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Research Fellows meet with House Armed Services Committee

On March 23, Professor Mark Denbeaux and Research Fellows from the Seton Hall University School of Law Center for Policy & Research had the unique opportunity to meet with staff members of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee.

The Subcommittee is conducting a retrospective, in-depth study of Guantánamo detainee transfers and outcomes, with a view toward issuing a report later this year. The staff of the Committee invited Professor Denbeaux and the Research Fellows in light of the Center’s work on detainee release, transfer, and recidivism, as well as its involvement in detainee representation.

In anticipation of the meeting with the Center, the staff members sent Professor Denbeaux an overview of their objectives:

We plan to assess the government’s past and present policies, procedures, and practices for determining detainees’ eligibility for transfer or release, including how security risks and country assurances were determined. We also plan to examine how transfers and releases were implemented and determine, to the extent possible, what happened to detainees after they left Guantanamo, including any re-engagement in terrorist-related activities.We hope to be able to identify lessons learned from past detainee transfers and make recommendations for improving transfers in the future.

At the meeting the students presented the Committee with information regarding its profile of detainees, a profile of detainees who have been released, the evidentiary basis for their release, and thoughts about the procedure for determining whether to release them.

In accordance with the Committee’s timeline, the Center will concentrate on three projects: an updated profile of all released detainees, including the allegations against each detainee; a survey of all released detainees to determine their reintegration into civilian life; and a study of allegations made in habeas cases.

The habeas project reviews allegations, findings of fact and legal holdings at the Combatant Status Review Tribunal, District Court and Court of Appeals levels.

The project then compares the government’s allegations at each level, specifically contrasting the allegations against those released with those still detained in an attempt to determine what evidence is considered sufficient to support further detention or release.

Learn more about the Guantánamo Reports.

Learn more about the Center for Policy and Research.

Rumsfeld Knew: Followup – Washington Post Picks Up Story

Sean Camoni

The Washington Post has a story about the Seton Hall Report here.

Tellingly, while Rumsfeld quibbles about the exact words he used or did not use, he does not deny the substance of the report: GTMO was populated with low-value detainees and the government knew it. Despite that knowledge, GTMO detainees were continually subjected to harsh interrogations in indefinite detention with obstructed or no due process. The government continued and still continues to claim the men in GTMO are dangerous and likely to be repeat offenders, yet the majority of detainees were never even accused of committing an act of violence before incarceration at GTMO, and the government has never substantiated its recidivism claims. The Rumsfeld Memo confirms that the Bush Administration knew at least as early as 2003 that the men imprisoned in GTMO were not the so-called worst of the worst, yet continued to make that assertion in public. Secretary Rumsfeld did not deny any of that to the Post.

Rumsfeld Knew: Center Discovers Memo That Contradicts “Worst of the Worst”

Read the Report here.

Rumsfeld Confesses to Joint Chiefs of Staff that Guantanamo is Filled with “Low Level” Detainees in Recently Declassified Memo; Finding Calls into Further Question “Recidivism” Representations

Seton Hall University School of Law’s Center for Policy & Research has issued a report: Rumsfeld Knew: DoD’s “Worst of the Worst” and Recidivism Claims Refuted by Recently Declassified Memo. The Seton Hall Center for Policy and Research has discovered a recently declassified memo written by Defense Secretary Rumsfeld to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Rumsfeld’s explicitly contradicts his continued public statements that Guantanamo Bay was reserved for the “worst of the worst.”

Rumsfeld Knew suggests that the misrepresentations of the dangerousness of those sent to Guantanamo is of a piece with the government’s continuing public characterization of those who had been detained at Guantanamo as having “returned to the battlefield” or “reengaged” against the United States. It demonstrates that the Department of Defense’s recent Summary, the latest in a series of statements on this subject, is no better based in fact than earlier efforts to mislead the American people on the dangerousness of those detained in Guantanamo.

Throughout, the U.S. Government has maintained publicly that detainees incarcerated at Guantanamo Bay are dangerous, “high-value detainees,” the “worst of the worst.” The Government has also claimed that upon release from GTMO, many of these detainees have “reengaged” in their dangerous activities. Seton Hall Law discovered a recently declassified Memorandum from Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from April 2003. The Memorandum undermines both of these claims, revealing that no later than that date, Secretary Rumsfeld knew that GTMO was “populated. . . with low-level enemy combatants.” Not only does this contradict Government assertions that the prison at GTMO holds the worst of the worst, but it also calls into question the Government’s assertions that the released detainees are dangerous men who have and likely will reengage.

Sean Camoni, a Fellow at the Seton Hall Law School Center for Policy and Research and a co-author of the report said: “Bob Woodward has said that Donald Rumsfeld’s memoir is ‘a book filled with evasion and deception.’ It now appears that the same thing is true of Guantanamo and this time the proof is in Secretary Rumsfeld’s own words.”

Sparked by the revelation that the Government knew at least as early as spring of 2003 that GTMO was populated with low-level detainees, the Center for Policy & Research reexamined all government claims of detainee recidivism. This Report is consistent with the Center’s past findings on alleged recidivism –that the Government has not supported its claims, claims that rest on even weaker ground now that it is clear that the men released from GTMO were never the worst of the worst in the first place.

From GTMO: CP&R Military Commission Observation, Day 4

Kelli Stout, Research Fellow at the Center for Policy & Research, is blogging from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba this week as an NGO observer.

Day four and the commission got weirder.  Today, the courtroom transformed into a Stepford Wives movie script, only adapted to a trial setting.  Every procedural rule was followed.  The judge was evenhanded and polite.  Both sides were able to present their cases.  But there were no objections or cross-examination.  The adversarial character was completely absent and in its place, two tables of attorneys going through (some of) the motions.

We have to remember that this sentencing hearing commenced because of a plea agreement and a short stipulation of facts.  We observers in the glass box are not privy to the complete agreement, which could include agreements to stipulate testimony, back off from rebuttals, etc. But that possibility doesn’t alter the strange appearance of the proceedings today.

The prosecution began by reading to the panel members the stipulation of facts, explaining Noor’s travel to Afghanistan, training at Khalden training camp, and subsequent stay in a safe house.  The prosecution read from terrorists’ diaries, showed a video of Abu Zubaydah, and showed pictures of wires and bomb-making plans found at the safe house where Noor resided.  But then, instead of calling witnesses live, the prosecution carefully read through pages and pages of stipulated testimony of the witnesses it would have called.  The defense, including Noor,  had agreed that the testimony in those documents would be the facts the witnesses would establish had they been present.  We heard no live witnesses, no cross-examination, and even more strangely, no objections.

And that’s not to say the prosecution’s case was without obvious holes.  The prosecution focused on the lives of other well-publicized, alleged terrorists who happened to train at Khalden and those men’s hatred for America. It never offered even stipulated testimony that Noor himself detonated any bombs, took up any arms, or even hated America (although it could be inferred that he knew the types of men he was training with).  At one point, the prosecution read stipulated testimony describing how a man who had trained at Khalden brutally tested poison on dogs.  Despite the clearly prejudicial nature of this evidence, the defense remained silent, never addressing it.

The defense, however, played its own case well.  Taking advantage of his right to make an unsworn statement without cross-examination, the attorneys read his unsworn statement describing his desire to go back to Sudan and live in peace as well as the suffering he has been through during his time in U.S. detention.  It also offered declarations from his tribal leader and a local NGO, who were ready to help Noor reintegrate into society.  Two of the government defense attorneys even traveled to Sudan to visit Noor’s family.  But again, all the evidence was written and read to the jury.  The prosecution, like the defense, made no objections, remaining silent.

Even in its “rebuttal,” the prosecution only made glancing reference to other stipulated testimony, stating that in November 2002, only eight months into his detention, Noor had stated the Americans had treated him better than he expected.  The defense presented no evidence in surrebuttal, despite previously admitted evidence that would establish poor treatment during his later years in confinement.

And with that, the show and dance ended for the day, just in time for Noor’s afternoon prayer.  Today was definitely odd, but perhaps to be expected when scripted by a secret pre-trial agreement, the outcome of which will not likely be changed by a real jury or a panel of military members.  They just have to go through the motions, bang the gavel down, and we can get off this island.

So, why again, did we come here?  Today is day four.  Morale among the observers (and probably other participants) is low, people are tired, we want to go home.  Dozens of people have been away from their families, their homes, their lives, to hold this military commission.  The government has put them in tents and small trailers and subjected them to military escorts at all times.  The observers take ninety minutes lunches — because it takes that long to get everyone out back through security, gathered by their military escorts, bused up to the dining hall, and back.  We talk about the financial costs of these commissions, but we never talk about the human aspect—how much it takes out of all of the people who are here to participate and watch the commissions, how much we have to give up to be in Guantanamo Bay. And to what end?

Research Fellow Kelli Stout En Route to GTMO

Research Fellow Kelli Stout will observe military commission proceedings this week in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Kelli will send updates whenever possible, and they will be available here. Please subscribe and check back daily for Kelli’s reports from GTMO.

Stars & Stripes Picks Up the Center’s Mefloquine Report

The front page headline of Stars and Stripes deals with the Center’s mefloquine report, Drug Abuse. The Stars and Stripes article can be read here.

Underreported: Mefloquine use at Guantanamo – Prof. Denbeaux Interviewed

On today’s Underreported segment on the Leonard Lopate show, Professor Denbeaux discussed why administration of the drug to detainees (at five times the regular dosage) is controversial.

Hear the full segment here.