with no way out
By H. Candace Gorman 9/7/09
Perhaps you have read about Al-Ghizzawi over the years in Northern Express? I am a lawyer and Al-Ghizzawi is my client. However this is not a normal attorney/client relationship. You see, Al-Ghizzawi is a prisoner at Guantánamo and therefore none of the rules that usually affect the attorney-
client relationship are in play here.
When I meet with Al-Ghizzawi, I must turn over my notes to the military and the Department of Justice to read before they are returned to me. Al-Ghizzawis letters to me are read before I receive them and my letters to him are searched for contraband (staples, paperclips... and who knows what else? Words perhaps?)
Al-Ghizzawi began his eighth year at Guantánamo this past spring. He has never been charged with any wrong-doing and he never will be charged with anything. The American government has known that fact for many years.
Al-Ghizzawi languishes at Guantánamo, in ill health, hoping to one day see his wife and daughter again. His daughter, who was only a few months old when he last saw her, will turn eight this fall. At the time Al-Ghizzawi was turned over to American forces in return for a bounty, he did not have a picture of himself, and so his young daughter does not even know what her father looks like (or the sound of his voice).
(It was a common practice by unscrupulous Afghanis to turn foreigners over for sizeable bounties after the American invasion. Al-Ghizzawi was a baker from Libya. -- ed.)
For more than seven years now as
Al-Ghizzawi has sat in solitary confinement in Guantanamo, his wife has had to struggle as a single woman in Afghanistan where she cannot even go shopping without a male family member escorting her.
In 2004, the year before I started to represent Al-Ghizzawi, the Supreme Court handed down an important ruling for the men at Guantánamo. The Court held that the men were entitled to attorneys and that a determination had to be made as to whether or not they were actually enemy combatants.
The military quickly threw together procedures for proving that the men were in fact enemy combatants. Al-Ghizzawis hearing was on November 23, 2004. Imagine the militarys surprise when a panel of three career military personnel met, reviewed the records, and found that Al-Ghizzawi was not an enemy combatant.
I later learned that my client was one of more than 30 men who were determined, even through this rigged system, not to be enemy combatants. At that time Al-Ghizzawi and the other 30 men had already been held for more than two-and-a-half years. When Matthew Waxman, now a professor at Columbia Law School but then the assistant secretary of defense for Detainee Affairs, learned that my client and others were found not to be enemy combatants, he set into motion the do-over process to make sure that the men stayed at Guantánamo and the government was not embarrassed by their innocence. The following appeared in a declassified portion of an email exchange between Waxman and others regarding the 30-plus men who were found not to be enemies:
Inconsistencies will not cast a favorable light on the process or the work done by OARDEC (the military command). This does not justify making a change in and or (sic) itself but is a filter by which to look .... By properly classifying them as EC (enemy combatant), then there is an opportunity to (1) further exploit them here in [G]TMO and (2) when they are transferred to a third country, it will be controlled transfer in status.
Shortly after that email, new panels re-labeled Al-Ghizzawi and the other 30-plus men who had already been found not to be enemies, as enemies. They would now be held indefinitely at the pleasure of the President.
Why are we still holding Al-Ghizzawi? Perhaps General Jay Hood, the former commander of Guantánamo, said it best: Sometimes we just didnt get the right folks. And the reason those folks are still in Guantánamo is because nobody wants to be the one to sign the release papers...
General Hood also said if something were not done soon he would start screaming. That was in 2005. General Hood never did do any screaming, instead he quietly moved on.
I had hoped that our new president would act quickly and effectively to clear Guantánamo of the many innocent men still being held. However, President Obama has taken the long road on this particular project and in the course of the past six months he has squandered the goodwill of the many countries that want to help us close Guantánamo.
What has Mr. Obama done wrong? Well for one thing, the new and enlightened folks that he has hired havent a clue as to what they are doing or what they should be doing, so they have turned to the same people who have been running the Guantánamo project under Bush. They do not seem to get it that listening to the zealots that got us into this mess is not the way to get us out.