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The Complete Guantánamo Files: WikiLeaks and the Prisoners Released in 2007 (Part Three of Ten)


March 16, 2012 -Freelance investigative journalist Andy Worthington continues his 70-part, million-word series telling, for the first time, the stories of 776 of the 779 prisoners held at Guantánamo since the prison opened on January 11, 2002. Adding information released by WikiLeaks in April 2011 to the existing documentation about the prisoners, much of which was already covered in Andy’s book The Guantánamo Files and in the archive of articles on his website, the project will hopefully be completed later this year...

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The Complete Guantánamo Files: WikiLeaks and the Prisoners Released in 2007 (Part Three of Ten)

Andy Worthington

March 16, 2012

Freelance investigative journalist Andy Worthington continues his 70-part, million-word series telling, for the first time, the stories of 776 of the 779 prisoners held at Guantánamo since the prison opened on January 11, 2002. Adding information released by WikiLeaks in April 2011 to the existing documentation about the prisoners, much of which was already covered in Andy’s book The Guantánamo Files and in the archive of articles on his website, the project will hopefully be completed later this year, although that is contingent on finding new funding.

This is Part 33 of the 70-part series. 411 stories have now been told. See the entire archive here.

In late April last year, I worked with WikiLeaks as a media partner for the publication of thousands of pages of classified military documents — the Detainee Assessment Briefs — relating to almost all of the 779 prisoners held at Guantánamo since the prison opened on January 11, 2002. These documents drew heavily on the testimony of the prisoners themselves, and also on the testimony of their fellow inmates (either in Guantánamo, or in secret prisons run by or on behalf of the CIA), whose statements are unreliable, either because they were subjected to torture or other forms of coercion, or because they provided false statements in the hope of securing better treatment in Guantánamo.

The documents were compiled by the Joint Task Force at Guantánamo (JTF GTMO), which operates the prison, and were based on assessments and reports made by interrogators and analysts whose primary concern was to "exploit" the prisoners for their intelligence value. They also include input from the Criminal Investigative Task Force, created by the DoD in 2002 to conduct interrogations on a law enforcement basis, rather than for "actionable intelligence."

My ongoing analysis of the documents began in May, with a five-part series, "WikiLeaks: The Unknown Prisoners of Guantánamo," telling the stories of 84 prisoners, released between 2002 and 2004, whose stories had never been told before. This was followed by a ten-part series, "WikiLeaks and the Guantánamo Prisoners Released from 2002 to 2004," in which I revisited the stories of 114 other prisoners released in this period, adding information from the Detainee Assessment Briefs to what was already known about these men and boys from press reports and other sources. This was followed by another five-part series, "WikiLeaks and the Guantánamo Prisoners Released After the Tribunals, 2004 to 2005," dealing with the period from September 2004 to the end of 2005, when 62 prisoners were released.

This, as I explained, was the period in which, after the prisoners won a spectacular victory in the Supreme Court in June 2004, in Rasul v. Bush, when the Supreme Court granted them habeas corpus rights (in other words, the right to ask an impartial judge why they were being held), lawyers were allowed to meet the prisoners for the first time, and the secrecy that was required for Guantánamo to function as an interrogation center beyond the law was finally broken.

However, although the Bush administration allowed habeas petitions to proceed, Congress attempted to strip the prisoners of their habeas rights in the Detainee Treatment Act in 2005, and the administration also responded to the Supreme Court’s ruling with its own inferior version of habeas, the Combatant Status Review Tribunals, a sham process designed to rubber-stamp their designation as "enemy combatants" who could be held indefinitely.

With just 38 prisoners cleared for release after the CSRTs, another review process — the annual Administrative Review Boards — took over, reviewing whether prisoners still had ongoing intelligence value, and whether they still posed a threat to the US. These were essentially the decisions being taken by JTF GTMO and CITF, and they reveal how, in the "War on Terror," prosecuting criminals (the few genuine terror suspects in Guantánamo) and holding soldiers off the battlefield until the end of hostilities had largely given way to the strange mixture of threat assessments and intelligence assessments that fill the Detainee Assessment Briefs.

With 260 prisoners profiled in the first 20 parts of this project, the next ten-part series, "WikiLeaks and the Guantanamo Prisoners Released in 2006," covered the stories of the 111 prisoners released in 2006 (and the three who died at the prison in June 2006), almost all of whom were freed because of political maneuvering rather than anything to do with justice, as is the case with this latest ten-part series, dealing with the 124 prisoners released in 2007, including two more who died without ever having been charged or tried.

I also hope that readers will reflect on the problems of over-classification that have been thoroughly chronicled in the preceding series analyzing the Detainee Assessment Briefs. My analysis to date has established repeatedly that even patently innocent prisoners seized by mistake were regarded as a "low risk," rather than as no risk at all, and it is important for readers to bear in mind that the entire process of detaining and processing prisoners and exploiting them for their supposed intelligence was shot through with a drive to conclude that they were all a threat, and to overlook the distressing fact that most of them were seized in a largely random manner, mostly by America’s Afghan and Pakistan allies, at a time when substantial bounty payments were widespread, and were never subjected to anything that resembled an adequate screening process.

And then, of course, as I have outlined above, and as is revealed extensively in the files, they were trapped in a prison where officials, in their ill-conceived desire for "actionable intelligence," ended up attempting to justifying their detention either by coercing or bribing the prisoners themselves, or their fellow prisoners, to come up with allegations that could be passed off as plausible, whether or not there was any substance to them at all.

The Complete Guantánamo Files: WikiLeaks and the Prisoners Released in 2007 (Part Three of Ten)

Salim Al Shihri (ISN 126, Saudi Arabia) Released September 2007

In "The Guantánamo Files: Website Extras (1) – The Qala-i-Janghi Massacre", I explained how Salim al-Shihri (also identified as Salam Abdullah Said and Salam Abdallah Said Bahaysh), who was 20 years old at the time of his capture, said in Guantánamo that he arrived in Afghanistan after answering a fatwa in August 2001. He also said that he was told to travel to Afghanistan "to help people," and denied receiving military training or being a fighter, even though he was seized with other people, and taken to Qala-i-Janghi, an ancient fort run by the Northern Alliance warlord General Rashid Dostum, where he survived a notorious massacre.

This took place after some of the 450 or so prisoners taken to the fort, who had been tied up prior to questioning, feared that they were about to be shot, and staged an uprising, which was savagely suppressed by the Northern Alliance, with the support of US and UK Special Forces, and American bombers. The survivors — 86 in total — managed to stay alive for a week in the basement of the castle, where they were bombed and electrocuted, and, finally, the basement was flooded so that many people drowned. Asked about it, he said, "I did not take part in the uprising," and added, "I heard there were seven hundred people killed."

In the documents released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, the file relating to al-Shihri was a "Recommendation for Transfer Out of DoD Control (TRO)," dated May 5, 2007, in which it was noted that he was born in February 1981, and was "in good health."

In telling his story, the Joint Task Force noted that he graduated from high school in 2001, that he was single with no children, and was unemployed prior to his departure from Saudi Arabia, and that he can speak conversational English.

The Task Force claimed that he "was recruited by his brother, Yasir, who may have previously traveled to Afghanistan," and also (in early August 2001) by a popular fatwa, and his "own desire to learn more about the Taliban cause." On August 18, 2001, he traveled to Afghanistan via Karachi and Quetta, where, apparently, "an unidentified man asked if [he] was with the Taliban," and he "said he was." An unidentified Afghan man "then took [him] in a taxi to a Taliban guesthouse for Arabs in Kandahar." There, he said, he almost immediately "fell ill with jaundice," and, a week later, went to Kabul for treatment, where he "spent a month recovering in a clinic and at a hospital on the outskirts of Kabul."

After recovering, he traveled through Kunduz to the front lines near Khawaja Ghar to rejoin the Taliban." However, as "a new member," he "was not issued a weapon and was prohibited from participating in combat." In late November 2001, "after being on the front lines for a month," his group "withdrew from the front lines and went to Kunduz, where they remained for a week before surrendering to Northern Alliance (NA) forces." On November 24, 2001, "they were loaded onto trucks and taken to the Qala-i-Janghi fortress near Mazar-e-Sharif," run by the warlord General Rashid Dostum, where, after the prisoners were tied up and taken for questioning, some of them, fearing that they were about to be killed, staged an uprising. This was put down by the Northern Alliance, backed up by US and British Special Forces, and supported by American bombing raids, in which the majority of the prisoners were killed. In the end, a week after the uprising began, 86 survivors emerged from the basement, who had survived being bombed and flooded.

None of this was mentioned in al-Shihri’s file. Instead, it was noted that he was at the prison "during the November 2001 uprising," and, after a week, "the Red Cross arrived and transported all the prisoners to Sheberghan Prison," a vile and overcrowded facility, also run by General Dostum. Approximately a month later, he was transferred to US custody, and he was sent to Guantánamo on January 17, 2002, allegedly to "provide information on the following: Training and tactics of low-level frontline Taliban fighters."

However, as I explained in my article, "How to Read WikiLeaks’ Guantánamo Files" (originally published on WikiLeaks’ website when the Guantánamo files were first published, as part of my work liaising between WikiLeaks and its media partners):

[T]he "Reasons for Transfer" included in the documents, which have been repeatedly cited by media outlets as an explanation of why the prisoners were transferred to Guantánamo, are, in fact, lies that were grafted onto the prisoners’ files after their arrival at Guantánamo. This is because, contrary to the impression given in the files, no significant screening process took place before the prisoners’ transfer. As Chris Mackey, a senior interrogator who worked in Afghanistan, explained in a book that he wrote about his experiences (The Interrogators), every prisoner who ended up in US custody had to be sent to Guantánamo, even though the majority were not even seized by US forces, but were seized by their Afghan and Pakistani allies at a time when substantial bounty payments for "Al-Qaida and Taliban suspects" were widespread.

In assessing his story, the Task Force claimed that his "timeline from his arrival in Afghanistan until his capture [was] credible, but details of his activities [were] contrived and incomplete." It was also noted that he had "provided few specifics about the month he claimed he spent in a hospital in Kabul, omitting basic information about his treatment," and the Task Force was suspicious of his "claim that he was an unarmed observer on the front lines [was] dubious, considering that hundreds of other new Arab recruits were issued weapons and engaged in combat during the same time period." It was claimed that he had "changed his story regarding his motivation for traveling to Afghanistan and whether he received training."

Even so, there was little to confirm these suspicions. The only alleged witness was Suleyman Saad Mohamed al-Khaldi (ISN 121, a Saudi released in December 2006, and also identified as Salman Mohammed), who "identified a photo of detainee as someone he saw fighting at Kunduz," although that is not necessarily reliable. For the rest, beyond a claim that his "name and variants" were found on documents recovered in raids on houses associated with Al-Qaida (which also may not be reliable), the authorities’ assessment that he "was probably a member of the 55th Arab Brigade and served on the front lines near Kunduz" relied on differing accounts that he gave at various times.

Even if he had been disguising his attendance at a training camp, and a month on the front lines, it made him no more than a basic foot soldier, and a particularly significant passage dealt with the Saudi government’s assessment of him, when it was noted, "In July 2002, a delegation from Saudi Arabia visited JTF-GTMO and interviewed detainee. The delegation identified detainee as being of low intelligence and law enforcement value to the US, and unlikely to pose a terrorist threat to the US or its interests. Furthermore,the Saudi delegation indicated that the Government of Saudi Arabia would be willing to take custody of detainee for possible prosecution as soon as the US determined it no longer wanted to hold him."

In conclusion, the Task Force assessed him as being "of low intelligence value," and of posing "a medium risk, as he may pose a threat to the US, its interests and allies." It was also noted that he was "assessed as a low threat from a detention perspective," because his "overall behavior ha[d] been compliant and non-hostile to the guard force and staff." As a result, Rear Adm. Harry B. Harris, Jr., the commander of Guantánamo at the time, updated a recommendation for his continued detention "with transfer language" (dated April 14, 2006), and recommended him for release — "Transfer Out of DoD Control" — instead. He was released four months later, to be put through the Saudi government’s extensive rehabilitation program.

Faha Sultan (ISN 130, Saudi Arabia) Released November 2007

In "The Guantánamo Files: Website Extras (1) – The Qala-i-Janghi Massacre," I explained how Faha Sultan (described on his release as Fahd al-Osaimi al-Otaibi), who was 29 years old at the time of his capture, said in Guantánamo that he answered a fatwa in January 2001, which "directed participants to defend the Taliban in Afghanistan," and paid for his own travel to Afghanistan "with money received from his father, who was unaware of his plans." Apparently identified, by another prisoner, "as someone who worked in a distribution center handing out Kalashnikovs," and by another prisoner, a "known Taliban member," as someone he believed was "an administrator," because he was "always in the rear purchasing food," he was wounded in the Qala-i-Janghi massacre.

This took place after 450 or so prisoners who had surrendered or were captured after the fall of Kunduz had been taken to the fort, run by the warlord General Rashid Dostum, and, fearing that they would be shot, staged an uprising, which was savagely suppressed by the Northern Alliance, with the support of US and UK Special Forces, and American bombers. The survivors — 86 in total — managed to stay alive for a week in the basement of the castle, where they were bombed and electrocuted, and, finally, the basement was flooded so that many people drowned.

Less reliable was an allegation that Sultan was "identified as a friend of a senior Al-Qaida leader and had a good relationship with another individual who was a close associate of the senior Al-Qaida leader." The allegation is dubious because, although the US authorities claimed that he "has acted as if in a catatonic state during interviews," on one occasion being overheard "telling another detainee that he had fooled the interrogator into thinking that he was 'messed up,’" it was also stated that, as long ago as July 2002, "a foreign delegation" — presumably Saudi intelligence — identified him as being "of low law enforcement and low intelligence value."

In the documents released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, the file relating to Sultan was a "Recommendation for Continued Detention Under DoD Control (CD)," dated April 21, 2007, in which he was identified as Fahd Sultan Ubayd al-Usaymi al-Utaybi, and it was noted that he was born in 1972, and was "in good health."

In telling his story, based on his own account, the Joint Task Force noted that he only attended school until the 5th grade, and "then went to work for his father as a shepherd." When he heard a well-known fatwa urging support for the Taliban, he took money he received from his father, and traveled to Afghanistan in January 2001 "to serve alongside the Taliban in a war to uphold Islamic law, and against the group led by Bulghat Massoud" (actually, as an analyst noted, Ahmad Shah Massoud, the leader of the Northern Alliance, who was assassinated on September 9, 2001).

In Afghanistan, he apparently "served under Al-Qaida commander Mullah Thaker," who "instructed [him] on the operation of the AK-47 assault rifle," although he said that he "never engaged in combat operations." He was apparently captured "just north of Mazar-e-Sharif" in late November 2001, and the Task Force, describing the massacre in Qala-i-Janghi, stated, "On 25 November 2001, a large-scale uprising occurred, resulting in the deaths of CIA officer Mike Spann and several hundred prisoners," the latter being a rare admission of the number of casualties. On  December 2, 2001, "the Red Cross arrived and [he] was transported to Sheberghan Prison," and he was taken to the US prison in Kandahar on December 16, and then to Bagram on December 30.  He was sent to Guantánamo on February 13, 2002, on the spurious basis that it was to "provide information on the following: Taliban front line training and tactics [and] Taliban recruiting techniques in Saudi Arabia."

In assessing his story, the Task Force stated that he had been "completely uncooperative and provided negligible details regarding his associations and activities," in Afghanistan, in Saudi Arabia, and in Bosnia, which he was alleged to have visited. He was "assessed to be a member of Al-Qaida and [Osama bin Laden]'s former 55th Arab Brigade," with "significant ties to senior Al-Qaida leaders," who "served in a position of trust," and was "a veteran jihadist who probably received advanced training at Al-Qaida camps."

However, the evidence for these claims was, for the most part, dubious. Although Sultan admitted serving "behind the front lines for ten months under the command of Mullah Thaker," it did not follow that he "was a senior Taliban member," and "an administrator who was always on the back lines in charge of purchasing food." These claims were made by John Walker Lindh (ISN 1, although he was never held at Guantánamo), the "American Taliban," who received a draconian 20-year sentence in a US federal court, but who was also tortured by his captors, making his testimony unreliable. As if to demonstrate this, and directly contradicting the above, Lindh "also commented that he saw detainee on the front lines, and again during the retreat to Kunduz."

Other allegations were made by an Iraqi, Ali al-Tayeea (ISN 111, released in January 2009), who was known as one of the most unreliable witnesses in Guantánamo. Al-Tayeea "photo-identified detainee and stated [he] spent a lot of time on the northern line and was responsible for supplying the Arab Group (aka 55th Arab Brigade)." he also "stated detainee was a friend of senior Al-Qaida member Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi [ISN 10026, still held] and detainee spent most of his time with Abd al-Salaam [al-Hadrami] and Qaqaa al-Tabuki, both identified as sub-commanders of UBL’s 55th Arab Brigade."

If reading between the lines of these two accounts indicated that, perhaps, Sultan was in charge of food supplies, other statements possibly broadened the scope of his work slightly. Said al-Zahrani (ISN 204, released in July 2007) "photo-identified detainee as a Saudi who worked in the distribution center handing out Kalashnikov rifles," and it was also noted that Sultan "agreed to cooperate with debriefers" if his friend Wadah, also known as Muhammad al-Hanashi (ISN 78, who died in Guantánamo in 2009, and was also identified as Muhammad Salih) "was moved to a cell next to him." It was noted that al-Hanashi admitted he "worked as a supply clerk with the 55th Arab Brigade for eight months near Khawaja Ghar," and an analyst claimed that, "based on timeline similarities and detainee’s comments," the two men "probably served together" and al-Hanashi worked for Sultan.

There was, however, nothing to indicate that another allegation — made by David Hicks (ISN 2, released in May 2007), who "photo-identified detainee as an emir in Kunduz" — was accurate, as it is well known that Hicks made false statements under pressure, and also unreliable is another statement by Ali al-Tayeea, who said he "knew detainee as 'Abu Saad,’ who had fought and hurt his hand in Bosnia." To back up this otherwise unsubstantiated allegation, it was claimed that, when an "extremist" was seized in Kosovo in November 2003, his phone book contained a number associated with an alias of Sultan.

Accompanying these desperately thin claims was an additional claim that an "unidentified individual" — not a good start — had "told John Walker Lindh that detainee was a long-time Taliban member and had been in Afghanistan in the 1980s and in Bosnia in the 1990s." Revealing at least one desperately poor employee working in intelligence, it was noted that an analyst referred to "[t]he Taliban in the 1980s" as "a jihadist organisation focused on fighting Soviet forces," even though the Taliban was only formed in 1994, and the mujahideen in the 1980s were backed by the US.

The analyst added, "This information, coupled with [al-Tayeea]'s statement, corroborates the assessment that detainee fought as a jihadist in both Afghanistan and Bosnia." Even putting aside the fact that no proof was provided that Sultan had fought in Bosnia, the conclusion that an unsubstantiated claim that he fought in Afghanistan in the 1980s established him as a jihadist in Afghanistan is a woeful distortion of the truth.

There were also other claims in the file, largely relating to documents seized in house raids, although these are often dubious, as they rely on name variations and aliases, but of particular interest was an analysis of the Qala-i-Janghi massacre, in which it was noted that "approximately 800 Taliban soldiers" surrendered to General Dostum on November 24, 2001, and that Dostum "placed the majority of the prisoners in Qala-i-Janghi." It was also noted, "On 25 November 2001, the prisoners, reportedly led by detained Arab fighters, revolted and killed American CIA officer Mike Spann, approximately fifty NA soldiers, and four generals. General Dostum’s forces reacted, killing several hundred Taliban prisoners while recapturing the fortress." A few of these details were not generally reported, and an analyst also noted, "Research shows a wide divergence on the actual number of Taliban forces killed during the operation, ranging from 200 to well over 1,000."

It was also noted that Sultan "was in the same room with John Walker Lindh in the basement at Qala-i-Janghi Prison, where detainee was wounded during the first grenade attack." He apparently "told Lindh that he was reluctant to surrender because he was afraid that Dostum’s forces would torture them, stating it was 'better to die here than be torn apart by the NA.’"

Crucially, for Sultan’s case, the Task Force noted, "In July 2002,a delegation from Saudi Arabia visited JTF-GTMO and interviewed detainee. The delegation identified detainee to be of low intelligence and law enforcement value to the US, and unlikely to pose a terrorist threat to the US or its interests. Furthermore,the Saudi delegation indicated that the Government of Saudi Arabia woud be willing to take custody of detainee for possible prosecution as soon as the US determined it no longer wanted to hold him."

Despite this, an analyst noted, "JTF-GTMO does not concur with the delegation’s assessment of this detainee," adding that his "assessed history of extremist activity in multiple locations over several decades" — even though none of its had been proved — set "a pattern that detainee would likely repeat if given the opportunity." In conclusion, the Task Force assessed him as being "of medium intelligence value," and of posing "a high risk, as he is likely to pose a threat to the US, its interests and allies." He was also "assessed as a high threat from a detention perspective," although it was not clear why, as his "overall behaviour ha[d] been non-compliant, but rarely hostile to the guard force and staff." As a result, Rear Adm. Harris, updating a recommendation for his continued detention (dated April 7, 2006), repeated that recommendation. Even so, he was released seven months later, to be put through the Saudi government’s extensive rehabilitation program.

Mazin Al Awfi (ISN 154, Saudi Arabia) Released July 2007

In Chapter 6 of The Guantánamo Files, I explained how Mazin al-Awfi, who was 22 years old at the time of his capture, was a traffic policeman before traveling to Afghanistan. He said in Guantánamo that his interpretation of jihad was "to support the Taliban, not to fight with them," and added, "I went with good intentions and then realized bad things were happening and I wanted to get out."

In an article at the time of his release, I added that he was captured after crossing the Pakistani border, and that he told his tribunal that he had no connection whatsoever to Salah al-Awfi, a name that had, according to the US authorities, turned up on a computer hard drive seized during raids on Al-Qaida safe houses in Pakistan. He was also one of many detainees accused of being a terrorist because he owned a Casio F-91W watch, a model that the authorities claimed was used as a timer for improvised electronic devices (IEDs). Although he admitted owning the watch, he was incredulous about the accusation. "Millions and millions of people have these types of Casio watches," he said. "If that is a crime, why doesn’t the United States arrest and sentence all the shops and people who own them?"

In the documents released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, the file relating to al-Awfi was a "Recommendation for Continued Detention Under DoD Control (CD)," dated March 31, 2007, in which he was also identified as Mazin al-Owfi, and it was noted that he was born in August 1979, and was "in good health."

In telling his story, based on his own account, the Joint Task Force noted that, in 1998, at the age of 18, he "quit high school after failing most of his mid-term examinations," and "returned home and spent approximately a year driving his brothers and sisters to school before applying for a position with the Saudi police force," for which he was accepted. He attended a nine-month military training course in Riyadh, where he "received machine gun and pistol training while earning approximately 2,700 Saudi riyals per month." After he completed his training, he "was assigned a position in Jeddah, SA, but he soon quit and returned to Medina," and "reportedly spent the next eight months again driving his brothers and sisters to school and visiting friends."

Apparently persuaded to to travel to Afghanistan for jihad by a friend "who had become a devout Muslim and frequently preached to [him] about Islam and Afghanistan," he also discovered, in August 2001, that a cousin "had traveled to Afghanistan to wage jihad," and soon after set off for Afghanistan, via Karachi, where a man named Ahmed, whose name and number had been provided by his friend back home, "instructed [him] to stay at the Hotel Dubai and purchase Pakistani clothes," and also "procured a plane ticket to Quetta, PK, and provided money for [him]." At Quetta airport, two Afghans "met him and accompanied him across the border to Kandahar," where he left his passport at a guesthouse.

He then traveled to Kabul, to the Omar Saif Center, described as "a Taliban and 55th Arab Brigade reserve camp used as a support center, and staging and training facility," where he was issued a Kalashnikov to defend himself. After two to three weeks, he said, "he was starting to feel scared and decided to return home." This was probably immediately after the 9/11 attacks, and the local commander "informed [him] that everyone was leaving, so he could ride along with them." He said that they "traveled in four separate vehicles to Jalalabad," where he "and approximately 20 other people … stayed at a one-room house for approximately 25 days." He then "traveled by car towards Pakistan with six Pakistanis," and "stopped in a mountainous area, where [he] and four of the Pakistanis exited the vehicle and headed into a cave."

Approximately one month later, he said, "the group started walking towards the Pakistan border and met up with approximately 100 other individuals (Pakistanis, Arabs, and Afghans) also heading towards the border," where the Pakistani police put everyone into trucks and they were driven to a prison, where [he] remained for one month." He was transferred to US custody from Kohar prison on December 30, 2001, and was sent to Guantánamo on January 17, 2002, on the spurious basis that it was to "provide information on the following: Operations and training given by the Saudi Arabia General Security Service [and] Taliban in Kabul."

Despite his story, the Task Force described him as "a member of Al-Qaida," and "assessed that [he] fled Afghanistan with a group of Al-Qaida and Taliban fighters" led by Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi (ISN 212, but never held at Guantánamo unless it was as a "high-value detainee" in a prison-within-a-prison run by the CIA, and known as Strawberry Fields, between September 2003 and March 2004). Al-Libi, regarded as an important "high-value detainee," was the emir of the Khaldan training camp until it was closed by the Taliban in 2000, after he refused to allow it to be taken over by Osama bin Laden. After his capture, his torture in Egypt in 2002 led to a false confession that Al-Qaida operatives had been meeting with Saddam Hussein to discuss obtaining chemical and biological weapons, which was then used to justify the invasion of Iraq, even though al-Libi retracted it. Sent back to Libya after several years in secret CIA prisons, al-Libi died in Gaddafi’s Abu Salim prison in May 2009, reportedly by committing suicide, although observers believed that he had been killed.

Despite his conflict with bin Laden, al-Libi was described as "the former UBL-appointed military commander in Tora Bora" in al-Awfi’s file, in which it was also claimed that his group "crossed the Afghani-Pakistani border in the Nangarhar, AF, region around 14 December 2001," and their Pakistani hosts then "convinced them to surrender their weapons, and gathered the group in a mosque where Pakistani forces immediately arrested them." The circumstances of their capture were true, although the claim that all the men were fighters is untrustworthy, as is the Task Force’s claim that, "During the transit to the prison, one of the detainees attacked a guard leading to a struggle in which six Pakistani guards were killed and some of the prisoners escaped." This happened, but other reports state that it happened not after capture, but while the prisoners were being moved from one Pakistani jail to another (from Peshawar to Kohat).

In assessing his story, the Task Force noted that, in general, he had been "forthcoming in his account of recruitment, travel, and activities in Afghanistan," and had "admitted to traveling not only to find his cousin, but also to satisfy his own curiosity about jihad," but it was also claimed that he had demonstrated some evasive tactics.

This may have been true, but in seeking to portray him as more significant, the Task Force also drew on various other allegations that were not necessarily reliable. It was claimed that his uncle was the "deceased Saudi al-Qaida cell leader Salih Muhammad Awadhallah al-Alawi al-Awfi," although, even if true, this did not prove anything in and of itself, and was apparently based on a claim made by Humud al-Jadani (ISN 230, released in July 2007), who "identified detainee as a nephew of al-Awfi," but who is turning out, in this detailed analysis of the files, to be another dubious witness.

It was also stated, "A foreign government service identified detainee as a member of Al-Qaida," in a document on which his "name was listed as Mazan Bin Salah Bin Sa’id al-Aufi." An analyst explained that "[n]o further information was provided in this document to explain how or why the individuals on this list were assessed to be Al-Qaida members," which rather deflected from the purported significance of the claim.

Even more significant, however, was a note that, "In July 2002, a delegation from Saudi Arabia visited JTF-GTMO and interviewed detainee. The Saudi delegation identified detainee as being of low intelligence and law enforcement value to the US, and unlikely to pose a terrorist threat to the US or its interests. Further, the Saudi delegation indicated that the Government of Saudi Arabia would be willing to take custody of detainee for possible prosecution as soon as the US determined it no longer wanted to hold him."

Set against this assessment were distinctly dubious allegations made by untrustworthy witnesses. For example, Yasim Basardah (ISN 252, released), a Yemeni who was well known as the most notoriously unreliable informant in Guantánamo, "stated that detainee was at Al-Farouq Training Camp," and John Walker Lindh, the "American Taliban," who was tortured by his fellow countrymen, "identified detainee as possibly being a trainee at Al-Farouq." No other witness placed him at Al-Farouq.

Basardah was also responsible for claims that al-Awfi "was present during hostilities at both Kabul and Tora Bora," and for a report that he "fought under the leadership of Yahya al-Sulami (ISN 66, released in July 2007). It was also noted that Basardah "identified six other JTF-GTMO detainees, including detainee, who fought under [al-Sulami]." In my previous article, in which I discussed al-Sulami’s case, I gave my reasons for doubting Basardah’s statements about him, and his statements about al-Awfi seem no more reliable. The Task Force noted that he "admitted he traveled with seven other fighters from Jalalabad to the mountains of Tora Bora," but only Basardah identified him as fighting.

It was also claimed that "[v]ariations of detainee’s name and alias appear on several al-Qaida associated documents," which is a regular and dubious claim, and, in addition, there was the allegation about his Casio watch. In conclusion, he was "assessed to be of medium intelligence value," and of posing "a high risk, as he is likely to pose a threat to the US, its interests and allies." He was also "assessed to be a high threat from a detention perspective," because his "overall behavior ha[d] been non-compliant and hostile toward the guard force and staff," although that did not appear to be borne out by the list of his "Disciplinary Infractions." As a result, however, Rear Adm. Harris, updating a recommendation for continued detention "with Transfer Language" (dated January 6, 2006), updated that recommendation, but without the transfer language, because of new information. Nevertheless, he was released just four months later, to be put through the Saudi government’s extensive rehabilitation program.

After his release, and after he had been put through the Saudi government’s extensive rehabilitation program, the Pentagon claimed that al-Awfi became involved in providing support to terrorists. In May 2009, the Pentagon produced a fact sheet, "Former Guantánamo Detainee Terrorism Trends" (PDF), in which it was claimed that it was "confirmed" that he was a "[l[eadership figure in al-Qaida in Arabian peninsula," although, as TalkLeft reported in January 2010, it's clear that, in fact, the Pentagon confused Mazin al-Awfi with Muhammed al-Awfi (aka Mohammed al-Harbi, ISN 333, released in September 2007), who briefly joined al-Qaida in the Arabian peninsula, but then handed himself in to the Saudi authorities.

Majid Al Harbi (ISN 158, Saudi Arabia) Released February 2007

In "The Guantánamo Files: Website Extras (4) – Escape to Pakistan (The Saudis)," I explained how Majid al-Harbi, who was 21 years old at the time of his capture, said in Guantánamo that he had met a representative of Jamaat al-Tablighi (the vast missionary organization that was inappropriately regarded by the US authorities as a front for terrorism) over a two-month period at a mosque in Jeddah, and had then traveled to Karachi, where another Tablighi representative took him to a mosque in Lahore.

In late September and early October 2001, he said, a jihad was announced, which he decided to support by traveling to Afghanistan and "teaching the Hadith" (the oral traditions of the Prophet Muhammad’s actions and customs). This suggests, of course, that Jamaat al-Tablighi’s interpretation of "jihad" was in its meaning of a religious struggle rather than the armed variety, but in al-Harbi’s case the distinction was irrelevant to the US authorities, as numerous other allegations were presented that were at odds with his story.

With a typical disregard for the authenticity of the unnamed sources cited, the US authorities chose to ignore al-Harbi’s Jamaat al-Tablighi narrative, and claimed instead that he "was identified as attending the Al-Farouq training camp" (the main training camp for Arabs in Afghanistan), that he was "identified as a member of Al-Qaida or the Taliban," and that he "was identified as the Emir for a group of fighters in Tora Bora."

In the documents released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, the file relating to al-Harbi was a "Recommendation for Continued Detention Under DoD Control (CD)," dated July 7, 2006, in which it was noted that he was born in June 1980, and was "in good health."

In telling his story, based on his own account, the Joint Task Force largely reiterated what I had previously reported, noting that, after high school, he attended college in Jeddah for two years studying computer science, and, while visiting his local mosque, met a man named Bandar al-Harbi (no relation) who was associated with the vast missionary organization Jamaat al-Tablighi. After approximately two months of meetings at the mosque, Bandar al-Harbi convinced him to travel to Pakistan to conduct missionary work with Jamaat al-Tablighi, and, as a result, he flew to Karachi, and then stayed at a designated hotel until, after approximately three days, JT member Mohammed Akbar came to meet him and took him to a mosque in Lahore, where, he said, he stayed for approximately three months, conducting missionary work in various villages.

Reiterating his account of the call for jihad in late September or early October 2001, the Task Force noted that two other Arabs in Lahore -- Abu Ghanim and Abu Abdullah -- "decided to travel to Afghanistan to train for jihad," and "recommended [al-Harbi] receive weapons training and guaranteed him that they would likely stay away from the front lines." He apparently "agreed to join them, but only as a missionary and not a fighter." They then traveled to a guesthouse in Kandahar, and, soon after, his companions "traveled to a training camp for three days of training," while he "stayed in the house for five days."

He was then told that "all the Arabs were being ordered out of Kandahar," and he traveled to Khost with Abu Ghanim and Abu Abdullah, two others named Abu Omar and Abu Mohammed, and two other men who were not identified. In Khost, they apparently stayed in "the House of the Pakistanis" for approximately 30 days, where Abu Ghanim taught him how to use a Kalashnikov rifle. Afterwards, Abu Ghanim and another individual told him they had to leave and they then went to the home of an unidentified Afghan for approximately 20 days. He then "decided to leave Afghanistan and head back to Saudi Arabia via Pakistan," and Abu Ghanim arranged for an Afghan guide to take him to Pakistan, which took ten or eleven days, on foot.

As they "reached the top of a mountain, the guide pointed [him] in the direction of a village on the other side of the border," and he "walked toward the border alone," but in a village "a local pointed [him] out to the Pakistani authorities," who "detained him because he did not have the proper documents." He was transferred from Pakistani to US custody on December 30, 2001, and he was sent to Guantánamo on February 9, 2002, on the spurious basis that it was to "provide information on the following: Taliban recruiting methods via mosques [and] Biographic data on possible members of the Taliban recruiting support network."

Despite his own version of events, an analyst claimed that "[a]ctual events placed [him] in a group of individuals who crossed in the Nangarhar Region of the Afghan-Pakistani border on 14 December 2001″ (elsewhere identified as a group led by Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, later a CIA "ghost prisoner" and a notorious torture victim), adding, "The group felt secure enough with their Pakistani host that they were convinced to surrender their weapons," although the host "then informed the group that the Pakistani forces were aware of their presence so they had to move fast."

In this version of events, this group "gathered in a mosque where they were immediately surrounded by Pakistani forces and hauled away in large trucks," although most accounts explain that they were tricked into visiting the mosque, which was a trap. The analyst also noted, "An individual attacked a guard leading to a struggle in which six Pakistani guards were killed and some prisoners were able to escape," although, as I have noted before, this took place after their initial capture, when they were being moved from one Pakistani jail to another. Mostly, however, it is not known how much truth there is to the Task Force’s claim that al-Harbi was not captured alone, as he stated, but was part of a group.

In assessing his story, the Task Force noted that he was regarded as "a jihadist who traveled to Afghanistan for training under a common Al-Qaida/extremist cover story," although there was no actual evidence of this. He stayed at a house in Kandahar that appeared to be the same house used by recruits training at Al-Farouq, but it does not provide proof that he undertook training. The Task Force also claimed that variations of his name and alias appeared on documents recovered from raids on house associated with Al-Qaida, but these are generally unpersuasive claims, as they are so imprecise as to be worthless.

The only direct testimony regarding al-Harbi was made by Yasim Basardah (ISN 252, released), a Yemeni well known as the most notoriously unreliable informant in Guantánamo, who claimed that al-Harbi and Abdul Rahman al-Hataybi (ISN 268, released in December 2007) "are friends and they studied electronics together." Basardah "further stated" that the two "were recruited at a technical center or College of Electonics in Jeddah where they were studying electronic techniques, telephone equipment and instrumentation." An analyst noted that al-Harbi "admit[ted] attending such a school and being convinced to travel to Pakistan while visiting a mosque during that timeframe," but the reason why all of this was supposedly significant was ridiculous.

It was claimed that al-Harbi "was possibly involved in potential future operations," because "a variation of his alias, Abu al-Abbas, was found on a 92-page document (NFI) containing various topics pertaining to Al-Qaida operations from personnel, weapons, equipment, training and official correspondence, to what seems to be future mission assignments." This implausible scenario not only relied on al-Harbi having the required alias, but also that "Abu Al-Abbas was associated with Abu Aamer," and that Abu Aamer was al-Hataybi.

Yasim Basardah was also responsible for placing al-Harbi at Tora Bora. He claimed that al-Harbi and al-Hataybi "both trained at Al-Farouq and then went to Tora Bora," and added that, while in Tora Bora, he (Basardah) "joined a group having tea," which included al-Hataybi and another man identified as Majd Abdallah, to which an analyst noted, without providing an explanation, that it was "probable that Majd Abdallah is detainee."

In another claim, the Task Force tried to use al-Harbi’s involvement with Jamaat al-Tablighi as a reason for him to be regarded with suspicion, although an analyst actually provided the most accurate analysis of Jamaat al-Tablighi that I have seen in any US files when he or she wrote: "The JT is an apolitical movement that focuses on spirituality, social work, and teaching 'correct’ Islamic practices to fellow Muslims — in essence a Dawa organization. The organization neither preaches violence nor does it sanction militant Islamic groups. However, some followers of extremist groups have also participated in JT activities."

The Task Force also claimed that al-Harbi’s brother had "contacted one of the former Bahraini detainees held at JTF-GTMO." An analyst noted, however, that it was "unknown which of the Bahrainis the detainee’s brother was in contact with," although he claimed, implausibly, that "all released Bahrainis have returned to nefarious activity," and that, as a result, "[i]f detainee’s brother is forming and strengthening extremist ties, this increases detainee’s risk for release."

Outside of all this hyperbole and wild innuendo, the Task Force concluded that al-Harbi was "of medium intelligence value," and that he posed "a medium risk, as he may pose a threat to the US, its interests and allies." It was also noted that he was "assessed as a moderate threat from a detention perspective," because his "overall behavior ha[d] been non-compliant and sometimes hostile to the guard force and staff." One specific piece of information — that, on December 15, 2003, "he spat in the face of the medical officer who was inserting a feeding tube into him" — indicates that he was on a hunger strike at that time, and is a piece of information that was not mentioned elsewhere.

It was also noted that, "Prior to the Saudi delegation visit in 2002, Mabahlth [the Saudi intelligence service] provided information on thirty-seven detainees whom they designated as high priority," and that al-Harbi "was twenty-fourth on that list," but on closer analysis, the US authorities evidently disagreed that he was a significant threat to the US, as Rear Adm. Harris, updating a previous assessment that he should be retained in DoD control (dated January 21, 2005), recommended him for continued detention, but noted, "If a satisfactory agreement can be reached that ensures continued detention and allows access to detainee and/or to exploited intelligence, detainee can be Transferred Out of DoD Control (TRO)." He was released seven months later, to be put through the Saudi government’s extensive rehabilitation program.

Ali Mohammed Nasir Mohammed (ISN 172, Yemen) Released September 2007

In "The Guantánamo Files: Website Extras (5) – Escape to Pakistan (The Yemenis)," I explained how Mohammed, who was 19 years old at the time of his capture, denied allegations in Guantánamo that he was a Taliban fighter who took part in military operations against the US-led coalition, saying, "I have never shot one bullet in my life." He rather weakly claimed that he went to Afghanistan to "look around to see how the people were doing," and added, "In my imagination I thought I was going to see many centers with a lot of guards in them and I would see a lot of Muslims. I would find out find out how the Muslims were worshipping and what they do." He did, however, admit attending a training camp for 40-45 days and also admitted that he had worked for the Taliban, although only in the kitchens or as a guard behind the front lines.

Although Mohammed was released in September 2007, he had almost left the prison in May 2006. As the Washington Post reported in July 2007, "The word came in May 2006: Ali Mohammed Nasser Mohammed, a slight, 24-year-old Yemeni with curly black hair and a wispy beard, would be freed from Guantánamo after more than four years. He got a checkup. His photo was taken, as were his fingerprints. He was measured for clothes and shoes, then offered a meeting with the Red Cross. As the Pentagon tersely put it later in an e-mail to his attorneys: 'Your client has been approved to leave Guantánamo.’"

However, as his lawyer Martha Rayner explained, "He never went home." Although he was born in Saudi Arabia, the Saudi authorities refused to accept him back, because his parents are both Yemenis. As the Post explained, "Under Yemeni and Saudi law, he is Yemeni, by virtue of his parents’ citizenship." It took another 16 months of diplomatic wrangling — and a visit to Yemen by his lawyers — for Ali Mohammed to be freed, but in the end he was more fortunate than a number of other Yemeni prisoners, who still languish in Guantánamo, despite being cleared for release for up to eight years.

In the documents released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, the file relating to Mohammed was a "Recommendation for Transfer to the Control of Another Country for Continued Detention (TRCD)," dated October 16, 2004, in which he was also identified as Ali Muhammed Nasir Mohammed and Ali Muhammad Nasir Muhammad Sa’id, and it was noted that he was born in 1983 and was "in good health."

In telling his story, based largely on his own account, the Joint Task Force stated that his "life-long friend," Muath Mohammed Salih, "encouraged him to perform Jihad in Afghanistan," although an analyst claimed that Muath was "likely identifiable with a well-known Al-Qaida facilitator from Sana’a." He apparently introduced him to another man, Abu al-Hadith, who arranged his travel to Afghanistan, and traveled with him in June 2001.

The two men reportedly attended the Al-Farouq training camp, after which he was "transferred to the Suhail trenches" in Tora Bora, where he "served as a guard for approximately one month," and then, in November 2001, left the trenches, departing for Jalalabad with "approximately 30 unidentified individuals," to "escape the Northern Alliance advance." The group reportedly "crossed into Pakistan at an unknown location," but as he "attempted to reach the Yemeni Embassy in Islamabad, PK, to obtain a passport," he "was captured by Pakistani forces who took him to several prisons in Pakistan before transferring him to Kandahar, AF, on 30 December 2001." He was transferred to Guantánamo on February 3, 2002, on the spurious basis that he had "limited information on the Markez-Said headquarters, a supply point, which was located north of Kabul, AF, on the front lines. He visited approximately 50 other unit headquarters in the northern Kabul, AF, area during his five months at the Said center."

In assessing his story, it was noted that JTF-GTMO believed he "was a member of Osama bin Laden’s (UBL’s) Arab brigade," claiming that he was "stationed" with three prisoners described as "high value targets (HVTs)" — Jabir al-Fayfi (ISN 188, released in December 2006), Musa al-Amri (ISN 196, released in September 2007), and Khalid al-Zahrani (ISN 234, released in July 2007), although it should be noted that it is unclear why the three were regarded as "high value targets."

It was also noted that Yasim Basardah (ISN 252, released), a Yemeni well known as the most notoriously unreliable informant in Guantánamo, "identified the detainee as being located at Al-Farouq, Kabul, and Tora Bora," although it was noted that his "association" with Basardah — very possibly non-existent — was "unexploited." In addition, it was noted that he "was captured with a Casio watch model F-91W," and that "Al-Qaida and Islamic extremists have used the type of watch captured with detainee [sic] in improvised explosive devices (IEDs)." This is an allegation that was leveled at many prisoners, even though it was obviously ridiculous.

In conclusion, the Task Force assessed him as being "of medium intelligence value," and of posing "a medium to high risk, as he may be likely to pose a threat to the US, its interests and allies" — although the Criminal Investigative Task Force, which was also involved in assessments, only found him to be "a medium risk," but deferred to JTF GTMO as part of an agreement between both organizations. It was also noted that his "overall behavior ha[d] been generally compliant and non- aggressive."

As a result, and even though he had been assessed as "a member of Al-Qaida and/or its global terrorist network," and even though it was claimed that "the probability is very high that [he] would continue his involvement in terrorist operations if released," Brig. Gen. Jay W. Hood, the commander of Guantánamo at the time, recommended that he be "transferred for continued detention to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia if a satisfactory agreement can be reached that allows access to detainee and/or access to exploited intelligence." It was also noted, "If a satisfactory agreement cannot be reached for his continued detention in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,he should be retained under DoD control." In the end, however, it took almost three years for him to be released, without onerous conditions, to Yemen instead.

Majid Al Qurayshi (ISN 176, Saudi Arabia) Released February 2007

In Chapter 6 of The Guantánamo Files, I explained how Majid al-Qurayshi (also identified as Majid al-Qurashi), who was 29 years old at the time of his capture, said in Guantánamo that he "wanted forgiveness from Allah" and was told that "the shortest way to get forgiveness from Allah is to go out on jihad."

In the documents released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, the file relating to al-Qurayshi was a "Recommendation for Continued Detention Under DoD Control (CD)," dated May 26, 2006, in which it was noted that he was born in May 1972, and was "in good health."

In telling his story, based largely on his own account, the Joint Task Force stated that he had spent a few days in a reserve unit of the Saudi army when he was 18, and also noted that, in the 1990s, "he traveled to Cleveland, Ohio with his uncle who was having heart surgery," and also "traveled to Syria (SY) twice and Indonesia (ID) once in 1998 or 1999 on vacation with family members." These were thoroughly innocent visits, of course, but they were included to hint at irregularities.

In April 2000, he "graduated from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah with a degree in business administration," and it was noted that, while at college, he "worked for a British company selling children’s toys," and "also worked in the Jeddah airport during the Hajj season assisting tourists." On graduation, he apparently "enrolled in a three-month English language and computer course," which would have been useful, as he was the executive director of a travel agency co-owned with his father, which assisted Muslims with travel during the Hajj."

In August 2001, al-Qurayshi apparently contacted a celebrated sheikh, who recommended him to "participate in jihad and spend two months in Afghanistan or Chechnya." When he was told that "going to Chechnya could take up to six months due to travel time," he said he chose Afghanistan, and traveled via Iran using his own savings — apparently between 5000 and 6000 Saudi riyals (between $13,000 to $16,000). In Afghanistan, he reportedly traveled to Kandahar, and then Kabul, where he was allegedly "assigned to the front lines for approximately two and a half months," although this seems unlikely without prior training.

After noting a handful of individuals with whom he allegedly fought in Afghanistan, the Task Force noted that, when the fighting intensified in Kabul, he was ordered to retreat, and that "the Pakistani authorities took [him] into custody as he was fleeing Afghanistan into Pakistan." It was also noted that he was transferred to US custody at Kohat prison on December 31, 2001, and was sent to Guantánamo on February 13, 2002, on the spurious basis that it was to "provide information on the following: Taliban troop movement."

In assessing his story, the Task Force described him as "a possible member of Al-Qaida," but moved beyond his own admission that he had been "assigned to a defensive position in Kabul," by claiming that he had also been in Tora Bora, the scene of a showdown between Al-Qaida and the Taliban, and US forces and their Afghan allies, in November and December 2001. However, the only witness to this was "[a]ssessed Tora Bora commander" Hamud Dakhil Hamud (ISN 230, released in July 2007, and also identified as Humud al-Jadani), who has begun to emerge in these files as an unreliable witness, and who "stated he saw detainee in Kandahar and Tora Bora in 2001."

The only other supposed evidence that the Task Force could muster was a claim that a "variant of detainee’s name" was found on a documents recovered in a raid on a house allegedly associated with Al-Qaida, but this sort of claim is unreliable without further corroboration.

Of particular relevance was a note that, "In July 2002, a delegation from Saudi Arabia visited JTF-GTMO and interviewed detainee. He was identified as being of low intelligence and law enforcement value to the US, and unlikely to pose a terrorist threat to the US or its interests. Furthermore, the Saudi.delegation indicated that the Government of Saudi Arabia would be willing to take custody of detainee for possible prosecution as soon as the US determined it no longer wanted to hold him."

In conclusion, he was described as being "of medium intelligence value," and of posing "a medium risk, as he may pose a threat to the US, its interests and allies." It was also noted that he was "assessed as a moderate threat from a detention perspective," whose "overall behavior ha[d] been compliant and non-hostile to the guard force and staff." As a result, Rear Adm. Harris, updating a recommendation for his continued detention (dated November 3, 2005), repeated that recommendation, but added, "If a satisfactory agreement can be reached that ensures continued detention and allows access to detainee and/or to exploited intelligence, [he] can be Transferred Out of DoD Control (TRO)." Nine months later, he was released, to be put through the Saudi government’s extensive rehabilitation program.

Abdul Rahman Al Juaid (ISN 179, Saudi Arabia) Released July 2007

In Chapter 6 of The Guantánamo Files, I explained how Abdul Rahman al-Juaid (also identified as Abd al-Rahman al-Ju’ayd), a student who was 21 years old at the time of his capture, was accused of being a fund-raiser for the Saudi charity Al-Haramain, which, despite being a legitimate charity devoted to humanitarian aid, was also accused of being a front for terrorism, and was shut down by the Saudi government, under pressure from the US, in 2004. Al-Juaid said that he collected 10,000 Riyals (around $2,700) and distributed it to the poor in Afghanistan.

In an article at the time of his release, I explained that he said in Guantánamo that he had traveled between Kandahar, Kabul and Jalalabad, distributing the money, and was in Jalalabad when he heard that Kabul had fallen to the Northern Alliance, which was when he decided to leave the country (without his passport, which was back in Kabul), subsequently paying a guide to take him over the mountains to Pakistan.

When he handed himself in to the Pakistani authorities on the border, he was promptly delivered (or sold) to the Americans, who as well as tying him to Al-Haramain, claimed that one of his aliases was found on a list of captured Al-Qaida members on a computer hard drive "associated with a senior Al-Qaida member." Al-Juaid replied that he never used an alias, adding, "After I turned myself in and was detained in Pakistan, there were people taking my picture. I never saw my picture on the Internet, but the interrogator told me it is on the Internet. If it is, I have no idea how it got there." This was an important observation, as some of the claims about prisoners being identified as jihadists on the Internet undoubtedly came about through jihadist websites obtaining photos and presenting the prisoners as jihadists for propaganda purposes, regardless of whether or not it was true.

In the documents released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, the file relating to al-Juaid was a "Recommendation for Continued Detention Under DoD Control (CD)," dated March 3, 2007, in which he was also identified as Abd al-Rahman al-Ju’ayd and Abd al-Rahman al-Juayd, and it was noted that he was born in November 1980, and was "in good health."

In telling his story, based largely on his own account, the Joint Task Force stated that, from 2000 to 2001, he attended the College of Technology in Mecca, studying computing, but did not complete his degree. Instead, he took a job with the Saudi electric company, but apparently "began to focus on religious issues," and answered a fatwa urging Muslims "to travel to Afghanistan and fight alongside the Taliban." After traveling to Karachi "[a]round July 2001," he made his way to Kandahar, via Quetta, and on to Kabul, where, "In approximately August 2001," he "was assigned to the rear lines of the Northern front opposite the Northern Alliance," and "remained in this position until the Taliban withdrew under heavy coalition bombardment on approximately 20 November 2001."

At that point, he "and a small group of Arabs departed Kabul and traveled to Tora Bora," where he stayed for two weeks until he "and a group of ten Arabs headed for Pakistan," crossing the border in the Nangarhar region "around 14 December 2001." It was noted that his group "felt safe in the hands of their Pakistani hosts who convinced them to surrender their weapons," and "then gathered the group in a mosque where Pakistani forces immediately arrested them." It was also claimed that, "[d]uring the transit to prison, one of the prisoners attacked a guard leading to a struggle in which six Pakistani guards were killed and some of the prisoners escaped," although, as I have noted repeatedly, this actually took place after the prisoners had been transferred to a Pakistani prison, and were being moved to another.

He was transferred to US custody at Kohat prison, and was moved to the US prison at Kandahar on December 31, 2001. He was sent to Guantánamo on January 17, 2002, on the spurious basis that it was to "provide information on the following: Encouragement given to youths of college age to travel to Afghanistan to provide humanitarian aid," and an analyst noted that his "cover story was to travel to Afghanistan to provide humanitarian aid to the needy."

In assessing his story, the Task Force noted that he was regarded as having been captured with "a group of al-Qaida and Taliban fighters led by [Osama bin Laden]-appointed military commander in Tora Bora, Ali Muhammad Abdul Aziz al-Fakhri," also known as Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi (ISN 212, although he was never held at Guantánamo unless it was as a "high-value detainee" in a prison-within-a-prison run by the CIA, and known as Strawberry Fields, between September 2003 and March 2004). Instead, al-Libi was rendered by the CIA to Egypt, where he was tortured until he falsely confessed that Al-Qaida operates had been meeting Saddam Hussein to discuss obtaining chemical and biological weapons. Al-Libi later recanted this claim, but it was used by the Bush administration to justify the invasion of Iraq in March 2003. After being sent around other black sites, where torture was routine, al-Libi was returned to Libya, where he died in mysterious circumstances in May 2009.

In the files released by WikiLeaks, al-Libi’s alleged role as a military commander at Tora Bora is repeatedly mentioned, although that appears to be an unreliable claim. In al-Juaid’s file, it was claimed that a man named Ali Mahmud "was reportedly the commander of all Al-Qaida fighters in Tora Bora until 19 November 2001, when [bin Laden] replaced Ali Mahmud with [al-Libi]," but this has never been independently verified. In what appears to be an absolutely crucial passage in the file, it was noted, "While several senior Al-Qaida members claim [al-Libi] was not a member of Al-Qaida, [al-Libi] himself stated that [bin Laden] personally appointed him as the military commander of Al-Qaida forces in Tora Bora."

This was obviously an unreliable confession, given al-Libi’s torture, and it also failed to justify regarding al-Juaid as anything other than the most basic of foot soldiers. Nevertheless, it obviously played a major role in encouraging the Task Force to decide that he was "of medium intelligence value," and posed "a high risk, as he is likely to pose a threat to the US, its interests and allies," because he was "assessed to be a member of al- Qaida as well as UBL’s former 55th Arab Brigade, who participated in hostilities against US and coalition forces in Afghanistan."

This was in spite of a note that, "In July 2002, a delegation from Saudi Arabia visited JTF-GTMO and interviewed detainee," who "was identified as being of low intelligence and law enforcement value to the US, and unlikely to pose a terrorist threat to the US or its interests. Furthermore,the Saudi delegation indicated that the Government of Saudi Arabia would be willing to take custody of detainee for possible prosecution as soon as the US determined it no longer wanted to hold him."

It was also noted that he was "assessed to be a medium threat from a detention perspective," whose "overall behavior ha[d] been compliant and rarely hostile toward the guard force and staff." As a result, Rear Adm. Harris, updating a previous recommendation for his continued detention "with Transfer Language" (dated March 31, 2006) repeated that recommendation, but without the transfer language, although just four months later, perhaps because someone in authority paid attention to the Saudi assessment, he was released, to be put through the Saudi government’s extensive rehabilitation program.

Bandar Al Jabri (ISN 182, Saudi Arabia) Released July 2007

In Chapter 6 of The Guantánamo Files, and in an article at the time of his release, I explained how Bandar al-Jabri, who was 22 years old at the time of his capture, stated in Guantánamo that he wanted to receive military training so that he could fight in Chechnya. Although he acknowledged attending the Al-Farouq training camp, he insisted that he "did not graduate from the training camp," and "had to stop training because he was experiencing asthma attacks." He also admitted that he had received training from the Taliban, but denied being a member, and added that he had never fought against either the Northern Alliance or the US.

In the documents released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, the file relating to al-Jabri was a "Recommendation for Continued Detention Under DoD Control (CD)," dated January 22, 2007, in which it was noted that he was born in April 1979, and was "in good health."

In telling his story, based largely on his own account, the Joint Task Force stated that he studied Islam at universities in Riyadh and Mecca, and "attended Muslim Brotherhood activities sponsored by the Saudi Administrator of Education," which was "a religious program for students during summer break." It was claimed that, "prior to joining jihad, [he] had no steady job, no wife, and lived at home," and that, in March 2001, "after viewing several media accounts about Russian abuses against Chechen women and children," he answered a fatwa issued by two prominent Saudi sheikhs urging Muslims to "support the Chechen rebels."

It was also noted that, "[w]hile [he] was still in college, his family wrongfully accused him of sexually assaulting the maid," and, "[o]ut of anger and because [he] was extremely upset, he sought to escape his family and Saudi Arabia." Through a man named Ali Mahmoud, "who organized travel arrangements to Afghanistan for training," he was given a contact in Kabul, and in June 2001, traveled there via Syria (where he "met another recruit of Ali Mahmoud’s") and Iran. In Kabul, he reportedly attended the Markez Aseel training camp, where the "trainees were all foreign fighters, the majority of whom were destined to join the jihad in Chechnya," although it was also noted that al-Jabri became ill, and "traveled to Kandahar, AF, in August 2001, for treatment of severe asthma attacks." He then traveled to the United Arab Emirates to receive further medical care.

In October 2001, he retumed to Afghanistan for further training, and "learned mortar operations while serving as a crew member at a mortar position protecting the main road to Kabul" for two weeks. In mid-November 2001, he "attempted to flee Kabul when the Northem Alliance (NA) entered the city," and "stayed in hiding for approximately three weeks awaiting an opportunity to escape to Pakistan." In mid-December 2001, according to this account, he apparently "traveled to the Tora Bora Mountains and manned a defensive position with six other men."

There, allegedly, "[a]fter five days with no activity," al-Jabri, "along with approximately twenty others, walked for five days toward the Pakistani border," where "Pakistani authorities engaged the group and the majority fled back to Tora Bora." Reportedly, however, he and three others — Majid al-Shammari (ISN 181, released in November 2005), Abdul Rahman al-Amri (ISN 199, who died in Guantánamo in May 2007) and Said al-Qahtani (ISN 200, still held) — "continued across the border where the Pakistani Army captured them." On December 31, 2001, he was transferred to US custody at Kohat prison, and taken to the US prison at Kandahar airport. He was sent to Guantánamo on January 14, 2002, on the spurious basis that it was to "provide information on the following: Aseel Camp personalities and activities, Khawaja Ghar Camp personalities and activities, Training specifics on mortars, artillery, air defense weapons, heavy machine guns, and rocket-propelled grenade launchers."

In assessing his story, the Task Force refused to believe that he had first traveled to Afghanistan in June 2001, claiming that he "omitted his involvement as a probable al-Qaida weapons trainer dating back before 2000." This, it transpired, was based on the fact that Markez Aseel was "an old camp located in the suburbs of Kabul," which, in 2000, "merged with other abandoned camps at an old copper mine near Kandahar, AF, and became known as al-Farouq #2, Gharmabak Ghar," and then, after 9/11, "in anticipation of coalition attacks … was closed and moved to the Kabul suburbs where the Malik Training Center was establishing." As a result, an analyst claimed that "Detainee’s admission and possible slip using the old name of Markez Aseel [was] a probable attempt to cover his true role as an al-Qaida weapons trainer at al-Farouq." Quite why this was supposed to be a valid suspicion about a 20-year old was not explained, but the Task Force evidently regarded it as sufficient that it had two dubious pieces of information to back up its claims.

The first dubious piece of information was that, "During late 1999 or early 2000, al-Qaida operative and Libyan Islamic Fighter [sic] Group (LIFG) member Sufian Ahmad Mahmud Abu Zaydan reported detainee was a trainer at al-Farouq," which is dubious because this is all that is known about Zaydan, along with a tiny bit of information in the DAB for Ahmed Kuman (ISN 321, a Yemeni still held), in which he was described as Sufyian Ahmad Abu Zaydan, a Jordanian, and it was noted that, "As of mid-2004, [he] was detained in Jordan" — in unknown circumstances that provide no context for establishing whether his claims was produced voluntarily or through coercion.

The second dubious piece of information was that Ahmed al-Darbi (ISN 768, still held), who was seized in Azerbaijan and then tortured in Afghanistan, allegedly claimed that "Handalah al-Makki, one of detainee’s alias [sic], was part of a group of al-Qaida personnel who were regularly present in Kandahar, AF, between 1998 and 2000." Al-Darbi "added detainee was a close associate of Salim al-Sharif," described by an analyst as a "senior al-Qaida facilitator," and the cousin of Fahd al-Sharif (ISN 215, released in November 2007). The analyst added that Salim al-Sharif "worked directly for Osama Bin Laden (UBL), and reportedly made all of the arrangements for the Arab fighters’ exodus from Kabul to Tora Bora," as well as being "the emir of the operations centre in Tora Bora," and also being "linked to moving SA-7 shoulder launched missiles from Yemen (YM) to Saudi Arabia and handl[ing] financial matters for the Kabul region." At no point, however, was any explanation given about whether any other source had backed up Ahmed al-Darbi’s claims about Bandar al-Jabri and his alleged associations.

In another allegation relating not to al-Jabri’s purprported role as a weapons trainer, but to his purported presence at al-Farouq, the Task Force drew on a statement made by Yasim Basardah (ISN 252, released), a Yemeni well known as the most notoriously unreliable informant in Guantánamo, who "claimed detainee informed him about a training camp in Kandahar, AF, which offered 'special training,’" and also told him that "he visited the camp a number of times for a month or two and then returned home to Saudi Arabia." An analyst added that the camp was "probably al-Farouq," but did not question Basardah’s reliability.

Basardah, it turns out, was also responsible for the claims about al-Jabri’s purported presence in Tora Bora. He "identified detainee as a front line fighter," and "stated detainee fought for, and stayed at, the home of Taliban leader Hamza al-Qyati," who, according to the Task Force, in October 2001 "directed all Arab fighters to depart the area. Local fighters split into two groups, one headed toward Khawaja Ghar, AF, and the other toward Kabul, AF." Basardah also "photo-identified detainee as the best friend of Khalid al-Sharif" (ISN 322, released in September 2007), and claimed that the two men "were in the same group in Tora Bora," and that, while in Tora Bora, al-Sharif "took charge of the group when the previous commander, Abu Abdel Aziz al-Qureshi, aka Salih, departed."

While there were many other claims about al-Jabri in his file, including allegations that variants of his name and purported alias, or aliases, were found on documents recovered from computers seized in raids on houses associated with al-Qaida, there was nothing that established that the effort to build him up into someone significant was justified. The only other witnesses who spoke about him were Khalid al-Hubayshi (ISN 155, released in July 2005), who "stated that detainee told him [he] traveled to Afghanistan for training so he could join the Chechen jihad" (which was what al-Jabri had said himself), and Walid bin Attash, aka Khallad (ISN 10014), a "high-value detainee" held and tortured in secret CIA prisons, whose statements are therefore extremely dubious.

Bin Attash’s only contributions were that he "photo-identified detainee and stated he did not know the individual’s true name, but only his alias, Hanzallah," which was subtly different to the alias mentioned above. Bin Attash also "stated he knew detainee because [he] was a member of Khallad’s mother’s tribe, the al-Harbi tribe," and he "claimed it was easy to recognize people from this tribe because they usually had similar facial features," which was another dubious claim, as there is no sign that al-Jabri was ever identified as al-Harbi, and, in any case, he was a Saudi and not a Yemeni. Bin Attash also "claimed detainee arrived in Kandahar in 2000," and "further noted seeing detainee often in Afghanistan prior to 11 September 2001."

In conclusion, al-Jabri was described as being "of high intelligence value," and of posing "a high risk, as he is likely to pose a threat to the US, its interests and allies." He was also "assessed to be a medium threat from a detention perspective," because his "overall behaviour ha[d] been semi-compliant and rarely hostile toward the guard force and staff." Despite his supposed high value, however, and Rear Adm. Harris’s recommendation that he should continue to be held, he was released just six months after this assessment, to be put through the Saudi government’s extensive rehabilitation program.

Turki Al Asiri (ISN 185, Saudi Arabia) Released November 2007

In "The Guantánamo Files: Website Extras (4) – Escape to Pakistan (The Saudis)," I explained how Turki al-Asiri, who was 26 years old at the time of his capture, was accused in Guantánamo of answering a fatwa urging support for the Taliban, of training at Al-Farouq, and of fleeing, via Tora Bora, from Jalalabad to Pakistan, where he was arrested.

In the documents released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, the file relating to al-Asiri was a "Recommendation for Continued Detention Under DoD Control (CD)," dated April 21, 2007, in which it was noted that he was born in March 1975, and was "in good health."

In telling his story, based largely on his own account, the Joint Task Force stated that, sometime between 1996 and 1998, he "began religious studies at the Imam Muhammad Bin Saud Islamic University in Riyadh," but then "left the university and worked as a book distributor for a bookstore in Riyadh until the spring of 2001." In May 2001, responding to a fatwa "calling on every Muslim to perform missionary work in Afghanistan," he traveled to Pakistan, where he apparently taught the Koran for a while before traveling to Kandahar in late July 2001 "to attend jihadist training at al-Farouq." He apparently began attending the camp at the start of August 2001, but "[a]s a result of asthma problems, [he] departed training in approximately early September 2001, and traveled to Jalalabad, AF, for treatment" at a hospital, where he stayed for three weeks.

After being discharged in early October 2001, he "traveled to a safehouse in Jalalabad where he stayed for approximately one and a half months," and, around mid-November 2001, "retreated to the surrounding mountains," where he reportedly met up with three Arab recruits whom he had first met in Karachi, and then at al-Farouq, as well as a commander of soldiers in Tora Bora, all of whom were presumed to have been subsequently killed.

As with Abdul Rahman al-Juaid (ISN 179, above), it was claimed that he left Afghanistan with "a group of al-Qaida and Taliban fighters led by [Osama bin Laden]-appointed military commander in Tora Bora, Ali Muhammad Abdul Aziz al-Fakhri," also known as Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi (ISN 212, although he was never held at Guantánamo unless it was as a "high-value detainee" in a prison-within-a-prison run by the CIA, and known as Strawberry Fields, between September 2003 and March 2004). Instead, al-Libi was rendered by the CIA to Egypt, where he was tortured until he falsely confessed that Al-Qaida operatives had been meeting Saddam Hussein to discuss obtaining chemical and biological weapons, and later died in mysterious circumstances in a Libyan prison.

In a crucial passage, which shed light on the dubious claim that al-Libi was working with bin Laden, when the camp he commanded, Khaldan, had been closed down by the Taliban in 2000 when he refused to allow it come under bin Laden’s control, the Task Force noted, "While several senior al-Qaida members claim [al-Libi] was not a member of al-Qaida, [al-Libi] himself stated UBL [bin Laden] personally appointed him as the military commander of Tora Bora." This came from an interrogation noted as "TD-314/146-05," and therefore is fundamentally reliable, of course, given al-Libi’s torture.

The group in which al-Asiri was allegedly captured — of varying size according to the many differing accounts — "crossed the Afghanistan-Pakistan border in the Nangarhar region on approximately 14 December 2001," and, as with al-Juaid, it was noted that his group "felt safe in the hands of their Pakistani hosts who convinced them to surrender their weapons," and "then gathered the group in a mosque where Pakistani forces immediately arrested them." It was also claimed that, "[d]uring the transit to prison, one of the prisoners attacked a guard leading to a struggle in which six Pakistani guards were killed and some of the prisoners escaped," although, as I have noted repeatedly, this actually took place after the prisoners had been transferred to a Pakistani prison, and were being moved to another.

He was transferred to US custody at Kohat prison, and was moved to the US prison at Kandahar on December 31, 2001. He was sent to Guantánamo on January 17, 2002, on the spurious basis that it was to "provide information on the following: Pakistani and Afghan travel routes, Malek Haled al-Askari (King Haled) military district [and] Imam Muhammad Bin Saud Islamic Universitv in Rivadh."

In assessing his story, the Task Force declared that his timeline was regarded as "a partial cover story," and that, "in an effort to protect himself and others," he had "only divulged the names and actions of his three associates killed at Tora Bora." Unfortunately, the most prominent example of his supposed resistance to telling the truth was a statement made by Yasim Basardah (ISN 252, released), a Yemeni well known as the most notoriously unreliable informant in Guantánamo, who "stated detainee had extensive medical training, and believed detainee might in fact be a doctor." He added that al-Asiri had told him "he did not want anyone to know of [his] education or skills," but instead of disregarding Basardah’s statements, the Task Force noted, suspiciously, "detainee has never himself mentioned receiving any medical training" — which was, presumably, because he never had, and it was only something that Basardah had made up.

The only other witness against al-Asiri was Yasser Hamdi (ISN 9), a US citizen who was transferred to a military brig on the US mainland in April 2002 and released to Saudi Arabia, where he had been living since he was a child, in October 2004. Hamdi was subjected to torture during his detention as an "enemy combatant" on the US mainland, and his statements are therefore unreliable. Speaking of al-Asiri, he apparently "reported detainee stated, 'I was fighting against the US government and the Northern Alliance. I do jihad against the unbelievers,’" and it was also claimed that Hamdi added that al-Asiri was "openly hostile."

In further investigation of al-Asiri’s story, an analyst cast doubt on his claim that he left al-Farouq because of asthma, stating, "Leaving training early for medical reasons is a common cover story among many detainees. Detainee’s medical history indicates no known asthma conditions. This is a strong indication the story is false."

The rest of the information against al-Asiri in his fie consisted of claims that his name was found on various documents recovered from computers seized during house raids on alleged al-Qaida residences, and various theories about phone numbers found in his pocket litter, one of which seemed to indicate that Task Force investigators suspected that an al-Qaida sympathizer was working for the BBC. A London number, which "was discovered in numerous seized phone books and phones associated with extremist-linked individuals," was "associated with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)," and an analyst noted, "Numerous extremist links to this BBC number indicates a possible propaganda media network connection. Network analysis might provide leads to individuals with either sympathetic ties to extremists or possibly possessing information on ACM [anti-coalition militia] operations."

In conclusion, al-Asiri was "assessed to be of medium intelligence value," and of posing "a high risk, as he is likely to pose a threat to the US, its interests and allies." He was also "assessed as a high threat from a detention perspective," because his "overall behaviour ha[d] been non-compliant and hostile to the guard force and staff." Nevertheless, despite his supposed high risk status, and Rear Adm. Harris’s recommendation that he should continue to be held, he was released just seven months after this assessment, to be put through the Saudi government’s extensive rehabilitation program.

After his release, al-Asiri was processed through the Saudi government’s extensive rehabilitation program, but in February 2009 he was included as one of eleven former Guantánamo prisoners in a list of the Saudi government’s 85 most wanted militants, all of whom had allegedly left Saudi Arabia. In January 2010, Peter Taylor of the BBC reported that he and Murtadha Magram (ISN 187, see below) were "still at large in Yemen."

Rashid Balkhair (ISN 186, Saudi Arabia) Released February 2007

In "The Guantánamo Files: Website Extras (4) – Escape to Pakistan (The Saudis)," I explained how Rashid Balkhair (also identified as Rashed Balkhair, and Rashid/Rashed al-Ghamdi), who was 23 years old at the time of his capture, was accused in Guantánamo of traveling to Pakistan in September 2000 or early 2001 (there is no indication as to which date is correct) "with 1,000 Saudi Riyals and his ATM card with approximately 12,000 Saudi Riyals in the bank" (a total of around $3,500).

He "stated that he spent nine months around Karachi" and "four to six months around Peshawar," before traveling to Jalalabad (around September 15, 2001), "where he stayed for three months, including at a Taliban house for a short period," which would have been enough to brand him as being associated with the Taliban. He added that he fled Jalalabad "due to anti-Arab sentiment" and made his way to the Pakistani border, where he "went to the police," who duly handed him over to US forces. If released, Balkhair said that he "plan[ned] to apply for admission to King Khaled University in Saudi Arabia to study religion."

In the documents released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, the file relating to Balkhair (described as Rashid Awad Khalaf al-Bilkhayr al-Ghamidi) was a "Recommendation for Continued Detention Under DoD Control (CD)," dated June 28, 2006, in which it was noted that he was born in 1978, and was "in good health."

In telling his story, based largely on his own account, the Joint Task Force stated that, after graduating from high school, he attended King Khalid University in Riyadh, which "is government-funded so [he] did not have to pay for classes or housing," where "he studied Islamic Law for approximately one and a half years," but "did not complete his college education because the classes were too difficult." After leaving college, he "applied for a job with the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY), but was not hired," and then "applied to the Intemational Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO) where he was hired," and he "worked with the IIRO, in administration and distribution, for approximately eight months to a year before he decided to travel to Afghanistan to provide humanitarian aid."

His brief encounter with WAMY and his employment with the IIRO were completely innocent, of course, but not in Guantánamo, where they were both regarded as "Tier 1 Counterterrorism NGO target[s], defined as those that have demonstrated sustained and active support for terrorist organisations willing to attack US persons or interests."

While working at the IIRO, an unidentified man visited "and spoke about the need to help people in Pakistan, prompting detainee to travel there." He "was granted a month of leave from the IIRO but instead quit to continue humanitarian activities fuIl-time." In late 2000 or early, 2001, after obtaining visas, he set off for Karachi, Pakistan with approximately 13,000 Saudi Riyals (approximately $3,350) in cash. In Pakistan, he met up with two members of the vast missionary organization Jamaat al-Tablighi, and, for approximately nine months traveled with them throughout Pakistan. He was apparently in Peshawar on September 11, 2001, and, afterwards, decided to travel to Afghanistan to "check on the conditions of the Muslims there."

He traveled to Jalalabad via the Torkham border crossing in early October 2001, but "was detained and interrogated by Taliban border officials because they believed him to be a spy," as he was an Arab traveling alone in Afghanistan without assistance or sponsorship." When he was released, an Afghan escort was assigned to him, and he then spent some time — he said three months, but it was probably less — in Jalalabad "at the Islamic Center where he traveled out to the surrounding rural villages to provide humanitarian services."

Eventually, he said "he heard anti-Arab sentiments being expressed and that Arabs were being killed, so he decided to flee the country. While attempting to flee Afghanistan, [his] research records, passport and money were stolen by unknown Afghanis." He then met an Afghan guide, who took him across the border to a place near Peshawar, and "turned him in to Pakistani authorities." An analyst claimed that "[a]ctual events" — whatever that means — "place[d] detainee in a group of individuals" led by Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, "who crossed from the Nangarhar region of the AF-PK border on 14 December 2001."

As with others, above, it was noted that his group "felt safe in the hands of their Pakistani hosts who convinced them to surrender their weapons," and "then gathered the group in a mosque where Pakistani forces immediately arrested them." It was also claimed that, "[d]uring the transit to prison, one of the prisoners attacked a guard leading to a struggle in which six Pakistani guards were killed and some of the prisoners escaped," although, as I have noted repeatedly, this actually took place after the prisoners had been transferred to a Pakistani prison, and were being moved to another.

He was transferred to US custody at Kohat prison, and was moved to the US prison at Kandahar on December 31, 2001. He was sent to Guantánamo on January 17, 2002, and, in a rare example of there being no reason given whatsoever for his transfer, it was noted, "There are no documented reasons for transfer in Detainee’s file."

In assessing his story, the Task Force noted that, although he had "provided a consistent story regarding his intended purpose for being in Pakistan and Afghanistan, as well as for his claimed activities while there," which "differ[ed] only with regards to the length of time he spent in Afghanistan and when he initially entered the country," nevertheless his "cover story of humanitarian activities [was]  assessed as false," primarily, it seems, because "his identity appear[ed] on extrernist-related documents," although these documents — in which variants of his name and/or alleged alias or aliases were found — are not convincing at all in Balkhair’s case, especially as no one could be found who was repaired to make any kind of claim against him. Only Said al-Qathani (ISN 200, still held) "photo identified detainee as Rashed Iz Ghamdi," and "further stated that detainee was very nice and studied at the Shariya University." He apparently "did not have any further information."

In conclusion, he was described as being "of medium intelligence value," and of posing "a medium risk, as he may pose a threat to the US, its interests and allies." It was also noted that he was "assessed as a low threat from a detention perspective," whose "overall behavior ha[d] normally been compliant and non-hostile to the guard force and staff." — "except for his actions on 18 May 2006," when "he participated in a mass disturbance in Camp 4 and attempted to assault a guard," an incident that, according to a source I cannot name at present, was actually generated by the authorities and not the prisoners.

Despite Balkhair’s rather obvious insignificance, Rear Adm. Harris, updating a recommendation that he be retained in DoD control (dated September 10, 2004), nevertheless recommended him for continued detention under DoD control, but added, "If a satisfactory agreement can be reached that ensures continued detention and allows access to detainee and/or to exploited intelligence, [he] can be Transferred Out of DoD Control (TRO)." Nine months later, he was released, to be put through the Saudi government’s extensive rehabilitation program.

Murtadha Makram (ISN 187, Saudi Arabia) Released November 2007

In "The Guantánamo Files: Website Extras (4) – Escape to Pakistan (The Saudis)," I explained how Murtadha Makram (also identified as Murtadha Magram and Murtada Maqram), who was 25 years old when he was captured, was a particularly committed long-term hunger striker. Allegedly a Taliban recruit who spent 16 months in Afghanistan, he "was identified as having fought at Tora Bora," and was seized after crossing into Pakistan. In Guantánamo, he was force-fed at least once a week from October 2005 onwards, and daily from December 17, 2005 to January 27, 2006, when his weight, which had been 142 pounds when he arrived in Guantánamo, fell at one point to just 87 pounds. After resuming his hunger strike later in the year, he was then force-fed on a daily basis from November 16, 2006 until the records ended on December 10.

In March 2007, when detailed notes about the ongoing hunger strikes — compiled by imprisoned Al-Jazeera cameraman Sami al-Haj — were cleared by the Pentagon’s censors, al-Haj explained that Makram "has tried to kill himself many times. He last tried to do this on May 18, 2006. Now he is on a hunger strike to try to kill himself. He has been without food for three months and is being force-fed." Although no one in the administration admitted it, I wrote in November 2007 that it "was plausible that Makram was released … because of fears that his desire to kill himself was close to becoming another PR-damaging reality."

In the documents released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, the file relating to Makram (described as Murtada Ali Said Maqram) was a "Recommendation for Continued Detention Under DoD Control (CD)," dated February 4, 2007, in which it was noted that he was born in March 1976, and was "in good health."

In telling his story, based largely on his own account, the Joint Task Force stated that, after graduating from high school in 1996, he spent three years at the Malaki Manufacturing Institute, while also working as an electrician for a government-run firm in Riyadh, where he stayed until 2001, when he took another job as a technician for a power company.

He said that his "inspiration for going to Afghanistan was to train to fight in Chechnya as part of his religious duty," and that he was encouraged by a fatwa issued by a prominent sheikh. He also said that a neighbor convinced him to go to Afghanistan, and gave him the name of a contact in Yemen. In September 2000 (a date that is at odds with his alleged employment in Riyadh for part of 2001), he traveled to meet this contact in Yemen, and then traveled with him to Karachi, Pakistan, and then on to  Quetta and Kandahar, where "they stayed in a Taliban guesthouse and another unidentified guesthouse before parting ways."

Approximately three weeks later, and after two days in Kabul, "he spent seven months on a secondary line approximately thirty kilometers from the front line in Kabul," and then traveled to Bagram, where "he spent two months on the secondary line." After the Northern Alliance attacked, he "traveled to the front, but claimed the Taliban would not let him participate in actual combat," and when the Taliban began their retreat, during Ramadan, he "became part of a group of eighteen to twenty Arabs who attempted to retreat to Kabul and Jalalabad, AF, but both cities had already been taken over by the NA."

With the help of an Afghan guide, they traveled to the Tora Bora mountains, and from there, as with many of the men described above, it was claimed that he "fled Afghanistan with a group of al-Qaida and Taliban fighters" led by Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, who "crossed the Afghani-Pakistani border in the Nangarhar region around 14 December 2001."

As with others, above, it was noted that his group "felt safe in the hands of their Pakistani hosts who convinced them to surrender their weapons," and "then gathered the group in a mosque where Pakistani forces immediately arrested them." It was also claimed that, "[d]uring the transit to prison, one of the prisoners attacked a guard leading to a struggle in which six Pakistani guards were killed and some of the prisoners escaped," although, as I have noted repeatedly, this actually took place after the prisoners had been transferred to a Pakistani prison, and were being moved to another.

He was transferred to US custody at Kohat prison, and was moved to the US prison at Kandahar on December 31, 2001. He was sent to Guantánamo on February 9, 2002, on the spurious basis that it was to "provide information on the following: Arab fighting elements in Afghanistan, specifically in Jabal Saber, Jabal Bagram, Tora Bora, and surrounding areas [and] Taliban-operated safe houses in Kabul and Kandahar,as well as Quetta."

In assessing his story, the Task Force came up with a raft of suggestions regarding his supposed significance, but almost all were based on claims regarding his supposed aliases which were tenuous at best. Because he signed a letter to his family as Abu Shahad, for example, it was claimed that he was perhaps the man named Abu Shahid whom torture victim Sanad Yislam al-Kazimi (ISN 1453, still held) identified as running a guesthouse in 2001. It was also stated that another prisoner, Majid al-Qurashi (ISN 176, also identified al-Qurayshi and released in February 2007), "stated he fled Afghanistan en route to Pakistan with an individual named Abu Shahid."

Other clutching-at-straws claims were that his commander, at one point, a man named Abdullah Kaisi, was "possibly Abdullah D. Kafkas" (the name by which Rasul Kudayev, ISN 82, a Russian released in 2004), was known in Guantánamo, even though Kudayev, who spoke no Arabic, was only 17 at the time of his capture. This came about because anther Russian, Ravil Gumarov (ISN 203, also released in 2004) had "identified [Kudayev] as using the alias Abdullah Kaisi."

More reliable, probably, were claims made by Abdul Rahman al-Amri (ISN 199, who died in May 2007), who "recognised detainee as Abu al-Bara’a al-Hadrami, a Saudi who withdrew from Salanan (Salman) position in Bagram to Tora Bora," and Musa al-Umari (ISN 196, also identified as al-Amri, see below), who "claimed an individual by the name of Abu al-Bara’a al-Hadrami from Saudi Arabia fought with him in Tora Bora." Much was also made of the fact that Makram himself said that "he fled Afghanistan along with Abu Ubaydah al-Masri," described as "a well-known senior al-Qaida operative, the al-Qaida emir for the Konar region in Afghanistan," who was "known to have trained volunteers for al-Qaida operations," and was "a major proponent of the use of non-conventional weapons in support of terrorist objectives (e.g. chemical, biological,and radiological," according to an analyst, but it is unknown whether this is true or not, as the circumstances of Makram’s statement are unknown.

What was significant was that the authorities regarded it as significant that he "attempted to commit suicide while in US custody," but that "[t]his attempt [was] assessed to be a concerted effort by detainee to seek martyrdom in his continuing fight against the US and indicate[d] his willingness to die and of his potential threat if released," which was a rather callous, if not unprecedented analysis, and also a claim that the assessment of Makram’s threat level was "supported in [his] last will and testament," which, it was claimed, "was seized during the 24-25 July 2004 capture of senior al-Qaida operative and 1998 US Embassy bombings conspirator Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani (ISN 10012, transferred to the US in May 2009, and subsequently tried, convicted and sentenced in January 2011). It is not known whether this will was in Makram’s real name (although it seems unlikely), and no further investigation had taken place. As an analyst noted, "Ghailani’s association to detainee is limited and requires further investigation."

In this procession of innuendo, and of name variations on documents recovered from computers seized in houses associated with al-Qaida, the most significant assessment came not from the US authorities, but from the Saudi government. It was noted, "The Saudi Ministry of Interior General Directorate of Investigations (Mabahith) provided information on thirty-seven detainees whom they designated as high priority. Detainee was number twenty-five on that list. According to Mabahith, detainee left Saudi Arabia on 29 September 2000 with Bahrain as his final destination."

With this in mind, Makram was assessed as being "of medium intelligence value," and of being "a high risk, as he is likely to pose a threat to the US, its interests and allies." He was also "assessed to be a high threat from a detention perspective," because his "overall behavior ha[d] been non-compliant and hostile toward the guard force and staff." However, as was also revealed in more detail regarding hunger strikes and attempts to self-harm, which Sami al-Haj spoke about, he was clearly not well. It was noted that he had "a history of supporting Voluntary Total Fasts (VTF) and [was] currently on a VTF which began on 3 November 2006. On 18 May 2006, detainee attempted self harm by overdosing on hoarded medication. Detainee was in a coma in the Special Care Unit for several days following this self harm attempt."

As a result of his threat assessment, Rear Adm. Harris, updating a recommendation for his continued detention (dated November 10, 2005), repeated that recommendation, although Makram was released just nine months later. After his release, he was processed through the Saudi government’s extensive rehabilitation program, but in February 2009 he was included as one of eleven former Guantánamo prisoners in a list of the Saudi government’s 85 most wanted militants, all of whom had allegedly left Saudi Arabia. In January 2010, Peter Taylor of the BBC reported that he and Turki al-Asiri (ISN 185, see below) were "still at large in Yemen."

Musa Al Amri (ISN 196, Saudi Arabia) Released September 2007

In an article at the time of his release, I explained how Musa al-Amri (also identified as Musa al-Umari), who was 23 years old at the time of his capture, was seized on the Pakistani border, and was subjected to conflicting allegations in Guantánamo. Reportedly recruited after seeing fatwas issued by various sheikhs on bulletin boards around his hometown and in mosques, which called on Saudi citizens "to travel to Afghanistan and help the Taliban," it was suggested that, after arriving in Pakistan, a Saudi named Mohammed Abdul Razzaq facilitated his journey to Afghanistan and took him to a Taliban center near Kabul, which functioned as a reserve camp, providing training in small arms, medical care and guard duty.

Other contradictory accusations involved him arriving in Afghanistan in March 2001, when he was promptly issued with a Kalashnikov and assigned to a position near the front lines, fighting on the front line in Bagram, and, in another scenario, staying in a Taliban house a few minutes from the Pakistani border, where Mohammed Abdul Razzaq (this time appearing as an Afghan) directed him to a supply center, where he spent six weeks loading trucks.

In his defense, al-Amri stated that he had actually been visiting mosques and teaching the Koran with representatives of the vast missionary organization Jamaat al-Tablighi, and added that he told the Pakistani authorities that he fought with the Taliban because he was told that, "if he told the truth about performing missionary work with Jamaat al-Tablighi, the Saudi delegation would not help him." He also said that he "never participated in military actions or affiliations of any type with the Taliban," and that he 'knows no one who is or has claimed to be with Al-Qaida, nor has anyone ever asked him to join the Taliban or Al-Qaida."

In the documents released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, the file relating to al-Amri (also identified as al-Umari) was a "Recommendation for Continued Detention Under DoD Control (CD)," dated March 31, 2007, in which it was noted that he was born in July 1978, and was "in good health."

In telling his story, based largely on his own account, the Joint Task Force stated that he worked as a physical education teacher at an elementary school, and "learned about Afghanistan and the Taliban from Afghans in Taif, the media, and friends," he said that he read fatwas by a number of prominent sheikhs, and even spoke on the phone to one of the sheikhs, "who encouraged [him] to travel to Afghanistan and fight alongside the Taliban against the Northem Alliance." He then borrowed money from his family, "informed his mother of his plans, and obtained a passport," and set off for Karachi, Pakistan on April 12, 2001.

After traveling to Kabul, he "departed in a truck for the Omar Sayf Center," and, two weeks later, "was moved about five kilometers north to a supply center called the Said Center," where he spent his time "loading trucks and supplies." After a month and a half, he traveled to the front lines, "where he  was assigned to the Suhayl Center, located about two to three kilometers east of Bagram Airport." When Kabul fell, he fled to Jalalabad, where, he said, he stayed with an Afghan named Muhammad Khan."

According to the US authorities, however, he was "assessed to have traveled from Jalalabad to Tora Bora," and, like many of the men described above, to have "fled Tora Bora with a group of al-Qaida and Taliban fighters" led by Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, and to have "crossed the Afghanistan-Pakistan border in the Nangarhar region, AF, in mid-December 2001." In a footnote, it was revealed that it was al-Libi, a notorious victim of torture, who "described Tora Bora and the egress route" used in the reports, which, of course, provides an explanation for why they appear so unreliable, with so many variations on the numbers of men allegedly captured with him. The truth, it seems much more likely, is that prisoners were identified as having associations with one another after they were all held together in Pakistani prisons.

As with others, above, it was claimed that al-Amri’s group "felt safe in the hands of their Pakistani hosts who convinced them to surrender their weapons," and "then gathered the group in a mosque where Pakistani forces immediately arrested them." It was also claimed that, "[d]uring the transit to prison, one of the prisoners attacked a guard leading to a struggle in which six Pakistani guards were killed and some of the prisoners escaped," although, as I have noted repeatedly, this actually took place after the prisoners had been transferred to a Pakistani prison, and were being moved to another.

He was transferred to US custody at Kohat prison, and was moved to the US prison at Kandahar on December 31, 2001. He was sent to Guantánamo on February 13, 2002, on the spurious basis that it was to "provide information on the following: Activities of the Taliban [and] Propaganda and recruitment of people to fight in Afghanistan."

In assessing his story, the Task Force spun presumptions into a file that purported to show al-Amri as a threat, although it was noticeable that there were few actual allegations against him made by other prisoners, and that he seems, therefore, to have been nothing but the most basic kind of foot soldier for the Taliban against the Northern Alliance. The only prisoners who identified him at all were Mohammed Haidel (ISN 498, a Yemeni who is still held), who "identified detainee as Suleyman whom he met at the Bagram, AF, rear lines near an artillery section" (it is not known if al-Amri was actually known as Suleyman), Abdul Latif Nasir (ISN 244, a Moroccan who is still held), who "identified detainee as a fighter on the front lines near Bagram when [he] spent two days with detainee in Suhayl," Abdul Rahman al-Amri (ISN 199, who died in May 2007), described here as Abd al-Rahman al-Umari, who "reported detainee fought with him [on the same side] in Tora Bora," and Yasim Basardah (ISN 252, released), a Yemeni well known as the most notoriously unreliable informant in Guantánamo, who "reported seeing detainee in Tora Bora." Noteworthy, in respect of all this, is an analyst’s note that "Detainee [Musa al-Amri] has not admitted that he was in Tora Bora."

In an attempt to ramp up his significance, the Task Force noted, "The Saudi Ministry of Interior General Directorate of Investigations (Mabahith) designated detainee as a high-priority target. Detainee was placed on a watch list for suspected travel to Chechnya." This prompted an analyst to claim, "This indicates detainee has a history of participation in violent jihad due to the association of travel to Chechnya and placement on such lists based on participation in the Chechen Jihad. This, along with detainee’s occupation of combat positions, also indicates that detainee has received militant training prior to arriving in Afghanistan and possibly additional training in Afghanistan as well due to the requirement that recruits receive training or verify previous training prior to travel to the front lines."

Actually, this was self-serving nonsense, and shamefully hyperbolic, because al-Amri was only "suspected" of traveling to Chechnya, and clearly never had, as was also noted later, and much more significantly, when it was stated, "In July 2002, a delegation from Saudi Arabia visited JTF-GTMO and interviewed detainee. Detainee was identified by the Saudi representatives as of low intelligence and law enforcement value to the US, and unlikely to pose a terrorist threat to the US or its interests. Further,the Saudi delegation indicated the Government of Saudi Arabia would be willing to take custody of detainee for possible prosecution as soon as the US determined it no longer wanted to hold detainee."

Despite this, he was assessed as being "of medium intelligence value" (and his "intelligence value was raised from low to medium following further analysis of available information of his activities, association to al-Qaida, and training"), and of posing "a high risk, as he is likely to pose a threat to the US, its interests and allies." He was also "assessed to be a high threat from a detention perspective," whose "overall behaviour ha[d] been non-compliant and hostile toward the guard force and staff." As a result, Rear Adm. Harris, updating a previous recommendation for continued detention "with transfer language" (dated January 9, 2006), recommended him for continued detention, although he was released just six months later, to be put through the Saudi government’s extensive rehabilitation program.

Also see Part One and Part Two of this series.

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Digg and YouTube). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in June 2011, "The Complete Guantánamo Files," a 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, and details about the documentary film, "Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo" (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, and available on DVD here — or here for the US). Also see my definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all my articles, and please also consider joining the new "Close Guantánamo campaign," and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.



:: Article nr. 86591 sent on 17-mar-2012 20:01 ECT

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