No Comment — October 2, 2009, 1:55 pm

The Worst of the Worst?

For seven years, the Bush Administration told us that the prisoners held at Guantánamo were the “worst of the worst.” These are the kind of people who would chew through the hydraulic cables of a jet to try to bring it down, a breathless General Richard Myers once noted at a 2002 press conference. No one ever disputed that there were some dangerous figures at Guantánamo, particularly after President Bush decided on the eve of the 2006 midterm elections to move those held in CIA black sites to the naval station in Cuba. But was this true of the majority of the prisoners?

There was an odd discord between the rhetoric of the Bush Administration and their conduct. They continued to talk about the “worst of the worst,” and they relaunched it as a talking point almost from the start of the Obama Administration. But they also worked hard to release and repatriate a large number of detainees—it looks like roughly two thirds of the total—down to the end of their term. Seton Hall Law School students and faculty issued a series of impressive reports surveying the available evidence, and they suggested that perhaps as many as 80% of the total inmate population of Gitmo were innocent people, swept up as a result of generous bounty payments the United States offered to Afghan warlords and Pakistani security officials.

Now, as habeas corpus cases are processed, we finally have a basis to judge the Bush-Cheney claims about the Gitmo prisoners. The “judging” is being done by federal judges in Washington, nearly all of them conservative Republicans and quite a few appointed by George W. Bush himself. The results? The process is still ongoing. But at this moment, decisions have been rendered in 38 cases. The government was found to have had a tenable basis to hold eight Gitmo prisoners, and to have no basis in 30 cases. So far at least, the court judgments are remarkable in their coincidence with the numbers from the Seton Hall study. The judicial reviews—which have gotten far less press coverage than the scatter-shot attacks of Dick Cheney and his daughter–can be summarized this way: “Worst of the worst? Not so much.”

Here’s the roll call, with the status, the prisoner involved, the judge who ruled, and the prisoner’s nationality:

Freedom granted – 30 (20 of whom are still in custody)
17 Uighurs – Urbina (4 released to Bermuda)
5 Bosnian-Algerians – Leon – (4 released – 3 to Bosnia and 1 (Lakhdar Boumediene) to France)
Mohammed el Gharani (Chadian) – Leon (released to Chad)
Yasim Muhammed Basardah – Huvelle (Yemeni)
Alla Ali Bin Ali Ahmed – Kessler (Yemeni)
Abd al Rahim Abdul Rassak Janko – Leon (Syrian)
Khalid Abdullah Mishal Thamer Al Mutairi – Kollar-Kotelly (Kuwaiti)
Mohammed Jawad – Huvelle (Afghan; released to Afghanistan)
Mohammed Al-Adahi– Kessler (Yemeni)
Fouad Al Rabiah – Kollar-Kotelly (Kuwaiti).

Freedom denied – 8
Belkacem Bensayah (Bosnian) – Leon
Hisham Sliti (Tunisian) – Leon
Muaz Al Alawi (Yemeni) – Leon
Ghaleb Nassar Al Bihani (Yemeni) – Leon
Hammamy (Tunisian) – Leon
Waqas Mohammed Ali Awad (Yemeni) – Robertson
Fawzi Al Odah (Kuwaiti) – Kollar-Kotelly
Sufyian Barhoumi (Algerian) – Collyer

h/t to Shane Kadidal for the tally.

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Ashley arrived for her prenatal appointment at Black Hills Obstetrics and Gynecology, in Rapid City, South Dakota, wearing a black zip-up hoodie and Converse sneakers.1 To explain her absence from work that morning — a Tuesday in April 2015 — she had told a co-worker that she was having “female issues.” She was twenty-five years old and eight weeks pregnant. She had been separated from her husband, with whom she had a five-year-old son, for the better part of a year. The guy who’d gotten her pregnant was someone she’d met at the gym, and he’d made it abundantly clear that he wanted nothing more to do with her. Ashley found herself hoping that the doctor would discover some kind of fetal defect, so that her decision would be easier. She glanced across the waiting room at a television playing a birth-control ad and laughed darkly. “Jesus, Lord, it would be so nice if someone just pushed me down a flight of stairs.”

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In the exam room, she perched on the table with her feet crossed at the ankles, her blond hair brushing the back of her pink hospital gown. “I don’t know what’s available for me here,” she told her doctor, Katherine Degen, who sat facing her on a stool. “I figured nothing.”

 Some names and identifying details have been changed. 

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The baby was due in November, when Ashley, who was a nurse, hoped to be enrolled in a graduate program to become a nurse practitioner. Getting pregnant as a teenager had forced her to put that dream on hold, but she had thought that she was finally ready; she had even submitted her application shortly before the March 15 deadline. For the first time in her adult life, Ashley felt as if her plans were coming together. Then she missed her period.

It would be too difficult to attend school as a single mother of two, Ashley knew. She had made an appointment for three weeks from now at the nearest abortion clinic, in Billings, Montana, 318 miles away. But just a week and a half ago, her husband had said he wanted to get back together and offered to raise the child as his own. Was it a sign that she was meant to continue the pregnancy? As a rule, Ashley approached her problems with resolve. She was capable and tough; she liked shooting guns and lifting weights. She kept track of her stats and checked off her goals as she achieved them one by one. Yet the dilemma before her had shaken her confidence. She leaned back and turned to watch the ultrasound screen. The black-and-white image danced. A sharp, fast thumping emerged from the machine. As Degen removed the wand, Ashley wiped the corner of her eye.

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