Even if the only thing they were guilty of doing was what they did to Mr. Al-Ghizzawi, they deserve to be tried and convicted as war criminals. They need to sit in tiny cells for the rest of their lives and ponder their cruelty. Unfortunately Mr. Al-Ghizzawi is just one of the many victims of these thugs. Mr. Al-Ghizzawi is one of the thousands of innocent individuals picked up because someone in Washington had the brilliant idea of dropping leaflets all over war torn Afghanistan (and elsewhere) offering "millions of dollars" for turning over "suspected" murderers and terrorists.
Mr. Al-Ghizzawi has been sitting in Guantánamo since early 2002. He has never been charged with a crime or told what he is accused of having done. However, now I know the official reason why Mr. Al-Ghizzawi has not been charged and why no one has told him anything about the accusations against him. I know because a few months ago the Judge in Mr. Al-Ghizzawi's case ordered the government to turn over his Combat Status Review Tribunal (CSRT) to me, his attorney. The CSRT is the record from the kangaroo court that Rumsfeld and Gonzalez and the other despicable thugs invented to determine whether a detainee was an "enemy combatant."
After the judge ordered that the government must provide Mr. Al-Ghizzawi's CSRT to me, the government claimed to need more than four months to photocopy the document. Over my objection, the judge gave the government 60 days to make a copy and file it with the court. Although I complained about the number of days that the government claimed it needed for this minuscule task, I was actually surprised and pleased that the judge ordered the government to provide this record to me at all, since some of the judges don't think the detainees, much less their lawyers, are entitled to know anything about the circumstances surrounding their detentions! In this Kafkaesque environment, it seemed a very enlightened ruling from a judge who does not often appear, at least to me, to be very enlightened. Lest you think I am being too harsh, this same judge ordered that Mr. Al-Ghizzawi's medical records need not be turned over to me because I could not show that Mr. Al-Ghizzawi would suffer irreparable harm if the medical records were not turned over... turning the proverbial catch-22 on its head, since I could not prove the irreparable harm to Mr. Al-Ghizzawi's health without those records. I am guessing that the judge believed that, by giving me the CSRT I would discover Mr. Al-Ghizzawi was a dangerous terrorist and I would shut up. The problem was the judge hadn't seen the records either. He too didn't know what those records would show. I shudder to think had he known... Would he still have ordered them turned over to me?
I was actually out of town on business (related to Mr. Al-Ghizzawi's case) checking my email at an internet café when I learned that the government filed the "unclassified" version of the CSRT with the court. I went to the court website and pulled up the record. My heart was pounding; I was nervous. What if Mr. Al-Ghizzawi had not told me the truth? Would I blame him? Would I care?
The unclassified version of the CSRT was almost 50 pages long and I tried to skim it, quickly. Something on page four referred to Mr. Al-Ghizzawi being found an enemy combatant...not a surprise. I skimmed further. Something on page seven said there was no evidence Mr. Al-Ghizzawi was an enemy combatant. I froze. No evidence of being an enemy combatant? Why the hell has Mr. Al-Ghizzawi been held at Guantánamo for almost five years, dying of some kind of liver disease, when there is no evidence that he is an enemy combatant? (Usually they lie and determine that everyone is an enemy combatant regardless of the lack of evidence and I was expecting that).
I slowed down and read everything over more carefully, but none of it made sense to me. It seems that Mr. Al-Ghizzawi had two CSRT's. These war criminals (Rumsfeld, Gonzales and the other thugs) tried Mr. Al-Ghizzawi before two separate tribunals within a 60 day period. In the first tribunal, the evidence led to the determination (unanimously I might add) that Mr. Al-Ghizzawi was not an enemy combatant. The tribunal held that there was no evidence that Mr. Al-Ghizzawi was tied to either al-queda or the Taliban. The tribunal results were then sent to Washington. I guess our thug leaders couldn't figure out how they were going to justify their holding this poor man for close to three years when he was innocent (in the off chance that anyone asked them to justify their actions). So, five weeks later it was decided that there should be a new tribunal for Mr. Al-Ghizzawi. They claimed they found some "new" evidence that needed to be reviewed. These war criminals have no shame.
The second panel was convened in Washington. Neither Mr. Al-Ghizzawi nor his "personal representative" (government lackey, not an attorney) were told of the new tribunal. Based on the "new" evidence, Mr. Al-Ghizzawi was now found to be an enemy combatant (unanimously I must add). Oh, and by the way, did I mention that the new evidence is a "secret"? This is what we (habeas counsel) refer to as "justice, texas style".
The government had almost three years to build its case against Mr. Al-Ghizzawi, but somehow the evidence proving he was an enemy combatant was not found until five weeks after the first Tribunal unanimously found Mr. Al-Ghizzawi to not be an enemy combatant. I knew I had to review that "new" "secret" evidence as soon as possible. However, because it was classified "top secret" I had to go to the "secret facility" near Washington DC to review it.
This was my first trip to the "secret facility". I made the arrangements by emailing the secret people and telling them when I would be there (the secret people actually have a gmail account, how weird is that!) I went to the secret building and up to the secret door that had no markings and rang the secret doorbell. I was buzzed into the secret office that looked as shabby as every other government office I had ever been in. I was taken to a small room and shown my secret "drawer." (This drawer holds "secrets" regarding Mr. Al-Ghizzawi.) I was shown the private offices where I could look at the contents of my drawer. Alone. Secretly.
As it turned out, most of the secrets in my drawer were no longer secret. They were the originals of the many letters from my client. I glanced at the letters in Arabic. The letters were always so polite, asking about my 91 year old father, my teenage children, my husband. Letters thanking me for my honorable service, wishes for my good health. All of those questions and niceties came before Mr. Al-Ghizzawi discussed his health problems, his fears regarding his wife and young daughter, his concerns about his treatment at the base, his questions regarding the legal process. These letters, which should have been attorney client privileged communications, were all translated and read by the government before copies were sent to me in their original Arabic. Even though the government translated each and every one of those letters into English, they only faxed me the Arabic version. I have to pay for my own translations.
I left the letters and took out the big thick envelope with the big thick secrets. I closed my drawer and went back to one of the secret offices. Like everything else in my drawer, most of this file with the secret evidence was not a secret either. Many of the pages were filed with the court, some with redactions (mostly the names of those individuals who should also be indicted for their complicity in these war crimes).
I knew what I was looking for; it was the "new secret evidence." I skimmed the document quickly. Then I skimmed it again. Then I decided that I had to slow down because I must have somehow missed it. I looked at the page numbers again that referenced the "new secret evidence." I slowly read through those pages and then I cursed out loud. Although I was in the secret place and in theory no one will report what it was that I yelled out loud, it was the f word.
You see, there was nothing new. Absolutely nothing new. There were no secrets. No new evidence. No "secret evidence." These criminals are hiding their mistakes, their awful, inhumane, cruel, mistakes by sensationally trumpeting the existence of secret evidence, when it does not exist. Mr. Al-Ghizzawi, an innocent man, has been and continues to be held at Guantánamo for almost five years now. He is suffering from liver disease and not being treated. He is dying because the criminals running our country cannot admit the awful truth that Mr. Al-Ghizzawi (and countless others) were captured and are being held by mistake.
The Center for Constitutional Rights in New York City is working with prosecutors in Germany to bring war crimes charges against Rumsfeld and the other cowardly thugs who are no longer part of our government. One by one as these criminals leave their posts they must be indicted, until each and every one of those responsible and complicit in the war crimes of this administration is tried for their part. Until that time none of us should rest. I know I will not rest.