Adnan Farhan Abd Al Latif

If 40 Months of Drone Strikes in Yemen Haven’t Made Transfers Safe …

When on January 5, 2010 President Obama announced a halt to all transfers of Yemeni Gitmo detainees, he reiterated his intent to close the prison, even noting that AQAP formed, in part, in response to Gitmo (recall that Said al-Shihri, one of AQAP’s actual operational leaders, had been a Gitmo detainee).

Finally, some have suggested that the events on Christmas Day should cause us to revisit the decision to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay. So let me be clear. It was always our intent to transfer detainees to other countries only under conditions that provide assurances that our security is being protected.

With respect to Yemen in particular, there’s an ongoing security situation which we have been confronting for some time, along with our Yemeni partner. Given the unsettled situation, I’ve spoken to the Attorney General and we’ve agreed that we will not be transferring additional detainees back to Yemen at this time.

But make no mistake: We will close Guantanamo prison, which has damaged our national security interests and become a tremendous recruiting tool for al Qaeda. In fact, that was an explicit rationale for the formation of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

The announcement came less than a week after John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and Joe Lieberman released a statement (citing Shihri explicitly) complaining about the imminent release of 6 Yemeni detainees; Dianne Feinstein and Kit Bond issued their own request. Jane Harman and Crazy Pete Hoekstra were also calling for a halt to transfers to Yemen (Hoekstra, of course, was also leaking NSA intercepts to fearmonger against Anwar al-Awlaki). The day after the announcement, DOD sources leaked a report that would later be released in more detail showing 20% of Gitmo detainees released had joined or rejoined al Qaeda. In short, in significant part it came in response to political pressure to halt transfers, something DiFi admits readily.

But the halt in transfers also came among Obama Administration guarantees that their new strategy against Yemen would quickly bring results. Brennan described the new security agreements put into place at the January 2, 2010 David Petraeus-Ali Abudullah Saleh meeting (this is where Brennan estimated the number of AQAP militants to be “several hundred”) at which Saleh agreed to let fixed wing planes, including drones, operate in his country.

WALLACE: Let me widen this discussion in that sense. Not only as you point out, obviously, were you in Yemen earlier, but General Petraeus, the head of Central Command, was in Yemen yesterday.

The British overnight have announced that the U.S. and the British are going to be co-funding a new Yemeni anti-terror counter-terror police force.

Is it fair to say that we are opening up a second front in our war on terror outside the Afghanistan-Pakistan theater in Yemen?

BRENNAN: I wouldn’t say we’re opening up a second front. This is the continuation of an effort that we’ve had under way since, as I said, the beginning of this administration.

David Petraeus has been out to Yemen several times. I spoke with him yesterday after he met with President Salih. We’re continuing to have a very close and ongoing dialogue with the Yemeni government. The cooperation is on the security, intelligence and military fronts.

We’ve had close consultations with the British. I spoke with the British last night also about the types of things that we can do together in support of the Yemeni government. So this is a determined and concerted effort.

We’re not going to let Al Qaeda continue to sort of make gains in Yemen, because we need to take whatever steps necessary to protect our citizens there as well as abroad.

WALLACE: Could that mean U.S. troops on ground in Yemen?

BRENNAN: We’re not talking about that at this point at all. The Yemeni government has demonstrated their willingness to take the fight to Al Qaeda. We — they’re willing to accept our support. We’re providing them everything that they’ve asked for.

And they’ve made some real progress. And over the past month, Al Qaeda has taken a number of hits, and a number of Al Qaeda leaders in Yemen are no longer with us because of this determined and aggressive action.

The day after Obama announced the moratorium on Yemen transfers, Robert Gibbs claimed (perhaps because several Yemenis had been transferred in December) that the moratorium came as a result of a recent decline in security.

MR. GIBBS: I have not seen or heard about the latest report that you refer to and I don’t have handy what numbers had been for similar reports in years past. Yesterday’s determination was made and announced very much on what you heard John Brennan say over the weekend. We never had a plan to transfer anybody either to their home country or to a third country that we believe — we have reason to believe will present a security situation for us or for that country. And in relating to Yemen, I think you heard John say nobody was going to be transferred back that we did not believe that the Yemeni government could handle.

The determination was made that given the — as you heard the President say — the swift change in the security environment even over the last few weeks in Yemen caused the President and the Attorney General to agree that pausing any of those transfers was the right policy right now.

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Obama: We’re Force-Feeding Cleared Detainees Because We Couldn’t Try Them in Civilian Courts

At a press conference today, Obama had this to say about hunger strikers at Gitmo.

Q: Mr. President, as you’re probably aware, there’s a growing hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay, among prisoners there. Is it any surprise, really, that they would prefer death rather than have no end in sight to their confinement?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, it is not a surprise to me that we’ve got problems in Guantanamo, which is why, when I was campaigning in 2007 and 2008 and when I was elected in 2008, I said we need to close Guantanamo.

I continue to believe that we’ve got to close Guantanamo. I think — well, you know, I think it is critical for us to understand that Guantanamo is not necessary to keep America safe. It is expensive. It is inefficient. It hurts us in terms of our international standing. It lessens cooperation with our allies on counterterrorism efforts. It is a recruitment tool for extremists. It needs to be closed.

Now Congress determined that they would not let us close it and despite the fact that there are a number of the folks who are currently in Guantanamo who the courts have said could be returned to their country of origin or potentially a third country.

I’m going to go back at this. I’ve asked my team to review everything that’s currently being done in Guantanamo, everything that we can do administratively, and I’m going to re-engage with Congress to try to make the case that this is not something that’s in the best interests of the American people.

And it’s not sustainable. I mean, the notion that we’re going to continue to keep over a hundred individuals in a no man’s land in perpetuity, even at a time when we’ve wound down the war in Iraq, we’re winding down the war in Afghanistan, we’re having success defeating al-Qaida core, we’ve kept the pressure up on all these transnational terrorist networks, when we’ve transferred detention authority in Afghanistan — the idea that we would still maintain forever a group of individuals who have not been tried — that is contrary to who we are, it is contrary to our interests, and it needs to stop.

Now, it’s a hard case to make because, you know, I think for a lot of Americans, the notion is out of sight, out of mind, and it’s easy to demagogue the issue. That’s what happened the first time this came up. I’m going to go back at it because I think it’s important.

Q: (Off mic) — continue to force-feed these folks — (inaudible) –

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, I don’t — I don’t want these individuals to die. Obviously, the Pentagon is trying to manage the situation as best as they can. But I think all of us should reflect on why exactly are we doing this. Why are we doing this?

I mean, we’ve got a whole bunch of individuals who have been tried who are currently in maximum security prisons around the country. Nothing’s happened to them. Justice has been served. It’s been done in a way that’s consistent with our Constitution, consistent with due process, consistent with rule of law, consistent with our traditions. The — the individual who attempted to bomb Times Square — in prison serving a life sentence. Individual who tried to bomb a plane in Detroit — in prison serving a life sentence. A Somali who was part of al-Shahab (sic) who we captured — in prison.

So we can handle this. And I understand that in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, with the traumas that had taken place, why, for a lot of Americans, the notion was somehow that we had to create a special facility like Guantanamo, and we couldn’t handle this in — in a normal, conventional fashion. I understand that reaction.

But we’re not over a decade out. We should be wiser. We should have more experience at — in how we prosecute terrorists. And this is a lingering, you know, problem that is not going to get better. It’s going to get worse. It’s going to fester.

And so I’m going to — as I’ve said before, we’re — examine every option that we have administratively to try to deal with this issue. But ultimately, we’re also going to need some help from Congress. And I’m going to ask some — some folks over there who, you know, care about fighting terrorism but also care about who we are as a people to — to step up and — and help me on it.

To review, he was asked about hunger strikers’ desperation. In response, Obama talked about Gitmo in terms of efficacy — citing cost and image, which only indirectly relate to the plight of those who have been cleared. He then blames Congress for not letting him close Gitmo. Then ultimately he admits that Gitmo amounts to keeping “a hundred individuals in a no man’s land in perpetuity.”

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Department of Pre-Crime, Part 3: What Law Would the Drone (and/or Targeted Killing) Court Interpret?

I’ve been writing about the nascent plan, on the part of a few Senators who want to avoid hard decisions, to establish a FISA Court to review Drone (and/or Targeted Killings) of American citizens.

A number of people presumably think it’d be easy. Just use the AUMF — which authorizes the President “to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States” — and attach some kind of measure of the seriousness of the threat, and voila! Rubber-stamp to off an American.

And while that may while be how it would work in practice, even assuming the reviews would be halfway as thorough as the Gitmo habeas cases (with the selective presumption of regularity for even obviously faulty intelligence reports adopted under Latif, as well as the “military age male” standard adopted under Uthman, habeas petitions are no longer all that meaningful), that would still mean the Executive could present any laughably bad intelligence report showing a military aged male was hanging around baddies to be able to kill someone. The Gitmo habeas standard would have authorized the killing of Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, in spite of the fact that no one believes he was even a member of AQAP.

Then there’s the problem introduced by the secrecy of the Drone (and/or Targeted Kiling) Court. One of the several main questions at issue in US targeted killings has always been whether the group in question (AQAP, in the case of Anwar al-Awlaki, which didn’t even exist on 9/11) and the battlefield in question (Yemen, though the US is one big question) is covered by the AUMF.

Congress doesn’t even know the answers to these questions. The Administration refuses to share a list of all the countries it has already used lethal counterterrorism authorities in.

So ultimately, on this central issue, the Drone (and/or Targeted Killing) Court would have no choice but to accept the Executive’s claims about where and with whom we’re at war, because no list exists of that, at least not one Congress has bought off on.

There’s an even more basic problem, though. John Brennan has made it crystal clear that we pick imminent threats not because of any crime they might have committed in the past, but because of future crimes they might commit in the future.

BRENNAN: Senator, I think it’s certainly worth of discussion. Our tradition — our judicial tradition is that a court of law is used to determine one’s guilt or innocence for past actions, which is very different from the decisions that are made on the battlefield, as well as actions that are taken against terrorists. Because none of those actions are to determine past guilt for those actions that they took. The decisions that are made are to take action so that we prevent a future action, so we protect American lives. That is an inherently executive branch function to determine, and the commander in chief and the chief executive has the responsibility to protect the welfare, well being of American citizens. So the concept I understand and we have wrestled with this in terms of whether there can be a FISA-like court, whatever — a FISA- like court is to determine exactly whether or not there should be a warrant for, you know, certain types of activities. You know…

KING: It’s analogous to going to a court for a warrant — probable cause…

(CROSSTALK)

BRENNAN: Right, exactly. But the actions that we take on the counterterrorism front, again, are to take actions against individuals where we believe that the intelligence base is so strong and the nature of the threat is so grave and serious, as well as imminent, that we have no recourse except to take this action that may involve a lethal strike.

What law is it that describes what standards must be met to declare someone a pre-criminal?

Either there are no standards and the Drone (and/or Targeted Killing) Court would just have to take the Administration’s say-so — in which case it’s absolutely no improvement over the status quo.

Or, the courts would make up the standards as they go along, pretty much like the DC Circuit has been in habeas cases. But those standards would be secret, withheld from Americans in the same way the secret law surrounding Section 215 is.

Finally, there’s one more problem with assuming the AUMF provides a law the Drone (and/or Targeted Killing) Court would use to adjudicate pre-crime. The Administration has made it crystal clear that it believes it has two sources of authority for targeted killings; the AUMF and Article II. Which has another implication for a Drone (and/or Targeted Killing) Court.

The Executive has already said that the if the President authorizes the CIA to do something — like murder an American citizen overseas — it does not constitute a violation of laws on the books, like 18 USC 1119, which prohibits the murder of Americans overseas. The Administration has already said that the President’s Article II power supercedes laws on the books. What is a Drone (and/or Targeted Killing) Court supposed to do in the face of such claims?

This carries a further implication. If the Court were using the AUMF as its guide to rubber-stamping the President’s kill list, nothing would prevent the Executive from killing someone outside of that Court on its claimed Article II authority.

Until we make it clear that unilateral murder of American citizens is not an Article II authority, the President will keep doing it, whether there’s a Court or not.

Previous posts on the Pre-Crime Court:

Setting Up a Department of Pre-Crime, Part One: Why Are We Doing This?

Department of Pre-Crime, Part Two: The FISA Court Is Broken

Another Year, and Another Detainee Killed, But Obama’s Intent Is Still Found in Bagram

Today marks yet another anniversary for our prison in Gitmo. Over the last year, the most notable change has been that–after Obama’s DOJ succeeded in gutting habeas corpus so they could keep Adnan Latif, against whom they had no credible evidence, detained–Latif died under unexplained circumstances. Laura Poitras has a powerful video documenting Latif’s torment to mark today’s anniversary. Jason Leopold also has a story with new details on Latif’s death.

And while I do think the Administration’s willingness to so twist the law to keep Latif is itself witness to Obama’s real intent on indefinite detention, I still think the argument I made last year–that Bagram is the true exhibit of Obama’s fondness for review-free detention–stands. Here’s last year’s Gitmo post in its entirety, with updates below.


On a near daily basis in the last week or so, Jason Leopold has tweeted some quote from the daily White House press briefing in which a journalist asks Jay Carney a question about detention, to which Carney responds by insisting the Administration still intends to close Gitmo.

Q    One other topic.  Wednesday is apparently the 10th anniversary of the prison in Guantanamo Bay, and I’m wondering what the White House says now to critics who point to this as a pretty clear broken promise.  The President had wanted to close that within a year.  That hasn’t happened for a lot of the history that you know of.  And now it’s like there’s really no end in sight.  How do you respond to the criticism that this is just a big, broken promise?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, the commitment that the President has to closing Guantanamo Bay is as firm today as it was during the campaign.  We all are aware of the obstacles to getting that done as quickly as the President wanted to get it done, what they were and the fact that they continued to persist.  But the President’s commitment hasn’t changed at all.  And it’s the right thing to do for our national security interests.

That has been an opinion shared not just by this President or members of this administration, but senior members of the military as well as this President’s predecessor and the man he ran against for this office in the general election.  So we will continue to abide by that commitment and work towards its fulfillment.

And that response usually succeeds in shutting the journalist up.

No one has, as far as I know, asked the more general question: “does the Administration plan to get out of the due process-free indefinite detention business?” That question would be a lot harder for Carney to answer–though the answer, of course, is “no, the Administration has no intention of stopping the practice of holding significant numbers of detainees without adequate review.” Rather than reversing the practice started by the Bush Administration, Obama has continued it, even re-accelerated it, expanding our prison at Bagram several times.

That question seems to be absent from discussions about Gitmo’s anniversary, too. Take this debate from the NYT.

Deborah Pearlstein takes solace in her assessment that Gitmo has gotten better over the last decade.

In 2002, detention conditions at the base were often abusive, and for some, torturous. Today, prisoners are generally housed in conditions that meet international standards, and the prison operates under an executive order that appears to have succeeded in prohibiting torture and cruelty. In 2002, the U.S. president asserted exclusive control over the prison, denying the applicability of fundamental laws that would afford its residents even the most basic humanitarian and procedural protections, and rejecting the notion that the courts had any power to constrain executive discretion. Today, all three branches of government are engaged in applying the laws that recognize legal rights in the detainees. Guantánamo once housed close to 800 prisoners, and most outside observers were barred from the base. Today, it holds 171, and independent lawyers, among others, have met with most detainees many times.

But she doesn’t mention that the Administration still operates a prison alleged to be abusive, even torturous, still rejects the notion that courts have any power to constrain executive discretion over that prison. And that prison holds over 3,000 men in it!

Sure, Gitmo has gotten better, but that only serves to distract from the fact that our detention practices–except for the notable fact that we claim to have ended the most physical forms of torture–have not.

David Cole scolds those in Congress who “don’t seem troubled at all about keeping men locked up who the military has said could be released, or about keeping open an institution that jeopardizes our security,” yet doesn’t mention that Bagram does the same. Nor does he note the part of the Administration’s NDAA signing statement that suggested Congress’ salutary effort to expand detainee review would not necessarily apply to Bagram. How can it all be Congress’ fault when Obama isn’t fulfilling the letter of the law providing more meaningful review to those we’re holding at Bagram?

Even the brilliant Vince Warren focuses on the “legal black hole” that is Gitmo, without mentioning the bigger legal black hole that is Bagram.

Among the four participants in the debate, only Eric Posner even mentions Bagram, suggesting that that’s one less optimal alternative to keeping prisoners at Gitmo.

To be sure, there are other options. Detainees could be placed in prison camps on foreign territory controlled by the U.S. military, where they lack access to U.S. courts and security is less certain.

But then Posner misconstrues the issue.

Some critics believe that the whole idea of a war on terror is misconceived, that Congress could not have lawfully declared war on Al Qaeda, and that therefore suspected members of Al Qaeda cannot be detained indefinitely like enemy soldiers but must either be charged in a court or released. This position has been rejected repeatedly by the courts, but even if it were correct, Guantánamo would remain a legitimate place to detain enemy soldiers picked up on “hot” battlefields wherever they may be now or in the future — places like Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and maybe soon Iran, to name a few.

There’s a difference between what is legal under international law developed for very different wars and what is just or what is the best way to conduct that war. And the problem with Gitmo (mitigated somewhat over the decade)–and the problem with Bagram, still–is that we’re spending unbelievable amounts of money to detain and abuse people that we haven’t even adequately reviewed to make sure we need to detain them. That’s not a smart way to conduct a war, particularly not one its backers insist will never end, particularly one that depends on our ability to win support among Afghans and other Muslims.

The only thing that was and is problematic about Gitmo that is not also problematic about Bagram is the publicity surrounding it (presumably, though, just here and in Europe–I imagine Afghans, Pakistanis, and al Qaeda members know as much about Bagram as they do about Gitmo). That is, by treating–and allowing the Administration to treat–Gitmo as the problem, rather than due process-free and possibly abusive indefinite detention generally, we’re all acting as if the problem is that people know we’re conducting due process-free indefinite detention, not that we’re doing it at all. Continue reading

Three Months after Latif’s Death, “Transparent” Gitmo Reveals Acute Pneumonia

Roughly 11 years to the day after he was captured by Pakistanis to be sold for bounty and over 3 months after his death, Adnan Latif has returned to Yemen, a partly-decayed corpse.

In the statement announcing his remains have been repatriated, Gitmo revealed a new detail about how he died.

The medical examiner also concluded that acute pneumonia was a contributing factor in his death.

You gotta ask why a guy with acute pneumonia was put in solitary. I also wonder whether years of forced feeding contributes to pneumonia?

Not to worry, though, because Gitmo says they take care of detainees. Here’s the last paragraph of the statement:

Joint Task Force Guantanamo continues to provide safe, humane, and lawful care and custody of detainees. This mission is being performed professionally, transparently, and humanely by the men and women of Joint Task Force Guantanamo. [my emphasis]

It took two and a half months to learn Latif committed suicide. We’re only now learning he suffered from acute pneumonia. And we still do not officially know how badly his head injury–the one the government claims didn’t really exist so they could keep him detained–expressed itself while at Gitmo, much less the drugs he was being given, ostensibly for that and mental health problems.

Don’t worry though. Gitmo operates transparently.

May you rest in peace, Adnan.

Clue: It Was the Drugs in the Solitary Confinement

Charlie Savage confirms what Jason Leopold had suggested earlier: Adnan Latif died from too much psychiatric drugs.

A Yemeni detainee who was found dead in September at the military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, died from an overdose of psychiatric medication, according to several people briefed on a Naval Criminal Investigative Service inquiry.

But while a military medical examiner labeled the man’s death a suicide, how the prisoner obtained excess drugs remains under investigation, according to American and Yemeni officials.

Savage’s sources suggest that Latif was stockpiling the drugs himself, perhaps in a bodily orifice.

One official, however, discounted [David Remes'] theories, saying investigators were working from the premise that Mr. Latif pretended to swallow his drugs for a period and hid the growing stash on his body. Prison monitoring policies — including how closely guards inspect detainees’ mouths after giving any medication and search their private areas — are now facing review.

Though of course, that would have required Latif to have brought them with him from the hospital ward to the solitary confinement ward, which would mean he managed to get the drugs by both the administration period but also the admission into solitary.

Savage also doesn’t mention a few details from Leopold’s earlier article. Shaker Aamer told David Remes that Latif had been told he’d be injected with a drug detainees say turns them into zombies for a month.

Aamer contends Latif was told on September 6, two days before his death, he would be given an “ESP injection,” that other prisoners claim “makes you a zombie” and “has a one-month afterlife,” according to unclassified notes of the meeting between Remes and Aamer.

More interesting still–given the points I raised above about how Latif would have managed to get drugs into solitary with him–is this detail.

Another prisoner said a female psychologist accompanied Latif from the hospital to Camp 5, where one prisoner told Remes the minimum stay is three months, “regardless of the magnitude of the offense.”

The female psychologist said she would communicate Latif’s concerns about being housed in Camp 5 to “higher-ups.”

Mind you, this psychologist at least sounds sympathetic. Moreover, this detail would seem to be unknowable to other detainees–how would they know what she had told Latif?–unless the psychologist had spoken to other detainees.

Finally, there’s this: Savage’s sources (as were some of Leopold’s) are citing the NCIS investigation, not the autopsy. But that’s not supposed to be done for nine months. Now perhaps NCIS doesn’t expect to have an explanation for how Latif got or stashed the drugs for another 7 months at least. Or perhaps the NCIS investigation will take that long only to make sure Latif’s remains will be good and decomposed by the time it’s done.

But as we discuss the minutia of how a detainee managed to overdose in closely guarded solitary, remember this: He was almost certainly innocent, and he surely should not have remained in Gitmo after habeas review.  Because of that legal injustice, we’re left playing clue about how a disturbed man died in America’s prison camp.

The Evidence Explaining Latif’s Death? “Now Badly Decomposed”

On October 4, I asked with disgust whether the government planned to hold Adnan Latif’s body until after the election.

Latif died on September 8–26 days ago, or 44% the period until the election. if the sole explanation for the delay is that the US is unwilling to turn over an explanation of how Latif died, it makes it far more likely that Latif died of something other than suicide.

So are they going to hold Latif on ice until the election? Is that the idea?

On October 18, when Jason Leopold explained the delay in revealing the cause of Latif’s death, I suggested any delay in repatriating Latif’s would prevent an independent assessment of why he died.

Meanwhile, no one can perform independent analysis on Latif’s body, because the government has stashed it at Ramstein Air Base in Germany. The US and Yemeni governments continue the same story shared with ProPublica: the Yemenis won’t accept the body until they get a report on why he died, the US hasn’t provided that, so the body decays in US custody.

[snip]

Tick tock.

Tick tock.

Latif died 40 days ago. Just 19 days remain before the election. Between them, the US and Yemeni governments have forestalled the time when the US has to admit a man–the sole evidence against whom was a flawed intelligence report written while Pakistanis were trying to convince us to pay a bounty for Latif–died of unnatural causes in their custody.

And when, 3 days after Obama’s reelection and 62 days after Latif’s death the government finished (but did not release) the autopsy results, I repeated my suspicion that the delay was designed to obscure the real cause of death.

This is all so predictable it really raises questions about what kind of unnatural causes killed Latif.

What caused a death at Gitmo that was scandalous enough it had to be buried until after the election?

With utterly predictable timing, Leopold reports the government has told Yemen–but not the American people, officially–how Latif died.

Suicide, they say, in seeming contradiction to early reports that said there were no signs of self-harm.

But here is the even more predictable kicker. No one can check their claims, because Latif’s body has been decomposing during the entire 79 day delay since he died.

Latif’s body has been held for nearly three months at Ramstein Air Base in Germany. US officials have said Latif’s remains have been handled according to Muslim precepts, which precluded taking steps to preserve his body and organs, now badly decomposed. Therefore, his family will not be able to seek an independent autopsy.

“This will be very tough for [Latif's] family,” the Yemeni government official said about the condition of Latif’s remains. [my emphasis]

To prevent any accounting for the death of a probably innocent man imprisoned for over 10 years, the most advanced government on earth has just let that man’s body rot.

And rot.

And rot.

For over one fifth of a year.

Until no one could prove or disprove that the US government’s own treatment (or prior head wounds the government insisted, in an effort to continue to detain him in spite of a dearth of real evidence against him, were never that serious) killed this man.

Rotten. Rotten. Rotten.

As Predicted, Government “Finishes” Latif Autopsy after Election

Thirty-five days ago, I predicted the government would hold Adnan Latif’s body on ice until after the election.

So are they going to hold Latif on ice until the election? Is that the idea?

Not long after, Jason Leopold revealed they did, indeed, have Latif on ice–at Ramstein Air Base–purportedly because the Yemeni government refused to accept the rotting corpse until they also got an autopsy report. I noted,

Tick tock.

Tick tock.

Latif died 40 days ago. Just 19 days remain before the election. Between them, the US and Yemeni governments have forestalled the time when the US has to admit a man–the sole evidence against whom was a flawed intelligence report written while Pakistanis were trying to convince us to pay a bounty for Latif–died of unnatural causes in their custody.

Surprise surprise! Leopold reports today that the government has now finished the autopsy and may turn it over to Yemen today (after which presumably they will finally accept Latif’s body, too).

The US government plans to turn over a long-awaited and recently-completed autopsy report to Yemeni Embassy officials in Washington, DC as early as today, but no one will say when or if the results will be made public.

An official at the Yemen Embassy, who declined to be named, said the embassy will not comment on the autopsy report’s conclusions or whether it determined how Latif died. Instead, the report will immediately be forwarded to government officials in Yemen’s capital, Sana’a. Someone there will decide “what the next step” will be, the embassy official said.

Not surprisingly, the delay pisses off Latif’s family.

Latif’s brother, Muhammed, said his family is distraught because they have been unable to properly mourn his older sibling and they are desperate to learn about the details of his death.

He questioned whether the delay was due to the presidential election.

“When will America apply the principles it claims to uphold?” Muhammed asked. “When will the American people demand the US government uphold the law? America is playing politics with a dead person. America doesn’t care about our rights, my brother’s rights or human rights. Yet, America claims they are favoring human rights all over the world. It’s hypocrisy.”

This is all so predictable it really raises questions about what kind of unnatural causes killed Latif.

What caused a death at Gitmo that was scandalous enough it had to be buried until after the election?

Latif’s Unexplained Death: Yemeni Government Facilitates US Stall

Jason Leopold has an important story on Adnan Farhan abd al Latif’s unexplained death. He provides more detail of Latif’s struggles with his 1994 head injury the government claimed wasn’t the reason for his 2001 trip to Pakistan. He describes how Latif’s family–including his 14 year old son Ezzi Deen–responded to the news Latif had died at Gitmo.

But most importantly, Leopold adds more details to those reported by ProPublica on Latif’s death and subsequent limbo.

When Latif died, people–including me–suggested he might have finally found a way to kill himself. But as Leopold points out, with every suicide at Gitmo, DOD has released details on the obvious signs of that suicide. And a Gitmo spokesperson has repeatedly confirmed there was no immediately apparent evidence of suicide.

But in a statement to the Associated Press two days after Guantanamo officials announced the death of a prisoner without naming him, Durand said, “There is no apparent cause, natural or self-inflicted.”

Durand explained to Truthout at the time he made that statement he was responding to a reporter’s query: “Would you call it an apparent suicide or natural causes?”

Now, however, “It would be inappropriate to speculate on the cause of death at this time.”

There was nothing to “immediately suggest ‘apparent suicide,’” Durand said, and the death is being investigated by “multiple entities.”

A Yemeni official reflecting information presumably passed from John Brennan to Yemeni President Abed Rabu Mansour Hadi when they met on September 28 confirms the government appears to have ruled out suicide.

The Yemeni government official told Truthout that US officials appear to have ruled out suicide as the manner of his death.

Leopold quotes Cyril Wecht suggesting convulsions (possibly associated with his brain injury) or drugs may have had a role in Latif’s death.

Meanwhile, no one can perform independent analysis on Latif’s body, because the government has stashed it at Ramstein Air Base in Germany. The US and Yemeni governments continue the same story shared with ProPublica: the Yemenis won’t accept the body until they get a report on why he died, the US hasn’t provided that, so the body decays in US custody.

[Latif's brother] Muhammed said the family was told by Yemen’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs that his brother’s remains would be sent home within two weeks after his death. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, according to Muhammed, obtained that information from the Yemen Embassy in Washington, DC.

But according to a Yemeni official, the Yemen government refused to accept Adnan’s body until they receive a full accounting of the cause of his death.

[snip]The Yemeni government official’s comments about Adnan were obtained during an interview late last month when President Hadi visited the United States. His statements about Adnan were made in the context of discussions Hadi had with top US officials in the White House about the remaining Yemeni detainees in Guantanamo and Afghanistan.

Tick tock.

Tick tock.

Latif died 40 days ago. Just 19 days remain before the election. Between them, the US and Yemeni governments have forestalled the time when the US has to admit a man–the sole evidence against whom was a flawed intelligence report written while Pakistanis were trying to convince us to pay a bounty for Latif–died of unnatural causes in their custody. Possibly, they will have to admit complications of the same head injury they claimed, in court, was not all that serious, killed him.

And it appears John Brennan may be buying Hadi’s complicity on this front with promises he may not be able to keep. Leopold’s Yemeni source makes clear that the US and Yemeni government have tied discussions of the release of the other Yemenis in Gitmo and Bagram to the fate of Latif’s body.

“President Hadi was in Washington, DC, and met with President Obama’s cabinet ministers,” the official said. “The remaining Yemeni detainees was one of the talking points. President Hadi has made Guantanamo and Bagram [prison in Afghanistan] a high priority for Yemen. We are emphasizing talks and opening up a dialogue to ensure the timely release and transfer and rehabilitation of those remaining detainees to Yemeni custody and we are working closely with the US government. These discussions took place with high-level officials in the Obama administration.” [brackets original]

I can imagine a quid pro quo that goes this way: Hadi agrees to refuse to accept the body, helping to forestall announcements of how Latif died, until after the election. And then the US will enter discussions to do what they should have done 2 years ago: release the Yemenis who don’t pose a threat to the US.

But all that’s premised on getting Congressional support to release roughly 60 Yemenis, after the Administration already neutralized the one point of leverage–detainee wins in habeas proceedings–that has worked to override Congressional intransigence in the past.

To some degree, I can’t blame Hadi for doing the bidding of the superpower that put him in power, on whose continued military support he relies. I can’t blame Hadi for trading Latif’s decaying corpse for the fate of 60 other Yemenis unjustly held at Gitmo.

But if that’s the trade-off, I do question Hadi’s judgment for believing Obama will do in a second term what he had easier ways of doing–habeas proceedings–in the first.

Latif: Indefinitely Detained Even in Death

ProPublica reports that Adnan Farhan abd al Latif’s body remains in limbo–in an undisclosed location.

His body hasn’t been sent back to his home country of Yemen, and it’s no longer at Gitmo.

It’s being held in an undisclosed location.

“Mr. Latif’s remains are being handled with the utmost care and respect by medical professionals and are being maintained in an appropriate facility designed to best facilitate preservation,” said a Defense Department spokesman, Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale. “His remains are no longer at JTF-Guantanamo Bay.”

Breasseale blames the delay on the Yemenis, who have insisted on autopsy and investigation reports into why he died.

Lt. Col. Breasseale said the U.S. is responding to Yemen’s “wishes that we maintain the remains until a time when they are prepared to receive them.”

A Yemeni official said his government “will not accept the remains until we get an official autopsy and an investigation report. We just want to know what happened.” The official, who declined to be named, also said that the government was in touch with Latif’s family.

Latif died on September 8–26 days ago, or 44% the period until the election. if the sole explanation for the delay is that the US is unwilling to turn over an explanation of how Latif died, it makes it far more likely that Latif died of something other than suicide.

So are they going to hold Latif on ice until the election? Is that the idea?

Emptywheel Twitterverse
JimWhiteGNV @Pedinska Our dogs don't know the fun they have in store. Older daughter is bringing her dog for a few days at Thanksgiving.
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bmaz Jimmy McCulloch is a very underrated guitar player.
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bmaz What a lousy day of football here in Cactusland. Bleech!
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bmaz I KNOW he is on my side, so I cannot understand how @AllThingsHLS is letting the SeaSquawks kick Arizona's ass like this. #YouCanStopNow
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bmaz On behalf of Cheeseheads everywhere, from the heart of Mr. Rodger's neighborhood, thank you sincerely to the New England Patriots.
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emptywheel @nickmanes1 I jinxed him.
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emptywheel @nickmanes1 A lot of great passes were dropped, even by people who normally catch them.
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emptywheel Vince Wilfork got almost up to sumo weight in his injury year. He'd be damn good at sumo, I bet.
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emptywheel @nickmanes1 Had said if Kitties kept penalties low and Stafford avoided picks they might have a chance. Forgot to say, "catch the ball."
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emptywheel Stafford fucked up the slide.
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emptywheel @matthewstoller Gonna write a post on this.
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bmaz @barrettmarson @CBS5AZSPORTS Ya think? If only maybe local affiliates could do more than tweet about it.
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