Janice Rogers Brown and Our Failed Justice System Killed Adnan Farhan abd al Latif

Since the Pentagon announced a detainee died yesterday, I’ve been praying it wouldn’t be Adnan Farhan abd al Latif, even as details suggesting it was–that the detainee who had died had been a hunger striker, that he had never been charged–piled up.

But I knew it was.

The detainee found dead in a maximum-security cell at Guantánamo was a Yemeni captive with a history of suicide attempts who at one time won a federal judge’s release order, only to see his case overturned on appeal and rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The detention center on Tuesday identified the dead captive as Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif, in his 30s, held since January 2002 as prisoner No. 156.

Latif was found unconscious in his cell Saturday afternoon, the military said. Guards and military medical staff could not revive him. He was the ninth detainee to die in the 11 years of the detention center.

The military withheld Latif’s identity while the Naval Criminal Intelligence Service began an investigation and the Obama administration notified members of Congress and Latif’s family of the death.

What did they think would happen to this man, against whom there was just one scrap of evidence, an intelligence report, with several acknowledged errors, from an interrogation taken in Pakistani custody at a time when Pakistanis were inventing stories about Arab men for bounties. DOD even had exonerating information about Latif–evidence from their own intake form that he had the medical records showing a head injury he claimed he had  traveled to Pakistan to treat. And DOD had cleared Latif for release over and over and over.

In spite of that, both the Obama Administration and Circuit Court Judge Janice Rogers Brown proceeded on the assumption that inculpatory government records were entitled to a presumption of regularity, but exculpatory ones weren’t.

It was as if it was just a joke, some rigged game to help the Obama Administration shut away Gitmo, back to what it had been before Boumediene.

I’m sure they’ll release a report that Latif finally found a way to bypass all the efforts the government had made to force him to live out this limbo, a probably innocent man rounded up in the confusion after 9/11. I’m sure they’ll say Latif killed himself.

But Latif gave our legal system a good faith effort, fighting all the way to the Supreme Court. And it failed him. It failed to uphold the simple principle that the government’s evidence to hold someone indefinitely should be something more than a single problematic interrogation report refuted by 10 years of interrogations.

And whatever report they release explaining his cause of death, it was that fundamental injustice that killed him.

Update: Here are all my posts on Latif.

Pakistani Bounty Claims: Adnan Farhan Abd Al Latif and TD-314/00684-02

With Latif Decision, Section 1031 Authorizes Indefinitely Detaining Americans Based on Gossip

Latif: The Administration Blew Up Habeas with a Detainee They Determined Could Be Transferred

Who Will Redact Our Next Big Constitutional Debate?

Exhibits in Latif’s SCOTUS Petition Prove Interrogation Summaries Should Not Be Entitled to Presumption of Regularity

Latif and the Misattribution Problem: “All Arabs Look the Same”

Latif: Presumption of Regularity for Thee, But Not for Me

Prediction: Latif Will Be Repatriated

Janice Rogers Brown Sings “Follow the Yellow Brick Road” as She Guts Habeas

Confirmed: The Government Is Blowing Up Habeas with an Interrogation Report Involving Pakistan

Going to Jihad with the Medical Records You Have, Not the Jihad Fighters You Might Want

The Government Continues to Play Redaction Games with Latif

The Problem with Equating Travel Routes and Terrorism: 34 Dead Civilians

SCOTUS Reviews the “Military Age Male” Standard on Thursday

SCOTUS Kills Habeas Corpus

Update: Some more key documents on Latif:

Witness for Torture’s page on Latif, including a poem he wrote about his despair

An amicus curiae brief from intelligence professionals and evidence professors calling for Latif’s release

An amicus curiae brief from a bunch of retired judges talking about the damage this case would do to habeas

Three desperate letters Latif wrote to his attorney, David Remes

36 replies
  1. posaune says:

    My heart breaks thinking of this man’s reality: alone, abandoned, abused, rebuffed at every turn, and enduring it for more than 10 years.

  2. Jeff Kaye says:

    RIP, Adnan Farhan abd al Latif. May your spirit find peace after the long hell you were put through. May your murderers, for that is what they are, find no rest from the inhumanity of their actions.

    From David Remes, al Latif’s attorney:

    Yesterday, the press reported that a Yemeni detainee at Guantanamo had died. The detainee was our client, Adnan Latif, ISN 156, whom we represented since 2004. Slightly built and gentle, he was a father and husband. He was a talented poet, and was devoutly religious. He never posed a threat to the United States, and he never should have been brought to Guantanamo.

    The military has not stated a cause of death. However Adnan died, it was Guantanamo that killed him. His death is a reminder of the human cost of the government’s Guantanamo detention policy and underscores the urgency of releasing detainees the government does not intend to prosecute.

    Let’s remember, too, that earlier deaths at Guantanamo have not been adequately explained, though in a real sense, Guantanamo killed these detainees, too.





  3. harpie says:

    @Jason Leopold:

    MIAMI — Joint Task Force Guantanamo released the identity of the detainee who died on Saturday, September 8, 2012. The detainee is identified as Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif, a 32-year-old Yemeni. Latif arrived at Guantanamo in January 2002 and was being detained consistent with the law of war. The detainee’s name was withheld pending family notification.
    Joint Task Force Guantanamo continues to provide safe, humane, legal and transparent care and custody of detainees. This mission is being performed professionally by the men and women of Joint Task Force Guantanamo.

    “…consistent with the law of war… safe, humane, legal and transparent”.


  4. What Constitution? says:

    Wait for it … “see, he wasn’t detained ‘indefinitely’, he isn’t being detained any more.”

    What a tragic disgrace is being played out under the name of “United States of America.” Is there an endgame to this? Or did we just get an example of the endgame plan?

  5. MadDog says:

    If I’m wrong here, I hope our resident legal eagles will correct me.

    I believe that with Latif’s death, no remaining effort by Latif’s lawyers can take place to overturn Janice Rogers Brown horrid ruling and it will now stand as established precedent cited nationwide until and unless some other unfortunate (and not just a detainee, perhaps even you) is trapped in its Kafkaesque legal nightmare of presumed guilty until proven innocent.

  6. Mehreen Kasana says:

    Thank you for writing this. As a Pakistani American who’s constantly spoken against the GWOT and allied “efforts”, I am ashamed to see Pakistan’s government complicit. Sharing this now.

  7. MadDog says:

    OT and more related to Jim’s post today, it seems Crazy Bibi is dead set on attempting to influence the US Presidential Election in favor of Romneycare:

    Netanyahu ramps up Iran attack threat

    “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ramped up on Tuesday threats to attack Iran, saying if world powers refused to set a red line for Tehran’s nuclear programme, they could not demand that Israel hold its fire.

    “The world tells Israel ‘wait, there’s still time’. And I say, ‘Wait for what? Wait until when?’ Those in the international community who refuse to put red lines before Iran don’t have a moral right to place a red light before Israel,” Netanyahu, speaking in English, told reporters.”

    Even the WSJ can figure out what is going on:

    “Israeli Leader Ratchets Up Feud With U.S.

    The rift between the top U.S. and Israeli leaders appeared to widen Tuesday as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leveled the sharpest attacks in years by an Israeli leader against Washington amid differences on how to address Iran’s nuclear program.

    Later in the day, the White House said that President Barack Obama wouldn’t be meeting with Mr. Netanyahu later this month at the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York.

    The rupture was the result of months of growing Israeli frustration with Mr. Obama’s approach to Iran, in which he has stressed diplomacy and punitive sanctions. Mr. Netanyahu has exhorted the Obama administration in vain to set “red lines” that, if crossed, would trigger a U.S. military response.

    In Jerusalem, Mr. Netanyahu said the Obama administration and other Western allies, by failing to set strict limits on Tehran, lack the moral authority to press Israel not to attack Iran…


    …Administration officials publicly strained to say there no rift, but were barely able to conceal their rage over Mr. Netanyahu’s words…


    …Some American officials believe Mr. Netanyahu’s attacks on the White House’s Iran policy were specifically designed to impact the upcoming U.S. presidential elections.

    Among Israelis, some of Mr. Netanyahu’s advisors have said in recent months that they believe a Mitt Romney administration would be more in step with the Israeli government on Iran’s nuclear program and other issues…”

  8. MadDog says:

    @MadDog: Not to be outdone by the WSJ, the NYT makes US Presidential politics its lede paragraph about the story:

    Israeli Leader Sharpens Call on U.S. to Set Limits on Iran

    “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel inserted himself into the most contentious foreign policy issue of the American presidential campaign on Tuesday, criticizing the Obama administration for refusing to set clear “red lines” on Iran’s nuclear progress that would prompt the United States to undertake a military strike. As a result, he said, the administration had no “moral right” to restrain Israel from taking military action of its own.

    Mr. Netanyahu’s unusually harsh public comments about Israel’s most important ally, which closely track what he has reportedly said in vivid terms to American officials visiting Jerusalem, laid bare the tension between him and President Obama over how to handle Iran. They also suggested that Mr. Netanyahu is willing to use the pressure of the presidential election to force Mr. Obama to commit to attack Iran under certain conditions…”

  9. ferd says:

    I’d lose hope after 10 years, too. I’ll read your posts on the very young Adnan Farhan abd al Latif. I’m still hoping that Obama will cry about this. I hope, but then again, I’m pretty darn stupid.

  10. bmaz says:

    I just want y’all to know that I “knew and loved” (no, not really) Janice Rogers Brown before she was a twinkle in Bush’s eye.

    And with that, I need to go puke.

  11. Ken_Muldrew says:


    trapped in its Kafkaesque legal nightmare of presumed guilty until proven innocent.

    If the Maher Arar case shows us anything, it’s that being proven innocent doesn’t mean a damn thing to these folks. The presumption of guilt is a life sentence (and sometimes a death sentence).

  12. thatvisionthing says:

    @MadDog: If I was a creative muckraking lawyer I might notice that Latif is still as alive as any corporate person has ever been, and corporate persons have clearly [immaculately] judicially established 14th amendment rights to equal due process, and keep on suing until that point is noticed by the Supreme Court. Remember that poster that Amy Goodman picked up on, “I’ll believe a corporation is a person when Texas executes one.” Well now.

  13. thatvisionthing says:

    Barack Obama, Democratic National Convention Keynote Address 2004:


    [04:00] SENATOR OBAMA: Tonight, we gather to affirm the greatness of our Nation — not because of the height of our skyscrapers, or the power of our military, or the size of our economy. Our pride is based on a very simple premise, summed up in a declaration made over two hundred years ago:

    We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

    … yada yada …

    [12:05] SENATOR OBAMA: If there’s a child on the south side of Chicago who can’t read, that matters to me, even if it’s not my child.


    If there’s a senior citizen somewhere who can’t pay for their prescription and having to choose between medicine and the rent, that makes my life poorer, even if it’s not my grandparent.


    If there’s an Arab-American family being rounded up without benefit of an attorney or due process, that threatens my civil liberties.


    It is that fundamental belief — it is that fundamental belief — I am my brother’s keeper, I am my sister’s keeper — that makes this country work.


    Who knew?

  14. hcgorman says:

    Latif’s case was perhaps the biggest shame of the DC Circuit. I don’t have the answer as to whether it can continue but my gut tells me no-that his death mooted the case. Having said that I will also say that Latif’s legal team is one of the best out there and if there is anyway to keep the case alive they will come up with it. the full statement from Latif’s lawyers is on my blog: http://gtmoblog.blogspot.com/2012/09/rip-adnan-farhan-abdul-latif.html
    RIP Adnan.

  15. MadDog says:

    @MadDog: This Guardian piece also strongly notes the obvious attempt by Crazy Bibi to interfere in the US Presidential campaign in favor of Romneycare (no, not the health insurance one, but the total subservience to an Israeli tail wagging the US dog one).

    I find of particular note this passage about Crazy Bibi’s ranting and raving against the US in his deliberately setup “confrontation” with the US Ambassador to Israel in front of House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chair, Repug Mike Rogers:

    “…Last week, the chairman of the House of Representatives intelligence committee, Mike Rogers, described attending a “very tense” and argumentative meeting between Netanyahu and the US ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, in late August at which the pair had “elevated” exchanges.

    Rogers described Netanyahu as at his “wits’ end” over Obama’s refusal to set red lines for Iran.

    “It was very, very clear that the Israelis had lost their patience with the administration,” Rogers told a Detroit radio station. “We’ve had sharp exchanges with other heads of state and other things, in intelligence services and other things, but nothing at that level that I’ve seen in all my time where people were clearly that agitated, clearly that worked up about a particular issue, where there was a very sharp exchange.”

    Rogers said Israel will probably bomb Iran if the White House does not lay down firm limits for Iran.

    Shapiro rejected the “very tense” characterisation.

    A former senior Israeli foreign ministry official and diplomat who served in the US, Alon Liel, said Netanyahu engineered the confrontation in front of Rogers (behind paywall).

    “It appears to be an attempt to help the Republicans in the upcoming election. The entire show, under the patronage of Rogers, is meant to prove to the American public, and in particular to the Jewish community, that the rift between Israel and the United States is more significant and deeper than we thought,” he said…”

    I stand by my comment that Crazy Bibi is one of those Manipulators who afflict us all.

  16. thatvisionthing says:

    Found it. From The Daily Show, June 15, 2010, Respect My Authoritah. I remember it from when I had TV.


    (01:10) Jon Stewart: Barack Obama’s real mission when running for president was to restore some of America’s moral high standing that we had lost in the turmoil of the War on Terror.

    Obama, Nov. 14, 2007 TV clip: Guantanamo, that’s easy. Close down Guantanamo, restore habeas corpus, say no to renditions, no to wireless wiretaps…

    JS (preening): No, no, no, please. I’m not done enjoying your applause yet.

    He was steadfast in his commitment to changing the culture of this very nation.

    Obama clip cont’d: Part of my job as the next president is to break the fever of fear that has been exploited by this administration, that — (audience applause) — you know we’re told…

    JS (more adulation basking): You’re spoiling me! Please, please. Save a little bit for the next thing I have planned to say. I hope you people brought gloves.

    Obama’s reign would bring back the rule of law. If the Supreme Court said even terrorists at Guantanamo Bay deserve their day in court through the writ of habeas corpus, as they did in the Hamdan case, the Boumedienne case, Barack Obama would honor that, and not pull the old Bush flimflammery…

    Chris Hayes, Lockup: Bagram clip: The Bush administration decided that instead of bringing detainees to Guantanamo, they’d take them somewhere else, another location outside the jurisdiction of a court — Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan.

    JS as Bush, with walnut shell game: Heh heh heh. Hey! Hey! Hey Supreme Court! Where’s Boumedienne? Where’s Hamdan? Is he under this nut? How about this one? Where is he? Wait, wait, what’s that? Oh! What’s behind Kennedy’s ear? (holds up seed from under walnut shell) Oooo! Heh eh eh.

    JS: I don’t know (looks at the two walnut shells). Normally I have three of these bad boys.

    Yeah! That’s Bush! That’s Bush! Obama’s a constitutional scholar whose entire campaign was based on change, doing the exact opposite of his predecessor, to prove that the War on Terror could be prosecuted without compromising our American values, or as he himself put it:

    Sen. Barack Obama, Sept. 27, 2006, C-Span 2, U.S. Senate: By giving suspects a chance, even one chance, to challenge the terms of their detention in court, we could solve this problem without harming our efforts in the War on Terror one bit.

    JS: Just even one chance. So as the courts reexamine our ability to keep people indefinitely at Bagram, I imagine I can probably just put this silly shell game away forever (picking up walnuts and game pad)

    Chris Hayes, Lockup: Bagram: Today President Obama scored a victory to keep those detainees locked up indefinitely, without even getting one chance to prove their innocence in court.

    JS looks stone faced, reflects, then reaches down and pulls out walnut shell game from under desk

    JS as Obama: I’ve taken your prisoner and I’m going to put a shell here. Michelle and I have talked about what we’re going to do with the prisoner. Going to take this shell, put it on top of this one. Move the others around. Heh heh heh.

    That’s uh — that’s uh — that’s my Barack Obama impression where I just take my normal voice and then just slow it the fuck down.

    Well, that’s habeas corpus. (puts shell game away again)

    Then he moved on to rendition, secret programs, state secrets, curtailing Miranda rights, prosecuting whistleblowers, and having people killed at whim. And that was two years ago.

    JS shakes his head in reaction. Mr. President, does this guy know what you’re doing?

    March 2, 2008 Obama rally, Obama at podium: We are going to lead by example, by maintaining the highest standards of civil liberties and human rights.

    August 1, 2007, C-Span, Obama: No more ignoring the law when it is inconvenient. That is not who we are. We will again set an example for the world that the law is not subject to the whims of stubborn rulers and that justice is not arbitrary.

  17. MadDog says:

    @hcgorman: I was afraid that the Latif decision by Janice Rogers Brown & Co. of the DC Circuit would stand, and your conjecture that the case going forward is likely mooted now comports with my suspicions.

    While IANAL, it’s my understanding that technically-speaking, the DC Circuit’s Latif decision is only precedent within the confines of the DC Circuit, but that in reality, decisions like this tend to cross Circuit court boundaries and are often then cited in other Circuit decisions with the effect of nationally imposing a really awful standard of minimal government proof in cases by the US government that have nothing at all to do with detainees.

  18. masaccio says:

    Thanks for linking to the entire statement of Adnan’s lawyers. They say:

    Three months ago, the Supreme Court declined to restore the ruling, and instead let his case go back to district court for a new hearing that, sadly, will now never occur.

  19. bmaz says:

    @hcgorman: Candace, thank you for the statement.

    I cannot, however, see any way, in light of both earlier precedent and Gitmo precedent, the matter is not mooted. In the unlikely event it ever was allowed to go forward on a civil basis, I think it would create even worse law than we likely have already.

  20. thatvisionthing says:

    @Ken_Muldrew: You said one of my favorite things once, in Mary’s Cap’n Jack post:


    KenMuldrew September 11th, 2010 at 4:25 pm: Of what use is the power to crush people by the thousands if one does not also possess the power to free the innocent? The willing suspension of justice shames the powerful far more than it does the weak. It shames and degrades the humanity of us all.


    (wow, two years to the day)

  21. harpie says:

    A Cry for Help from Guantanamo: Adnan Latif Asks, “Who Is Going to Rescue Me From the Injustice and the Torture I Am Enduring?”


    It is my life but who is going to leave me alone?
    Who is going to rescue me from what I am going through?

    Who, whoever tastes death wishes not to return back.
    Why return?

    A new year and a new death festival
    156 from the heart to the heart
    From a soul to a soul
    From a human being to a human being
    David: Send me the one I love and save me

  22. Siraj says:

    As a Muslim from the other side of the world I hold ALL Americans and the government of the United States of America responsible for the murder of Adnan Farhan abd al Latif.

    It is sickening to see how the average educated American turned his face the other way, and ignored the horrors that US government committed in his name for decades, while obfuscating the world with patronizing lip service.

    It is about time that Americans realized that their ‘occupy’-type movements will not yield any results if they are not ethical and courageous enough to stand up and put an end to their hateful wars and neo-colonial campaigns in Asia and Africa.

    RIP Adnan Farhan. May Allah bless your soul.

    May Allah give the Americans the courage to stand up and do the right thing.

  23. thatvisionthing says:


    From Poems From Guantanamo:


    Take my blood.
    Take my death shroud and
    The remnants of my body.
    Take photographs of my corpse at the grave, lonely.
    Send them to the world,
    To the judges and
    To the people of conscience,
    Send them to the principled men and the fair-minded.
    And let them bear the guilty burden, before the world,
    Of this innocent soul.
    Let them bear the burden, before their children and before history,
    Of this wasted, sinless soul,
    Of this soul which has suffered at the hands of the “protectors of peace.”

    – Jumah Al Dossari



    O Father, this is a prison of injustice.
    Its iniquity makes the mountains weep.
    I have committed no crime and am guilty of no offense.
    Curved claws have I,
    But I have been sold like a fattened sheep.
    I have no fellows but the Truth.
    They told me to confess, but I am guiltless;
    My deeds are all honorable and need no apology.
    They tempted me to turn away from the lofty summit of integrity,
    To exchange this cage for a pleasant life.
    By God, if they were to bind my body in chains,
    If all Arabs were to sell their faith, I would not sell mine.
    I have composed these lines
    For the day when your children have grown old.
    O God–who governs creation with providence,
    Who is one, singular and self-subsisting,
    Who brings comfort and happy tidings,
    Whom we worship–
    Grant serenity to a heart that beats with oppression,
    And release this prisoner from the tight bonds of confinement.

    – Abdulla Thani Faris al Anazi


  24. What Constitution? says:

    I nominate George W. Bush and Barack Obama as American representatives to accompany Latif’s body back to Yemen for presentation to his family. Or will his body just be dumped in the ocean?

  25. GKJames says:

    A quibble: the “legal system” didn’t fail him. The system, including its laws on torture, habeas corpus, wrongful death, etc., has always been open and ready to do the business it’s intended to do. Rather, it was a collection of identifiable-by-name individuals — starting with two commanders in chief, their respective minions in the military, the interrogators, the people’s representatives in Congress, and ending with the likes of Janice Rogers Brown, all ably supported by countless lawyers (lawyers!!) and all, fundamentally, hacks of the first order — who are responsible. Yes, half of that amorphous mob known as “the American people” stoutly support them and what they represent, but let’s not enable the perpetrators glide into anonymity.

  26. thatvisionthing says:

    I do believe the “legal system” failed him and is failing us. Janice Rogers Brown is a link in a chain of fail when she could have been, like Judge Forrest, the beginning of a snap back.

    I want to go back to what I said @19: “Latif is still as alive as any corporate person has ever been, and corporate persons have clearly [immaculately] judicially established 14th amendment rights to equal due process…”

    Is there something that literally says you have to be alive to have standing as a person? In which case, explain corporate personhood to me. As I understand it, the thing that corporations used to become “persons” is the 14th Amendment, where persons have an equal right to due process, and that extends to the 1st Amendment right to free speech, which in turn equates money as speech, which in turn means they can buy our elections and drown out our puny human voices and the war machine cannot be stopped by reality or reason or conscience as long as it is profitable. Thing is, the court said I think, the concept of speech is so protected and important to us all that we can’t start regulating processes to determine and screen out impermissible paid speech versus rightful people speech, and I believe that’s why Glenn Greenwald thought Citizen’s United was actually correctly decided. (Okay, but explain to me then why Occupiers’ right to speak and assemble can be regulated and abridged on sight by police.)

    Anyway, Latif’s case and the concepts involved are that important to us all too. I can’t see why the lawyers can’t continue it, on behalf of us all. He had standing before in a due process that hasn’t played all the way out, and I can’t see that the court even notices — CAN notice — the life of the party when they determine viability to proceed. Me the citizen, I don’t even see that the topic comes up to the judicial notice level — has anyone looked? If they can notice a person is unliving but haven’t noticed that corporate persons are unliving, what step in equal due process is that? I mean, does it exist, and how so? Corporations had standing in court before personhood and the world didn’t fall apart from nonsense when they weren’t persons. What we’re talking about is equal due process.

    I think you’re being too sane, and their world is not sane, and you’re not recognizing it. It’s their idea about the concept that counts, and the court has totally lost touch with reality and can’t care about it anyway, so keep going with the concept you were litigating. We’re never going to survive unless we go a little crazy. Latif is still as alive as any corporate person has ever been, his case still judicially matters as you all have explained, just as Rosa Parks mattered to all of us and not just to herself and the outcome of her case would still have mattered to us all even if she had died before her court process had played out. If the question comes up, just demand his equal rights to due process, the concepts in litigation are still very alive, what’s your problem? You’ve never had this problem before.

    I actually like this quite a bit. Obama gets to kill anyone he wants, it’s cleaner and more elegant for him than all that messy capturing and imprisoning anyway, and when they’re dead his untouchable power grows and his problem is gone. Dust off hands. Well what if it isn’t?

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