letter of the law and ignore situational realities.

Second, is US policy correct? The US government regularly criticizes other countries that refuse to extradite criminals or suspects because of capital punishment issues. One must question the hypocrisy intrinsic in a policy that prohibits release of Guantanamo detainees for similar reasons to other countries.

I address these and other serious issues involved in the simplistic “Close Gitmo” ruling that we may soon face in my book, Inside Gitmo. All citizens must become informed on these critical, potentially dangerous, issues in order to make the will of the people known to Washington policy-makers.

Escape from Guantanamo

December 26, 2008

Sounds like the title of a Kurt Russell movie, doesn’t it? But it’s not a headline you’ve yet seen, and while always possible, not one you’re likely to read anytime soon.

While advocates for the detainees beat the drum that Guantanamo was selected because it keeps the detainees out of the US judicial system, there is a far more practical aspect to selection of the isolated outpost at Cuba’s southeast corner than a mere legal subterfuge. As the old saw goes about asking directions in the country: You can’t get there from here.

Guantanamo is largely unapproachable. As I point out extensively in my book Inside Gitmo, overland approaches are guarded by Cuban military authorities who are loathe to permit demonstrations, or even access to the outer perimeter from their side. On the Caribbean side approaches to the base are guarded by the US Coast Guard whose members run constant patrols along the water access routes to the Camp Delta complex.

Such is not the case in other locales. Just yesterday al Qaeda fighters managed a jailbreak in Ramadi, Iraq that killed 13 (six guards; seven fellow prisoners) while permitting four high value operatives to slip back into the fight.

This has been a pattern throughout the history of confinement. Detainees, including the Bali Bomber, have escaped from a detention center in Bagram, Afghanistan and from several other Afghani prisons. Prisons in Yemen are a notorious sieve.

In several instances breakouts have been initiated by suicide bombers with great loss of life, including innocents in the community killed as a result of these attacks.

Relocation of Guantanamo detainees to US soil – a move seriously contemplated by several members of incoming president-elect Obama’s legal and advisory team – would make any facility to which they are moved a prime al Qaeda target. Additionally, we should expect that hundreds of activist demonstrators would take up residence around the facilities – whether Charleston, SC, Leavenworth, KS, or Pendleton, CA, or other locales. These activists would provide necessary, if unwitting, cover for any al Qaeda attacks against those facilities.

Given the mind set of the al Qaeda movement any operation is a guaranteed success, whether detainees escape or not. By bringing the fear of suicide bombers and attacks on civilians into the US, the movement will raise its status and provoke fear and further security restrictions on Americans. In their twisted minds this would be a singular victory.

As we draw closer to the day when we can expect a “Close Gitmo” edict from the incoming administration, these contingencies need to be raised and debated unemotionally and honestly.

The alternative is to sit passively and allow US towns and cities to become targets for a determined, ruthless enemy.

Support the Forgotten Soldiers & Sailors at Guantanamo this Season, Please

December 23, 2008

Thanks in advance for your strong support of the sailors and soldiers serving at Guantanamo.

I’ve posted this address on my daily blog on the Inside Gitmo web site at ( http://www.insidegitmo.com ) for reference and distribution to your friends and family if you desire. The troops will definitely appreciate your show of support!

You can feel free to send cards, letters, and packages (don’t worry about being late: they’ll be glad to have them!) to

Captain Peter Hustra
JTF-GTMO-CE
APO AE 09360

Pete will make certain that all your mail gets distributed to the service members at Guantanamo.

If you wish to pre-order a copy of my book on Guantanamo, Inside Gitmo: The True Story of the Myths of Guantanamo Bay, you may do so off my web site referenced above. Look at the upper right-hand corner box with the cover photo and you can click right through to Amazon and make certain you have a copy as soon as they are released.

Thanks for your great support for our soldiers and sailors serving in a very tough place, and for helping me get the truth out to the American public on what a splendid job they do to keep us all safe.

All the best for a very Merry Christmas and a wonderful 2009!

Gordon Cucullu

Former Guantanamo Detainee David Hicks – Now Free to do What?

December 21, 2008

Australian authorities declined today to continue imposition of restrictions to released Guantanamo detainee David Hicks’ freedom. Now the misnomered “Aussie Taliban” will be able to make phone calls, surf the net, and otherwise communicate with the world outside of his native Adelaide. You can find reports here and here.

What’s in a name? Plenty. The media with usual lack of imagination and understanding, quickly labeled Hicks and the so-called “American Taliban,” John Walker Lindh. Neither man was a Taliban member – a close-knit band of native Afghani religous extreme Islamists. Both were members of al Qaeda, the international Islamist movement intended to terrorize America and the West.

Al Qaeda became a growth movement under bin Laden’s leadership, spreading recruiting nets across the globe. AQ’s translated name means “the base” and bin Laden envisioned his movement as forming an international core group of like-minded fanatics who would gladly trade their lives in return for making the world vulnerable for the spread of its virulent ideology.

The Taliban – home grown, locally-minded and highly restricted pose a danger to Afghani citizens. AQ threatens the world.

I spent a lot of time detailing David Hicks’ journey in Inside Gitmo. One reason is that he had an above-the-radar presence even before being picked up fighting in Afghanistan. Another is that the majority of the Guantanamo detainees – unlike Hicks – were of no international media interest before capture and internment. Consequently, like Walker Lindh, Hicks’ activities are well-documented. You will find a wealth of documents relating to Hicks in the Inside Gitmo site.

As the only man of European descent confined in Guantanamo Hicks drew a lot of attention. Other detainees called him “the Australian cowboy,” and admired his brutality on the battlefield. They were nonplussed by his wavering Islamic faith – he requested and received a Bible while in Gitmo – but continued to see him as an icon for converting Westerners to the True Faith.

He, like Walker Lindh, was a disaffected young man, although his origins were at the trailer-trash level as opposed to Walker Lindh’s silver spoon upbringing. He made his bones early, abandoning a girl friend and two small children to join the Kosovo Liberation Army in the Balkans. When he told his father he had joined the KLA the latter reported “I thought he had taken a job with an airlines.”

With the war winding down in the Balkans, Hicks made a quick return to Australia then left, a vocal convert to Islam, to fight for the LET – the notorious terrorist group based in Northern Pakistan whose members recently conducted the Mumbai attacks – and excelled to the point that the leader gave him a letter of introduction to bin Laden. Off Hicks went to Afghanistan to train with al Qaeda in several of it’s Afghan-based camps.

When the war against the American infidels and Northern Alliance apostates turned sour, Hicks tried to boogie. He reportedly sold his AK-47 for get-away cash and was pulled out of a cab headed for the Pakistani border.

Hicks eventually plea-bargained his way out of Guantanamo and now, a free man, ought to expect film and book contracts to flow. Look for “How I was Tortured at Gitmo” to appear soon at a theater and book store near you. Ghostwritten, of course.

Will Gitmo detainees be prosecuted for assaults?

December 20, 2008

Inside Gitmo catalogs only a partial list of the more than 450-odd assaults against guards that occur annually at Guantanamo.

While the majority of the assaults involve noxious “cocktails” of feces, urine, semen, spit, and vomit tossed into guards’ faces, other assaults are physical and violent.

Medical personnel are especially vulnerable because they relax when treating detainees. In one instance a detainee punched a nurse in the face, breaking her nose. Then complained about “the infidel whore’s blood” staining his clothes.

In another instance a male guard was punched and bitten in the face. Some other cases: A female guard was knocked to the ground and kicked. A young female medic had her face smashed repeatedly against the cell bars. She required more than 16 facial reconstructive surgeries. The list is painfully long and grim.

In US prisons assaulting the guards brings charges against the miscreant and results in conviction and more jail time. It is past time that Guantanamo detainees are allowed to get away with blatant assault and not be charged before appropriate bodies for crimes.

Gitmo detainees play to Obama

December 20, 2008

In a military commission proceeding reported by Carol Rosenberg of the Miami Herald, detainees are already publicly appealing to the incoming president-elect to close the facility.

A Saudi bad actor, Ahmad al Darbi, accused of plotting to blow up vessels in the Straits of Hormuz, waved what sounded like a copy of the full-page, New York Times ad that the ACLU took out demanding Obama close the facility.

With military commission proceedings suspended till Jan 19, one wonders how fast and how detailed will be Mr. Obama’s pledge to close the facility.

At this point, considering cabinet appointments and other more centrist moves he has made, we may see a diminution of campaign fervor to close Gitmo immediately.

It’s somewhat useless to speculate too much now; we’ll see soon enough.

Parenthetically, I wonder where al Darbi got his ad? Since the military does not provide NY Times to detainees and attorneys are prohibited by a court-established voluntary agreement from passing such materials to detainees, it is quite plausible that his attorney violated the agreement.

With a wire-brushed military ultra-sensitive to any media criticism don’t expect the attorney to be called to task for the violation.

Is This Good News?

December 19, 2008

LA Times reporter and outspoken Guantanamo opponent, Carol Williams, writes today that with the transfer of three Algerian-born detainees to Bosnia, “the administration has acknowledged in its final days that its controversial detention and interrogation practices are doomed.” Williams, along with a report on the same subject by the BBC, noted that president-elect Obama has announced his desire to close the facility.

The three transferred detainees – initially accused of plotting to attack the US Embassy in Sarajevo – were not confronted with that charge when brought before the US District judge. While not explicitly stated, the strong implication is that evidence necessary to back up the attack plot may involve disclosure of highly classified material, something the Pentagon has been reluctant to do in open courtrooms.

According to Williams, the detainees were “taken into protective custody” by Bosnian authorities, a move, I fear, that is merely a precursor to ultimate release. Net result: three jihadists turned back to the battlefield.