Judicial Watch • Guantanamo

Guantanamo Archives | Judicial Watch

Days after President Obama released five of the world’s most dangerous terrorists from the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo, two alarming reports—one from a mainstream newspaper and the other from a prominent research group—provide distressing information that confirms it was a really bad idea.

The president blew off Congress and freed five high-ranking Taliban leaders held at the U.S. Naval base in southeastern Cuba in exchange for the release of Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl. The secret plot shocked the world and U.S. lawmakers because every American president, including Obama, has vowed never to negotiate with terrorists. Additionally, Congress must be alerted 30 days in advance whenever a captive is released from Gitmo.

Here’s a little background on the freed terrorists from a U.S. Senator who wants the Senate Armed Services Committee to conduct a hearing. “The five terrorists released were the hardest of the hard-core,” Senator Lindsey Graham tells the committee chairman in a letter requesting the hearing. “They held positions of great importance within the hard-core anti-American Taliban, including the Chief of Staff of the Taliban Army and the Taliban Deputy Minister of Intelligence. They have American blood on their hands and surely as night follows day they will return to the fight. In effect, we released the “Taliban Dream Team.” The United States is less safe because of these actions.”

The Five Taliban leaders are expected to relocate in Afghanistan, a hotbed of terrorism and anti-American sentiment. In fact, there is a growing terrorist threat to the United States from a rising number of jihadist groups overseas, according to a ghastly study published by the RAND Corporation this week. Afghanistan is one of them, the study reveals. Since 2010, there has been a 58 percent increase in the number of jihadist groups, a doubling of jihadist fighters and a tripling of attacks by Al Qaeda affiliates. The most significant threat to the United States, the report concludes, comes from terrorist groups operating in Yemen, Syria, Afghanistanand Pakistan.

Surely, they’ll be thrilled to have five more experienced jihadists on their roster. Even President Obama admits that releasing these extremists could put Americans in danger, according to news reports. “Is there a possibility of some of them trying to return to activities that are detrimental to us? Absolutely,” the commander-in-chief told a news conference in Warsaw this week. He proceeded to admit that this has been true of all the prisoners that were released from Gitmo. “There’s a certain recidivism rate that takes place.” Indeed, a Taliban commander in Afghanistan, Mullah Salem Khan, confirmed that his recently freed comrades are already bracing for battle.

Recidivism among terrorists is old news. In fact, Judicial Watch, which has traveled to Gitmo multiple times to monitor the terrorists’ Military Commission proceedings, has reported this for years. The Pentagon and various intelligence agencies have documented that many Gitmo captives rejoin terrorist missions after leaving the military compound. In a report to Congress a few years ago, the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) revealed that of 598 detainees released up to that point, 150 were confirmed or suspected of “reengaging in terrorist or insurgent activities after transfer.”

In fact, a one-time Gitmo captive became an Al Qaeda chief who masterminded a U.S. Embassy bombing after getting released, according to a mainstream newspaper. His name is Said Ali al-Shihri and after leaving Gitmo he became an Al Qaeda deputy chief in Yemen and he organized a deadly bombing of the United States Embassy in Yemen’s capital. The former captive was also involved in car bombings outside the American Embassy that killed 16 people. That was about five years ago and the recidivism among former Gitmo captives is still in full force today.

That brings us to the mainstream newspaper story mentioned earlier in this piece. It focuses on three hardened Moroccan militants released from Gitmo to the Moroccan government under the assumption that they wouldn’t commit terrorist acts. Instead they wound up leading one of the most violent Islamist groups fighting in Syria’s civil war. This is hardly an isolated case. The article cites recent DNI figures that confirm 29% of 614 detainees released from Gitmo have returned to violence.

On the same week that the Obama administration let the mastermind of 9/11 dispatch propaganda from his Guantanamo jail cell—aiding and abetting more terrorism—it cracked down on “racial profiling” by prohibiting federal agents from singling out Muslims in counterterrorism investigations.

Have we lost all dignity as a nation? These are simply some of the latest shenanigans in the president’s never-ending mission to be politically correct, an experiment that’s transforming the U.S. from a respected superpower to world’s biggest laughingstock. The effort includes befriending the enemy—Islamic jihadists—by caving into the demands of various Muslim rights groups. It’s political correctness and diplomacy on steroids!

How else could you explain allowing the Al Qaeda operative, an enemy combatant who’s admitted being the architect of the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil, issue a manifesto from his military prison cell? This is downright shameful yet it occurred this week and the world took note. The government let Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM) issue the 36-page document, described by one mainstream newspaper as a “rambling, deeply religious manifesto” suggesting Muslims shouldn’t use violence to spread Islam.

The news article reminds that not that long ago KSM boasted of waging jihad against the U.S. and other non-Muslim nations. His Pentagon file says he’s a senior Al Qaeda recruiter, financier and operational planner for the group’s global terrorist network. The document confirms that KSM was the “mastermind of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the hijacking of United Airlines flight 93 that crashed in Pennsylvania.”

Even the mainstream media, Obama’s biggest ally, appeared to criticize allowing KSM to issue his proclamation. Here’s how the previously cited paper assessed it: “The writings suggest that he either believes he can convert his U.S. audience or, as he often has done, is playing a mind game to attract publicity, feign mental illness or spare himself the death penalty if convicted in the 2001 attacks, the worst terrorist strikes in American history.”

A day after the administration gave the world’s most dangerous terrorist a mouthpiece to incite more terrorism, the Department of Justice (DOJ) issued strict orders prohibiting federal agents from considering religion, national origin, gender and sexual orientation in their investigations. Here’s the key phrase from the mainstream newspaper that broke the story this week: “The move addresses a decade of criticism from civil rights groups that say federal authorities have in particular singled out Muslims in counterterrorism investigations and Latinos for immigration investigations.”

This appears to be part of a broader outreach effort that includes protecting Muslim civil rights and eradicating law enforcement material deemed “offensive” to Muslims. In December Judicial Watch published a special report on this, documenting the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) purge of anti-terrorism training material and curricula determined by Islamic organizations to be offensive to Muslims. The report is based on FBI, DOJ and court documents obtained in the course of a lengthy JW investigation.

 

The leftist human rights groups pushing for Guantanamo terrorists to be tried in the civilian legal system should take note that a famously liberal federal appeals court affirmed the Military Commission at Gitmo has jurisdiction in the case against an Al Qaeda operative who bombed a U.S. Navy ship in Yemen.

The ruling, issued by the San Francisco-based 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, is a blow to the powerful leftwing organizations—including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch—that have long fought to afford Islamic terrorists the same rights as American citizens. For years they have petitioned the Obama administration to try terrorists incarcerated at the U.S. Naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba in federal court rather than the Military Commission created to hear the cases.

The Obama administration caved into the demands with a disastrous plan to try 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM) and four conspirators in Manhattan a few years ago. The preposterous idea blew up in the administration’s face and KSM and his cohorts are being tried in the more appropriate Military Commission at Gitmo. Judicial Watch has been approved by the Department of Defense (DOD) to travel to Gitmo and has monitored many of the Military Commission hearings.

On every occasion JW witnessed a deep commitment to justice by military lawyers as well as the topnotch civilian attorneys assigned to the terrorist suspects. Additionally, the Department of Justice (DOJ) closely monitors all proceedings and deploys a number of lawyers to each hearing. Nevertheless, influential leftist groups continue to advocate on behalf of the Gitmo terrorists, demanding that they be brought to justice in the same civilian courts used by American citizens and residents.

The effort includes appealing to civilian judges, which is what Saudi Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri did. In 2000 the Al-Qaeda operative orchestrated the bombing of the Navy destroyer USS Cole in the Yemeni port of Aden. Seventeen American sailors were murdered and dozens were injured. Osama bin Laden’s terrorist organization claimed responsibility for the attack and in 2002 al-Nashiri was captured in the United Arab Emirates and charged with masterminding the bombing.

A DOD intelligence report describes al-Nashiri as one of Al-Qaeda’s most skilled, capable and prolific operational coordinators. JW has been present for all of his Gitmo proceedings, including his first one in November, 2011. Al-Nashiri appears physically fit, cocky and quite relaxed for a man facing death. Upon entering the courtroom he likes to wave at the observer gallery where family of USS Cole victims watch proceedings.

 A few years ago al-Nashiri filed a lawsuit claiming that the Gitmo Military Commissions have no jurisdiction to prosecute him because the system only has authority to hear cases involving crimes committed during a state of war. When the Cole was bombed, the U.S. was not at war with Yemen, according to al-Nashiri’s lawsuit, and then-President Bill Clinton called it a peacetime attack. A federal judge slammed the lawsuit and al-Nashiri appealed to the 9th Circuit, which upheld the lower court’s ruling that the Military Commission does in fact have jurisdiction over his case.

 

In the name of transparency the Obama administration lets outside groups monitor Military Commission hearings in Guantanamo but the selection process is kept secret and now it’s coming under fire from a lawmaker who sits on the Armed Services Committee for only guaranteeing spots to leftist human rights outfits that advocate for the terrorist defendants.

The designation of the leftist groups as “permanent observers to commission proceedings is inconsistent with ethical principles of fairness, and non-preferential treatment of nongovernmental organizations by agencies of the United States government,” writes Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe in a letter to the Pentagon official in charge of the Military Commissions. “To comply with those well-established principles of fairness and non-preferential treatment, and to ensure public confidence in the Commission process it is essential, when limited space requires a random selection process, all qualified groups should be subject to the random process and no group granted ‘immunity’ from the possibility of not being selected as a GTMO observer,” the senator writes.

The all-leftist roster appears to be part of an effort by the administration to limit the type of information that comes out of Gitmo as it works to keep its promise to close the military prison. Judicial Watch, the only right-of-center organization to regularly monitor Gitmo proceedings, has repeatedly traveled to the U.S. Naval base in southeastern Cuba under a Department of Defense (DOD) initiative to open the legal hearings of the world’s most dangerous terrorists to a wide spectrum of observers.

Since 2008 JW has sent representatives to Cuba 12 times. JW was present for the 2008 arraignment of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM), the 2011 arraignment of USS Cole bomber Bad al-Rahim al-Nassir and a number of KSM motion hearings in 2012 and 2013. Judicial Watch is an important voice among the regular monitors that mostly represent a narrow, extreme ideological view on terrorist detainee issues.

But in September the Obama administration announced that it was restricting exclusive access to military commission hearings to five leftist human rights group that openly advocate for the terrorist defendants. They include Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Human Rights First, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the American Bar Association. A memo issued by the Office of the Secretary of Defense blames “logistical limitations”  for the sudden move.

Other groups can still apply—and Judicial Watch continues to—and will be considered though not guaranteed a spot. JW applied to attend the December 16-20 hearings for KSM, but was initially rejected “due to the number of observer organizations expressing interest,” according to correspondence from the Office of Military Commissions. A “random number generator” was used to select the organizations, according to the Military Commission contact, Benjamin Fenwick, who offered no further details on the process.

Here is a list of the nine groups that were “randomly selected” to travel to Gitmo along with the five leftist organizations that have a guaranteed spot for every hearing; National Institute for Military Justice, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, The Brennan Center, New York City Bar Association, University of Toledo Law School, Duke University Law School, National District Attorney’s Association, University of New Mexico School of Law and Pacific Council on International Policy. JW repeatedly challenged being frozen out and this week was notified that some of the lottery winners had pulled out making a slot available, though it’s too late to make arrangements at this point.

Of interesting note is that the Military Commission chief of staff, Michael Quinn, explained to JW that the five organizations guaranteed a seat at every commission proceeding “were selected due to their ability to reach an international audience, their experience with international human rights in criminal trials and their stated mission to advance human rights through advocacy and respect for the law.” It’s difficult to imagine that some of the law schools picked to witness the upcoming KSM hearings fall into that category.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Obama administration is negotiating to release Guantanamo terrorists to a renowned Middle Eastern Al Qaeda training ground if the prisoners undergo “counseling, instruction in a peaceful form of Islam and job training.”

This is no joke, though it sounds like a bad one. Better yet, the famously corrupt and leftist United Nations is helping with the deal, which is being kept quiet and solidified in a western European country. A mainstream newspaper got wind of it and reported on it this week, revealing “previously undisclosed talks held in Rome recently because of security risks in Yemen,” the eventual landing spot for the prisoners.

The deal would involve transferring dozens of prisoners held at the U.S. Naval base in Guantanamo Cuba to a “detention facility” outside Yemen’s capital. “Deep disagreements remain on funding, and about whether it would function as another prison or as a halfway house for detainees to reenter society after years of confinement and isolation,” according to the news article, which quotes a U.S. official admitting “the risks are very high.”

That’s because Yemen, deemed a high security threat by the State Department for its terrorist activities, is an Al Qaeda hotbed and major base of Islamic militants. In fact, many of the Gitmo captives already released to Yemen have resumed their jihadist training, according intelligence reports. This led a powerful Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, California’s Dianne Feinstein, to join a group of Republicans to call for a halt of the flawed Yemeni repatriation program for Gitmo captives a few years ago.

Remember that it was a Yemen-trained terrorist who tried to bomb a U.S. airliner on Christmas a few years ago and an Al Qaeda wing in Yemen claimed responsibility for the attempt. Before that the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency revealed that an Al Qaeda leader in Yemen (Said Ali al-Shihri) was one of many who rejoined terrorist missions after being released from Gitmo to a Saudi Arabian “rehabilitation” program. Al-Shihri organized a deadly bombing of the United States Embassy in Yemen in 2008 and was involved in car bombings outside the American Embassy that killed at least 16 people.

It’s inconceivable that the administration is even considering releasing Gitmo captives to a Yemeni “halfway house.” Detainees at the facility would undergo counseling, instruction in a peaceful form of Islam, and job training in Yemen before any decision on freeing them, U.S. officials reveal in the newspaper article. They say the program would be modeled on a “largely successful Saudi effort to reintegrate Islamic militants into society” even though intelligence reports have shown a sharp rise in those who rejoin terrorist missions after going through the comical Saudi rehab.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As the Obama administration pushes its delusional tale that Syrian rebels aren’t terrorists, a mainstream newspaper chain publishes a story about a former Guantanamo captive who died fighting the Bashar Assad regime as a member of an Islamic opposition group.

The ex-Guantanamo prisoner, Mohammed al Alami, was one of hundreds released from the U.S. military facility in southeastern Cuba during the Bush administration. He spent four years at Gitmo, admitted training with Al Qaeda and participating in an Afghan paramilitary camp where Osama bin Laden visited “to encourage and reinforce the trainee’s commitment to the cause of jihad.” Records cited in the article show that the U.S. Army general in charge of Gitmo at the time advised against releasing Alami.

Over the years a variety of intelligence and foreign news reports have revealed that, like Alami, many of the freed Gitmo prisoners have rejoined terrorist missions after leaving the military compound. One of them, Said Ali al-Shihri, became an Al Qaeda leader in Yemen who masterminded a U.S. Embassy bombing after being released. Dozens of others have returned to “the fight” after leaving Gitmo, according to the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency, which gathers foreign military intelligence.

The Department of Defense (DOD) supposedly keeps track of the released Gitmo captives, but the agency had no comment when asked about Alami and his role in the Syrian insurgency. That’s probably because, in its quest to make a case for U.S. military intervention, the Obama administration claims that a collection of secular moderates—that deserve U.S. backing—are leading the fight against the Syrian regime. Concerns about Al Qaeda jihadists running the rebel operations in Syria are unfounded, the administration assures.

To back this up the administration adopted the assessment of a 26-year-old Syria “expert” (Elizabeth O’Bagy), who convinced the president, secretary of state and some federal lawmakers that Syrian rebels are mostly moderates and not terrorists. It turns out that O’Bagy is also the political director for the Syrian Emergency Task Force (SETF), a group that advocates for Syria’s rebels from Washington D.C. She recently got fired from a Washington D.C. think-tank that studies military affairs for lying about having a doctorate.

Getting back to Gitmo, the compound is still home to 164 prisoners including 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM) and USS Cole bomber Bad al-Rahim al-Nassir. For years Judicial Watch traveled to Gitmo to monitor the Military Commission hearings of the world’s most dangerous terrorists, but a few weeks ago the Obama administration announced that only leftist human rights groups will get exclusive access to the proceedings.

Judicial Watch was the only right-of-center organization to regularly monitor Gitmo Military Commission proceedings and has sent representatives to Cuba 12 times since 2008. Under the new rules, the Obama administration is restricting access to five leftist groups—Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Human Rights First, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the American Bar Association—that openly advocate for the terrorist defendants. In fact, persons affiliated with the five groups have served as legal counsel or political advocates for the terrorist detainees held at Gitmo.

In a startling about-face, the Obama administration is restricting exclusive access to Military Commission hearings in Guantanamo Bay to five leftist human rights groups that openly advocate for the terrorist defendants.

The abrupt policy change was delivered a few weeks ago to Non-Government Organizations (NGOs)—like Judicial Watch—that have repeatedly traveled to the U.S. Naval base in southeastern Cuba to observe the commission proceedings. In the name of transparency, the Department of Defense (DOD) years ago opened the legal proceedings of the world’s most dangerous terrorists to a wide spectrum of observers.

Since 2008 Judicial Watch, the only right-of-center organization to regularly monitor Gitmo proceedings, has sent representatives to Cuba 12 times. JW was present for the 2008 arraignment of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM), the 2011 arraignment of USS Cole bomber Bad al-Rahim al-Nassir and a number of KSM motion hearings in 2012 and 2013.

Under the new policy only five NGOs, selected by the Pentagon, will be guaranteed a seat at the commission hearings. They include Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Human Rights First, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the American Bar Association. A memo issued by the Office of the Secretary of Defense blames “logistical limitations” for the sudden move.

Judicial Watch appealed the decision but the Pentagon is not backing down from its new policy giving permanent observer seats at Gitmo to nonprofits that advocate for terrorists. “These groups represent a narrow, extreme ideological view on terrorist detainee issues,” JW President Tom Fitton writes in a letter to the DOD official in charge of the Military Commissions. “As you may well know, in some instances, persons affiliated with the five NGOs have served as legal counsel or political advocates for the terrorist detainees held at GTMO.”

The appeal letter further says that the group of permanent observers should reflect a full range of views in the debate on terrorist detainee issue. “Your proposed system could have the effect of freezing out any alternative voices from the NGO community, specifically those voices that have not served as legal and political advocates for terrorist detainees.”

The Military Commission chief of staff, Michael Quinn, responded by explaining that the five NGOs “were selected due to their ability to reach an international audience, their experience with international human rights in criminal trials and their stated mission to advance human rights through advocacy and respect for the law.” He ends by expressing appreciation for “Judicial Watch’s interest in the conduct of military commissions” and invites JW to watch proceedings on closed-circuit television at Fort Meade, Maryland.   

 

 

 

 

 

 

As President Obama redoubles efforts to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Al Qaeda’s leader announces that the terror network will spare no effort to free its “brothers” at the U.S. military facility in southeastern Cuba.

Imagine if those Al Qaeda “brothers” had been transferred to a prison in the United States like the president wants? Remember that empty Illinois state jail the administration tried to purchase to relocate Gitmo detainees? Thankfully Congress put a halt to that preposterous idea, instituting a total ban on bringing Gitmo prisoners to the U.S. homeland.  

That doesn’t mean the president isn’t working to repeal the restrictions in an effort to make good on his longtime promise to close Gitmo. The military prison currently holds the world’s most dangerous terrorists, including 9/11 masterminds Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM), Ramzi Binalshibh, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, and Mustafa Ahmed Adam al Hawsawi as well as USS Cole bomber Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri. In all, there are 166 men incarcerated at Gitmo.  

Judicial Watch has been approved by the Department of Defense (DOD) to travel to Gitmo to monitor the military commission hearings of these terrorists. On every occasion, Judicial Watch investigators witnessed a deep commitment to justice by military lawyers as well as the topnotch civilian attorneys that American taxpayers are providing for the defendants.  

Nevertheless, Obama is set on shutting down the prison and trying the terrorists in civilian court. Just recently, in a speech at Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate, the commander-in-chief said this: “Even as we remain vigilant about the threat of terrorism, we must move beyond a mindset of perpetual war. And in America, that means redoubling our efforts to close the prison at Guantanamo.”

This week Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri issued an audio message condemning the U.S. treatment of his Gitmo comrades and vowing to set them free. “We pledge to God that we will spare no effort to free all our prisoners, on top of whom are Omar Abdel Rahman, Aafia Siddiqui, Khaled Sheikh Mohammed and every oppressed Muslim everywhere …,” he added, referring to prominent Islamist militants held by the United States.

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