The LWOT

The LWOT: Gitmo Detainee Freed, CIA “Finds” Interrogation Tape

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Guantánamo detainee held since 2002 ordered free

In a heavily redacted ruling made public Aug. 16, but originally released July 21, federal judge Henry H. Kennedy, Jr. ordered the U.S. government to free Yemeni Guantánamo Bay detainee Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif on the grounds that the government had not sufficiently proved that he had trained with al Qaeda in Afghanistan or stayed at an al Qaeda guest house, as alleged by the prosecution (CNN). Latif had previously claimed he was in Pakistan and Afghanistan seeking medical attention, and spent much of his time at Gitmo in the psychiatric ward (Miami Herald). The Pentagon itself recommended Latif be freed in 2004, a decision supported by the Bush administration in 2007, but never carried out. The government is still deciding whether or not to appeal Kennedy’s ruling.

In other Guantánamo news, the lawyer for Canadian detainee Omar Khadr, Col. Jon Jackson, has been hospitalized at Walter Reed Army Medical Center after collapsing in court last week, which temporarily suspended Khadr’s military commission trial for war crimes (Miami Herald). Some continue to raise questions about the viability of the case, as well as the decision from the court’s presiding judge, Col. Patrick Parrish, to allow evidence from statements Khadr allegedly made under duress (Dawn).

Once lost, now found

The Associated Press reported the existence this week of two videotapes and an audiotape of the 2002 questioning of confessed 9/11 plotter Ramzi Binalshibh in a secret prison in Morocco (AP, CNN, BBC). The tapes constitute the only known recordings of interrogations conducted within the CIA’s network of secret prisons, and the agency twice denied their existence to grand juries before the tapes were discovered, reportedly in 2007 in a box under a desk at the CIA.

The tapes’ existence was made known to federal judge Leonie M. Brinkema in a 2007 letter (AP). Although the recordings reportedly do not show any of the "enhanced interrogation techniques" to which Binalshibh was later subjected at a separate secret prison, their existence raises questions about possible withholding of evidence on so-called high-value detainees like Binalshibh (Washington Post). The Obama administration has yet to set a date or location for Binalshibh’s trial, or that of any of the other 9/11 plotters currently in custody.

Moussaoui’s last day in court?

Zacharias Moussaoui, once thought to be the 20th 9/11 hijacker, has missed the deadline to file an appeal with the Supreme Court of his 2005 of his conviction on charges of involvement in the attack and has dismissed his entire seven-member legal team. (SCOTUS blog).

Moussaoui, who was arrested in August 2001, had tried to appeal his conviction based on evidence from the interrogations of three 9/11 plotters who allegedly told investigators that Moussaoui was chosen to participate in a later terrorist plot, but not the 9/11 attacks. In 2005, the Supreme Court refused to allow Moussaoui to question the plotters in court, a ruling that in part led Moussaoui to plead guilty (CNN). Moussaoui’s last possible legal option is to file a habeas petition questioning his imprisonment. He has until July 31, 2011, to do so.

Trials and Tribulations

  • Jury selection began Aug. 17 in the trial of four men arrested last year and accused of plotting to attack several Bronx synagogues and an Air National Guard base in New York (CSM). The case will likely revolve around the role a government informant played in the plot, which the defense argues rose to the level of entrapment.
  • NPR reports that Samir Khan, a pro-jihadi blogger and suspected author of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s first English-language magazine, Inspire, may be brought up on terrorism-related charges (NPR). A grand jury is currently debating the evidence against Khan, who is believed to be living in Yemen.
  • In separate letters responding to Freedom of Information Act requests by Wired magazine’s "Threat Level" blog, both the Pentagon and Justice Department denied that military surveillance planes were involved in the tracking and arrest of failed Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad, as was reported by several sources at the time (Wired, Wired).
  • The FBI is reportedly granting far more top-secret security clearances than ever before to local and state law enforcement officials involved in terrorism investigations (USA Today).
  • Ugandan authorities have charged 32 people with involvement in the July 11 bombing in the capital, Kampala, which killed 76 people and has been attributed to the Somali militant group al-Shabab (AFP).

Andrew Lebovich is a visiting fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations and a doctoral candidate in African history at Columbia University. He is currently based in Senegal and has conducted field research in Niger and Mali.

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