Attorney General Eric Holder’s announcement Friday that Khaled Sheikh Mohammed and four other individuals allegedly responsible for the 9/11 attacks would be brought to trial in federal court takes an important—if long overdue—step towards restoring the rule of law. No longer are these men “high value detainees,” a label invented out of whole cloth to sanction their previous disappearance into a secret CIA prison and torture.
Forty years ago, America put the first man on the moon, a feat that remains an enduring symbol of promise and possibility. Today, after more than eight years, America cannot seem to find a solution to the fate of some 200 prisoners languishing at Guantánamo Bay that honors the most basic values of its Constitution. How can a nation capable of accomplishing so much, be incapable of so little?
Following his inauguration in January, President Obama announced that Guantánamo must be closed within a year, and that doing so was required both by America’s values and its security. Four months later, in a speech at the National Archives—the repository of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution—Obama reminded the country that “the existence of Guantánamo likely created more terrorists around the world than it ever detained.” Now, however, it increasingly likely that the scheduled closure date will not be met, as high-level administration officials—testing the political waters for the coming let-down—have begun citing a litany of complications—some real, others imagined—for the anticipated delay.
Steven Watt and Ben Wizner: Not-So-Secret Man
In November of 2006, our client, Khaled El-Masri, traveled to the United States to observe oral arguments in his lawsuit against U.S. officials and contractors. Under normal circumstances, such a visit could hardly be more ordinary. But there was nothing ordinary about El-Masri’s visit. Remarkably, El-Masri may be the only victim of the Bush administration’s [...]
P. Sabin Willet: Who’s at Guantánamo Anyway?
That’s what I was wondering one hot day last July when I walked across a prison yard so silent and sterile as to be a little eerie. Nothing grew in the yard: no grass or flower or tree or even weed. We approached a hut. Inside was a man chained to the floor. His name [...]
David Frakt: Mortal Fear
Mohammed Jawad was a functionally illiterate young man from the Pashtun tribal region of Afghanistan. He had been arrested on December 17, 2002, in Kabul by Afghan authorities in connection with a hand-grenade attack on a jeep containing two U.S. Special Forces soldiers and their local Afghan interpreter. The attack took place in broad daylight [...]
Carolyn Welshhans: A Scream in the Darkness
Like all of my clients, Abdullah was arrested far away from any battlefield. He was arrested in Pakistan by Pakistani border guards who turned him over to the United States at a time when our country was paying thousands of dollars, more than people in that part of the world make over many years, for [...]