2011-04-28 Juvenile Detainee Was Said to Be 'Easily Influenced' By Men at Guantanamo & Therefore a Risk

Image“We are getting into classified and unclassified. All this is just about me proving what I did. If I did the things I did, I would admit that I did. Things I didn’t do, I will say clearly I didn’t do them. But if the Tribunal is saying there are more classified things, classified information – they have to prove that – I am not asking to see the witnesses, if you have any. I need just their names to prove that your documents are true. I think this is not justice; it is not right. It hasn’t been witnessed in the whole human history. If you base your judgments or the accusations against me on classified information, then there is no need to continue. Let’s just stop it right here.” – Faris Muslim al-Ansari, Guantanamo Detainee (ISN #253) at his Combatant Status Review Tribunal in September 2004

Seventeen years old when captured in December 2001, Fais Muslim Al Ansari (ISN:253) went before a tribunal and had his status as an enemy combatant reviewed. In his testimony, it is apparent al-Ansari, who at the time was twenty years old, understood the injustice of the system he was being subjected to at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. This understanding likely led him to participate in a hunger strike with over one hundred other detainees, many of which would be force fed as they attempted to protest detention conditions and their inability to adequately dispute their continued detention.

The newly released Guantanamo Files, which were recently published by WikiLeaks, reveal details on al-Ansari, especially how he challenged the guard force and staff at the military prison. The published the height and weight records of all but ten of the captives being held at Guantanamo on March 16, 2007. Al-Ansari was one of the men whose height and weight record was not published.

Whatever the report claims he confessed to doing during his detention was likely the result of torture, abuse or fear. It does not appear in the report that JTF-GTMO was all that confident he had any reason to be considered a risk. His intelligence assessment says the single-source reporting by YM-252 of his training and fighting in Afghanistan “has not been corroborated.” Al-Ansari has no information on the Taliban or Al-Qaida to share and thus JTF-GTMO’s best conclusion to justify his continued detention is he “never served in any role of significance for Taliban or Al-Qaida” and is just an “average mujahid.”

Al-Ansari has since been released but not because a review board or tribunal recommended his release. There is little information on what has happened since his release. The New York Times notes he was released to Saudi Arabia.

It should not be forgotten that al-Ansari was a juvenile when he was captured and detained. However, most likely, al-Ansari never was treated like one because the US military only considers those under the age of 16 to be “juveniles.” This contradicts Article 1 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which defines a child as "every human being below the age of eighteen years unless under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier," and he will probably never be compensated for being robbed of his years as an adolescent.

Lieutenant Colonel Barry Johnson explained in April 2003 when confronted with the issue of juvenile detainees, “They are in a secure environment free from the influences of older detainees” and “are receiving specialist mental health care, in recognition of the difficult circumstances that child combatants go through, and some basic education in terms of reading and writing." But, the children would not be allowed access to lawyers because the US continued to consider them “enemy combatants.”

The International Committee of the Red Cross addressed this effort to give children at Guantanamo special attention in its first assessment of juvenile detainees on August 25, 2003:

The US authorities have made efforts to provide special measures for some of the juveniles, including housing them separately from the adult population and providing specialist counseling. Nonetheless, the ICRC does not consider Guantanamo an appropriate place to detain juveniles. It is especially concerned about the fact that they are held away from their families and worries about the possible psychological impact this experience could have at such an important stage in their development.

The impact to the juveniles’ psychological development appears to have the most impact on their parents. Upon their return, parents have found them to be impatient. According to the Manchester Guardian Weekly, father of “Asudullah” complained that his son now refuses to listen to elders and are “disobedient.” They long for the amenities of the prison (that which is provided to alleviate some of the guilt those in the military have for capturing the children in the first place). They ironically miss detention, which is an understated reason why ICRC and other human rights groups have so adamantly opposed their detention.

Abdul Qudus, an Afghan national, was seventeen when Afghan military forces near Gereshk arrested him after he and a friend approached the forces and asked for a weapon to kill Americans. He was turned over to the US and transported to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba on February 7, 2003, because of his “association with a local leader, Mulla Maulaw Abdul, teachings encourag[ing] students to attack Americans.”

Qudus continued to be detained because “he told the Afghan military forces that if they gave him a weapon, he would shoot Americans, and readily admitted this throughout his detention.” However, it’s important to note that this statement cannot be considered without considering the circumstances, which led to him making this confession.

What led to Qudus making this statement? Was he tortured? Was he put in a stress position? Was he threatened by interrogators? Was he told he would be transported to a worse prison if he didn’t give interrogators certain information? If he didn’t confess?

JTF-GTMO also concludes in their assessment that he is “easily influenced” and the men he has been around while being detained make it possible he would be “vulnerable to recruitment for terrorist or supportive groups.” This claim could easily have been baseless and a smokescreen to justify keeping Qudus detained. Also, JTF-GTMO is essentially suggesting, in January 2004, that they are possibly responsible for radicalizing this teenager and, because he has been held among terror suspects, he may not have been dangerous before but now that he has been here it is unquestionably certain that he could potentially engage in terrorism against America.

Most interesting is the “Coordination” section of the assessment:

JTF Guantanamo notified the Criminal Investigative Task Force of this recommendation on 24 October 2003. As of 12 November 2003, CITF stated they require more investigation to make a threat assessment. Until further law enforcement investigation is conducted by CITF and an assessment is made, JTF GTMO and CITF cannot agree on the risk of this particular detainee.

This is clear evidence of the internal war that has gone on behind closed doors especially with detainees like Qudus, who are juveniles and should probably not be in Guantanamo.

As detailed by The Guardian, “time and time again” the CITF was at odds with JTF-GTMO and “deferred” to JTF-GTMO that “in the context of Guantanamo reflected a “profound difference in interrogation techniques and conclusions.”

CITF, whose members are drawn from the army, navy and air force, is part of the defence department and is based at Fort Belvoir, near Washington. Its approach to interrogation was to try to befriend prisoners, chat to them over tea, win their confidence and build up information gradually. Some members of the team eventually went public, in television interviews and Senate hearings, saying that harsh interrogation techniques made cases unprosecutable and were counterproductive in any case, pushing detainees into cocoons of silence.

By contrast, JTF GTMO is made up of troops from a traditional military background. They saw their mission as primarily intelligence-gathering rather than constructing a legal case. Again, in the case of Oshan, the commander's report emphasises he was transferred to Guantánamo in hopes of providing intelligence. "Detainee may provide information on the refugee camp outside Spin Buldok, AF(Afghanistan), and Islamic presence in the Philippines," the report says.

Over and over again the stress in the reports is on intelligence-gathering.

Some of the troops transferred to JTF Guantánamo had no background in interrogation. Among the first were a group from Fort Huachuca, Arizona. They had had six weeks of training in how to withstand torture – very different from conducting interrogations.

The military used harsh techniques abhorred by the CITF and the CIA went even further. It was responsible for one of the most notorious cases at Guantánamo, the waterboarding of the self-confessed al-Qaida leader Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. The CIA had relative independence. It ran a secret camp, Camp Seven, whose existence only became public late on, in 2008.

Also operating on the island was the FBI, which approached interrogations in much the same way as the CITF and opposed waterboarding and similar methods. Jane Mayer, in her book The Dark Side, records one interrogation in which the FBI claimed to have been getting "phenomenal" information, only to be pushed out by a CIA team. The FBI, fearful of being implicated in something potentially illegal, fled the scene.

Qudus, born in 1988, is likely the youngest detainee to be held at Guantanamo. He is one of thirty-eight detainees the Bush Administration managed to admit did not meet the definition of “enemy combatant” during the Combatant Status Review Tribunals. And, that’s refreshing when viewing this exchange that occurred during his review before the Tribunal:

Personal Representative: 3.2. (The detainee is associated with individuals willing to participate in attacks against Americans.)

Detainee [Qudus]: Who are these people that I was associated with? Why don’t you tell me their names? I don’t know these people.

Tribunal President: We don’t have that information either. This is all we know. We do not know the names.

Detainee: You should have gotten complete information before you brought everybody here as detainees. This is not correct. Somebody must have some kind of animosity against me.

The US should have but under the “war on terror” it did not think it had to follow basic tenets of domestic and international law. The US claimed detainees were under the authority of the military and could be denied prisoner of war status, access to the courts and to attorneys, and contact with their families. The US decided the Geneva Conventions could not be applied to their detention. A system was created that wholly subverted the law and continues to subvert the law.

At this point, 764 of 779 “files” have been released by WikiLeaks.

Check back for more coverage on juvenile detainees that have been held at Guantanamo.

Theme by Danetsoft and Danang Probo Sayekti inspired by Maksimer