Guantanamo Review Board: This is Not What Transparency Looks Like

At 9:15 a.m. yesterday morning, the flat-screen monitor in Arlington, Virginia, came to life, revealing a small room inside what appeared to be a temporary structure.

Filling the screen were five men huddled around a small conference table: a translator, the detainee’s two personal military representatives, his long-time personal lawyer, and – seated directly in front of the camera – the detainee himself, Abdel Malik Ahmed Abdel Wahan al Rahabi. Mr. Rahabi has been held at the Guantanamo Bay prison facility without charge or trial by the U.S. government since January 2002.

A disembodied voice announced, both to Mr. Rahabi in Guantanamo and to the viewers in Arlington:

This periodic review board is being conducted at 0900 hours on the 28th of January, 2014, at the Periodic Review Secretariat Headquarters, Arlington, Virginia, with regard to the following detainee: Abdel Malik Ahmed Abdel Wahan al Rahabi…. this is your periodic review board to determine whether continued law of war detention is warranted in your case. Your continued law of war detention will be warranted if such detention is necessary to protect against a significant -- continuing significant threat to the national security of the United States.

Yesterday’s convening was the second tele-hearing to take place before a Periodic Review Board (PRB), a process ordered by the president in 2011 to review whether detainees who were not cleared for release in the administration’s last review in 2010 should continue to be held.

The PRBs are meant to regularly reassess whether release of a prisoner would present a current threat to the United States, but the first hearing was delayed for nearly two years and about 70 cases are still to be heard in the initial round of hearings. PRBs are different from, and do not substitute for, habeas review in federal court, which determines whether detention is lawful.

Importantly, this morning’s hearing was the first to be opened to a small group of outside observers that included media and representatives of human rights organizations. They had access to the unclassified portion of the hearing, which lasted 19 minutes. The observers saw and heard just the opening statements by Mr. Rahabi’s personal representatives and counsel, the text of which had already been posted on the PRB Secretariat website. None of the review board members – representatives from six military, intelligence, and law enforcement agencies and the State Department – asked any questions during the unclassified portion of the hearing.

The move to partially open PRB hearings came as a response to calls from media and human rights groups, including the ACLU, for greater transparency in review proceedings.

Transparency in this process is absolutely necessary so that the public can assess whether the PRB process is meaningful and fair given the lopsided protocols that govern it. The Department of Defense’s procedures decidedly disadvantage the detainee. For example, the PRB can consider evidence the prisoner, his lawyer, and his personal representatives cannot even see. In such an environment, the government must demonstrate that it is not exploiting these kinds of protocols and the absence of procedural safeguards.

Only with that transparency can the public be assured of the fairness of the PRB proceedings. Unfortunately, the 19 minutes of pre-published statements made only one thing clear: we have a long way to go.

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Anonymous

Why's he have 6 names?

Personally, even if they DO have reviews, I don't think the public will understand a damn thing of what they're talking about anyway - I know *I* don't - so the transparency doesn't really seem to matter if you know what I mean.

And what about the other ones? Like Khalid Sheik Mohammed? Really, he's the main one that concerns me. The others seem to be there for reasons other than September 11, like the guy who's accused of bombing a naval ship in 2000. And the one who was taken in Afghanistan, the one who was 10 or 15 when he first came there.
I want to know what they're intending to do with Khalid Sheik Mohammed, b/c he was one of the names that were mentioned in the book, the 9/11 Commission Report and one of the FBI Agents said they had "pretty solid evidence on him for his part in the September 11 operation."
I have no idea now what that meant. At the time, I assumed they knew what they were talking about but now I really wonder if everyone in our government has lost their dang marbles when it comes to this subject. I don't know what to think anymore. It was a lot easier to deal with this when Bush was president b/c he just told flat-out lies that if nothing else at least were consistent. And he refused to give us much information anyway.

Vicki B.

I find all this information both confusing but terribly upsetting at the same time. I don't understand why our government has elected to play all these games, as if the families of people who died on September 11 weren't already going through enough crap. Why do they have to heap MORE on us? And why are they playing all these games with trying to control everything and trying to HIDE other things that the BUSH Administration is guilty of doing so why they don't come straight out and admit it is beyond ME.
If THEY'RE the dumbasses who tortured people - and everyone basically knows they are - then hiding it isn't going to do a DAMN thing except annoy and upset the crap out of people who know anyway - like ME.
I find all of it especially distressing tonight.

Anonymous

Could you guys do one that sums up all the important parts of this issue so that a person doesn't have to read more than 25 articles on the matter and becoming so emotionally distressed at all the confusion that it literally overwhelms her?

B/c that's what's happening to me while trying to understand all this, and I'm sure it's b/c I knew a person who died on September 11.
It's highly disturbing and very upsetting to try to go through all these articles in search of the one thing that makes even a DUST MOTE of sense and become more confused instead of less when trying to figure out what the hell's going on.

I even made an actual phone call to the ACLU in New York City in an attempt to do this for myself, to actually talk to a person who might be able to make a teeny bit of sense of it, but I decided not to call back b/c I still though I might be able to do it for myself. Now I'm afraid I CAN'T call back or I'll look even more silly than I did calling in the first place.

I'm just utterly confused by all these games it seems like our government has decided they're going to play with this issue, but I'm not getting any answers from them about why they've chosen to do what they're doing. I've talked to three different politicians about it, the three I thought were the right ones but NONE of them has responded.
I talked on George Bush's FB page yesterday but not to get any sensible answers from him. I just decided to tell him he DOESN'T have my undying approval and loyalty the way he seems to have with one of my stupid brothers whose reason for the support is totally self-serving in that he doesn't want to admit he was dead-WRONG about Bush.
I have NO such qualms after seeing what they've (Bush and Cheney) have done to the chances of getting any "justice" on the issue of September 11 suspects. They've all but RUINED the possibilities. I have no problem at ALL telling them just exactly WHAT I think of them and how OFTEN I think it.

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