Miami Herald reporter Carol Rosenberg had filed her request under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) about the Camp 7 costs back in 2009. Among that camp’s 16 “high value” detainees are Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other accused Sept. 11 conspirators. The department replied over a year later that it found just a single page related to the costs of Camp 7, but it withheld that document in its entirety as classified. It then waited over three years to shoot down Rosenberg’s appeal, causing her to then file suit in October 2013. Rosenberg, widely considered the journalistic authority at the detention center in Cuba, noted in the complaint that even President Barack Obama has slammed the expense and inefficiency of operating Guantanamo for fewer than 200 detainees. A report from the comptroller of the Defense Department made public this past July tallied the cost of such operations at $454.1 million That “whopping $2.7 million” per prisoner, however, does not include costs for Camp 7, Rosenberg reported .
Benjamin: We have been in touch with the families in Yemen, in fact we went and visited with some of them in June of last year and heard the agonizing stories of these families and the way that they would get their hopes up when their lawyers would give them news of things like they have been put on a list of cleared for release. But then their hopes have constantly been dashed. And just like we talked about Shaker Aamer having a child that he has never met, so we met with a 12-year old girl who had never seen her father. She has been born while her father was in prison and she said that her father at that time was on a hunger strike and that he was so weak when he had a chance through the Red Cross to have a video conference with him, he could not even pick up his head.
Thirty-one of the nation’s most respected retired generals and admirals today sent a letter to President Obama urging him to make good on his executive order to close the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. They also asked that he set the record straight on torture, a policy he also banned by executive order. Members of the coalition who signed today’s letter stood behind the president on January 22, 2009 – his second day in office – when the orders were signed. Today’s letter comes as Congress and the Obama Administration have made progress toward putting Guantanamo on the path to closure. Progress toward closing Guantanamo continued this month as the Periodic Review Board (PRB), established by executive order in March 2011, concluded its first case. With regard to torture, the retired military leaders urged President Obama to direct his administration, particularly the CIA, to fully cooperate with the Senate intelligence committee to declassify and publicly release the 6000-plus page study that details the post-9/11 CIA rendition, detention, and interrogation program.
I have a long trip ahead of me this weekend. It begins with the Shore Line East commuter train in Old Saybrook, Conn. I will transfer to the Metro-North in New Haven. From Grand Central Station in New York, my roller bag and I will walk across town to the Bolt Bus stop at 12th Avenue and 33rd Street. I’ll hop a bus to Baltimore and spend the night with my mom. Then take the MARC train — the Baltimore to Washington, D.C. commuter train — to our nation’s capital, where I’ll join friends who have been fasting and demonstrating since Monday for the closure of Guantánamo and the end of torture and indefinite detention. I will be late. I will not be fasting. I have a pretty good excuse on both fronts: I am almost eight months pregnant.
Several dozen protestors braved pouring rain to mark the twelfth anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo Prison. In front of the White House, they called on President Obama to use his executive powers to close the prison now. They then marched to the National Museum of American History and filled the second floor lobby, some of them dressed in orange jumpsuits and black hoods. “Stop torture now! Close GITMO now!” they chanted. They also sang, “We gonna build a nation that don’t torture no more, but it’s gonna take courage, that change to come.” Many museum visitors watched approvingly, while a few booed. A line-up of people dressed in orange jumpsuits and black hoods represented Guantánamo prisoners. They called it a “new exhibit” for the museum.
Vowing to “Make Guantanamo History,” human rights advocates from around the country marked the beginning of the thirteenth year of torture and indefinite detention at the prison camp with a dramatic protest at the National Museum of American History. 150 activists occupied the atrium of the crowded museum for more than two hours, speaking out against torture and calling for Guantanamo to close. The activists hung banners, stood in stress positions in hoods and jumpsuits, spoke to the tourists, and with their bodies and voices revised the museum’s “Price of Freedom” exhibit to include twelve years of torture and indefinite detention as the bitter cost of the United States’ misguided pursuit of “national security.”
Nine prisoners held at Guantánamo Bay were released in December 2013, out of a total of 11 prisoners released over the past year. All were held without charge or trial and had long been cleared for release. This was not the only good news as the prison camp enters its twelfth year with 155 prisoners remaining; on 26 December, President Obama signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) 2014. Section 1035 of this law makes it easier for the US Secretary of Defense to transfer prisoners to other countries, but not to the US mainland.
A case challenging the forced feeding of Guantanamo Bay prisoners is on appeal in the DC Circuit, but prisoners’ attorneys have been frustrated by the United States government’s refusal to disclose new protocols for forced feeding, which are relevant to the lawsuit. Attorneys for Shaker Aamer, the last remaining British prisoner who has frequently led hunger strikes, and others consider the exact protocols essential to determining whether it is in fact true the Joint Task Force Guantanamo (JTF-GTMO) is “using protocols established by the Bureau of Prisons and used throughout the Federal Prison System.” “If the new protocols on restraints provide for routine or long-term use of restraint chairs, then the answer to that question is no,” the attorneys argue, in a recent court filing.
Yesterday a billboard went up in North Carolina. Not your typical commercial billboard. The placement and the content were unique. The billboard with graphic artwork depicting two kneeling black hooded prisoners practically screams “Close Guantanamo!” at passing motorists. The 28 ft long 12 ft. high behemoth is placed 4 miles east of I-95 on Hwy 70 in Johnston County, NC. The Johnston Co. Airport is home to Aero Contractors, notorious CIA torture taxis that delivered “suspects” to Guantanamo and other black sites. The billboard is the inspiration of graphic designer Ellen Davidson and her partner Tarak Kauff, an ex-paratrooper and national board member of Veterans For Peace, who, along with artist Paul Keskey from New Paltz, NY, designed and are promoting the billboards.
January 11, 2014 marks the twelfth anniversary of the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, the eighth anniversary of Witness Against Torture’s January 11 presence in D.C., and our sixth liquids fast. For the next 8 days, we are fasting in Washington, DC for the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. We wish to frame this act thusly: This is not about us. This is NOT about the United States cutting itself out of the patchwork of the family quilt of humanity. This is about 155 men who have been stuck in prison cells in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba for up to 12 years, who continue to count the days, weeks, months and years they must wait to go home. Who are these men? Where did they come from? How and why were they captured so many years ago to be held prisoners in Cuba by the U.S. military? And when will they regain their freedom? Through our actions this week– fasting and vigiling– we reach out to them to connect. We will connect you too through a daily update, which will include a report of what we did here in DC, reflections from fasters, and links to news articles.
The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and co-counsel filed an opposition brief in Wilner v. NSA, a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit on behalf of 24 attorneys who represent detainees at Guantánamo – including CCR staff attorneys Gitanjali Gutierrez and Wells Dixon, as well as law professors and partners at prominent international law firms. These attorneys believe they may have been targeted by the government’s warrantless wiretapping program that began shortly after September 11, 2001 because of their representation of Guantánamo prisoners labeled “enemy combatants” by the government. They seek access to records showing whether the government has intercepted communications relating to their representation of these clients. “The existence of the spying program inhibits our ability to do our work,” said CCR attorney Gitanjali Gutierrez, a plaintiff in the case. “We sometimes have to warn clients and potential witnesses that their communications with us may be monitored by the government. The NSA program prevents us from assuring them of confidentiality, making clients and witnesses less likely to want to participate in any cases against the government.”
Despite restrictions banning detainees from being tried on U.S soil, the new policy will allow 160 detainees to be released in various repatriation processes in some countries, but not all. At a White House press conference Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin explained which detainees are to be sent home. “About half of the detainees would be detainees that could be transferred to their third-world countries from which they come,” Levin told reporters. “About half of the detainees would remain in Guantanamo because of the prohibition on transferring them to the United States for detention and for trial.”
They were held for 12 years without charges, subject to torturous interrogation methods, and ordered to be released by a U.S. federal judge in 2008. Yet, it was not until the final days of 2013 that the last three of 22 ethnic Uighurs from China were freed from the U.S. military’s notorious offshore prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. The Department of Defense announced Tuesday that the three men — Yusef Abbas,Hajiakbar Abdulghuper and Saidullah Khalik — have been “resettled” to Slovakia, making them “the last ethnic Uighur Chinese nationals to be transferred from the Guantánamo Bay detention facility.” “These men have became a symbol of the tragedy of Guantánamo,” said Wells Dixon, senior attorney for the Center for Constitutional Rights, in an interview with Common Dreams.
Detained without charge since November 2001, Saudi-born Aamer, 45, is the last British citizen to be held at Guantanamo. He is described by his lawyers at Reprieve, a London-based legal action charity, as a “natural leader who is known for his concern for others.” He has spent most of his time in solitary confinement, despite being cleared for release by both President Obama and President Bush and despite U.S. authorities now accepting that there is no case against him. According to documents published in the Guantanamo Bay files leak, the U.S. military Joint Task Force on Guantanamo believed in November 2007 that Aamer had led a unit of fighters in Afghanistan, where he was captured in 2001. However, he has never been charged with any wrongdoing or gone to trial.
Witness Against Torture is planning a series of actions in January to continue to pressure the Obama administration to close the Guantanamo Bay prison. “The military says it will no longer report the number of prisoners on hunger strike, according to a report in the Miami Herald. A spokesman for the facility said the military “will not further their protests by reporting the numbers to the public.” Eighty-six of the remaining prisoners — more than half — were designated three years ago for transfer to another country, provided that security concerns could be satisfied. Yet the transfer plan was left adrift in the face of political combat. Even if the new defense bill spurs progress in reducing the detainee population, the delivery of credible justice for those at the Guantánamo prison camp is far from complete.” (from NYTimes Editorial – Dec. 28, 2013)