Prisoner Cleared for Release Marks 10 Years of Captivity at Guantanamo

Shaker AamerToday is the tenth anniversary of Shaker Aamer’s arrival at Guantanamo Bay. Even though he was cleared for release in 2007, he still languishes in a cell there today.

Shaker is a British resident of Saudi descent. He was captured in Afghanistan in December 2001 and was one of the first detainees transferred to Guantanamo when it opened in 2002.

We have seen much of the intelligence on which the US originally based its decision to hold Shaker courtesy of the WikiLeaks website.

Shaker’s Detainee Assessment Brief (DAB) revealed that the bulk of the case against him had been assembled from the testimony of other detainees at Guantanamo.

Prisoners with something to gain from cooperating with their jailers don’t make the most credible of witnesses. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Can US Citizens Now be Detained Indefinitely?

prisoner in detention

© John Moore/Getty Images

There has been a great deal of confusion over whether the indefinite detention provisions in the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) apply to US citizens or not – the simple answer is that it is too early to tell.

The NDAA provisions greatly strengthen a framework for detaining suspected members of Al Qaeda or its affiliates that is derived from the law of armed conflict. Under the law of armed conflict belligerents can be detained until the conflict ends or until they no longer pose a threat.

The NDAA drafters draw a clear distinction between US citizens and non-US citizens which is itself problematic since equality before the law is one of the most fundamental principles of justice and a core human right.

The NDAA “requires” that non-US citizens be treated as enemy combatants rather than as criminal suspects unless the President issues a waiver in the interests of national security.


Jon Stewart Takes on Guantanamo and the NDAA

Yesterday on The Daily Show, Jon Stewart called out President Obama and Senators Graham (R-SC), Levin (D-MI) and McCain (R-AZ) on provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would keep Guantanamo open and further entrench indefinite detention as standard US government practice.

My favorite moment is the image of Senator Graham with a gangster’s tattooed tear. You’ll just have to watch:


Senate's Disastrous New Detention Bill

Update 12/2/11: The Senate passed NDAA.  President Obama must veto this disastrous bill.

The new National Defense Authorization Bill (S1867) presented to the Senate by the Armed Services Committee is such a disaster for civil liberties and human rights it is difficult to know where to begin.

Section 1031 of the Bill extends the Congressional Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) passed after the September 11th attacks to encompass any individual who has “substantially supported” Al Qaeda, the Taliban, or “associated forces”.

This is extraordinarily vague.  The phrase ‘associated forces’ is so flexible that it can be used to encompass almost any militant Islamic group in existence from Indonesia to Nigeria. It might include political parties who share some of the militants’ aims but not their methods – like the Hizb ut Tahrir movement active in Western Europe and Australia.


Internment in the US? Not on Our Watch


A few weeks ago the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) was condemned by Senator Reid as so draconian that he could not bring it to the floor. Now it’s back and with an authoritarian vengeance.

The bill has the necessary but perpetually complex objective of outlining the budget and expenditures of the Department of Defense.

This time around, a dubious, ill-informed, and unwise “agreement” has been reached between Senators Levin and McCain to include detention provisions that threaten to bring back internment for the first time since the McCarthy era at the height of the red scare.


Punishment Without Trial: Pre-trial Detention in Turkey

Ragip Zarakolu

Ragip Zarakolu

Years ago, Tom Lehrer sang “when correctly viewed, everything is lewd.”  In today’s Turkey, one might well sing “when correctly viewed, everyone’s a terrorist.”  How else do you explain the recent incarceration of Ragip Zarakolu, currently being held in a prison designed for hardened and dangerous criminals?

Zarakolu, 65-year-old and in ill health, is a book publisher and human rights activist who has been accused of terrorism– apparently because he gave a talk at a legal Kurdish political party’s Politics Academy.  Professor Büşra Ersanlı was also detained and records of their interrogation by prosecutors show that both Zarakolu and Ersanlı were asked about their participation with the Politics Academy.


One of Guantanamo's Forgotten Prisoners

Shaker Aamer protest in London

Shaker Aamer was cleared for release by the Bush administration in 2007. (Photo by Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images)

Shaker Aamer, a former UK resident of Saudi descent, has been held without charge at the US detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for nearly 10 years. He was cleared for release by the Bush administration in 2007 but is still inexplicably incarcerated more than four years later.

Shaker was detained by irregular Afghan forces in Jalalabad in December 2001, shortly after the beginning of Operation Enduring Freedom. By his own account he had been in Afghanistan working for a Saudi charity and no compelling evidence refuting this contention has been presented.


Dudley Do-Wrong

Protest Bush Canada

Activists protest former President Bush's visit to Canada

Last week former President George W. Bush visited British Columbia, Canada, to give a speech at the Surrey Regional Economic Summit. He was reportedly paid $150,000 for his appearance.

Setting aside the fact that the Bush administration had much the same effect on America’s economy that the iceberg had on the Titanic, there is another good reason why President Bush was a very poor choice of speaker.

As President of the United States, George Bush ordered the torture of detainees in US custody.


Stop the Ayotte Amendment and Support Fair Trials

Update: We did it — thanks to your calls, the Senate successfully defeated Senator Ayotte’s amendment to ban fair trials for terror suspects! But the fight isn’t over. Please continue to help fight against other legislation that would keep Guantanamo open.

Sentor Kelly Ayotte R-NH ©Alex Wong/Getty Images

A new and dangerous amendment has been put on the appropriations omnibus bill on the Senate floor today — and now’s the time to pick up the phone and urge your Senators to vote no. Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) has introduced an amendment to H.R. 2112 that would bar all federal trials for foreign terrorist suspects and goes further than any previous attempt to undermine the fight against terrorism.


Reid Stands Against Indefinite Detention in Senate Bill

Senator Harry Reid

Senator Harry Reid © Getty Images

Yesterday, we got some good news on human rights from Capitol Hill: Senate Majority leader Harry Reid threw down the gauntlet against indefinite detention provisions in this year’s National Defense Authorizations Act (NDAA). Reid declared he would not bring the new defense appropriations act to the floor unless provisions related to holding suspected terrorist detainees indefinitely were struck from the bill.

Amnesty members from all over the country have made a concerted impact by taking action in recent days, asking Senator Reid (D-NV) and Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) to strike down provisions on indefinite detention from the bill.

In response, Senator Reid has said that the issue should warrant its own hearings after calls from both the chairs of the Judiciary and Intelligence Committees. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST