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Veil of Secrecy Partially Lifted as US Discloses Names of Guantanamo Prisoners Cleared for Transfer

Flickr Photo by Jared Rodriguez / truthout

The United States government has disclosed the names of fifty-five of the eighty-six prisoners cleared for transfer from  Guantanamo Bay prison. All of the names made public were of prisoners President Barack Obama’s interagency  Guantanamo Bay Review Task Force approved for release from the prison. Previously, the US government had maintained the names of prisoners cleared could not be made public because it would get in the way of diplomatic efforts to repatriate or resettle prisoners in their home country or other countries.

In a US District Court of the District of Columbia court filing, the Justice Department declared:

In the over two years since the Task Force completed its status reviews, circumstances have changed such that the decisions by the Task Force approving detainees for transfer no longer warrant protection. The efforts of the United States to resettle Guantanamo detainees have largely been successful – they have resulted in 40 detainees being resettled in third countries because of treatment or other concerns in their countries of origin since 2009. In addition, 28 detainees have been repatriated to their countries of origin since 2009. Consequently, the diplomatic and national security harms identified in the Fried Declaration are no longer as acute. In Respondents’ view, there is no longer a need to withhold from the public the status of detainees who have been approved for transfer. [emphasis added]

Most of these people who are listed have been held in indefinite detention for around eleven years.

The additional transparency is certainly welcome. Zachary Katznelson, senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project, told Firedoglake that lawyers were not approved to talk publicly about these men because their names could not be disclosed. This prevented them from sharing their knowledge, which was beyond the knowledge of any diplomat who would speak on behalf of these men. It “hindered efforts to close Guantanamo.” Now, hopefully, the lawyers would be permitted to speak openly to help foreign governments make reasoned choices about whether to allow prisoners to resettle in their country.

On the other hand, there are at least eighty-six prisoners being held in Guantanamo right now who would dispute the claim that the United States’ efforts to resettle Guantanamo detainees have “largely been successful.” Their lawyers, along with civil liberties or human rights organizations, would likely dispute this suggestion as well. They are still imprisoned and have not been set free.

Katznelson explained, while there are men from Syria and Uighurs from China who may not be able to safely return, “There are men from Tunisia on this list who have been obviously cleared for a long time and initially when a clearance decision was made, they couldn’t safely go home.”

“But now there’s a new government there,” said Katznelson. “There’s a new democratic regime there and the US should be trusting this new democracy and validating it by returning these men home, where they can now safely rejoin their families.”

Vincent Warren, Executive Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights stated the release, “Finally dispels the myth that the remaining detainees who are trapped at  Guantánamo are too dangerous to be released.” But he added, “Most of the 55 men listed have endured 11 years of indefinite detention without charge or trial, despite the unanimous assessment of every responsible US national security agency that these men could be safely released or transferred.  The government’s justification for hiding the identities of these men was always unconvincing, and their names should have been made public three years ago when the  Guantanamo Review Task Force made its determinations.”

The secrecy contributed to the failure of President Barack Obama to resettle detainees and close Guantanamo. In a US diplomatic cable sent out in February 2009 and released by WikiLeaks, a representative from Spain’s government:

…highlighted the gap between public perceptions of the kinds of detaines at Guantanamo and the reality that many are very low risk. She felt that this was a message the US had to carry, and urged the administration to “plainly” explain to Americans (and thus Europeans) that while some detainees are very dangerous, many of them do not pose a serious threat. [The representative] also commented that whenever a European newspaper ran a story on Guantanamo, they ran the typical picture of a hunched-over detainee in an orange jumpsuit. [The representative] said that “we need better pictures” and urged us to turn the story around by showing low-risk detainees in a better light…

Making discussions with foreign governments public and sharing full details on the behind-the-scenes struggle to resettle Uighurs that was occurring as a result of China could have helped make closing  Guantanamo possible, but that did not happen because the Obama administration was afraid of Republicans. Eventually, all efforts to close  Guantanamo collapsed because people like David Axelrod and Rahm Emanuel did not want to expend political capital explaining to Americans why it was critical to close the prison and let prisoners go free.

There are people on this list, such as British prisoner Shaker Aamer, who have been cleared for release twice. He has participated in hunger strikes. He has been tortured. He has been held in isolation. Most recently, according to the human rights organization Reprieve, Aamer was placed in isolation—solitary confinement—on July 15, 2011. He was put in a cell that has no view outside, “just a one meter by 30 centimeters of opaque glass, and no real toilet, just a hole in the ground.”

Reprieve reported in February of this year that it was “not for doing anything wrong” but for “merely asserting the human rights of his fellow prisoners.” He also told Reprieve“There is meant to be a 30 day maximum on isolation as a punishment…So it’s not called isolation any more it’s called ‘separation.’” ?He was reading and re-reading 1984 by George Orwell and said, “You must read this book because you need to understand what is happening here in Guantánamo. Torture is for torture, the system is for the system,” and part of that reaction to the book came from the fact that he believes torture in  Guantanamo is worse today than before. “Here they destroy people mentally and physically without leaving marks.”

Another detainee, Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif, was cleared for release and might have appeared on this list if he had not died at Guantanamo. Latif was thirty-two years-old. He lived a third of his life in indefinite detention. He, like many of the other prisoners, had been held in indefinite detention for nearly a decade or more. He, like most of the others, was held without charge or trial in a hellish limbo

Simply put, if resettlement efforts were or had been successful, Guantanamo Bay prison would be closed by now. The US could have, at any point, begun the process of letting prisoners who pose absolutely no risk whatsoever resettle here in the US. But to do that would have forced the government and the American people to truly reflect and atone for the gross human rights abuses committed over the past years. That is why other countries of the world are being urged to take prisoners for us, and why some countries are incredulous when asked to take responsibility for people who have been victims of injustice perpetrated by the US government.


All Names, ISNs & CVs of the Prisoners Whose Names Were Released [PDF]

34 Al Khadr Abdallah Muhammad Al-Yafi 05-CV-2386
35 Idris Ahmad Abdu Qadir Idris 09-CV-0745
36 Ibrahim Othman Ibrahim Idris 05-CV-1555
38 Ridah Bin Saleh Al-Yazidi 07-CV-2337
152 Asim Thabit Abdullah Al-Khalaqi 05-CV-0999
153 Fayiz Ahmad Yahia Suleiman 10-CV-1411
163 Khalid Abd Elgabar Mohammed Othman 05-CV-2088
168 Adel Al-Hakeemy 05-CV-0429
170 Sharif Al-Sanani 05-CV-2386
174 Hisham Sliti 05-CV-0429
189 Falen Gherebi 04-CV-1164
197 Younous Chekkouri 05-CV-0329
200 Saad Al-Qahtani 05-CV-2384
224 Mahmoud Al-Shubati 07-CV-2338
238 Nabil Said Hadjarab 05-CV-1504
239 Shaker Aamer 04-CV-2215
249 Mohammed Abdullah Mohammed Ba Odah 06-CV-1668
254 Muhammed Ali Husayn Khunaina 05-CV-2223
255 Said Muhammad Salih Hatim 05-CV-1429
257 Omar Hamzayavich Abdulayev 05-CV-2386
259 Fadhel Hussein Saleh Hentif 06-CV-1766
275 Abdul Sabour 05-CV-1509
280 Khalid Ali 05-CV-1509
282 Sabir Osman 05-CV-1509
288 Motai Saib 05-CV-1353
290 Ahmed Bin Saleh Bel Bacha 05-CV-2349
309 Muieen Adeen Al-Sattar 08-CV-1236
326 Ahmed Adnan Ahjam 09-CV-0745
327 Ali Al Shaaban 05-CV-0892
329 Abdul Hadi Omar Mahmoud Faraj 05-CV-1490
502 Abdul Bin Mohammed Ourgy 05-CV-1497
511 Suleiman Awadh Bin Aqil Al-Nahdi 05-CV-0280
553 Abdulkhaliq Ahmed Al-Baidhani 04-CV-1194
554 Fahmi Salem Al-Assani 05-CV-0280
564 Jalal Bin Amer Awad 04-CV-1194
566 Mansour Mohamed Mutaya Ali 08-CV-1233
570 Sabry Mohammed 05-CV-2385
572 Saleh Mohammad Seleh Al-Thabbi 05-CV-2104
574 Hamood Abdullah Hamood 06-CV-1767
575 Saad Nasir Mukbl Al-Azani 08-CV-2019
680 Emad Abdallah Hassan 04-CV-1194
684 Mohammed Abdullah Taha Mattan 09-CV-0745
686 Abdel Ghaib Ahmad Hakim 05-CV-2199
689 Mohammed Ahmed Salam Al-Khateeb 09-CV-0745
690 Abdul Qader Ahmed Hussein 05-CV-2104
691 Mohammed Al-Zarnouqi 06-CV-1767
722 Jihad Dhiab 05-CV-1457
757 Ahmed Abdel Aziz 05-CV-0492
894 Mohammed Abdul Rahman 05-CV-0359
899 Shawali Khan 08-CV-1101
928 Khiali Gul 05-CV-0877
934 Abdul Ghani 09-CV-0904
1015 Hussain Salem Mohammad Almerfedi 05-CV-1645
1103 Mohammad Zahir 05-CV-2367
10001 Belkacem Bensayah 04-CV-1166

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Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."