Sunday, January 4, 2015

Periodic Review Boards determine fates at Guantanamo

There are three main groups of prisoners at Guantanamo. Some prisoners have been cleared for release. Others are at one stage or another in war crimes trials at Guantanamo known as military commissions. The rest are imprisoned as enemy fighters.

The Obama Administration argues these individuals may return to the battlefield if released. This is the same legal theory that allowed the US to imprison German soldiers as prisoners of war during World War II.

Periodic Review Boards are hearings that consider whether continuing to detain these prisoners is, “necessary to protect against a significant threat to the security of the United States.” If not, the prisoner is recommended for release.

Photo Credit: Miami Herald

Each PRB consists of one senior official from each of six executive branch agencies: the Department of Defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the State Department, the Justice Department, and the Department of Homeland Security.

Periodic Review Boards are the successors to the military “Combatant Status Review Tribunals” and “Administrative Review Boards” of the Bush Administration. Those hearings were also tasked with deciding whether Guantanamo prisoners should be released or continue to be detained.

President Obama signed an executive order to create the Periodic Review Boards in March 2011. The order says the first hearing for each eligible prisoner should begin no later than one year after the signing of the executive order.

In July of 2013 Pentagon officials began notifying lawyers for eligible Guantanamo prisoners that the preparations for the panels were underway. The notifications took place during the middle of a large hunger strike at the prison.

On January 9, 2014 the Department of Defense announced the results of the first Periodic Review Board. Mahmud Al Mujahid was recommended for release.  

A total of 9 prisoners have completed a Periodic Review Board hearing. The Board determined that “continued law of war detention was no longer necessary” for 5 of those prisoners. One of the others, Abdel al Rahabi, was recommended for release after his second PRB hearing 6 months after his first one.

The other 3 were recommended for “continued detention,” and are not cleared for release, at least for the time being. 2/3 of the prisoners who have gone through the PRB process have been cleared for release.

The Periodic Review Board has 56 remaining prisoners to evaluate.

At its current rate, it would take the PRB 8 years and 10 months to complete its reviews of the remaining prisoners.

Sorry Obaidullah.

Two of the individuals cleared for release by the PRB have actually been released. I have profiled one of them, Muhammed Zahrani

Mohammed Shumrani was recommended for continued detention at his PRB. 

Another prisoner I have profiled, Abdul Haq Wasiq, was released without being cleared by a PRB. He was instead one of five prisoners traded in exchange for Bowe Bergdahl, an American soldier held captive by the Taliban. The trade was criticized by many members of Congress. I covered the trade and the controversy surrounding it on Public Occurrences.

Most of the prisoners I have profiled so far are eligible for a Periodic Review Board. If you were on the panel to determine their fate, how would you vote?

Good News!

I recently started my new job as a reporter for the Junction City Daily Union, a newspaper in Junction City, Kansas. I will cover the Junction City school board, the Geary community hospital, and the towns of Grandview Plaza and Milford. I am enjoying the job so far. There are a total of 4 reporters at the paper.

I am now actually being paid to cover news.

In December I graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science in Journalism and Mass Communication from Kansas State University. College was a period of my life of great achievement as well as great turmoil. Thankfully, I had good friends to help me through life’s many unexpected difficulties.

I am very happy to announce the Daily Union will allow me to continue National Security Stories and Public Occurrences. I will create new content when I have spare time, which will continue to be infrequently.

Today I have extra time. I worked at the car wash today, but we had few cars because of the cold and snow, which left me enough time to write a Guantanamo profile.

I have now profiled 1/3 of the prisoners at Guantanamo, 44 in all. 

Uthman Abdul Rahim Mohammed Uthman

ISN: 027
Nationality: Yemeni

The following is a summary of the allegations against Uthman Abdul Rahim Mohammed Uthman found in publicly available US military documents. If US military documents about this prisoner are inaccurate or misleading then this summary will be as well. The introduction to this set of summaries explains some of the terms used below.  

Uthman Uthman told US interrogators Shaykh Muqbil al Wadi provided him money to travel to Afghanistan. Shaykh al Wadi’s followers declared their willingness to follow Osama Bin Laden. Bin Laden himself was strongly influenced by the anti-Western teachings of Shaykh al Wadi.

Uthman says he flew from Yemen to Pakistan in March 2001. He then went to Afghanistan.

Abdu Sharqawi, Walid Bin Attash, and Yasin Basardah identified Uthman as a Bin Laden bodyguard. Ahmed Ghailani said Uthman was a member of Al Qaeda.

The Yemeni Political Security Agency said Uthman was a member of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan who went by the alias Huthayfa al Adani. Walid Bin Attash identified Uthman’s codename as Huzayfah al Adani.

Ahmed Ghailani said Huthayfa al Yemeni fought on the front lines with the Taliban around 1999. He added Huthayfa trained at Al Qaeda’s al Faruq training camp in 1999. Ghailani said he saw him fight on the front lines near Tora Bora.

Abdullah Ahmed said Hudayfah the Yemeni was a bodyguard who was among Bin Laden’s security staff at Tora Bora. Ahmed was one of two people in charge of selecting Bin Laden’s security detail.

Mohammed Al Qahtani and Abd al Hilala said Uthman fought on the front lines with the Taliban. Mohammed Al Qahtani also said Uthman received advanced training at Al Qaeda’s Tarnak Farm training camp.

Uthman denies being a member of Al Qaeda and says he went to Afghanistan to teach the Koran to children. The unclassified summary of evidence for Uthman’s 2006 Administrative Review Board says he was unable to provide the name of the village where he taught the Koran for nine months.

Pakistan says Uthman was captured by Pakistani forces on December 15, 2001 while attempting to enter Pakistan from Afghanistan. He was captured with 31 other men.  The US government believes the group consisted primarily of Bin Laden bodyguards and other Al Qaeda members in charge of his protection. The group is referred to as the “Dirty 30” in US intelligence documents because US interrogators believe their claims of innocence to be untrue.

Ali Al Bahlul, Mohammed Al Qahtani, and Abdul Shalabi were also part of the “Dirty 30.”

Uthman says he turned himself in to Pakistani authorities so he could be taken to the Yemeni embassy. He says they turned him over to the US instead and claimed he was a member of Al Qaeda.

The group was held in a Pakistani prison in Peshawar for 15 days.

Mohammad al Zaylai, who was captured with Uthman, says the Pakistani warden of the prison where the group was held told them to tell US interrogators they were in Afghanistan to teach the Koran and study religion.  

On December 26, 2001 Uthman was transferred to US custody at the Kandahar Detention Facility.

He was transferred to Guantanamo on January 16, 2002.

Uthman was recommended for continued detention by Obama’s inter-agency Guantanamo task force in January 2010.

In April 2013 he was deemed eligible to have his ongoing imprisonment evaluated by a Periodic Review Board. A hearing date to reconsider his status has not yet been set.