Welcome to Scribd. Sign in or start your free trial to enjoy unlimited e-books, audiobooks & documents.Find out more
Standard view
Full view
of .
Look up keyword
Like this
0 of .
Results for:
No results containing your search query
P. 1
Terror Courts Prologue

Terror Courts Prologue

|Views: 5,243|Likes:
Published by Renee Feltz
Excerpt from: "The Terror Courts: Rough Justice at Guantanamo Bay," by Jess Bravin (Yale University Press, Feb. 2012)
Excerpt from: "The Terror Courts: Rough Justice at Guantanamo Bay," by Jess Bravin (Yale University Press, Feb. 2012)

More info:

Published by: Renee Feltz on Feb 21, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


Read on Scribd mobile: iPhone, iPad and Android.
download as DOCX, PDF, TXT or read online from Scribd
See more
See less





Checkpoints were common as potholes on the roads of Afghanistan. Salim Ahmed SalimHamdan, driving north on Highway 4 in a Toyota hatchback, was not surprised to be stopped by agroup of armed men as he approached the fortified town of Takht-e Pol.Afghanistan was at war. It had been at war for decades. On October 7, less than a monthafter terrorist attacks obliterated the Twin Towers in New York and destroyed part of the Pentagonin Washington, the United States had become the latest entrant in the Afghan wars. American airstrikes and Special Forces backed a loose confederation of militias hostile to the ruling Talibanmovement, but here, in Kandahar province, the Taliban still dominated. The city of Kandahar,according to legend founded by Alexander the Great, was the home of Mullah Mohammed Omar, ahalf-blind cleric who led the Taliban with the aid of Pakistani intelligence. Highway 4 ran southeast from Kandahar to the frontier, into the Pakistani province of Baluchistan and its capital, Quetta. Inrecent decades, Quetta had been transformed by an influx of Afghan refugees and the elements that inevitably accompanied them: arms dealers, drug smugglers, factional cadre, intelligence agents.The city, which sat just outside the war zone, was a haven for various parties with an interest inAfghanistan. As the American-led campaign turned toward Kandahar, more Afghans would set out along Highway 4 seeking safety in Quetta.But Hamdan was headed the other way:
Kandahar. And to his apparent surprise, the
fighters at the checkpoint weren’t Taliban but part of the enemy Pashtun militia. Hours before,
American air strikes had blasted out Takht-
e Pol’s Taliban defenders, allowing fighters from the
eight-hundred-man militia under the warlord Gul Sharzai to enter the town without firing a shot.These fighters, nominally loyal to the former king, Mohammed Zahir Shah, were clandestinelyobliged to the Central Intelligence Agency.
Sharzai’s men had set up highway roa
dblocks north and south of Takht-e Pol, which wouldserve as a staging ground for a coming assault on Kandahar, after another American-paid Pashtunmilitia
this one headed by Hamid Karzai
arrived from the north. Traffic had been slight. Earlier,a white van had tried to blow past the checkpoint, prompting a shootout that left two Egyptianoccupants dead and a third man captured, a Moroccan whose name would turn out to be SaidBoujaadia.Hamdan was not so bold. He tried to flee, but the Afghans nabbed him and immediatelyidentified him as an Arab. He was being dragged away to an uncertain fate when the Americanofficer managing the Sharzai operation, Major Hank Smith, showed up to see what the shooting wasabout. The Pashtuns pointed to two SA-7 Grail surface-to-air missiles in battered, olive-drab
carrying tubes. They said the missiles had been taken from the Arab’s car.
With barely a dozen Americans on hand
soldiers and CIA
Smith hardly was equipped todeal with enemy prisoners of war. Still, Afghan militias were even less inclined to take prisoners,and summary execution of captured enemies was not unknown as a local tradition. Smith had hisAmerican soldiers take Hamdan and Boujaadia, hooded and bound, to a nearby shack.A search of the Toyota turned up two passports, Yemen Airways tickets for Hamdan and awoman named Fatima, a handheld radio, brevity codes
a form of radio shorthand
and a folderwith newspaper and magazine articles about al Qaeda. Plenty of cash was found
$1,900, plusabout $260 in Pakis
tani rupees. There was a passport photo envelope from Razi’s Portrait Inn
Studio and Express Lab, located in Unit 44 of the Shalimar Shopping Center in Karachi, Pakistan.There were five photos of a baby girl. And there were letters. One, handwritten in Arabic on a pageripped from a small spiral-
bound notebook, was addressed to ‘‘Brother Saqr.’’
‘‘I hope you and all the brothers with you are well,’’ it read. ‘‘If possible, please send me 25to 30 original Russian Pikka’’—
a type of machine gun
—‘‘belts. Like
wise, if you can find Pikkamagazines. Most of the Pikkas we have do not have them and we are in urgent need of them. Even
another Soviet-made weapon
—‘‘magazines will work. We cut them o
ff and adapt themfor the Pikka in the workshop. Please do whatever you can.
‘‘Your brother, Khallad.’’
P.S. ‘‘Can you find three military compasses for us? They said there are a lot of them inKabul.’’
 Major Smith looked at the SA-7s, now sitting on the tailgate of a blue pickup. By themselves,they were inoperable. No launchers or firing mechanisms had been found.The Taliban had no air force. The only planes in the sky, the only possible target for asurface-to-air missile
the sort of weapon that in the 1980s, when supplied by Washington to themujahideen, had proved so devastating to the Soviet military
was the American-led coalition airforces. After photographing the missiles to include in a future report, Smith ordered themdestroyed. Not so
Hamdan’s car. He a
ffixed an orange insignia to the hood, the signal to coalition airforces that the vehicle was friendly, and gave the car to one of his local interpreters. Smith
considered it a form of ‘‘recycling.’’
 Small and swarthy, Hamdan sat on the dirt floor of a mud hut, his hands bound before himin flexicuffs. With a video camera running, a masked US Army interrogator questioned him inArabic. An armed guard stood behind the prisoner, remaining silent as the interrogator struggled tomake himself understood through his heavy American accent.Hamdan spoke rapidly, his eyes bright, his smile and occasional nervous laugh suggestinghe knew his number was up. He said he had come to Afghanistan as a relief worker for al Wafa, anIslamic charity. But with the recent fighting, he had borrowed a car to take his wife and daughter to
safety in Pakistan. The car wasn’t his—
he had borrowed it from somebody named Abu Yasser
andneither were most of the items found in it. Sure, he knew there were SA-7s in the trunk, he said, but they must have belonged to Abu Yasser. Ye
s, he had heard of al Qaeda, but he knew little about it. ‘‘Iheard that they train people who come to Afghanistan for training,’’ he said. Perhaps he didn’t expect ever to leave that hut. ‘‘I am not lying to you,’’ he said.
‘‘It’s all finished for me, why
should I lie?’’
at Guantanamo Bay, Hamdan recalled the events somewhat differently. Hehad been working in Kabul when the fighting began in October 2001, and feared for his wife anddaughter in Kandahar. So he asked his boss, O
sama bin Laden, for permission to go to them. ‘‘Idecided to borrow a car to drive my family to Pakistan,’’ he said. After depositing them near theborder, ‘‘I tried to return to Afghanistan to return the car to its owner,’’ and to sell his belongings to
aise enough money to get the family back to Yemen. But he was stopped by Afghans ‘‘looking for
Arabs to sell to American forces. When they stopped me, they had already taken another Arab whothey shot and killed. I tried to flee, but I failed and they captured me again. They tied my hands and
feet behind me like an animal with electrical wire . . . so tight that the wire cut me.’’He was taken to a house and then moved to another, ‘‘for seven days, where I was
questioned by a man in a military uniform who spoke Arabic and said he was an American. The
Afghan soldiers told me they had gotten $5,000 from the Americans for me,’’ Hamdan said. He said
he saw the money himself.According to the account dictated from his jail cell in 2004, Salim Hamdan was born in1969, perhaps, in the rural village of Khoreiba in the southeastern Yemeni region of Hadhramout.That was two years after the British pulled out of the country, which they had ruled as theprotectorate of Aden. The newly independent state, following then-fashionable ideological fads,
proclaimed itself the People’s Republic of South Yemen and later the People’s Democratic Republic
of Yemen, a minor satellite in the Soviet orbit. In contrast, the adjacent Yemen Arab Republic, betterknown as North Yemen, independent since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire after World War I,tilted more toward the West, despite its squabbles with adjacent Saudi Arabia. The rival Yemens,among the poorest countries in the Arab world, fought occasional battles that commanded littleattention outside the region, until in 1990, in an equally overlooked event, the two states merged.It was unclear what impact these political developments had on Salim Hamdan. Orphanedas a child, educated perhaps to a fourthgrade level, he spent the 1980s living with relatives in theport city of Mukalla, working odd jobs. At age twenty, he drifted westward to the newly unified
Yemen’s capital, San’a, ‘‘to seek better employment opportunities,’’ he said. He drove a
atype of jitney, but fort 
une passed him by until 1996, when he met a man seeking recruits ‘‘to aidMuslims struggling against the communists in Tajikistan,’’ he said. That former Soviet republic, onAfghanistan’s northern border, was the next target for the international Islamic f 
undamentalist movement that had toppled the pro-Moscow regime in Kabul.Traveling to Afghanistan via Pakistan, Hamdan proved less than a relentless
for the
Tajik struggle. ‘‘I met with other Muslims who were going to Tajikistan,’’ he recounted. ‘‘
traveled by plane, then by car and then by foot until we got to Badashaw,’’ on the Tajik border. But ‘‘the forces at Tajikistan wouldn’t allow us to go further, and the weather in the mountains wasbad.’’ Rather than battle the elements or the border guards, ‘‘we turned around and left for Kabul.’’
Hamdan said he just wanted to go home to Yemen, but a comrade named Muhammad remindedhim there was no work to be found there. Besides, there was a better opportunity. Muhammad hadgotten a lead on a suitable
job for Hamdan. ‘‘He took me to a farm in Jalalabad, where I met Osamabin Laden,’’ Hamdan said. The emir ‘‘o
ffered me a job as a driver on a farm he owned, bringing
Afghan workers from the local village to work and back again.’’ As the year
passed, Hamdan gained
bin Laden’s confidence. He ‘‘began to have me drive him to various places,’’ Hamdan said.Bin Laden’s family also came from Hadhramout—
his father Mohammed was born there
which perhaps explains the austere ideologue’s a
ffinity toward his barely literate driver. Soon, bin
Laden was functioning as a surrogate father, even arranging for Hamdan’s marriage. Bin Laden sent 
Hamdan and another courtier recruited from the Tajik expedition, Nasser al-Bahri, to Yemen tomarry sisters. Al-Bahri, a Saudi who adopted the nom de guerre Abu Jandal, had become one of bin
Laden’s chief bodyguards. He now was also brother
-in-law to Hamdan, who would himself take anal Qaeda name of Saqr al Jeddawi, the Hawk of Jeddah.
proved somewhat deficient. After capture at the checkpoint, Hamdan
later recounted, ‘‘I helped and cooperated with the Americans in every way,’’ even though
orperhaps because
—they ‘‘physically abused’’ him. ‘‘When I took them to the places I had driven
Osama bin Laden, they would threaten me with death, torture or prison when I did not know theanswers to their questions. One of their methods to threaten was to put a pistol on the table in front 
of me’’
and ask,
‘What do you think?’ ’’
Within weeks of September 11, the United States had orchestrated regime change inAfghanistan. Directed by intelligence units like the one Major Smith commanded and backed bycoalition air power, the Northern Alliance and other anti-Taliban militias pushed out the black-turbaned Islamist foe. Prisoners, by the hundreds, were a dividend of this surprisingly rapidsuccess. With US forces offering bounties for al Qaeda fighters, typically five thousand dollars or so,Afghan tribesmen turned over hundreds more, assuring the Americans that the prisoners wereterrorists.
The US commander, General Tommy Franks, didn’t want the small number of ground troops
he had in Afghanistan tied up guarding enemy prisoners. That suited the Bush administration. It had developed plans to build a special kind of 
detention center in the Pentagon’s own time zone, at 
the US naval base, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. A new enemy would face a special kind of reckoning, trialby military commission, that could see prisoners prosecuted, convicted, and executed at President 

You're Reading a Free Preview

/*********** DO NOT ALTER ANYTHING BELOW THIS LINE ! ************/ var s_code=s.t();if(s_code)document.write(s_code)//-->