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Posts tagged ‘Guantanamo Bay detention camp’

Obama to Congress: Let Us Try Gitmo Prisoners in US.


President Barack Obama on Thursday gave credit to Congress for relaxing restrictions on transferring detainees from the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to the custody of foreign governments but said lawmakers need to go further.

After signing the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2014, Obama noted that Congress retained regulations that prevent the transfer of prisoners to American soil, where they could be tried in federal court.

“The executive branch must have the authority to determine when and where to prosecute Guantanamo detainees,” Obama said in a signing statement released during his Hawaiian vacation.

Prosecuting alleged terrorists in U.S. federal court is “a legitimate, effective, and powerful tool in our efforts to protect the nation,” Obama said.

The United States also needs “flexibility, among other things, to act swiftly in conducting negotiations with foreign countries regarding the circumstances of detainee transfers,” Obama said.

The regulations could remain an obstacle to the administration’s years-long bid to close the Guantanamo Bay prison, where 158 detainees from various countries remain after years of detention without trial at the U.S. Naval Base in Cuba. The prison has been condemned internationally.

While lawmakers of both political parties refused to yield on the ban against bringing prisoners to the United States, they were willing to relax rules for sending prisoners to their home countries.

Among the earlier restrictions was that the administration had to certify that the country where an inmate was being sent was not “facing a threat that is likely to substantially affect its ability to exercise control over the individual.” This had all but ruled out politically chaotic Yemen, which is home to the largest group of Guantanamo detainees.

Transfers had also been banned to countries that Washington designated “state sponsors of terrorism,” which made it difficult to move Syrian inmates. And prisoners in the past also could not be sent back to any country where previously released Guantanamo detainees had returned to “terrorist activity.”

Such rules will be lifted or significantly relaxed under the new law.

Even before the legislation was enacted, the administration had become more active in making transfers, sending two detainees each to Sudan, Saudi Arabia and Algeria.

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.
Source: Newsmax.com

US Sends 2 High-Risk Gitmo Prisoners to Saudi Arabia.


Two Guantanamo Bay prisoners have been transferred to Saudi Arabia as part of a renewed effort to close the offshore U.S. prison.

U.S. officials say the two Saudis have been transferred to the custody of their own government after a security review. The men are 35-year-old Saad Muhammad Husayn Qahtani and 48-year-old Hamood Abdulla Hamood.

Neither man had been charged with a crime. U.S. records show both were suspected members of al-Qaida and were considered to be at high risk of rejoining the terror group if released. Dozens of prisoners have been transferred to Saudi Arabia and later released after going through a rehabilitation program.

The Pentagon said Monday the transfer brings the Guantanamo population to 160 prisoners. Two Algerians were released earlier this month and additional releases are expected.

© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Source: Newsmax.com

US General Who Opened Gitmo Prison: Shut it Down.


Image: US General Who Opened Gitmo Prison: Shut it Down

The U.S. general who opened the Guantanamo detention camp said Thursday it was a mistake and should be shut down because “it validates every negative perception of the United States.””In retrospect, the entire detention and interrogation strategy was wrong,” Marine Major Gen. Michael Lehnert wrote in a column published in the Detroit Free Press.

Lehnert, now retired from the military and living in Michigan, was the first commander of the task force that opened the detention camp in January 2002 at the Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base in Cuba.

He said the United States opened it “because we were legitimately angry and frightened” by the Sept. 11 hijacked plane attacks in 2001 and thought the captives sent there would provide “a treasure trove of information and intelligence.”

He quickly became convinced that most of them never should have been sent there because they had little intelligence value and there was insufficient evidence linking them to war crimes, he wrote.

“We squandered the goodwill of the world after we were attacked by our actions in Guantanamo, both in terms of detention and torture,” Lehnert wrote. “Our decision to keep Guantanamo open has helped our enemies because it validates every negative perception of the United States.”

Congress is debating an annual defense bill containing language that would give President Barack Obama more flexibility to repatriate or resettle Guantanamo detainees.

But the proposal maintains an “unwise and unnecessary ban” on transferring any to the United States, Lehnert said.

“Still, this is a step forward toward closing our nation’s most notorious prison – a prison that should never have been opened,” he wrote.

The first detainees arrived on Jan. 11, 2002, one week after Lehnert was ordered to build the first 100 cells. The crude chain-link cages known as Camp X-Ray were used for about three and a half months and replaced by a series of more permanent prisons.

The United States has since held 779 men at the facility and 162 remain. Lehnert noted that many had been cleared for transfer by U.S. defense and intelligence agencies but were “stuck by politics.”

He said a handful should be transferred to the United States for prosecution or incarceration. He acknowledged the risk that some released detainees could go on to plan attacks against the United States, but said the U.S. Constitution and the rule of law trump that risk.

“It is time that the American people and our politicians accepted a level of risk in the defense of our constitutional values, just as our service men and women have gone into harm’s way time after time to defend our Constitution,” Lehnert wrote. “If we make a mockery of our values, it calls us to question what we are really fighting for.”

He added, “It is time to close Guantanamo. Our departure from Afghanistan is a perfect point in history to close the facility.”

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

Source: Newsmax.com

US Repatriates Algerian Gitmo Prisoners Who Fear Going Home.


The United States has repatriated two Algerians held at the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for more than a decade, the Pentagon said on Thursday, in what the men’s attorneys described as an involuntary transfer that ignored their pleas to go elsewhere.

Djamel Ameziane and Bensayah Belkecem did not want to go back to Algeria because they fear being persecuted there, their attorneys said.

“Hopefully this won’t be a case of ‘out of the frying pan and into the fire,'” Zeke Johnson, director of Amnesty International USA’s Security & Human Rights Program, said in a statement.

The Center for Constitutional Rights, which represented Ameziane, said the repatriation to Algeria violated international law. Rob Kirsch, an attorney for Belkecem, described the transfer as involuntary.

“The U.S. has compounded one injustice against him with another. He deserved better from the United States,” CCR attorney Wells Dixon in a statement.

The transfers reduced Guantanamo’s prisoner population to 162 detainees, part of a slow-moving effort by President Barack

Obama’s government to close the detention facility.

Obama promised to shut it down during his 2008 presidential campaign, citing its damage to the U.S. reputation around the world. But he has been unable to do so in his nearly five years in office, in part because of resistance from Congress.

Prior to the latest transfers, the United States has repatriated 14 detainees to Algeria, seven under President Obama and seven under George W. Bush’s administration, a Pentagon spokesman said.

“We have received no credible or substantiated information to suggest that any of these former detainees have been targeted by extremists operating in Algeria,” Pentagon spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Todd Breasseale said.

Breasseale also said the United States had coordinated with Algeria’s government to ensure the transfers took place with “appropriate security and humane treatment assurances.”

The concerns extend beyond targeting by extremists.

Kirsch said the U.S. decision would keep Belkecem from seeing his family. Belkecem’s wife and daughters, who live in Bosnia, will not move to Algeria.

“His wife will not take their daughters to Algeria, out of concern for her daughters. The U.S. knew this would deprive (Belkecem) of his family,” Kirsch said.

The Guantanamo prison camp was established during Bush’s presidency to house foreign terrorism suspects after the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on the United States.

Some 15 detainees are waging a hunger strike and lawmakers have blasted the prison’s cost, about $2.7 million per prisoner per year, compared with $70,000 per inmate at maximum-security federal prisons. (Additional reporting by Jane Sutton in Miami; Editing by Bill Trott)

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.
Source: Newsmax.com

Gitmo Inmates Rejecting Repatriation in Algeria.


The Obama administration may be pushing to close the Guantanamo Bay prison, but that doesn’t mean all the prisoners want to go home.

Two Algerian prisoners being held at the Cuban naval base are fighting against being transferred out because they fear Islamist extremists will try to kill them when they discover the repatriated men don’t share their views on violence, a lawyer for one of them told The Wall Street Journal.
Robert Kirsch, who represents detainee Belkacem Bensayah, said sending him and the other Algerian detainee, Djamel Ameziane, back to the North African country is “the most callous, political abuse of these men,” and is being done so the Obama administration can show progress on closing the prison.
The International Committee of the Red Cross has visited both prisoners for their exit interviews this week, said Kirsch, and has asked the United States to reconsider sending them back to Algeria, a claim the Red Cross has not yet confirmed.
They would be returning to Algeria as Islamist violence is growing there and in other North African countries. According to government reports, North Africa now houses 15 al-Qaida affiliates, according to a recent Forbes report, and there have more than 1,000 attacks in Algeria, LIbya, Tunisia, and Morocco since 2010.
Cliff Sloan, the State Department’s special envoy on the Guantanamo closing, refused comment on specific cases, telling The Wall Street Journal that State is “moving ahead on the president’s commitment to close Guantanamo responsibly, and we are making progress.”
The Cuban prison, which former President George W. Bush opened in 2002, holds 164 prisoners, with 84 already cleared for release with restrictions. The government held a review last week for 21 more prisoners who are eligible to seek clearance, and nine others are either serving sentences or facing charges.
U.S. officials said they have already put off repatriation to some countries, including Tunisia, Syria, and Uzbekistan, along with Algeria, when detainees fear mistreatment upon going home.
Human rights activists say detainees’ fears must be taken seriously.
“When you hear people say they would rather spend the rest of their lives in Guantanamo than go to a particular place, you have to take that seriously,” said Andrea Prasow, a counterterrorism counsel with Human Rights Watch.
On Thursday, a senior Obama administration official, who was not named, said the United States does consider a detainee’s concerns, but 14 detainees have already been sent back to Algeria without incident.
Bensayah, 51, is one of six Algerians who were arrested in Bosnia for plotting to blow up U.S. and British embassies, and was turned over with the others to the United States in January 2002, shortly after Bush opened the prison. The other five have already been released, but a judge ruled Bensayah was an al-Qaida “facilitator” who planned to go to Afghanistan, but later backed away from the claims, ruling him eligible for release. Bensayah wants to return to Bosnia where his family lives, but the U.S. prefers returning prisoners to their own countries.
Amezian, 46, was caught trying to enter Pakistan from Afghanistan following the U.S. invasion that came after the Sept. 11, 2011 attacks. He has been fighting repatriation to Algeria since 2009 and wants to be resettled in Canada.
 
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© 2013 NewsmaxHealth. All rights reserved.
By Sandy Fitzgerald

NY Post: Guantanamo Inmates Pampered, Overweight.


Some terrorist suspects at Guantanamo Bay are currently waging a hunger strike over what they call cruel conditions at the U.S. military base, but in 2007 extraordinary measures were taken by the Obama administration to ensure the prisoners’ comfort.

At one point, the prisoners gained so much weight eating an Islamic-approved diet the camp ordered exercise machines to help them trim down, the New York Post reports. 

But as soon as the prisoners noticed the machines were made in America, and not a Muslim country, they refused to use them, an official at the camp then told the Post.

“So what did we do?” said the official, who requested anonymity. “We took all of that s–t out, gave it to the soldiers to use, and bought them equipment that was made in a Muslim part of the world.”

Even the prisoners currently on hunger strike were gaining weight, said the official, calling the detainees “some of the most pampered prisoners on the planet.”

They get up to four choices of halal meals, use of a new $750,000 soccer field and Islamic prayer beads and rugs. They also get Qurans and tiny hammocks to hang them in to keep them from touching the ground. Only the Muslim librarian can touch the Qurans, the official said.

At one point the prisoners persuaded officials not to raise the American flag where they could see it.

The Pentagon, which did not comment for the Post article, is considering a $150 million renovation of the facility to meet prisoner demands. Already, prisoners cost $800,000 a year to detain, the Post said.

“I know some in the military leadership who are trying to make things more comfortable [for the detainees], but it’s not really about making the detainees more comfortable,” the official told the Post. “It’s about placating the Beltway and making the P.R. war shift in our direction a little bit.”

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Greg Richter

DOJ List Details Plans for Gitmo Detainees.


The Justice Department has released a list detailing its plans for the 166 inmates who remain behind bars at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, showing who has been recommended for continuing detention, transfer or prosecution.

The document, released through a Freedom of Information Act request from The New York Times,  represents recommendations from a task force of national security agencies that President Barack Obama tasked in 2009, after he pledged to close the prison within a year.

The list shows about three dozen detainees deemed to be prosecutable and another four dozen who are considered impossible to prosecute and too dangerous to let out.

The task force said that some of the detainees who were severely abused while in U.S. custody can still face trial. For example, Abu Zubaydah, accused of facilitating terrorism, was subjected to waterboarding and other torture techniques by the CIA, reports The Times, but has still not yet been charged with a crime.

The list also includes Mohammed al-Qahtani, a Saudi who is believed to have been the intended 20th hijacker in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. He was charged in 2008 but the charges were dropped by military official Susan Crawford, after she concluded he was tortured by interrogators, reported the Washington Post.

Other partial lists of the detainees have been released since 2009, including a shorter list of those who had been approved for transfer that came out earlier this year.

Since 2010, Congress has banned bringing detainees into the United States for trial in civil courts, and a federal appeals court ruled that military commissions cannot charge detainees with conspiracy and material support for terrorism if they are not linked to a specific attack.

About 104 detainees at Guantanamo are participating in a hunger strike at the prison while they await word of their fate, and a military spokesman Monday said 44 are being force-fed through tubes.

The State Department Monday appointed Cliff Sloan as the new envoy for shutting down the prison.

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

By Sandy Fitzgerald

Obama Names Envoy to Close Guantanamo.


Image: Obama Names Envoy to Close Guantanamo

By Lisa Barron

President Barack Obama was set Monday to to appoint veteran Washington lawyer Cliff Sloan as the new envoy for closing down the military prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

Sloan, a partner at Skadden, Arps, Slate Meagher and Flom who has been an informal adviser to Secretary of State John Kerry for several years, has been chosen to reopen the State Department‘s Office of Guantanamo Closure, officials told the Associated Press.

The former publisher of the online magazine Slate, Sloan served as an associate White House counsel in the Clinton administration and an assistant solicitor general in President George H.W. Bush‘s Justice Department.

“I’ve known and respected Cliff Sloan for nearly ten years. His intellect and skill as a negotiator is respected across party lines, and he’s served presidents Republican and Democratic with equal skill. I appreciate his willingness to take on this challenge,” Kerry said in a statement.

“Cliff and I share the president’s conviction that Guantanamo’s continued operation isn’t in our security interests. In Iraq we’ve turned over prisoners, and we’ve transferred facilities to the Afghan government. Our fidelity to the rule of law likewise compels us also to end the long, uncertain detention of the detainees at Guantánamo,” Kerry added.

Obama pledged in a speech last month  to renew his stalled efforts to close the prison, which he originally vowed to do during his 2008 presidential campaign. He later gave up his attempts to close the facility in the face of obstacles imposed by Congress.

In his speech, the president lifted a ban on transferring Guantanamo detainees to Yemen and said he would name envoys at both the State Department and the Pentagon to try to overcome Congressional opposition to closing Gitmo. The Pentagon position has not yet been filled.

The administration is pushing to transfer 86 of the approved detainees, 56 of whom are from Yemen, to their home countries.

But news of Sloan’s appointment comes after the House on Friday passed a $638 billion defense bill that would block Obama from closing the detention facility.

Officials told the AP that Sloan, whose experience also includes clerking for conservative prosecutor Kenneth Starr and liberal Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, would focus mainly on overcoming the deep partisan divide between the White House and Congress over shutting down Guantanamo.

“It will not be easy, but if anyone can effectively navigate the space between agencies and branches of government, it’s Cliff,” said Kerry.

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Holder Denies Drone Strikes Are to Avoid Adding to Gitmo.


Attorney General Eric Holder denied Thursday that the Obama administration is killing suspected terrorists with drone strikes to avoid capturing them and sending them to the Guantanamo prison it wants to close.

Appearing before a Senate panel, Holder also generally declined comment about a long-running National Security Agency program to collect phone record of millions of U.S. customers of Verizon as part of an anti-terrorist effort, and affirmed he will not prosecute journalists for doing their jobs.

Beset by controversy, Holder turned aside talk that he might resign. He drew a quick vote of confidence from Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, who said she hoped other lawmakers wouldn’t use his appearance as a chance to berate him.

On drone strikes, Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine told Holder she had seen no “preference for a capture” of suspected terrorists overseas since President Barack Obama took office. She asked if that was because the administration wants to avoid adding to the population at the prison constructed more than a decade ago on a U.S. military base on Cuba.

“It is not a function of not trying to take people to Guantanamo,” Holder replied. He mentioned two suspected terrorists who have been captured since Obama took office, and said, “the desire to capture is something that we take seriously because we gain intelligence.”

The president took office seeking to close the Guantanamo facility, and generally wants to try suspected terrorists in civilian courts. Congress initially prevented him from shuttering the prison, but Obama has recently announced he intends to renew his attempt.

Holder told lawmakers he was willing to discuss the NSA program in a classified hearing, but was limited in what he could say in public.

Republican Sen. Mark Kirk if Illinois asked for assurances that there had been no monitoring of members of Congress or the Supreme Court as part of the program.

Holder said there was “no intention to do anything of that nature, that is to spy on members of Congress or spy on the members of the Supreme Court.” Congress and the courts are parts of independent branches of government under the U.S. Constitution.

The attorney general is under orders from President Barack Obama to review department guidelines on investigations involving leaks, and Holder said the goal of such probes is to prosecute government officials who jeopardize national security by violating their oaths.

“The department has not prosecuted, and as long as I’m attorney general, will not prosecute any reporter for doing his or her job,” he said.

Holder’s remarks were directed at the recent disclosures that the government had secretly obtained logs of some Associated Press phone calls and had obtained a search warrant to gather emails of Fox News journalist James Rosen.

© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Source: NEWSmax.com

UN Rights Chief: Anti-Terror Measures Can Backfire.


GENEVA — United Nations human rights chief Navi Pillay told governments on Monday that trying to fight terrorism by limiting personal freedoms and mistreating suspects could only worsen the problem.

She spoke as Britain and France were considering tightening anti-terror laws and surveillance after the killings of two soldiers in London and Paris, and as President Barack Obama renewed his efforts to close the Guantanamo prison camp in Cuba.

Pillay, speaking at the opening of the spring session of the U.N.’s Human Rights Council, said she had received allegations of “very grave violations of human rights that have taken place in the context of counter-terrorist and counter-insurgency operations.”

“Such practices are self-defeating. Measures that violate human rights do not uproot terrorism, they nurture it,” she said.

Pillay made no direct reference to the killing of an off-duty British soldier in London last Wednesday by two men saying they were acting in the name of Islam and the stabbing of a soldier in the French capital.

Many politicians in both countries have called for toughening of anti-terror measures in the wake of both incidents and media reports have suggested such moves, including some that could affect free speech, might be in the works.

Pillay also said the U.S. failure to close down the Guantanamo detention center was “an example of the struggle against terrorism failing to uphold human rights, among them the right to a fair trial.”

A total of 166 people from 23 countries, many held for more than a decade without charge, remain the prison set up after the September 11, 2001, attacks in the United States.

“The continuing detention of many of these individuals amounts to arbitrary detention, in breach of international law, and the injustice embodied in this detention center has become an ideal recruitment tool for terrorists,” Pillay said.

She noted Obama’s statement last Thursday outlining how he planned to close the center down, a move opposed by many in Congress, but said the transfer of detainees from Guantanamo must conform to international human rights law.

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.
Source: NEWSmax.com

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