TIME Military

Navy Nurse Refuses Gitmo Force Feed Order

Guantanamo Hunger Strike
In this photo Nov. 20, 2013 file photo reviewed by the U.S. military, a U.S. Navy nurse stands next to a chair with restraints, used for force-feeding, and a tray displaying nutritional shakes, a tube for feeding through the nose, and lubricants, including a jar of olive oil, during a tour of the detainee hospital at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba. Charles Dharapak—AP

A detainee described the act as a conscientious objection

A Navy medical officer at the U.S. military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba has refused an order to continue force-feeding hunger-striking prisoners in what one detainee lawyer described as an act of conscientious objection.

“There was a recent instance of a medical provider not willing to carry-out the enteral feeding of a detainee. The matter is in the hands of the individual’s leadership,” a Pentagon spokesperson said in an email. “The service member has been temporarily assigned to alternate duties with no impact to medical support operations.”

It is the first known instance of a U.S. service member rebelling against the Pentagon’s force-feeding policy. An unknown number of the 149 detainees at Guantánamo’s Camp Delta have been on hunger strike for the past year and a half to protest their indefinite detention.

News of the refusal comes to the public by way of an attorney for one of the detainees, who, according to The Miami Herald, says his client described how some time before the Fourth of July a Navy medical nurse suddenly shifted course and refused to continue force-feeding prisoners. The nurse, he said, was abruptly removed from duty at the detention center. The attorney said his client described the nurse’s action as a conscientious objection.

The Herald reports that the prisoner who provided news of the incident described the nurse as a roughly 40-year-old Latino man most likely with the rank of lieutenant in the Navy.

Last year, civilian doctors writing for the New England Journal of Medicine declared that medical professionals taking part in force-feeding was unethical and called the Guantánamo medical staff to refuse to participate.

TIME Guantanamo

You Can Now Apply to Be a Teacher at Guantánamo Bay

Earn between $50.50 and $101 teaching children of military officers at Gitmo

If you are a teacher looking for a job with a difference, you may want to check out a new posting on federalgovernmentjobs.us — but only if you are willing to work at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

“Do you want to work for an exciting educational organization, with the children of our dedicated U.S. military members?” asks the Department of Defense, in a Wednesday job posting first reported by Gawker. If the answer for you is yes, you may apply for a substitute teacher position; they are looking to fill “many vacancies” at Guantánamo for a salary of $50.50 to $101 per day.

Your duties would include planning and organizing lessons for the children of U.S. military personnel and generally contributing to their intellectual and social development. In addition to the willingness to work near a controversial detention facility where prisoners have been subject to controversial interrogation techniques, you must have U.S. citizenship to apply.

TIME Terrorism

Capture of Benghazi Suspect Again Raises Question: Guantanamo or the Courts?

U.S. President Obama speaks about the situation in Iraq at the White House
U.S. President Barack Obama on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, June 13, 2014. Kevin Lamarque—Reuters

Obama Administration opting for courts, after a Navy cruise

The capture of Ahmed Abu Khattala, the recently-snatched alleged ringleader of the 2012 attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, once again highlights the split in the national debate over how to handle terrorists: Are they prisoners of war, or are they criminals?

Many terrorists linked to al-Qaeda were sent to Guantanamo Bay during George W. Bush’s presidency. Many others have been tried in civilian courts. According to the nonprofit group Human Rights First, there have been almost 500 people convicted on terror-related charges in federal civilian criminal courts since 9/11, compared to eight convictions in the Pentagon’s military commissions.

The Obama Administration prefers the federal court route, which is how it plans to proceed with Khattala—generating Republican criticism. “The Obama Administration should immediately transfer him to the military detention center at Guantanamo Bay for detention and interrogation,” said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).

“Rather than rushing to read him his Miranda rights and telling him he has the right to remain silent, I hope the Administration will focus on collecting the intelligence necessary to prevent future attacks,” added Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.).

Who’d have thought a 1966 Supreme Court ruling designed to protect Ernesto Arturo Miranda’s confession to kidnapping, rape and armed robbery while under police interrogation would become the rope in a tug-of-war between the White House and Congress nearly a half-century later on how to handle captured terrorists?

Legal expert Jack Goldsmith. a former Pentagon lawyer now teaching at Harvard Law School, doubts the U.S. could hold Khattala in military detention, or try him before a military commission. That’s because Army General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, has said the Benghazi attack didn’t fall under the congressional authorization for the use of military force, nor, in Goldsmith’s view, did it amount to a “conflict subject to the rules of war.”

Sending Khattala to Guantanamo is “the easy way out,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy, (D-Vt.), chairman of the judiciary committee, who applauded his move into the federal court system. “We will try Khattala just as we have successfully tried more than 500 terrorism suspects since 9/11.”

The Obama Administration is actually straddling the issue, by housing Khattala aboard a Navy vessel in the Mediterranean for questioning (the Los Angeles Times reports he did get a Miranda warning “shortly after his capture” following initial questioning about other potential terror threats under a “public safety” exemption). “We should have some quality time with this guy—weeks and months,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), an Air Force reserve lawyer, said Tuesday. “Don’t torture him, but have some quality time with him.”

The Administration has questioned at least two other terror suspects aboard ships for up to two months before dispatching them into the federal court system.

“The only reason for having him on a U.S. warship is to provide a nice quiet environment where the investigators can work their wiles on him,” says Eugene Fidell, a military-law lecturer at the Yale Law School and former president of the National Institute of Military Justice. “If the government wanted to have Khattala at the E. Barrett Prettyman courthouse [in Washington, D.C.] by four o’clock, he’d be there. The notion seems to have taken root that the government has, if not all the time in the world, as much time as it reasonably wants to see if can coax these people into making statements.”

TIME foreign affairs

I Helped Free the Taliban From Guantánamo Bay

Taliban hand over Bergdahl to US Forces
The Taliban detainees, known as the "Taliban Five", who released from Guantanamo Bay in exchange for Bowe Bergdahl are Mohammad Fazl, Khairullah Khairkhwa, Abdul Haq Wasiq, Norullah Noori, and Mohammad Nabi Omari. Polaris

A lawyer who defended one of the men traded for Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl explains why he defends "the worst of the worst"

On March 6, 1770, a 34-year-old Boston lawyer, John Adams, agreed to a request that he represent a British captain and eight soldiers who had, the previous night, opened fire on a crowd of protesting civilians, killing five of them. The event became known to history as the Boston Massacre. Adams was told that no other lawyer would take the case. He suffered in the public eye and later said that it had cost him more than half of his law practice. But he was proud of his representation of the hated soldiers, calling it “one of the most gallant, generous, manly and disinterested actions of my whole life, and one of the best pieces of service I ever rendered my country.”

I am no John Adams — far from it. But I am an American lawyer who believes not only that even the most despised person — perhaps especially the most despised — has the right to a vigorous defense. Moreover, from of my experience as a civil rights and criminal defense lawyer, all too often the government’s charges against an accused will not stand up to serious scrutiny.

Together with two of my North Carolina colleagues, I have represented five Guantánamo detainees since 2007, including one of the Taliban prisoners recently transferred to Qatar in exchange for the release of Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl. I agreed to represent them on a pro bono basis because of my conviction that if lawyers do not step forward to challenge government overreaching, who will? What I have learned demonstrates that careful examination of the evidence will puncture the exaggerated and hysterical claims of politicians and pundits.

Such is the case with the men detained at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Altogether, some 779 Muslim men from 43 different countries, whose ages have ranged from 13 to 90, were brought, hooded and shackled on clandestine flights, to Gitmo (as the base is informally called) to be kept in isolation from family, friends and — had the government had its way — from lawyers. Bush Administration leaders claimed that they had been “picked up on the battlefield fighting American forces,” were “the worst of the worst,” “bombmakers,” “terrorists,” “among the most dangerous, best-trained, vicious killers on the face of the earth,” “associated with Al-Qaeda.”

Yet that Administration, quietly and without court compulsion, released well over 500 of them, and the Obama Administration, which inherited 242 detainees, has released others, according to a report from Seton Hall. Some men have died during their prolonged custody — and some of those by their own hand. As it turns out from the publically available facts, the overwhelming majority were not who our government claimed they were. U.S. forces captured only 5% of them. Others were bought from tribesmen motivated by the large American bounties. Eighty-six percent were arrested by the Northern Alliance or Pakistani authorities, having been captured for reasons that are, to say the least, opaque. Some were seized from their homes, places of work, or simply off the street, mostly in Pakistan, not Afghanistan, often based upon anonymous allegations of a connection to Al-Qaeda or the Taliban. Most were never on a battlefield and had not been determined to have committed any hostile act at all against the U.S. or its allies. The government officials and politicians simply misstated the facts.

John Adams knew the importance of focusing on the facts, not on labels. He told the Boston jury this: “Facts are stubborn things, and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictums of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.” That jury examined the facts, and it acquitted the British captain and six of his eight soldiers, convicting the other two only of manslaughter.

In the cases of the Guantánamo detainees, we lawyers cannot discuss the specific facts publicly, because we were required to trade our free speech for access to the classified evidence necessary to represent our clients. But it is telling that after over a dozen years of detention, the government has managed to charge, try and convict only a handful — fewer than 10 — of the 779 men it brought to the base. Five were convicted of minor charges (some that were not even crimes at the time of their detention) and have been released. One of the convictions was overturned on appeal; other appeals remain pending. This is not a record of ringing prosecutorial success. Of the five men I represented, including the Taliban political official just sent to Qatar, none were ever charged with even the most minor crime; they were simply held for years without charges until it pleased the government to send them back. Where is the evidence that they are terrorists? About half of the 149 men still left at Guantánamo have long been determined not to be a threat and have been approved for transfer; the only impediments to their release are political.

In his closing speech to that Boston jury, John Adams quoted these lines from the Italian penologist, Cesare, Marchese di Beccaria:

If, by supporting the rights of mankind, and of invincible truth, I shall contribute to save from the agonies of death one unfortunate victim of tyranny, or of ignorance, equally fatal, his blessings and years of transport will be sufficient consolation to me for the contempt of all mankind.

Contesting the basis for our country’s indefinite detention of these men has been costly and challenging, but professionally fulfilling. Certain episodes in our history — the internment of Japanese-American citizens during World War II comes to mind — are now regarded in hindsight as tragic aberrations from American values. At such times it is the duty of lawyers to step forward and hold the nation accountable to its ideals.

TIME Guantanamo

These Are the 5 Guantanamo Detainees Being Released in Exchange for Sgt. Bergdahl

U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel told Congress on Saturday that the United States would be transferring five detainees from Guantanamo Bay. Their release is in exchange for the release of U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who had been captured by the Taliban in Afghanistan nearly five years ago.

Though Hagel did not mention any names in his statement, TIME has confirmed their identities with a senior administration official.

Previous releases of terror suspects from Guantanamo have seen mixed results. Some have returned to private life, others have gone on to fight again in Afghanistan and now in Syria. That’s the case with Ibrahim bin Shakaran, a former Moroccan detainee who was recently killed while commanding an al-Qaeda-affiliated extremist group in Syria.

This time, the U.S. isn’t taking any chances. The five, high-ranking members of the Afghan Taliban — whose names were first floated as part of an exchange deal in 2012 — will be transferred to Qatar, where they will live under close observation in some form of house arrest.

A look at who will be released:

1. Mohammad Fazl

One of the first detainees captured in Afghanistan to be transferred to Guantanamo — in January 2002 — Fazl is the Taliban’s former deputy minister of defense. He was one of the Taliban’s founding members, rising through the ranks to become Taliban Chief of Army Staff when it ruled Afghanistan. Human Rights Watch accuses Fazl of presiding over the mass killings of Afghanistan’s Shi’ite Muslims in 2000 and 2001.

2. Mohammad Nabi

The former chief of Taliban security in Qalat, the capital of Afghanistan’s southern Zabul Province, Nabi was a latecomer to the Taliban, joining only in the late 1990s. After taking a few years away, he rejoined in 2000 to work as a radio operator for the Taliban’s communications office. He has claimed during U.S. military interrogations to have been working for the C.I.A. in the search for Taliban Chief Mullah Omar and al-Qaeda operatives. Those confessions may earn him difficulties upon his release.

3. Abdul Haq Wasiq

Also accused by Human Rights Watch of mass killings and torture during the Taliban’s time in power, the Taliban’s former deputy minister of intelligence is considered to have been at one time one of Mullah Omar’s closest confidants, with a direct line to the elusive leader.

4. Mullah Norullah Nori

Nori was the senior Taliban commander in the strategic northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif when U.S. forces arrived in late 2001. A former governor of two northern provinces, he is considered to be one of the most high-ranking Taliban officials ever to be held in Guantanamo. He is also accused of being involved in the massacre of thousands Shi’ite Muslims in 2000 and 2001, when the Taliban attempted to purge Afghanistan of what it deemed a deviant form of Islam.

5. Khairullah Khairkhwa

The former Taliban governor of Heart Province, which borders Iran, Khairkhwa has also served as a military commander and a minister of the interior. He was close to Mullah Omar as well as current Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who briefly worked with the Taliban administration in the 1990s. According to the Associated Press, Khairkhwa’s U.S.-based lawyers have argued in court filings that by the time of his capture in 2002 he had already distanced himself from the Taliban.

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