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Trump Signs Order Keeping Gitmo Open Indefinitely

Donald Trump signed an executive order yesterday keeping Guantanamo Bay open indefinitely.

You can read the Order here.

While Obama wasn't able to close Gitmo due to Congressional obstruction, there are only 41 detainees remaining there -- he was successful at transferring many to other countries.

One thing Trump does know how to do is waste money. The cost of Guantanamo is extravagant by any yardstick.

Guantánamo costs U.S. taxpayers more than $400 million per year to operate. The government spent $ ½ billion to renovate Guantánamo for the 780, now 41, detainees held there. Also, keeping detainees at Guantánamo instead of high security federal prison costs more than $10 million more per detainee.

By 2015, the U.S. spent $5 billion on Gitmo.

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Down to the Wire for Two Gitmo Detainees

Ten more Guantanamo detainees have been transferred. They were accepted by Oman. (I don't think they are Oman citizens, as the Oman Government's press release refers to them being accepted for temporary residence on a humanitarian basis. ".... considering their humanitarian conditions, 10 people who have been pardoned arrived to the Sultanat".

[Added: Their identities have now been released. 8 are from Yemen and 2 from Afghanistan. Two were victims if mistaken identity.]

They were among the final 19 cleared for release. That means 9 detainees remain who are cleared for release. Of them, 3 are expected to leave this week, one each to the UAE, Saudi Arabia and possibly Italy. If all 9 are transferred, that would leave 36. Of these, 7 are set for military tribunals, 3 have been convicted, and 26 are determined to be too dangerous for release and subject to indefinite detention.

But there are two that have been cleared for release who weren't included on Obama's last notice to Congress. Their fate is up in the air.

Why? Probably an unfortunate bureaucratic lapse. Their lawyers filed habeas actions this past week in the District of Columbia. [More...]

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Guantanamo Turns 15 Today

Guantanamo turns 15 today. Democratic legislators have sent a letter to Obama urging him to shut it down so Trump can't further abuse it. The letter is here.

A letter sent to the White House on Wednesday by the Congressional Progressive Caucus, and obtained by the Guardian, warns of “torture’s resurgence” under the Trump administration unless Obama fulfills his thwarted “laudable” pledge to close Guantánamo.


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Gitmo Detainee to Receive Rectal Surgery as Result of Torture

Via Carol Rosenberg at the Miami Herald, who has been covering Guantanamo Bay from the beginning: Mustafa al Hawsawi, 48, was captured in Pakistan in 2003 with alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

He is alleged to have helped the hijackers with money, Western clothing, traveler’s checks and credit cards.

He was held by the CIA until transferred to Guantanamo in 2006. He is still there, awaiting trial with the other 9/11 detainees. He will undergo rectal surgery this week. The Pentagon has confirmed the surgery but doesn't want to talk about why he needs it. His lawyer, Walter Ruiz, a Naval Reserve officer, is talking,

[al Hawsawi] has sat gingerly on a pillow at the war court since his first appearance in 2008. But the reason was not publicly known until release of a portion of the so-called Senate Torture Report on the CIA program in December 2014, which described agents using quasi medical techniques called “rectal rehydration” and “rectal re-feeding.”

“Mr. Hawsawi was tortured in the black sites. He was sodomized,” Ruiz told reporters Monday evening, advising them to “shy away from terms like rectal penetration or rectal rehydration because the reality is it was sodomy,” he said. Since then, he said, he has had “to manually reinsert parts of his anal cavity” to defecate.

“When he has a bowel movement, he has to reinsert parts of his anus back into his anal cavity,” Ruiz said, which “causes him to bleed, causes him excruciating pain.”

Simply disgusting.[More...]

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Senate Military Bill Passes: Prohibits Gitmo Transfers

The Senate passed the annual NDAA today. (National Defense Authorization Act.) It prohibits the transfer Guantanamo detainees to the U.S. The vote in the Senate was 91 to 3. Obama is expected to sign the bill, notwithstanding his objection to the Gitmo provision.

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Canada Orders Omar Khadr Released on Bail

Canada has ordered Omar Khadr released on bail. He will leave prison for the first time in 13 years, and reside with his lawyer.

Omar Khadr was 15 in 2002 when he was captured in Afghanistan and sent to Guantanamo. After 10 years at Gitmo and a lot of torture (including being used as a "human mop" to wipe up urine) he entered a plea deal which allowed him to be transferred to Canada. The agreement contained no requirement that Canada continue to keep him imprisoned.

There are no legitimate grounds I can think of to deny Omar release. No one has alleged he presents a risk of violence. He was a model prisoner. The U.S. took 10 very prime years of his life and Canada stuck him with a few more years. [More...]

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Five Yemeni Detainees Leave Guantanamo

Five Yemeni detainees have left Guantanamo. Four were sent to Oman and one was sent to Estonia.

122 detainees remain.

Senior U.S. officials say they hope to accelerate transfers in 2015 of the dozens of prisoners already cleared for release from Guantanamo and to complete reviews that could clear others to be moved. Obama is taking a more active role in the renewed effort to close the facility, pressing foreign heads of state to accept detainees and making a fiscal case for shutting the prison, which costs $400 million to $500 million a year to operate.

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NY Times Calls for Prosecution of Torture Higher-Ups

The New York Times has joined the call for a criminal investigation and prosecution of those responsible for the Bush Administration's torture policy.

[A]ny credible investigation should include former Vice President Dick Cheney; Mr. Cheney’s chief of staff, David Addington; the former C.I.A. director George Tenet; and John Yoo and Jay Bybee, the Office of Legal Counsel lawyers who drafted what became known as the torture memos. There are many more names that could be considered, including Jose Rodriguez Jr., the C.I.A. official who ordered the destruction of the videotapes; the psychologists who devised the torture regimen; and the C.I.A. employees who carried out that regimen.

The ACLU and Human Rights Watch have sent a letter to Eric Holder asking him to appoint a special prosecutor. [More...]

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4 Afghan Guantanamo Detainees Return Home

Four more detainees have left Guantanamo. They are Mohammed Zahir, Shawali Khan, Abdul Ghani and Khi Ali Gul. All are from Afghanistan and were returned to Afghanistan.

There is no requirement that the Afghan government further detain the men.

There are 132 detainees left at Gitmo, including 64 who are eligible for transfer. 8 are Afghanis, and Afghanistan's High Peace Council has requested their repatriation as well.

Obama issued a statement yesterday criticizing Congress for blocking the transfer of detainees. He said closing Gitmo is a "national imperative":

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Wikileaks Releases CIA Report on High Value Detainees and Targeted Killings

Wikileaks has released a secret 2009 CIA report evaluating the High Value Detainee kill or capture program. The full report is here.

In its key findings, the report warns of the negative consequences of assassinating so-called High Level Targets (HLT), a prediction that has been proven right. “The potential negative effect of HLT operations include increasing the level of insurgent support […], strengthening an armed group's bonds with the population, radicalizing an insurgent group's remaining leaders, creating a vacuum into which more radical groups can enter, and escalating or de-escalating a conflict in ways that favor the insurgents.”

There's even a "best practices" section on targeted killings.

Al-Akhbar analyzes the report. and notes that it finds that the least successful HVT operations are those involving countries that the US and Israel have occupied or are currently at war with.

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Pope Francis Offers Help for Closing Guantanamo

Pope Francis's Secretary of State met with John Kerry today. He relayed the Pope's offer to use his international contacts to find alternative placement for Guantanamo detainees.

The pope made clear his feelings on the kind of abuses associated with Guantanamo in October, when he railed against the "penal populism" that led to countries facilitating torture, using the death penalty and incarcerating people without trial.

"These abuses will only stop if the international community firmly commits to recognising... the principle of placing human dignity above all else," he said.

Pope Francis is also a harsh critic of life sentences, which he says are a "hidden death penalty," and solitary confinement, calling it "physical and psychological torture". [More...]

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Life After Guantanamo in Uruguay

The Miami Herald has 26 great photos of several of the six recently released Guantanamo detainees in Uruguay. The AP has this article on their new lives.

These men were held for 12 years and cleared for release in 2009. No charges were ever brought against them. I was glad to see some of them smiling in the photos. They are learning Spanish, taking hikes, walking along the beach, shopping for food, and cooking at barbecues.

Thank you Uruguay. [More...]

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