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Father of Gitmo Detainee Pleads for His Release

By Del Quentin Wilber
The father of a Somali detainee at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has written a letter (PDF) to President Obama pleading for his son's release.

The detainee, Mohammed Sulaymon Barre, has been held at the facility since 2002 after being turned over by Pakistani authorities who arrested him for allegedly making illegal money transfers, according to the detainee's lawyers.

Barre, 44, was working for an international money transfer company in Pakistan at the time, his lawyers say.

"My son is innocent and should be helping our family on the farm and not in prison," wrote his father, Sulaymon Barre Ali, in a letter dated March 16. The father's plea was disclosed in a letter sent to Obama by Barre's attorneys this week.

Barre has refused to meet with is his attorneys since April, telling them in a hand-written note that "there is no justice to be hoped for from the government."

The detainee's attorneys say he fled Somalia in the 1990s and was granted refugee status in Pakistan. "Mr. Barre is a refugee, not a terrorist," wrote one of his attorneys, Bill Quigley, legal director of the Center for Constitutional Rights. Barre's lawyers want their client sent to Somaliland, a northern region of Somalia where his family lives. The attorneys say it is one of the few stable parts of the region.

Barre is seeking his release in a federal lawsuit filed against the government under the centuries-old legal doctrine of habeas corpus, which allows prisoners to challenge their confinement before independent judges.

Dean Boyd, a spokesman for the Justice Department, said "a judge is going to decide whether he is being lawfully detained or not, and it's the government's position that he is being lawfully detained."

A government task force is reviewing the case files of all 229 prisoners held at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay to determine what to do with them, Boyd said.
In military documents, officials have alleged that Barre had ties to al-Qaeda and hired couriers who worked for the terror group.

By Web Politics Editor  |  June 26, 2009; 12:34 PM ET
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Any readers tempted, like reader JakeD, to take at face value the claims that vast numbers of former captives have "returned to the battlefield should take a look at the following document. Legal scholars at Seton Hall University have published about a dozen papers comparing the overblown general allegations against the Guantanamo captives with what their individaul documents say. This paper addresses the "returned to the battlefield" claim in detail:

Posted by: arcticredriver | June 29, 2009 7:31 AM | Report abuse

Some people accept the untested allegations against Barre at face value. In another comment I described how many of the allegations came from a small group of captives who enjoyed denouncing their fellow captives. The conservative Weekly Standard profiled one of these guys, here:

What the Weekly Standard didn't quote was that Ali al-Tayeea told his Tribunal that he had an uhappy life on the outside, and that he would be perfectly happy to spend the rest of his life in Guantanamoo, (falsely) denouncing his fellow captives.

Posted by: arcticredriver | June 28, 2009 2:48 PM | Report abuse

Congressman Bill Delahunt recently started conducting hearings to explore how organizations ended up on the list of terrorist organizations. During his 2005 annual review Barre faced the allegation that he had an association with the Tablighi Jamaat, and that this was a group on the designated terrorist list.

Like Al Wafa I don't find this a credible allegation. I'd never heard of the Tablighi Jamaat prior to reading the transcripts.

So I looked up the organization. Just like Al Wafa, Osama bin Laden hated this organization. Osama bin Laden was an advocate for launching violent attacks, ostensibly to "defend Islam". The Tablighi Jamaat movement on the other hand states that its pilgrimages discharge participants from any further steps to defend Islam.

That is the main thing the Tablighi Jamaat movement does -- organizes pilgrimages, where ordinary muslims travel to mosques in other areas to talk about Islam. Participants aren't even supposed to talk about politics.

Some of the allegations explicitly said Tablighi Jamaat picked up down and out muslims, who were trying to kick drugs -- a group that Osama also tried to recruit.

So Osama bin Laden hated this group because it stole potential recruits from him, and helped them return to a normal life, rather than becoming jihadists. And he hated the group because it opposed his call for violent jihad.

Could this group have been an ally in the fight against violent jihad? I dunno. I think it likely could. But throwing 100 of its members in Guantanamo wasn't the way to get its help.

I read the allegations against those first three captives said to have committed suicide in Guantanamo. One of those kids the most serious allegation against him was that the was associated with this group.

As I said before, the lack of sanity checking by the Guantanamo analysts made the public less safe.

Posted by: arcticredriver | June 28, 2009 2:23 PM | Report abuse

The third and fourth allegations (of four) that Barre faced during his 2004 CSR Tribunal concerned alleged membership in the NGO "Al Wafa". The fourth allegation stated Executive Order 13224 listed Al Wafa as a terrorist organization.

About two dozen Guantanamo captives had their detention justified due, at least in part, to an alleged association to the charity Al Wafa

Congressman Bill Delahunt recently started conducting hearings to explore how organizations ended up on this list. More power to him.

I had never heard of Al Wafa and Tablighi Jamaat prior to reading the Guantanamo transcripts.

There is no proof in those transcripts that these groups were terrorist groups. My reading of those transcripts is that the Guantanamo analysts failed to appreciate Osama bin Laden's relatively limited role in Afghanistan prior 9-11. Not every Arab in Afghanistan worked for al Qaeda.

Osama bin Laden's group was financed by anonymous donors, probably mostly rich Saudis. And charities, that built hospitals and wells in Afghanistan were his rivals. They were competing for funds from the same pool of rich Saudis Osama bin Laden wanted to finance Al Qaeda. There are indications in the transcripts that Osama bin Laden hated these rival groups.

Guantanamo held the three founders of Al Wafa. They were all repatriated years ago. Why should Barre, merely accused of being a member still be held?

Posted by: arcticredriver | June 28, 2009 1:52 PM | Report abuse

Make no mistake JadeD, Guantanamo continues to contain many innocent bystanders. Almost all the Saudis have been repatriated. Almost none of the Yemenis have been repatriated.

Do the ninety or so Yemenis still in Guantanamo include some who could reasonably be suspected of being bona fide terrorists? Yes. And it includes more who could have reasonably been considered combatants, but not terrorists or war criminals. But many of the Yemenis were innocent bystanders.

On September 11 2002 -- exactly a year after the WTC attacks, Pakistan, under US pressure, conducted a bunch of midnight raids on foreigners.

Sixteen young men, foreigners, captured together, were captured, turned over to the Americans, and eventually sent to Guantanamo.

In 2004 they faced allegations like: "Detainee was a foreigner, captured by Pakistani security officials, living in a house full of foreigners, some of whom were accused of having traveled to Afghanistan."

And they answered that the reason they were living in a house full of foreigners is that they were university students, and the house was the university's foreign students residence.

During their later annual reviews they had their detention justified because jihadist organizations had sent leaflets to the residence encouraging the foreign students to go to Afghanistan, for jihad. In other words merely receiving jihadist ANONYMOUS JUNK MAIL made them a threat.

No, I am not making this up.

Posted by: arcticredriver | June 28, 2009 1:12 PM | Report abuse

Reader JakeD questioned me, writing:

*/"...those with "iron clad alibis" have already been released, yet some of those have returned to the battlefield -- would you at least agree that THOSE terrorists shouldn't have been released?"/*

JakeD, those with iron-clad alibis weren't terrorists. Those with iron-clad alibis were innocent bystanders.

No offense, but your use of the term "returned to the battlefield" shows you are repeating a defense of the Guantanamo policy apologists abandoned several years ago.

Apologists now merely make claims the former captives have "re-engaged in supporting terrorism".

I hate intellectual dishonesty. The legal scholars at Seton Hall University have documented the intellectual dishonesty of Bush Administration spin-doctors in these claims. Former captives were classified as "supporting terrorism" merely for candidly answering reporters questions about their experiences in US captivity, including even the five Uyghurs transferred to Albania in 2006 because they were innocent bystanders.

Make no mistake JakeD, Guantanamo continues to hold many innocent bystanders.

Posted by: arcticredriver | June 28, 2009 12:51 PM | Report abuse

JakeD, if the USA had complied with the Geneva Conventions, way back when the captives were first apprehended, this situation would not exist.

If the USA had complied with the Geneva Conventions the captives who were innocent bystanders would have been set free as soon as that was determined. So they wouldn't have been driven suicidially nuts during their US hospitality.

Those who the Geneva Conventions would have classed as combatants could still be held, there would be zero grounds for objections to their continued detention in humane conditions.

The Bush administration lead the USA to strip the captives of the protection of the rule of law, and the Geneva Conventions. Now the USA is in the very awkward position that it might have to release men who would have been considered combatants, and who could have continued to be held, if the USA hadn't violated the Geneva Convention.

Is it too late to backtrack, and try to apply the Geneva Convention procedures now -- seven years after their capture? I don't know. Doing so might be embarrassing. But I think it would be the right thing to do.

Posted by: arcticredriver | June 28, 2009 12:26 PM | Report abuse

Reader JakeD mentions the wildly overblown claim that former captives "returned to the battlefield", following their release.

About six weeks ago Elizabeth Bumiller of the New York Times published a poorly fact checked story where she took the intellectually dishonest claims of unnamed government officials at face value. Her story was widely repeated, and magnified. A few weeks later the NYTimes ombudsman publicly apologized for the NYTimes failing to fact check her story.

Former Saudi captives Said Al Al Shihri and Mohammed Al Harbi broadcast a threatening video in January. But this was not because Guantanamo authorities decided to they probably weren't a threat, and the USA could risk releasing them.

Their last annual Guantanamo reviews recommended they should remain in Guantanamo because they did pose a threat. Gordon England, nominally the last word, endorsed their recommendation.

The Bush cabinet over-rode the officer's recommendation. And they weren't actually "released" by the USA. They were repatriated to Saudi custody, went through a halfway program, and were on a kind of parole. I read what Al Harbi's family wrote about his defection in the English language Saudi press. He was still mentally vulnerable, disappeared with Al Shihri in December, appeared in the video in January, and meekly surrendered in March.

Posted by: arcticredriver | June 28, 2009 12:08 PM | Report abuse

JakeD cits a URL to a page from the several thousand motions from the captives' habeas filings. The particular document he cits does not back up his claim to what he says it documents.

The most serious allegation made public against Mohammed Sulaymon Barre is that he worked for a Somali based Hawala -- the muslim equivalent of Western Union.

Prior to 9-11 there were two large Somali-based hawalas. Shortly after 9-11 there was a hysterical fear that the 9-11 hijackers used the Somali hawal "Al Barakat" to receive their funds. Al Barakat was frozen. Many of its agents, around the world, were arrested.

When did the 9-11 commission file its report? 2004? It cleared the hawalas. It found the 9-11 hijackers funds transfers were through regular American banks. The last Hawala agents -- not held in Guantanamo -- had their charges dropped in 2005.

So why is Barre still facing this allegation? He didn't even work for Al Barakat.

That this allegation wasn't dropped reveals the dangerous lack of responsible sanity checking at Guantanamo

Posted by: arcticredriver | June 28, 2009 11:50 AM | Report abuse

JakeD asks if the USA should risk releasing Barre, based on the fear he might attack innocent American civilians.

JakeD, the public record is clear. Guantanamo was chock full of innocent bystanders. Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell's Chief of Staff acknowledged that the Bush cabinet was well aware it was full of innocent bystanders.

Should captives who were innocent bystanders when captured, and were driven nuts, and turned into dangerous, America hating potential jihadists by their experience of American hospitality, be held indefinitely because they might want to retaliate?

Personally, I don't think so.

Guantanamo was extremely expensive to run. The Bush administration spent about 5 million per captive. Well, goldarnit, if the USA spent 5 million bucks driving innocent men nuts, then spend a million bucks trying to make them sane again.

Posted by: arcticredriver | June 28, 2009 11:38 AM | Report abuse

JakeD, I tried answering your several questions, in reverse order, so that when you and other readers read my answers, they would read them in the order you asked them. But my reply to your second paragraph was greeted with the reply that it would have to wait for moderator approval -- probably due to length.

No, I am a private citizen. I am not paid to work on behlf of the captives, nor am I a volunteer for any organization that works on their behalf.

Posted by: arcticredriver | June 28, 2009 11:01 AM | Report abuse

I appreciate that "answer" but that wasn't a question I had asked -- the legal objection would be a "motion to strike as non-responsive" -- if you don't want to actually answer the questions that I asked, that's no skin off my nose. I will wait to debate someone else who will.

Posted by: JakeD | June 27, 2009 11:06 AM | Report abuse

JakeD -- why is sanity checking essential to best preserve public safety?


We have limited resources to devote to guarding against potential terrorist threats. We can't guard against every threat.

When we squander counter-terrorism resources on wild goose chases -- when we guard against non-threats -- this has to mean we didn't allocate those precious, irreplaceable counter-terrorism resources against REAL threats. And this makes the public less safe.

The Bush detainee policy turned the Guantanamo, Bagram and Kandahar detention facilities, and the CIA's black sites into factories for producing an endless stream of false confessions and false denunciations. All real interrogation experts knew this. The USA knew this in World War two.

We need sober professionals to be interrogating the captives, and analyzing what they say. They need to do it intelligently. They need to be well informed about the topics they are investigating. They need to keep an unemotional attitude. They need to toss out allegations that don't make sense.

Guantanamo analysts weren't tossing out allegations that didn't make sense. They weren't evaluating whether allegations made sense.

Let's forget about the interests of the individual sent to Guantanamo who were innocent bystanders. Let's just worry about public safety. Determining captives were innocent bystanders protects the public, because then they will stop being the source of false confessions and false denunciations.

Guantanamo captives were punished for not confessing -- when 90 percent knew nothing of value to confess about. Some captives were nuts -- hated their fellow captives -- and loved denouncing them. One captive had denounced over 270 other captives. He was literally insane. And that Guantanamo analysts continued to put value in his denunciations was insane -- made the public less safe.

Hence "sanity checking would have made the public more safe".

Posted by: arcticredriver | June 27, 2009 7:49 AM | Report abuse


First, I "repeated" the allegations because the WaPo didn't deem it necessary to even state them once ("peat" them?) in this story. Care to answer MY initial question now: "Do you want to take the chance he is released and kills Americans?" Here's a follow-up question: Are you being paid by anyone defending GTMO detainees?

Second, I wasn't aware that "sanity checking" was a normal step to DoD or DoJ guidelines -- those with "iron clad alibis" have already been released, yet some of those have returned to the battlefield -- would you at least agree that THOSE terrorists shouldn't have been released?

Last question (I promise): I am interested in why you think DoD staying on the safe side (keeping someone locked up) meant they "utterly and completely failed in its responsibility to keep the public safe"?

Posted by: JakeD | June 26, 2009 4:52 PM | Report abuse

One very disturbing fact from Suleyman Barre Ali's letter was that he had only received two letters from his son during the last seven years. Camp authorities have reported to Congress that the captives are allowed to send five items of mail per month. They claim that the captives send tens of thousands of items per year. If this claim is true how come on of the few literate captives was able to get out just two letters?

Back in September 2006 a young USMC paralegal, Sergeant Heather Cerveny, traveled to Guantnamo to help Colonel Colby Vokey defend Omar Khadr. Some GIs she met invited her to meet them at the enlisted club on her first day. She looked for them, and didn't find them. But she was a beautiful women, so some other guard asked her to join them.

They immediately started bragging about how they stretched the rules, to covertly punish the captives. One of the braggarts worked in the mail room. Her affidavit said he had bragged that he routinely threw out captives mail.

In my opinion Seargeant Cerveny's affidavit was in the best American traditions. The brass wasn't happy about it

Posted by: arcticredriver | June 26, 2009 3:10 PM | Report abuse

JakeD repeats the DoD and DoJ allegations against Barre -- without noting that these allegations are completely riddled with falsehoods, exagerattions and the false confessions and false denunciations that are the inevitable result of the use of "extended interrogation techniques".

The Bush administration applied exactly zero sanity checking to the allegations. Some allegations were demolished by the captives' lawyers or by intrepid reporters with trivial efforts. Some captives had iron clad alibis, which could have been refuted or confirmed with trivial effort. But the DoD utterly and completely failed in its responsibility to keep the public safe by checking out those alibis.

It may shock some readers, but some allegations wandered from dossier to dossier.

Posted by: arcticredriver | June 26, 2009 2:57 PM | Report abuse

(assuming that "President" Obama is even a natural-born U.S. citizen ; )

Posted by: JakeD | June 26, 2009 2:50 PM | Report abuse

"In military [and Obama DOJ] documents, officials have alleged that Barre had ties to al-Qaeda and hired couriers who worked for the terror group."

Posted by: JakeD | June 26, 2009 1:38 PM | Report abuse

Mohammed Sulaymon Barre was identified as a Mujahedin in Afghanistan training as a terrorist -- I wouldn't want him living in my neighborhood -- he was identified as a member of an institute operated by a senior al Qaida member in Qandahar that used to be associated with religious and language studies near a Mujahedin guest house. It is alleged that he knew Usama bin Laden personally and, from 1992 to 1995, worked on Usama bin Laden's compound in Khartoum, Sudan, in the building occupied by Usama bin Laden's personal security detachment.

Do you want to take the chance he is released and kills Americans?

Posted by: JakeD | June 26, 2009 1:17 PM | Report abuse

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