Watching the Shadows
Two of three Guantánamo Bay detainees scheduled for release boarded a plane for transfer on Jan. 20 while the third detainee turned down the opportunity. Though the two released detainees were natives of Egypt and Yemen, they were resettled in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro. The third detainee, Yemeni national Mohammed Bawazir, has gained a reputation for hunger striking as a protest against his 14 years of captivity without trial. Though Bawazir originally agreed to resettle in an unidentified country, he changed his mind reportedly upon realizing that he would not be returning to any family. Currently, 91 detainees remain in Guantánamo Bay, and 34 await resettlement in foreign countries.
A court in Lisbon ruled on Jan. 15 that a former CIA operative will be extradited to Italy to serve a seven-year sentence for her involvement in the 2003 kidnapping and "rendition" of Egyptian terror suspect Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr (AKA Abu Omar). Operative Sabrina De Sousa was one of 26 former agents convicted in absentia for the infamous event, and she recently filmed a documentary regarding her long struggle to clear her name. In October officials detained De Sousa in a Portuguese airport without warning and seized her passports pending the court's decision. De Sousa's lawyer expressed his intention to appeal the case to the Supreme Court and move to the Constitutional Court if necessary. De Sousa hopes to receive a pardon from Italian President Sergio Mattarella, who recently pardoned another CIA operative involved in the matter. Mattarella is scheduled to speak with US President Barack Obama in March about various issues, which may include De Sousa's case.
The Foreign Ministry of Oman on Jan. 14 reported that 10 Yemeni detainees from Guantánamo Bay arrived temporarily to Oman. The US Department of Defense later confirmed the move. Three days earlier, human rights experts from the UN and the Organization for Security and Co-operation (OSCE) jointly sent an open letter urging the US government to shut down the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay on its fourteenth anniversary. The letter mentioned the recent steps taken by the Obama administration to close the facility, but noted that many prisoners still remain at Guantánamo without trial outside the reach of US law. With Thursday's transfers, that number now stands at 93.
World War 4 Report has been keeping a dispassionate record of Barack Obama's moves in dismantling, continuing and escalating (he has done all three) the oppressive apparatus of the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) established by the Bush White House. This year, the stakes got much higher, with multiple foreign interventions in Syria and ISIS striking in Europe. On the night of Obama's 2016 State of the Union address, we offer the following annotated assessment of which moves over the past year have been on balance positive, neutral and negative, and arrive at an overall score:
The last Kuwaiti held at Guantánamo, Faiz Mohammed Ahmed al-Kandari, has been repatriated to his home country, the US Department of Defense announced Jan. 8. The Periodic Review Board (PRB) determined in September that "continued law of war detention of Al-Kandari does not remain necessary to protect against a continuing significant threat to the security of the United States." Al-Kandari was captured by unnamed Afghans and arrived at Guantánamo in May 2002 after being accused of serving as Osama bin Laden's "advisor and confidant." Kuwaiti authorities said the release showed progress in bilateral relations with the US. The release of all 12 Kuwaiti detainees followed strong efforts by Kuwait and high-profile Washington lawyers to secure their freedom. Al-Kandari is the third detainee to be resettled this week; 104 detainees remain at the detention center.
Two Yemeni men captured in Afghanistan and detained at Guantánamo Bay for 14 years have been released to Ghana, officials said Jan. 6. These two are among the 17 detainees scheduled for release this month. The men were suspected of training with al-Qaeda and fighting with the Taliban but were never charged. They had been cleared for release in 2009, but required a host country to accept them before actual release could be ordered.
According to an official US government document (PDF), a man who fought for the Taliban in Afghanistan and has been held without charge at Guantánamo Bay for 13 years was a victim of mistaken identity. Mustafa Abd-al Qawi Abd-al-Aziz al-Shamiri was held as a courier and trainer for al-Qaeda. The Department of Defense now believes these activities were carried out by other militants with similar names. Al-Shamiri is linked to the men who planned the October 2000 bombing of the USS Cole, but there is no evidence he was part of the operation. In a statement released by al-Shamiri's personal representatives, they say he feels "remorse for choosing the wrong path early in life" and "wants to make a life for himself."
The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit on Nov. 23 released its ruling that the US government may keep secret memoranda related to the legal justification for the use of drones for targeted killings of those in other countries believed to be involved in terrorism. Though the opinion was drafted last month, it was placed under temporary seal and not released until this week. The case was the result of Freedom of Information Act requests by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and New York Times for documents prepared by the Office of Legal Counsel of the US Department of Justice regarding the drone strikes. The court made a point of emphasizing that the legality of the strikes themselves was not the issue before the court, and that its review primarily concerned whether documents regarding their lawfulness must be disclosed. Those arguing for the release of the memos called the documents "working law," but the courts denied this argument.