Ammar al-Baluchi

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Ammar al-Baluchi
Born 1977 (age 36–37)
Citizenship Pakistan
Detained at CIA black sites, Guantanamo
ISN 10018
Occupation Computer technician

Ammar al-Baluchi (Arabic: عمار البلوشي‎, ʿAmmār al-Balūshī; also transliterated as Amar al-Balochi,[1] born Ali Abdul Aziz Ali[2][3]) is in U.S. custody at Guantanamo Bay detention camp.

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.[4][5] The 9/11 Commission reported that he "helped them with plane [sic] 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".[4] 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.[6]

Life[edit]

The maternal nephew of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and cousin of Ramzi Yousef,[3] Baluchi is a Yemeni-Balochi[7] computer technician from Pakistan.[6] 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.[6] He described himself as "very open-minded and western-oriented".[6]

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.[6]

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.[4][8]

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.[6] Rafeaa later claimed that Nawaf al-Hazmi had asked him to accept the money on his behalf.[3][9]

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.[6] 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.[4]

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.[3][6]

On August 8, Baluchi opened a bank account at Dubai Islamic Bank, using his name, passport and phone number.[6] 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.[6]

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.[3][6]

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.[4] 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.[4]

The 9/11 Commission Report stated that he "relied on the unremarkable nature of his transactions, which were essentially invisible amid the billions of dollars flowing daily across the globe."[4]

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.[4][6]

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.[10] 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.[11] A defense psychologist also confirmed the marriage,[12] and BBC confirmed it from security sources and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's family.[13]

Investigation and capture[edit]

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.[6] 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.[6]

Following his uncle's arrest in Rawalpindi on March 1, 2003, Baluchi spent the next two months with Walid bin 'Attash, until the pair were arrested on April 29 along with a man named Abu Ammar in Karachi on suspicion of a plot to bomb the American embassy.[3][7] 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.[6] 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.[6] The arrests led to the arrests of Jawad al-Bashar and Farzand Shah.[14]

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.[4]

In December 2005, Human Rights Watch listed him as a "ghost prisoner" held in the CIA prison system.[15]

Guantanamo Bay[edit]

On September 6, 2006, Baluchi was transferred from his black site to Guantanamo Bay detention camp, along with 13 other "high-value" prisoners, and was given the Internment Serial Number 10018.[5][16][17]

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.[18] 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".[19] These hearings would allow Guantanamo detainees to challenge their “enemy combatant” status and ultimately their detention.

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.

The Summary of Evidence memo for Baluchi's Combatant Status Review Tribunal was drafted on February 8, 2007.[20]

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.[6]

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.[6] 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.[6] 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.[6]

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".[6]

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".[21] 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.[22][23]

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.[24][25]

Al Baluchi, Walid Bin Attash, and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed chose to serve as their own attorney.[26] 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 confess and 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."[27]

Cited as an example by Senator Mitch McConnell[edit]

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.[28][29]

Another person at Guantanamo that the Administration doesn’t know what it will do with in nine months is Ali Abd al-Azeez Ali, who served as a key lieutenant for KSM during the 9/11 operation. How does transferring or releasing him make the country safer?

On August 31, 2009, Corrections One, a trade journal for the prison industry, speculated that "Abd al Aziz Ali" was one of ten captives they speculated might be moved to a maximum security prison in Standish, Michigan.[30]

In popular culture[edit]

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.[31]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Guantanamo 9/11 suspects on trial". BBC News. June 6, 2008. Archived from the original on 18 December 2008. Retrieved December 8, 2008. 
  2. ^ http://www.rulit.net/books/the-black-banners-read-249656-135.htm
  3. ^ a b c d e f Shannon, Elaine. Time, Al-Qaeda Moneyman Caught, May 1, 2003
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i 9/11 Commission Report Findings
  5. ^ a b "Detainee Biographies" (PDF). Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Archived from the original on date=2009-08-31. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u Summary of Evidence (.pdf), prepared for Ammar al-Baluchi's Combatant Status Review Tribunal
  7. ^ a b Raman, B. Asia Times, Bomb jitters in Pakistan, too, May 21, 2003
  8. ^ FBI Report: "Summary of Pentbom Investigation", Feb 29, 2004. pp. 78
  9. ^ Statement for the Record: Robert S. Mueller to the Joint Intelligence Committee
  10. ^ Al-Qaeda Woman? Putting Aafia Siddiqui on Trial, TIME, 2010-01-18
  11. ^ The mystery of Dr Aafia Siddiqui, The Guardian, 2009-11-24
  12. ^ Family Affair, Just Maybe, at Courthouse
  13. ^ Mystery of Siddiqui disappearance, BBC, 2008-08-06
  14. ^ CNN, Arrests amid Karachi terror plot, May 3, 2003
  15. ^ List of “Ghost Prisoners” Possibly in CIA Custody, Human Rights Watch, December 1, 2005
  16. ^ CNN, 14 terror suspects profiled, September 7, 2006
  17. ^ "Bush: CIA holds terror suspects in secret prisons". CNN. September 7, 2006. Retrieved 2007-08-10. [dead link]
  18. ^ "Q&A: What next for Guantanamo prisoners?". BBC News. 2002-01-21. Retrieved 2008-11-24.  mirror
  19. ^ OARDEC, Index to Transcripts of Detainee Testimony and Documents Submitted by Detainees at Combatant Status Review Tribunals Held at Guantanamo Between July 2004 and March 2005, September 4, 2007
  20. ^ Summary of Evidence (.pdf), prepared for Ammar al-Baluchi's Combatant Status Review Tribunal – February 8, 2007
  21. ^ Lolita C. Baldur (August 9, 2007). "Pentagon: 14 Guantanamo Suspects Are Now Combatants". Time magazine.  mirror
  22. ^ Sergeant Sara Wood (June 4, 2007). "Charges Dismissed Against Canadian at Guantanamo". Department of Defense. Retrieved 2007-06-07. 
  23. ^ Sergeant Sara Wood (June 4, 2007). "Judge Dismisses Charges Against Second Guantanamo Detainee". Department of Defense. Retrieved 2007-06-07. 
  24. ^ Human Rights Watch, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali
  25. ^ United States Department of Defense, 9/11 Co-Conspirators Charges Referred, May 13, 2008
  26. ^ Carol Rosenberg (2008-10-12). "Al Qaeda defendants get laptops at Guantánamo, judge rules". Miami Herald. Retrieved 2008-10-12. "Mohammed, his nephew Ammar al Baluchi and Walid Bin Attash have sought through standby counsel filings at the Military Commission a long list of resources they say they need to mount their defense – including Internet links to read news accounts and do live research on databases." [dead link] mirror
  27. ^ "Top 9/11 suspects to plead guilty". BBC News. December 8, 2008. Archived from the original on 9 December 2008. Retrieved December 8, 2008. 
  28. ^ Mitch McConnell (2009-04-21). "Republican Leader McConnell's April 21, 2009 floor speech". United States Senate. Archived from the original on 2009-04-22. 
  29. ^ Carol Rosenberg (2009-04-21). "GOP leader McConnell wants more scrutiny of prison closing costs". Miami Herald. Archived from the original on 2009-04-22. 
  30. ^ Kathryn Lynch-Morin (2009-08-31). "Profile of 10 U.S.-bound Gitmo detainees". Corrections One. Archived from the original on 2009-09-01. Retrieved 2009-08-02. 
  31. ^ Steven Rea (January 4, 2013). "‘Zero Dark Thirty’ filmmakers pull off tricky balancing act". Seattle Times. Retrieved January 28, 2013. 

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