Majid Khan (detainee)
|Majid S. Khan|
Majid Shoukat Khan|
28 February 1980
5 March 2003|
|Detained at||Pakistan, CIA black sites, Guantanamo|
|Charge(s)||Five war crimes, including murder, attempted murder and spying|
|Status||Pleaded guilty under plea deal|
Majid Shoukat Khan (born 28 February 1980) is the only known legal resident of the United States who is held in the Guantanamo Bay detainment camps. He was detained after returning to his native Pakistan to visit his wife and was captured by Pakistani authorities, who handed him over to the CIA.
Iyman Faris told authorities that Khan had referred to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed as an "uncle" and spoken of a desire to kill then president of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf. After Khan was taken into custody, sent to a CIA black site in Afghanistan, where he was interrogated and transferred to Guantanamo Bay in September 2006, Faris said that his accusations had been "an absolute lie." He said that he had been coerced into making the statements.
Khan gained asylum in the United States in 1998 and was a legal resident of Baltimore, Maryland, where he had attended high school and worked for his father. Khan has made repeated offers to submit to a polygraph test to prove his innocence, but been denied. The Director of National Intelligence has asserted that Khan's experience working in his father's gas station "...made Khan highly qualified to assist Mohammad with the research and planning to blow up gas stations."
Khan is represented by the Center for Constitutional Rights and is one of few so-called "high value detainees" to have legal representation. While in Guantanamo, he has twice attempted suicide. He has complained in writing of having his beard forcibly shaved (in violation of his religious practice) and spending weeks without sunlight; he also has complained that detainees are expected to wash with "cheap branded, unscented soap", and that he is forced to read the "poor quality" Joint Task Force Guantanamo's weekly newsletter The Wire.
Khaled el-Masri, a citizen of Germany held for five months in the CIA black site in Afghanistan known as the "Salt Pit" in 2003 and 2004, a victim of mistaken identity, has reported that Majid Khan was one of his fellow captives there.
- 1 Early life
- 2 Arrest and detention
- 3 Legal issues
- 4 Combatant Status Review Tribunals
- 5 Legal action
- 6 Letters from Guantanamo
- 7 Pakistani cooperation
- 8 Related case
- 9 Torture
- 10 References
- 11 External links
Khan's family settled in Catonsville, Maryland near Baltimore, where he attended Owings Mills High School. Like many American teens, Khan listened to hip-hop and played video games. He helped out his family by working the cash register at the family-owned business, his father's gas station. He was granted asylum in the U.S. in 1998, and graduated the following year. Khan was an active member in the Muslim community, volunteering to teach computer classes for youth at the Islamic Society of Baltimore and attending Jumah services at his local mosque, a mile away from his family home.
In 2002, Khan returned to Pakistan, where he married 18-year-old Rabia Yaqoub. According to Deborah Scroggins, author of Wanted Women, Khan had become more religious, after his mother's death, and had asked his aunt to help him find a wife who was also a religious scholar. Rabia was one of his aunt's students.
He returned to the United States for a short period to continue his work as a database administrator in a Maryland government office. He claims that he helped the FBI investigate and arrest an illegal immigrant from Pakistan during this time.
On December 25, 2002, Aafia Siddiqui made a trip from Pakistan to the U.S., saying that she was looking for a job. She left the U.S. on January 2, 2003. The FBI suspects that the real purpose of her trip was to open a P.O. box for Khan. Siddiqui registered Khan as co-owner of the box, claiming he was her husband. The key to the box was later found held by Uzair Paracha, who was convicted of providing material support to al-Qaeda, and sentenced to 30 years in federal prison in 2006. Siddiqui's ex-husband has said he was suspicious of Siddiqui's intentions, as she made her trip at a time when U.S. universities are closed.
Arrest and detention
Khan returned to Pakistan on March 5, 2003. He, his brother Mohammed, and other relatives were arrested at their residence in Karachi by Pakistani security agents and taken into custody. Khan and his family were taken to an unknown location. After about a month, the entire family, with the exception of Khan, was released.
Rabia Khan and the rest of his family heard nothing of his whereabouts for three years. In September 2006, President George W. Bush announced that Khan, along with 13 other so-called "high value detainees", had been transferred from secret CIA prisons to military custody at Guantánamo Bay detention camp to await prosecution under the new military tribunal system authorized by the Military Commissions Act of 2006.
Khan was the first of the fourteen high-value detainees to challenge his detention in court. The Center for Constitutional Rights filed the habeas corpus challenge on October 5, 2006 — before President Bush signed the Military Commissions Act of 2006 into law.
But, the Military Commissions Act of 2006 restricted detainees from mounting challenges through U.S. courts and was retroactive. The Center for Constitutional Rights and others argued against this act before the U.S. Supreme Court in Boumediene v. Bush on December 5, 2007. Justice Kennedy held in the case that the MCA could not deny detainees and other petitioners, including Khan, their right to petition United States courts for writ of habeas corpus.
In the government's account, Khan was exposed to a radicalized element of Islam while in the United States. Khan allegedly began attending secret prayer meetings at Baltimore's Islamic Society, where he was recruited by individuals who sought out disaffected young people. U.S. officials assert that Khan's first trip to Pakistan connected him to family members affiliated with Al-Qaeda. According to officials, these family members introduced Khan to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM), the man accused of orchestrating the September 11, 2001 attacks. Allegedly Mohammed later enlisted Khan in helping to support and plan terrorist attacks against the U.S. and Israel.
Government officials assert that Khan, under KSM's tutelage, was being trained to blow up gas stations and poison water reservoirs, and that he plotted to assassinate Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf. Khan's job at the family gas station played a role in the suspicions of U.S. intelligence analysts that he was part of a plot to blow up parts of the U.S. petroleum infrastructure. The U.S. government contends that Khan was aware that his visit to family in Pakistan in 2002 violated the terms of his asylum granted in 1998.
Legal challenge to government
Khan's attorneys at the Center for Constitutional Rights insist that he was tortured, subjected to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment, and coerced into making false and unreliable confessions.
Khan's appeal points out that although he had been in U.S. custody for more than three and a half years, he had never had any kind of review of the legality of his detention. Khan's attorneys at CCR petitioned to have his case tried in civilian court in the United States instead of by military tribunal at Guantanamo. A federal appeals court ruled in February 2007 that detainees at Guantanamo Bay could not use the U.S. court system to challenge their indefinite imprisonment.
Access to legal counsel
The Center for Constitutional Rights argued against the government's efforts to deny CCR attorneys access to Khan in a response brief filed November 3, 2006. In the brief, CCR argued that efforts by the Bush administration to deny Khan access to counsel, "ignores the Court's historical function under Article III of the Constitution to exercise its independent judgment," and is using its classification authority to hide illegal conduct when the court has sufficient tools to prevent disclosure of sensitive classified information.
James Friedman, a professor at the Maine School of Law, wrote that the Bush administration is arguing that Khan, and the other high-value detainees held in the Black Sites, should be gagged from talking about the interrogation techniques they were exposed to, even when talking privately to their own lawyers. Friedman pointed out, "His combatant status was never reviewed as required by the U.S. Supreme Court in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld (2004) nor as outlined in the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005."
According to an article by Christopher Brauchli:
- Kathleen Blomquist, a Justice Department Spokeswoman explains:
information regarding the former C.I.A. detainees [like Mr. Khan] was classified as top secret. She said the information he shares with his counsel should "be appropriately tailored to accommodate a higher security level.
- The D.I.A. told the court that if Mr. Khan told just any person what the [interrogation] procedures were, it would cause "extremely grave damage to the national security."
- Marilyn A. Dorn, an official at the National Clandestine Service, part of the CIA, told the court that
If specific alternative techniques were disclosed, it would permit terrorist organizations to adapt their training to counter the tactics that C.I.A. can employ in interrogations.
Habeas corpus submission
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Khan is one of 16 Guantanamo captives whose amalgamated habeas corpus submissions were heard by U.S. District Court Judge Reggie B. Walton on January 31, 2007. Walton ruled that the cases be administratively closed (or stayed) until the District of Columbia Circuit resolves the issue of jurisdiction.
Combatant Status Review Tribunals
Detainees at Guantanamo Bay are determined to be "enemy combatants" or "non-enemy combatants" during what are known as Combatant Status Review Tribunals (CSRTs). Many critics have pointed out the flaws of the process, including:
- The government controls what evidence and witnesses are permitted.
- Evidence obtained by torture is admissible.
- The detainees have no lawyer representing them.
- There is no guarantee of due process.
- The process is designed to get the government the results it wants—-some detainees were sent through the CSRT process as many as three times until they were found guilty.
Timeline of Majid Khan's Combatant Status Review Tribunal
|February 7, 2007||
|March 28, 2007||
|April 15, 2007||
|May 15, 2007|
Majid Khan chose to attend his Tribunal. The verbatim transcript from the unclassified sessions of Majid Khan's Tribunal is 39 pages long.
Ali Khan's affidavit
On April 16, 2007, the Center for Constitutional Rights released an affidavit from Majid Khan's father, Ali Khan, and an accompanying press release. The Press Release quoted from Ali Khan's affidavit, which stated:
- Majid Khan was subjected to twenty days of beatings, binding in stress positions, hooding, sleep deprivation, at the end of which he was forced to sign a confession he wasn't given an opportunity to read.
- Majid Khan's brother Mohammed, sister-in-law, and infant niece were captured at the same time as he was. His brother Mohammed was released after a month, but during his month in captivity, Pakistani guards allowed him to have contact with his brother, and this is how his father, Ali Khan, was able to report details of his first month of interrogation.
- Mohammed's guards told him that, at the same facility where the Khan brothers were being held, were the children of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who were six and eight years old. They were being deprived of food and water, and subjected to abusive interrogation to coerce them to cooperate in revealing their father's location.
- Mohammed Khan repeated that guards told him that two teenage boys, aged 14 and 16, were stripped naked and abused during their interrogation, then bound, and loaded on a plane to Guantanamo, "like garbage".
In addition, the press release stated:
- That Majid Khan's family were not allowed to testify at his Tribunal.
- That Majid Khan's family had offered to fly to Guantanamo at their own expense, to testify at his Tribunal, "but the government refused to guarantee the family safe return to the U.S. if they traveled to Guantánamo to testify in person."
- That Khan was not allowed to be present when witnesses testified before the Tribunal, which it called a violation of its own rules.
The press release quoted his brother Mohammed:
Our imprisonment in Karachi and interrogation by Americans was a terrifying experience, I still cannot believe that for the last four years the U.S. government has held my brother in secret detention and now won't even let him see our family or his lawyer. When I think about the detention of my newborn daughter, Majid's torture that made him sign a confession without reading it, and his disappearance into a secret prison, I feel our family is caught in a nightmare. No human being should have to go through what my brother endured – and is still enduring.
The government is denying Majid any access to his attorneys solely to keep his torture and abuse secret, even from his lawyers, His father's testimony sheds light on the U.S. government's system of secret detention and makes clear that U.S. officials are trying to hide their own criminal conduct.
According to the press release, Khan's Tribunal was scheduled to start on April 10, 2007, and to finish by April 13, 2007. Ali Khan made the affidavit on April 6, 2007, when the family confirmed they would not be allowed to testify in person.
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.
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First meeting with a lawyer
Order to preserve evidence
In December 2007, a Federal appeals court in Washington DC ordered the Department of Defense to preserve evidence in Khan's case. The motion predated reporting that, contrary to earlier claims by the government, the CIA had taped the interrogations of Abu Zubaydah and Abdul Al Nashiri, including their waterboarding in 2002, and destroyed those tapes. A court order of late 2005 had ordered the government not to destroy such evidence. In an e-mail to The Washington Post Wells Dixon, one of Khan's lawyers, wrote:
The order is significant because the D.C. circuit would have no reason to issue interim relief, by its own initiative, if it were absolutely certain that no torture evidence would be lost or destroyed before the preservation motion is fully briefed and decided on the merits.
The CIA denied that it had tortured Khan or any other captive. Dixon said:
At a bare minimum, General Hayden is not fully informed about the CIA torture program.
The Baltimore Sun quoted a CIA spokesman, George Little, who repeated that the CIA stood by its assertion that it had stopped videotaping captives' interrogations in 2002. But Khan's lawyers said their client's interrogations had been taped more recently than that.
Motion to declare torture
A motion filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights was declassified in redacted form in December 2007. This motion aims for the Court of Appeals to declare that interrogation methods used against Majid Khan by the CIA "constitute torture and other forms of impermissible coercion."
The government's response to the motion was due to the court on December 20, 2009.
The CCR attorneys Dixon Wells and Gita S. Gutierrez released some of their declassified notes from their conversations with Majid Khan in November 2007. They included the following:
- He had chewed through the artery in his left arm until it bled in January 2007 and still has a scar.
- He has been on hunger strikes to protest for his rights to see his lawyers and to protest his conditions and being kept in isolation. Hunger strikes were the only way he knew to assert his rights. He said a teacher at Owings Mills High School had taught him about checks and balances, and he learned that if you do not assert and protect your rights, you do not deserve to be in the United States.
- Khan went on hunger strike to get a subscription to The Washington Post.
- When meeting Khan for the first time, the attorneys initially thought the guards had brought the wrong detainee, which has happened in the past. But he had lost so much weight that they did not recognize him. He looked at them and said, "Dixon? Gita? I've been waiting a long time to meet you. It's good to see you."
- He is suffering from symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, including concentration, memory loss, and frantic expression.
- He has said he wishes he had gone to college.
Petition of habeas corpus
On July 22, 2008, J. Wells Dixon, Gitanjali S. Gutierrez, Shayana D. Kadidal, of the Center for Constitutional Rights, filed a "petitioner's status report" on behalf of Majid Khan, in Civil Action No. 06-1690, Majid Khan v. George W. Bush.
On August 1, 2008, Dixon filed a "Motion for Order directing the Court Security Office to file supplemental status report". He wrote that a DTA appeal had been initiated on Khan's behalf. His motion said that in contrast to other captives' DTA appeals, the Department of Justice was not agreeing to allow expculpatory information prepared for his DTA appeal to be made available for use on his habeas petition.
Letters from Guantanamo
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Khan is the first of the 14 high value detainees to have been able to get mail to his relatives. The Washington Post reports that four letters from Khan have been received, three to his relatives in Maryland, and one to his wife. The letters were delivered to his family through the International Committee of the Red Cross. Its contact with detainees is contingent on the agency's promise not to publicly disclose any information received during the meetings, which is its standard process. Khan's letter to his wife was written in Urdu, and was published on the BBC's Urdu web site. Khan's Maryland relatives have also decided to make the letters public to bring more attention to his case. These letters, written on December 17, 2007, and December 21, 2007, were made public on January 18, 2008. The letters were filed as part of a petition in the Washington DC Federal Court of Appeal. The petition asks the court "to rule that he was tortured in U.S. custody." According to The Washington Post, Khan's letters were heavily redacted by military censors.
Khan wrote that he was in solitary confinement, but he can talk to nearby captives through the cell walls. Once a day he is permitted to leave his cell "to get sunburn" during an hour of solitary access in an exercise yard. His relatives say the letters show he has become much more religious.
In one five-page handwritten account from Khan to his lawyers, only a single sentence survives the censor's pen. It says, 'I was practically an American who lived a comfortable live [sic] under freedoms of America, who never lived in caves or Afghanistan.'
Other quotes from Khan's letters include:
- "Think of me as a human being ... not a terrorist."
- "I ask you to give me justice ... in the name of what U.S.A. once stood for and in the name of what Thomas Jefferson fought for ... allow me a chance to prove that I am innocent."
- "Why would I ever want to harm U.S.A., who has never done anything but good to me and my family?"
The Baltimore Sun reported that Khan said that when he lived in the United States, he paid $2,400 per month in U.S. taxes. It also reported that the only other captive he has had any contact with since he arrived in Guantanamo was Abu Zubaydah.
In 2006, Khalid Khawaja, a spokesman for the Pakistani human rights group Defense of Human Rights, cited the examples of Majid Khan and Saifullah Paracha as proof that the Pakistani government had lied about whether it had handed over Pakistani citizens to the U.S. The Associated Press quotes Khawaja as stating that: "Pakistan has sold its own people to the United States for dollars."
In September 2006, Uzair Paracha, the son of Saifullah Paracha, another Guantanamo detainee, was tried and convicted of terrorism charges in a U.S. court. Paracha had requested Majid Khan as a witness. The U.S. government declined to produce him, although he was in U.S. custody.
The Senate Intelligence Committee's C.I.A. Torture Report, released December 9, 2014, revealed that Khan was one of the detainees subjected to "rectal feeding", which his lawyers described as a form of rape, as part of his ″torture regime″ at the black site prison. Khan's "lunch tray", consisting of hummus, pasta with sauce, nuts, and raisins was pureed and rectally infused," says the report.
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"Detainee Suspected of Plot to Destroy Gas, Water Supplies". The Nature of the Enemy. 1 (5). November 8, 2006. Retrieved 2008-02-22.
This experience made Khan highly qualified to assist [Khalid Sheikh] Mohammad with the research and planning to blow up gas stations. Khan is also suspected of working with Mohammad on plans to poison water reservoirs throughout the United States, and plans to assassinate Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf.
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Carol D. Leonnig; Eric Rich (2006-11-04). "U.S. Seeks Silence on CIA Prisons: Court Is Asked to Bar Detainees From Talking About Interrogations". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2009-10-21.
The battle over legal rights for terrorism suspects detained for years in CIA prisons centers on Majid Khan, a 26-year-old former Catonsville resident who was one of 14 high-value detainees transferred in September from the "black" sites to the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
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A U.S. appeals court said it ordered the preservation of evidence so that it can have 'sufficient opportunity to consider the merits of the motion' by the defense seeking a ruling on preserving evidence in Khan's case. It should not be construed as a ruling on the motion's merits, the court said in its written order.
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- "Guantánamo's tangled web: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Majid Khan, dubious U.S. convictions, and a dying man", Andy Worthington, 14 July 2007
- UN Secret Detention Report (Part One): The CIA's "High-Value Detainee" Program and Secret Prisons, Andy Worthington, 15 June 2010