|Born||1977 (age 36–37)|
|Detained at||CIA black sites, Guantanamo|
U.S. officials allege that the majority of money that came to the United Arab Emirates hijackers from the September 11 attacks was transferred through Baluchi and Mustafa al-Hawsawi. The 9/11 Commission reported that he "helped them with plane tickets, traveler's checks, and hotel reservations", and "taught them about everyday aspects of life in the West, such as purchasing clothes and ordering food". In his defence, Baluchi claims that he often helped people in Dubai with such things to supplement his income, and he had no way of knowing whether any of them were criminals.
Ammar al-Baluchi was born in Kuwait and is the maternal nephew of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and cousin of Ramzi Yousef. Baluchi is an ethnically Baloch computer technician who grew up in Kuwait, but is a citizen of Pakistan. He is fluent in English and worked at Mohammed's honey-processing company in Karachi for a while before being hired in 1998 as a computer technician for Modern Electronics Corporation in Dubai. He has been described as "very open-minded and western-oriented".
On October 10, 1998, Baluchi used his passport to open a bank account with the Emirates Bank International, using the name "Ali" based on his kunya name Ibn Abdulaziz Ali and listing his employer's address with PO box 16958, Jebel Ali, Dubai.
He was then introduced to Marwan al-Shehhi by his uncle, and Shehhi allegedly asked him to help transfer money from Shehhi's company in Dubai to his company in the United States, ostensibly to help avoid banking fees if he transferred the money himself.
In January 2000, an order using Shehhi's credit card had a Boeing 747-400 flight simulator program, a Boeing 767 flight deck video, and some flight attendant literature and flight manuals shipped to Baluchi's work address. Baluchi then shipped them to his uncle to pass onto Shehhi.
On April 18, Baluchi sent a wire transfer of $5000 to Adel Rafeea, the administrator of the Islamic Center of San Diego, from the Wall Street Exchange Centre in Dubai, using his PO Box, passport and listing his phone number as 0506745651. Rafeaa later claimed that Nawaf al-Hazmi had asked him to accept the money on his behalf.
Tracing the calls made to Baluchi's phone number, authorities discovered that he had received 16 calls from June 28–30 from a pre-paid Voicestream cellphone purchased in Manhattan on June 4. The phone was deactivated on July 11, and authorities allege it belonged to Atta, while Baluchi insisted that he only ever spoke with Shehhi, who had hired him. Around this time, Baluchi complained to Mohammed that he couldn't do all this additional work himself, and his uncle told him that Mustafa al-Hawsawi would co-ordinate with him to act as an assistant.
On June 29, a man named "Isam Mansur" wired $5000 to the Western Union at 1440 Broadway in New York, where Shehhi picked it up. This is alleged to have been Baluchi, since two later direct payments into Shehhi's Sun Trust account from the Exchange Centre, a $10,000 payment to Shehhi on July 18 from "Isam Mansur" and a $9500 August 5 payment from "Isam Mansour", gave Baluchi's PO Box number.
On August 8, Baluchi opened a bank account at Dubai Islamic Bank, using his name, passport and phone number. A $20,000 payment from Baluchi's bank account to Shehhi's Sun Trust account on August 29 gave a phone number one digit different than the one given by Isam Mansour on August 5.
A $70,000 payment was made to Shehhi's account by "Hani (Fawaz Trading)" on September 17 from the same exchange centre. Hani gave a telephone number one digit removed from the one Baluchi used on the transfer from his bank account on August 29.
In September, Hani Hanjour went to Dubai, where Baluchi gave him $3000 to open a new bank account, and later deposited $5000 in the account which Hanjour later accessed from ATMs in the United States. When Ahmed al-Ghamdi went to Dubai, Baluchi helped him purchase a cell phone. It is believed nine of the hijackers met with him in Dubai and received various levels of aid.
On August 27, 2001, Baluchi applied for a visa to travel to the United States for a week after his employer announced the closing of their Dubai branch, and the government had sent notices informing the employees their work permits had been rescinded and they had to leave the country. He was declined since he appeared to be an economic immigrant, and instead moved back home to Pakistan a few days before the attacks.
Aafia Siddiqui, who has been accused of being an al-Qaeda member and in February 2010 was convicted of assaulting with a deadly weapon and attempting to kill U.S. soldiers and FBI agents who were seeking to interrogate her while she was in custody, claimed to be married to Baluchi. Siddiqui's marriage to Baluchi has been denied by her family, but confirmed by Pakistani intelligence, FBI, and—according to court records—by Siddiqui herself. A defense psychologist also confirmed the marriage, and BBC confirmed it from security sources and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's family.
Capture and Treatment in US Custody
Moving back in with his parents in Karachi, Pakistan, Baluchi saw his uncle several times when he came to visit. He helped his uncle arrange travel visas for people, but said he didn't know if any of them were militants or not. In August 2002, the FBI questioned Abdul Samad Din Mohammed, the brother-in-law of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. He reported that Baluchi was often in the company of his uncle, and would pick people up from the airport.
Following his uncle's arrest in Rawalpindi on March 1, 2003, Baluchi spent the next two months with Walid bin 'Attash. After his arrest in mid-2003, al-Baluchi was kept in CIA custody at undisclosed locations until September 6, 2006 when he was transferred to Guantanamo Bay Prison in Cuba. In December 2005, Human Rights Watch listed him as a "ghost prisoner" held in the CIA prison system. During al-Baluchi's secret detention he was subjected to many enhanced interrogation techniques used by the CIA. Officials reported: “al-Baluchi was tortured and forcibly dunked into a tub filled with ice water. CIA interrogators forcibly kept his head under water while he struggled to breathe and beat him repeatedly with a truncheon-like object hitting him and smashing his head against a wall.”
Baluchi had a copy of a letter to Osama bin Laden from Saudi scholars in his pocket, a computer disk containing a draft of a letter to bin Laden, two images of the September 11 attacks, and a perfume bottle containing low-concentration cyanide used to bleach and perfume clothes. Baluchi was also accused of discussing the possibility of exporting explosives to the United States through textile companies, but claims to have no knowledge of what conversation is being referenced. The arrests led to the arrests of Jawad al-Bashar and Farzand Shah.
On November 7, 2003, a detainee was interrogated and said that Mohamed Atta and Ramzi bin al-Shibh spoke briefly in August 2000 about a "Losh" who had asked Atta if he could travel to the United States to help with any potential plots, having already asked Mohammed three months earlier. Authorities allege this is a reference to Baluchi.
On September 6, 2006, Baluchi was transferred from a black site location to Guantanamo Bay detention camp. He was given the Internment Serial Number 10018 and is currently detained at a top-secret site at the Guantanamo base that allegedly houses approximately 15 "high-value" prisoners. Its location and the conditions inside are withheld from public knowledge and there are suspected grave human rights concerns regarding its conditions. Al-Baluchi's attorney James G. Connell, III visited him there in August 2013 under an order issued by the military commission.
Senate Intelligence Report on Torture
Further important details of al-Baluchi's detention and torture remain classified. The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence documented a 6,300-page report of the chronology of interrogation operations, assessment of intelligence officials’ claims and case studies on every prisoner held in CIA custody since 2001. The Senate Intelligence Committee investigated the CIA’s torture program for four years and has voted 11 to 3 to declassify the summary and make it public. In order to conduct appropriate and fair trials for Guantanamo detainees, this document needs to become unclassified. According to US officials who have reviewed the document, “it reveals that the excruciating interrogation methods used yielded little, if any, significant intelligence.”1 Diane Feinstein, who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, “strongly believes that the creation of long-term, clandestine black sites and the use of so called enhanced-interrogation techniques were terrible mistakes." The outcome of the tug-o-war over this document remains unclear.
Combatant Status Review
Initially the Bush administration asserted they could withhold the protections of the Geneva Conventions from captives in the "War on Terror", while critics argued the Conventions obligated the United States to conduct competent tribunals to determine the status of prisoners. Subsequently, the US Department of Defense instituted Combatant Status Review Tribunals, to determine whether the captives met the new definition of an "enemy combatant".
From July 2004 through March 2005, a CSRT was convened to make a determination whether each captive had been correctly classified as an "enemy combatant". These hearings would allow Guantanamo detainees to challenge their “enemy combatant” status and ultimately their detention.
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US District Court Justice Joyce Hens Green ruled that the Combatant Status Review Tribunals were unconstitutional. Nevertheless the Department of Defense scheduled Tribunals for the 14 high-value captives who were transferred from covert CIA custody, on September 6, 2006, for early winter of 2007.
Baluchi cooperated with his tribunal. Although he was not able to call Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Saifullah Paracha or Ramzi bin al-Shibh to testify about his lack of connection to al-Qaeda, he was permitted to have his legal representative field statements they had made. He chose to put forward the statements by Mohammed and bin al-Shibh as evidence, but not the statement by Paracha.
Baluchi requested statements be garnered from Modern Electronics Corporation personnel, including Samir Sharin, Mohammed Mayer, Asraf Mayer, Ammar al-Tesqui and Sayed Tesqui that would testify he had no connections to militant forces, and that his employee records would show that he left several days before the attacks because his work permit had expired when MEC closed its Dubai branch. The tribunal judge ruled that although Baluchi's leaving Dubai a few days prior to the attacks was among the reasons for his capture, it was not relevant to seek records from his employer. Since the tribunal did not locate the individuals, Baluchi submit two statements he had written himself as what he believed his co-workers would say, and what he believed his Israeli roommates would say.
In his defence, Baluchi argued that he often acted as a "businessman" to supplement his income, and thus his signature, telephone number and similar details were easily obtained in Dubai. He admitted dealing with Marwan al-Shehhi, but said that "when [he] approached me, he never declared himself as 'hijacker Marwan al Shehhi'. He approached me the same way he approached other individuals and companies in the U.S. — a man wanting to do business".
The Department of Defense announced on August 9, 2007 that all fourteen of the "high-value detainees" who had been transferred to Guantanamo from the CIA's black sites, had been officially classified as "enemy combatants". Although judges Peter Brownback and Keith J. Allred had ruled two months earlier that only "illegal enemy combatants" could face military commissions, the Department of Defense waived the qualifier and said that all fourteen men could now face charges before Guantanamo military commissions.
First military commission
In February 2008, Baluchi was committed to a joint trial, charged with conspiracy, attacking civilians and civilian objects, causing serious bodily injury, murder, destruction of property, hijacking, terrorism and providing material support for terrorism.
Al Baluchi, Walid Bin Attash, and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed chose to serve as their own attorney. They requested laptops, and internet access, in order to prepare their defenses. In October 2008 Ralph Kohlmann ruled that the men be provided with the computers, but not the internet access. Al Baluchi's request said he was a Microsoft Certified software engineer.
On December 8, 2008, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed told the judge that he and the other four indictees wished to plead guilty; however, the plea would be delayed until after mental competency hearings for Hawsawi and bin al-Shibh. Mohammed said, "We want everyone to plead together."
January 2009 Executive Order to Close Guantanamo
On January 22, 2009, United States President Barack Obama issued Executive Order 13492, ordering a halt to the Guantanamo military commission as part of the overall closure of Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp. On April 21, 2009, United States Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell cited "Ali Abd al-Azeez Ali" as an example of the kind of captive United States President Barack Obama might free in the United States when he closes the camp in January 2010, because he didn't know what else to do with him.
Second military commission
In October 2011, in an operation called the "baseline review," the prison seized all legal materials belonging to "high-value detainees," starting with Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri. The prison also announced that it would change its previous policy and begin reviewing legal mail for its content. In response, the Chief Defense Counsel (United States) ordered the attorneys under his supervision to stop sending privileged communications to Guantanamo prisoners. Under the Chief Defense Counsel (United States) policy, Al-Baluchi could not receive mail from his attorneys until November 2013.
On April 4, 2012, the Department of Defense referred Guantanamo military commission charges against al Baluchi and four other men for participation in the conspiracy leading up to the September 11 attacks. On May 5, 2012, Military Judge James Pohl arraigned al Baluchi, and appointed attorneys to represent him.
Zero Dark Thirty
A fictionalized account of al-Baluchi's interrogation at black sites is depicted in the 2012 film Zero Dark Thirty. The character "Ammar" is portrayed by Reda Kateb. Al-Baluchi has complained that the United States has provided more information to the filmmakers Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal about al-Baluchi's treatment in CIA custody than it has to Baluchi's own attorneys.
The CIA acknowledged that the character "Ammar" is based on al-Baluchi. In the film, "Dan" the interrogator and other characters repeatedly describe "Ammar" as Mr. Mohammad's nephew. "Dan" also references the arrest of "Ammar" and describes his role as the financial facilitator in the 9/11 attacks. "The first 25 minutes of the movie are largely taken up with torture: Ammar is strung up, beaten, water boarded and kept awake for 96 hours straight."
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