After William Glaberson’s excellent wrapup of improper detentions in Gitmo, I took a review of the wiki articles on Gitmo prisoners. (This is one of the distributed knowledge tasks for which Wikipedia does excel).
I skimmed through several of the profiles of Gitmo prisoners, spending a little bit more time on Abdullah Kamel Abdullah Kamel Al Kandari, a Kuwaiti citizen who went to Afghanistan to provide humanitarian assistance. His case seems typical. There was an accusation that he had gone to an Al Queda training camp and also a listing of his name on a database of Al Queda names, but his name was apparently a common one (the US government had found aliases of the person’s name in the database).
Now here’s the truly odd part. One notable piece of evidence was that the man owned a particular watch, the Casio F91W, a watch that was used to trigger certain terrorist bombs. It remains important evidence for 18 prisoners. Here’s the funny part. It is a popular watch, and the fact it is programmable doesn’t imply anything other than that people prefer watches with lots of functions than simply telling time. (Apparently, the big attraction of the watch —aside from its low $10 price was that it would tell the direction of Mecca and signal the call to prayer). (You can buy the watch on amazon.com for $15).
Tom Lasseter for McClatchy did a profile on the prisoner, along with this exchange about his identity:
The third and final evidentiary finding presented that day was that an alias Kandari was known to use was found on a computer owned by a senior al Qaida leader.
"Can you tell me the name that was found in the computer?" Kandari asked.
"We don’t have that information in the unclassified evidence," said the tribunal president, a U.S. Air Force colonel whose name is redacted from the transcript of the hearing. "I don’t know what name was in the computer at this time."
Kandari tried to guess what the alias might have been, but he got no response from the three officers, according to the transcript.
"Why he put my name in the computer, I don’t know. They don’t know me; I swear they don’t know me. . . . The problem is the secret information; I can’t defend myself," Kandari said.
"They don’t have any evidence against me, to put me here," he said. "I don’t have a choice, God is well here, so I’ll be patient. Why did they put me here like this?"
The tribunal president replied: "That’s what we are here to determine."
The tribunal ruled that Kandari was an enemy combatant.
(Actually, though he was released in 2006, after 4 years of imprisonment and brutal beatings and harassment).
Here’s the table of contents for an excellent 8 month investigation by McClatchy into Gitmo. While reading through the case histories, you begin to see a pattern. Many people were tangentially involved in the Afghan conflict, mostly by being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Most were implicated by unknown sources, and most suffered terribly during their incarceration. In the case of Murat Kurnaz, he dropped 80 pounds during Gitmo, and during his 4.5 “vacation” at Gitmo, his wife had divorced him, and his grandfather and favorite uncle had died. In the case of Mohammad Ayub, he lost 60 pounds and was kept in cold rooms and sprayed with pepper spray. Egad, I’ve just read 10 more stories; all have peculiar circumstances which are difficult to summarize in a sentence on a blog.