Guantanamo Bay

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba — A Guantanamo Bay prisoner charged in the 9/11 attacks fired one of his military attorneys Monday in an apparent sign of frustration and distrust of his Pentagon-appointed legal counsel.

At the start of what is expected to be a four-day hearing to address pre-trial legal issues, Waleed bin Attash at first refused to speak when questioned by the judge about his desire to dismiss one of his three lawyers, Marine Corps Maj. William Hennessy. He hinted at his motivation later in an exchange with the judge about whether he wished to attend future sessions of the court.

“We have been dealing with our attorneys for about a year and a half and we have not been able to get any trust with them,” the Yemeni said.

The Republicans don’t even try to act like they support peace and civil liberties. For many years, the Democrats did. But after the Hook the Vote debate last week between the University Democrats and the Libertarian Longhorns, it became clear even the Democrats, at least those on campus, don’t support our rights. (In the interest of full disclosure, I serve as Public Relations Director of the Libertarian Longhorns, but my opinions are my own).

During the debate, the University Democrats slammed former President George W. Bush — and rightly so — for his expensive and unnecessary wars and his violations of civil liberties. Afghanistan should have been a mission to kill Osama bin Laden and those involved with the 9/11 attacks. Bush made it into a war with the Taliban and an occupation of the entire country. Then he decided to invade and destabilize Iraq, resulting in countless unnecessary deaths of both American soldiers and Iraqi civilians. Bush trashed civil liberties with the Patriot Act, illegal wiretapping, indefinite detention and torture at Guantanamo Bay.

Bush’s policies were inexcusable. And throughout his presidency, the Democrats rarely put up with any excuses from the Bush administration. During the 2008 presidential election, then-candidate Barack Obama had huge respect for civil liberties. He promised to close Guantanamo Bay on his first day in office, end indefinite detention and honor the principle of habeas corpus. He denounced the warrantless wiretapping of American citizens and racial profiling in the name of national security. The War on Drugs would be reformed.

Those were changes we could believe in. Unfortunately, they’re changes we’re still waiting for.

Since taking office, Obama hasn’t closed Guantanamo Bay. Rather than ending indefinite detention, he expanded it to include American citizens under the National Defense Authorization Act. Instead of ending the Patriot Act and its warrantless wiretapping, Obama extended it. His administration has the same FBI guidelines for using race and religion in investigations as the Bush administration did.

Despite the “hope” of improvement, Obama has actually proven worse than his predecessor on many civil liberties issues. In the past four years, whistleblowers have been targeted under the 1917 Espionage Act twice as many times as under all previous presidents combined.

Arguably the most disturbing violation of human rights is Obama’s extensive use of drone strikes. Obama has already ordered more than five times as many drone strikes as Bush did, in Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan and possibly even more countries. Obama assassinates suspected terrorists — including U.S. citizens — without judicial or legislative oversight. He is the judge, the jury and the executioner. Bush would never have gotten away with such blatant disregard of human rights and the rule of law.

As MIT linguist and vocal activist Noam Chomsky put it, “If Bush, the Bush administration, didn’t like somebody, they’d kidnap them and send them to torture chambers. If the Obama administration decides they don’t like somebody, they murder them, so you don’t have to have torture chambers all over.”

At the debate last Wednesday, the UDems defended these unconstitutional, expensive and ineffective wars. They defended the use of sanctions, which force innocent civilians into poverty and at times even starvation. They supported the continued existence of the prison at Guantanamo Bay and praised the president’s use of drones.

Claiming that “we can’t live in a world of rainbows and unicorns,” they argued the measures that Obama has taken were necessary because they are “practical.”

It was sad to see that the one thing both major parties can agree upon now is the abandonment of civil liberties and peace.

McCann is a Plan II freshman from Dallas. 

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba — Some prisoners at Guantanamo Bay will soon have a new, larger soccer field to help keep them occupied during their indefinite detention.

The U.S. military has nearly completed a new recreation yard in Camp 6, the camp where more than 80 percent of the 171 prisoners are held. Besides a soccer field, it will have a walking trail and exercise equipment. Screened fences block the view of the nearby Caribbean Sea.

A spokeswoman says the improvements cost nearly $750,000. Navy Cmdr. Tamsen Reese said Tuesday the new yard replaces a smaller one in a part of the prison no longer in use. President Barack Obama had pledged to close the prison on the U.S. base in Cuba but Congress blocked him.

Taken in 2002, detainees wearing orange jump suits sit in a holding area as military police patrol during in-processing at the temporary detention facility Camp X-Ray on Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base in Cuba. The notorious prison is 10-years-old today.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — U.S. intelligence officials acknowledged Tuesday that the United States may release several Afghan Taliban prisoners from the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as an incentive to bring the Taliban to peace talks.

Meanwhile, Afghan officials told The Associated Press that a plan to give Afghanistan a form of legal custody over the men if they are released satisfied their earlier objection to sending the prisoners to a third country.

Director of National Intelligence Jim Clapper told Congress Tuesday that no decision had been made on whether to trade the five Taliban prisoners, now held at Guantanamo Bay as part of nascent peace talks with the Taliban. He and CIA Director David Petraeus did not dispute that the Obama administration is considering transferring the five to a third country.

U.S. officials and others had previously spoken only vaguely, and usually anonymously, about the proposal to send the prisoners to Qatar, a Persian Gulf country that has asserted a central role in framing talks that might end the 10-year war in Afghanistan. The lead U.S. negotiator trying to coax the Taliban into talks had also publicly acknowledged the possibility of a release, but said there was no final decision.

The prisoners proposed for transfer include some of the detainees brought to Guantanamo during the initial days and weeks of the U.S. invasion that toppled the Taliban government in Afghanistan in 2001. At least one has been accused in the massacre of thousands of Shiite Muslims in Afghanistan, according to U.S. and other assessments, but none are accused of directly killing Americans.

“I don’t think anybody harbors any illusions about it, but I think the position is to at least explore the potential for negotiating with them as a part of this overall resolution of the situation in Afghanistan,” Clapper said during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing.