CIA removed Gitmo detainees to avoid due process: AP

The Central Intelligence Agency transferred several high-profile prisoners to Guantánamo Bayto await trial in 2003, only to transfer them back into the CIA's network of secret prisons so they would not be entitled to lawyers and access to US courts, the Associated Press reported Aug. 6. Among the suspects reportedly on the September 2003 flight were prominent al-Qaedamembers Ramzi Binalshibh and Mustafa al-Hawsawi, who supposedly aided in the planning of the 9-11 attacks, and Abd al-Nashiri, who supposedly planned the 2000 USS Cole bombing. A commercial jetliner operated by one of the CIA's several airline front companies removed al-Hawsawi from the "Salt Pit" in Kabul, Afghanistan, transferred alleged 9-11 conspirator Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to "Britelite" in Bucharest, Romania, and picked up the others at a facility in Rabat, Morocco, before landing in Guantánamo Bay.

The prisoners were transferred to await trial by a military tribunal, but US officials subsequently became concerned that the Supreme Court's impending ruling in Rasul v. Bush would require the government to grant access to lawyers and US courts to foreign-born terror suspects. In March 2004, the CIA transferred the prisoners back into various overseas prisons, allowing the agency to interrogate them without legal protections for two more years until then-president George W. Bush ordered the prisoners back to Guantánamo under pressure from media scrutiny of the "extraordinary rendition" program.

Also Aug. 6, Warsaw-based human rights group Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights (HFHR) released documents from the Polish Border Guard Office detailing arrival, departure and passenger information for several flights by CIA front companies into and out of cities in Poland. HFHR reports that it secured records for seven flights in total spanning a period from December 2002 to September 2003, when the AP says the five-stop flight to Guantanamo Bay took place:

[B]etween 5 December 2002 and 22 September 2003 seven planes which are commonly associated with CIA front companies landed at Szymany airport. Five of them came to Poland with passengers, but at the time of departure only crew was present on board. The last plane noted flew to Szymany empty, and left Poland with five people on board…

That entry, dated September 22, 2003, shows a flight arriving with no passengers in Szymany, reportedly site of the CIA prison where Mohammad had been held, according to the AP. It then departed with five passengers for Romania, home of "Britelite," the prison to which the AP reports Mohammad was transferred around that time.

From Jurist, Aug. 6. Used with permission.

See our last posts on the detainment scandals, and Poland and the secret CIA gulag.

  1. Poland probes CIA torture case
    Polish prosecutors announced Sept. 22 that they will open an investigation into the alleged mistreatment of accused USS Cole bomber Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri at a secret CIA prison in Poland. The investigation is in response to the request filed this week by the Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI) and al-Nashiri’s lawyers. The request asks prosecutors to scrutinize al-Nashiri’s detention and treatment in their investigation into the allegations of a CIA-operated secret prison in the country and to prosecute those responsible for the acts on Polish soil. Earlier this month, an ex-CIA agent confirmed that the agency tortured al-Nashiri in 2002 at a secret prison in Poland. OSJI stated that the filing represents the first attempt by an extraordinary rendition victim to pursue a legal remedy within the Polish court system. Al-Nashiri remains a detainee at Guantánamo Bay, despite an announcement last month by the Obama administration that charges against him are not pending or being considered. The Pentagon formally dropped charges against al-Nashiri in February 2009, effectively ending his prosecution under the Military Commissions Act of 2006. (Jurist, Sept. 22)