Mohamedou Ould Slahi
|Mohamedou Ould Slahi|
December 31, 1970 |
|Alternate name||Mohammedou Ould Salahi, kunya: Abu Musab|
|Status||Detained under AUMF-AT as a "part of" al Qaeda. Writ of habeas corpus granted his release on March 22, 2010. Vacated by the D.C. Court of Appeals and remanded to the District Court on November 5, 2010.|
Mohamedou Ould Slahi (Arabic: محمد ولد صلاحي) (born December 31, 1970) is a Mauritanian who has been detained at Guantánamo Bay detention camp since August 4, 2002. He is being held under the authority of Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists (AUMF), alleged by the US government to be "part of" al Qaeda at the time of his arrest.
Slahi traveled to Afghanistan in December 1990 "to support the mujahideen".(p4) At that time, the mujahideen in Afghanistan were attempting to topple the communist government of Mohammad Najibullah. Slahi trained in an al Qaeda camp and swore bayat to al Qaeda in March 1991. He returned to Germany soon after but then traveled back to Afghanistan for three months in early 1992. Slahi states that he "severed all ties with ... al-Qaeda" after he left Afghanistan at that time.(p5)
The U.S. government maintains that Slahi "recruited for al-Qaeda and provided it with other support" since then.(p5) Slahi turned himself in to Mauritanian authorities for questioning about the Millennium Plot on November 20, 2001. He was detained for seven days and questioned by Mauritanian officers and by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Eventually, the CIA rendered him to Jordan where he was held for eight months at a black site. Slahi states that he was tortured by the Jordanians. After being flown to Afghanistan and held for two weeks, he was transferred to military custody and the Guantánamo Bay detention camp in Cuba on August 4, 2002.
Slahi was subjected to isolation, temperature extremes, beatings and sexual humiliation at Guantánamo. In one documented incident, he was blindfolded and taken out to sea in a boat for a mock execution. Lt. Col Stuart Couch refused to prosecute Slahi in a Military Commission in 2003. He said in 2007 that "Slahi's incriminating statements—the core of the government's case—had been taken through torture, rendering them inadmissible under U.S. and international law."
Following the Supreme Court decision in Boumediene v. Bush (2008), Slahi challenged the lawfulness of his detention in federal district court. Judge James Robertson granted a writ of habeas corpus ordering Slahi to be released on March 22, 2010. In his unclassified opinion, Judge Robertson wrote: "associations alone are not enough, of course, to make detention lawful."(p29) The Department of Justice appealed the decision, which was heard on September 17, 2010. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the ruling and remanded the case to the District Court on November 5, 2010 for further factual findings.(p3)
Slahi wrote a memoir in prison in 2005, which the US government declassified in 2013 with some redactions. Slate published excerpts from the memoirs as a series beginning in April 2013. The book, Guantánamo Diary, was published in 2015. It is the first work to be released by a still-imprisoned detainee at Guantánamo.
Slahi was an exceptional student and he received a scholarship in 1988 from the Carl Duisberg Society to go Germany, where he earned an engineering degree from the University of Duisburg. In 1991, Slahi traveled to Afghanistan to join the mujahedin fighting against the communist central government. He trained for several weeks at the al Farouq training camp near Kandahar. At the end of his training in March 1991, he swore bayat to al Qaeda and was given the kunya "Abu Musab." He then returned to Germany.
In January 1992, Slahi traveled again to Afghanistan and was assigned to a mortar battery in Gardez. In March, the Mohammad Najibullah regime fell and he returned to Germany.(p12) In hearings in Guantanamo, Slahi has stated that he traveled to Afghanistan twice, attended the al Farouq training camp, and fought against the Afghan central government in 1992, but that he was never an enemy combatant against the United States.(pp2–4)(pp4–6)
Slahi's cousin and former brother-in-law is Mahfouz Ould al-Walid, also known as Abu Hafs al-Mauritania. Before the September 11 attacks, Al-Walid was a spiritual adviser to Osama bin Laden, was on the shura council of al Qaeda, and headed the sharia council.(p21) However, two months before the attacks, al-Walid, along with several other al Qaeda members, wrote a letter opposing the attacks to bin Laden. Al-Walid left al Qaeda after the attacks.
While al-Walid was in Sudan, where al Qaeda was based in the mid-1990s, he twice asked Slahi to help him get money to his family in Mauritania, about $4,000 in December 1997 and another $4,000 in December 1998. In the 2010 habeas corpus opinion, the judge wrote: "the government relies on nothing but Salahi's uncorroborated, coerced statements to conclude that the money transfers were done on behalf of and in support of al-Qaida."(p26) In 1998, Slahi was heard by U.S. intelligence talking to al-Walid on a satellite phone traced to bin Laden.(p12)
The 9/11 Commission Report reported that in 1999, Slahi advised three members of the Hamburg Cell to travel to Afghanistan to obtain training before waging jihad in Chechnya. However, the federal District Court in 2010 found only that Slahi "provided lodging for three men for one night at his home in Germany [in November 1999], that one of them was Ramzi bin al-Shibh, and that there was discussion of jihad and Afghanistan."(p19)
Slahi moved to Montreal, Canada on November 26, 1999 because German immigration authorities would not extend his visa for residence in Germany. Since he was a hafiz, he was invited by the imam of a large mosque to lead Ramadan prayers. Ahmed Ressam, who was caught with explosives crossing the Canadian border in December 1999 as part of the 2000 Millennium Plot, was a member of the same mosque. Since Slahi was known to U.S. intelligence through contact with his cousin Mahfouz Ould al-Walid, he became suspected of activating Ressam.
The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) put Slahi under surveillance for several weeks but did not find any grounds to arrest him. According to a classified report of German intelligence, "there is not only no evidence of any involvement by Ould Slahi in the planning and preparation of the attacks, but also no indication that Ressam and Ould Slahi knew each other." Slahi left Canada to return to Mauritania on January 21, 2000.
During his trip home, Slahi was arrested in Senegal at the request of United States authorities and questioned about the Millennium plot. He was transferred to Mauritania to be interrogated by local authorities and American FBI agents. After three weeks in custody, during which Slahi was accused of being involved in the Millennium Plot, he was released.
Slahi worked at various companies in Mauritania as an electrical engineer from May 2000 until the end of September 2001. On September 29, he was again detained by the Mauritanian authorities for questioning. He cooperated with the authorities several times though November 2001. The last time he went in for questioning was November 20, 2001. He was interrogated by both Mauritanian officials and the FBI for seven days.
The CIA arranged for him to be transported to Jordan through extraordinary rendition. There the CIA supervised his interrogation for months. An Amnesty International report describes his rendition and treatment there.
On July 19, 2002, the CIA transported Slahi to Bagram, Afghanistan, where he was transferred to military custody and held at the detention facility. The US military flew Slahi to Guantanamo Bay detention camp on August 4, 2002.
Guantánamo Bay detention
Memos summarizing meetings held on October 9, 2003 and February 2, 2004 between General Geoffrey Miller and Vincent Cassard of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) acknowledged that camp authorities were not permitting the ICRC to have access to Slahi, due to "military necessity." Officials belonging to Canadian Security Intelligence Service interviewed Slahi in February 2003.
Lt. Col V. Stuart Couch, a Marine Corps lawyer, was appointed as Slahi's prosecutor at Guantanamo. He withdrew from the case in May 2004 after reviewing it in depth. Couch said that, while he believed that Slahi "had blood on his hands," Couch "could no longer continue the case in good conscience" because of the alleged torture, which tainted all confessions Slahi had made. Couch said that "the evidence is not believable because of the methods used to obtain it and the fact that it has not been independently corroborated."
The Wall Street Journal published a letter that Slahi wrote to his lawyers on November 9, 2006. In the letter, Slahi states that all the confessions of crimes were the result of torture. He laughed at being asked to recount "everything" that he had said during interrogations, joking that it was "like asking Charlie Sheen how many women he dated."
According to Peter Finn of the Washington Post in 2010, Slahi, along with Tariq al-Sawah, is one of "two of the most significant informants ever to be held at Guantanamo. Today, they are housed in a little fenced-in compound at the military prison, where they live a life of relative privilege -- gardening, writing and painting -- separated from other detainees in a cocoon designed to reward and protect."
Slahi started writing a memoir of his experiences in 2005. They are to be published as Guantánamo Diary in January 2015.
Allegations of torture
Slahi had his last Federal Bureau of Investigation interrogation on May 22, 2003. His FBI interrogator warned him "this was our last session; he told me that I was not going to enjoy the time to come." Three months later Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld approved the use of "enhanced interrogation techniques." Slahi was subjected to isolation, temperature extremes, beatings and sexual humiliation by military interrogators. In one incident, he was blindfolded and taken out to sea for a mock execution.
A 2007 Wall Street Journal report paraphrased an incident described in the 2005 Schmidt-Furlow Report, an investigation by the Department of Defense into detainee treatment at Guantanamo following FBI allegations of torture used by DOD interrogators in the early years of Guantanamo:
On July 17, 2003, a masked interrogator told Mr. Slahi he had dreamed of watching detainees dig a grave.... The interrogator said he saw "a plain, pine casket with [Mr. Slahi's] identification number painted in orange lowered into the ground."
In the summer of 2003, Slahi was repeatedly subjected to the use of an interrogation technique which the Schmidt-Furlow Report stated had been prohibited by the Secretary of Defense on December 2, 2002.
What was not revealed until 2008 was that in a March 14, 2003 legal opinion memo issued by John Yoo of the Office of Legal Counsel, Department of Justice, to the General Counsel of the Department of Defense, Yoo advised that federal laws related to torture and other abuses did not apply to interrogations overseas. At that point the Bush administration contended that Guantanamo Bay was outside US jurisdiction. The Defense Department used this memo to authorize the use of enhanced interrogation techniques at Guantanamo and in Iraq. Also, by 2005 the New York Times reported that by an April 2003 memo from Rumsfeld to General James T. Hill, Rumsfeld authorized 24 specific permitted interrogation techniques to be used. Jack Goldsmith, head of the Office of Legal Counsel, withdrew the Yoo Torture Memos in June 2004 and advised federal agencies not to rely on them.
Slahi's lawyers have threatened to sue Jordanian, Mauritanian and US officials over his torture.
Senate Armed Services Committee Report
The United States Senate Committee on Armed Services produced a report titled "Inquiry into the Treatment of Detainees in U.S. Custody" on November 20, 2008. It contains information about the treatment Slahi received at Guantanamo before 2005.
Habeas corpus proceedings
In Rasul v. Bush (2004), the United States Supreme Court ruled that detainees at Guantánamo Bay detention camp had the right of habeas corpus to challenge their detention. Slahi had habeas petitions submitted on his behalf. In response, the Department of Defense published 27 pages of unclassified documents from his CSRT on July 14, 2005.
The Military Commissions Act of 2006 mandated that Guantánamo detainees were no longer entitled access to the U.S. federal courts, so all pending habeas petitions were stayed. However, in June 2008, the Supreme Court ruled in Boumediene v. Bush that the MCA of 2006 could not remove detainees' right to habeas and access to the federal court system. All previous habeas petitions were eligible to be re-instated.
Before submitting briefs in the habeas case, the U.S. government dropped its previous allegations that Slahi had participated in the Millennium Plot and that he knew about the 9/11 attacks before they happened.
After review of the case, US District Court Judge James Robertson granted the writ of habeas corpus and ordered Slahi's release on March 22, 2010. Robertson's ruling was criticized by several GOP politicians. Slahi was the 34th detainee whose release was ordered by a federal district court judge reviewing government materials associated with his habeas petition. The unclassified decision was filed on April 9, 2010.
Referring to the government's charge that Slahi gave "purposeful and material support" to al Qaeda, Judge Robertson wrote:
Salahi may very well have been an al-Qaida sympathizer, and the evidence does show that he provided some support to al-Qaida, or to people he knew to be al-Qaida. Such support was sporadic, however, and, at the time of his capture, non-existent. In any event, what the standard approved in Al-Bihani actually covers is "those who purposefully and materially supported such forces in hostilities against U.S. Coalition partners." 530 F.3d at 872 (emphasis added). The evidence in this record cannot possibly be stretched far enough to fit that test.(p5)
Judge Robertson addressed the other government allegation, that Slahi was "part of" al Qaeda at the time of his capture. He said the law was not as clear in this instance:
neither Al-Bihani nor any other case provides a brightline test for determining who was and who was not 'part of' al-Qaida at the time of capture. The decision, in other words, depends on the sufficiency of the evidence." In regard to Slahi's case, Judge Robertson wrote, "The question of when a detainee must have been a 'part of' al-Qaida to be detainable is at the center of this case, because it is clear that Salahi was at one point a sworn al-Qaida member.
Judge Robertson discusses other factors in his decision, including which side had the burden of proof and considering the reliability of coerced or hearsay testimony.(pp7–12) In conclusion, Judge Robertson stated:
The government had to adduce evidence - which is different from intelligence - showing that it was more likely than not that Salahi was "part of" al-Qaida. To do so, it had to show that the support Salahi undoubtedly did provide from time to time was provided within al-Qaida's command structure. The government has not done so.(p31)
The Department of Justice appealed the decision. Oral arguments were heard on September 17, 2010 by a three-judge panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. In oral arguments, Judge David Tatel questioned whether swearing bayat in 1991 is evidence of actions a decade and more later against the United States. He noted, "When he swore bayat, the United States and al-Qaida had a common goal. Both the United States and al-Qaida were opposing a communist government of Afghanistan." The panel discussed sending the case back to the District Court or over-ruling the decision, based on other recent D.C. Circuit rulings on the criteria that justify detention, which are still being developed.
On November 5, 2010, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the decision and remanded the case to the D.C. District Court for further factual findings, based on guidance it had given to the D.C. District Court about review of such habeas corpus cases of detainees. The Circuit Court panel said the following questions needed to be answered:
- whether Salahi understood that he was referring recruits to work in al-Qaeda’s “jihad” against the U.S.,
- what Salahi may have said to bin al-Shibh in a discussion of jihad in Afghanistan,
- whether he had been asked by al-Qaeda to help with communications projects in Afghanistan and elsewhere,
- whether he had taken a role in planning computer “cyberattacks,” and
- whether he remained “a trusted member” of al-Qaeda up to the time of his capture.
In 2005, Slahi wrote his memoirs while in prison, a 466-page manuscript in English. He had learned this language since being held at Guantánamo. After litigation and negotiation, his lawyers achieved declassification by the US government six years later. Excerpts were published by Slate magazine as a three-part series beginning April 30, 2013. On May 1, 2013, Slate also published a related interview with Col. Morris Davis, the military's chief prosecutor at Guantánamo from September 2005 to October 2007.
The book, Guantánamo Diary, was published in January 2015. It is the first work by a still-imprisoned detainee at Guantánamo. It provides details of his harsh interrogations and torture, including being "force-fed seawater, sexually molested, subjected to a mock execution and repeatedly beaten, kicked and smashed across the face, all spiced with threats that his mother will be brought to Guantánamo and gang-raped."
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The Guardian broke the story of an alleged CIA-like “black site” operating secretly within the Chicago Police Department in Homan Square this past Tuesday.