Mickum: Talking Dog Blog Interview, May 6, 2007
May 6, 2007
Brent Mickum is an attorney with the firm of Spriggs & Hollingsworth
in Washington, D.C. Mr. Mickum has represented one British citizen and
two permanent residents of the United Kingdom who have been, or remain,
detained at Guantanamo Bay (or “GTMO”), Cuba (after being apprehended
in Africa): Martin Mubanga and Bisher al-Rawi, who have been released, and Jamil el-Banna who
has not. Mr. Mickum has written a number of articles on the subject of
his representation for the British and American press. On April 25 and
26, 2007, I had the privilege of interviewing Mr. Mickum by telephone.
What follows are my interview notes, corrected as appropriate by Mr.
The Talking Dog: Where you were on September 11th? Do you know where your clients were?
Brent Mickum: I was in the office. Generally, I get in early, typically around 6:30 a.m. I ride my bike to work, and, on that particular day, it proved to be fortuitous. I was able to get out of town much more quickly than most because the city was in total gridlock. Everyone was aware that the World Trade centers had been hit. But when the Pentagon was hit, all hell broke loose. Usually, it takes me about 40 minutes to bike home. That day, it took over an hour. I had called my wife and we had agreed that she would get my daughter from school, and I would pick up my son. As to my clients, all of them were living in and around London, England.
The Talking Dog: Please tell us the names of your clients detained at Guantanamo. Where are they currently (I understand one has just been released)? If you can tell me, what it is they were/are accused of? My understanding is that your clients put the ultimate lie to "captured on the battlefield". Can you tell us the circumstances of how they were picked up?
Brent Mickum: My clients’ names are Martin Mubanga, Bisher al-Rawi and Jamil el Banna. Jamil el Banna is still in custody. El Banna was arrested on precisely the same charges as my client Bisher al-Rawi, albeit fewer of them. The primary charge against Mr. El-Banna is that he "associated with a known Al Qaeda figure." That figure is a Muslim cleric named Abu Qatada. He also was charged with funneling money to al Qaeda, but that military agreed that it had no evidence against Mr. El-Banna. The purported "association" was that Jamil drove Abu Qatada's wife and child around to meetings that Abu Qatada attended. Those meetings were arranged by Bisher al-Rawi who, at a time, was working as an informant for MI-5. Accordingly, British authorities knew exactly where abu Qatada was and knew that Jamil was driving the wife and son to the meetings. When abu Qatada was arrested, British authorities called Jamil on his cell phone and asked him to come pick up the wife and children.
All three of my clients were arrested in Africa, thousands of miles from "the battlefield" in Afghanistan. Martin was transferred directly to Guantanamo. None had a weapon. None had any knowing association with Al Qaeda. None committed an act of violence. Indeed, there is no evidence in the record - and I have security clearance - that any of my clients even threatened violence against the United States or its coalition allies.
The Talking Dog: Can you tell me your impressions of your clients from meeting them? What contact have you had with their families (and what contact with released detainees)?
Brent Mickum: Martin is young man, with long dreadlocks. He was very fit and spoke with a heavy accent that I found difficult to understand. I only met him once at Guantanamo. He was released with the rest of the British citizens in early 2005.
I found him very affable, but he was the most cautious of the three. He had been through quite a lot. Because he was athletic and had been a kick-boxer, he was a natural target of many of the guards; he was frequently baited and beaten. He was frequently attacked by the so-called "immediate reaction force" or "IRF." His long dreadlocks also probably made him a target.
By the way, 60-Minutes-2, did on a story about a U.S. soldier named Sean Baker who was beaten so badly during an alleged IRF drill in which he posed as a prisoner, that he now has epilepsy, brain damage, and cannot be employed because of his disability.
I've talked to Martin's sister by telephone, and though I missed Martin the last time I was in the U.K., I have met and spoken with him through videoconferences that he attended.
Bisher is a good, gentle, genial man. He’s well educated and refined. Bisher was educated in the British public school system. I've met with his mother, his sister Omama, and his brother Wahab on many occasions, and I would say that my relationship with his family is quite. For my part, I enjoy their company very much. He has had a difficult time because he believed in American justice. He believed the system would work. But he was wrongly imprisoned for nearly 5 years. Considering what he has been through, he is remarkably resilient and is doing quite well. He spent a year in solitary confinement, during which time he was tortured daily by being exposed to serious temperature extremes. In addition, he was exposed to light 24 hours a day. He was allotted 15 sheets of toilet paper a day. Because he used some of the toilet paper to cover his eyes to try and sleep, his toilet paper was taken away. Consequently, he was deprived of toilet paper during most of the time he was in isolation. Once, when he used his prayer rug to cover himself to protect himself from the cold, his prayer rug was taken away. Cups and toilet paper are not considered "essential" at Guantanamo. Rather, they are "comfort items" that can be taken away at the whim of any guard. He also was deprived of reading materials.
Bisher is a man of principle who keeps his word and is loyal to his
friends. He consistently refused to provide false testimony, even when
he was offered his freedom to do so. At some point, he finally refused
to continue to be interrogated further, answering the same inane
questions over and over again. In reprisal, he suffered greatly, being
tortured and left in isolation. I, and others, advised him to go back
to his interrogations, but he refused.
In November or December, Bisher was in very bad shape, almost unable to comprehend his situation-- that's how badly abused he was. As a result, I published an article in Britain, describing his condition and treatment in detail. Whether the article prompted a response, I can’t say with any assurance, but the issue seemed to resonate at certain levels in U.K., and finally there was real movement to get him out.
Jamil was different than I expected. I expected a heavyset,
clean-shaven man. Instead, Jamil appeared very fit, with a long beard
and flowing grey hair. He is the father of five young children, the
youngest of whom he has never seen.
His English has become much better over time. He was not fluent when I first met him. We just took time to get to know each other at first. In an effort to establish rapport, he challenged me to an arm wrestling match that lasted over two minutes. Although I was a pretty fair arm wrestler in my day, he beat me!
As I said, I was expecting a heavy diabetic man with jet-black hair. But Jamil had lost a great deal of weight. All prisoners at Guantanamo were starved. The military denies it, of course, but neither the military nor the Department of Defense has credibility left on the subject.
Almost without exception, everything the military has said about
Guantanamo has been false and discredited. An excellent example
involves three British citizens known as the Tipton Three and the release of a report in July 2004
about their treatment and torture. That report documented abuses like
short shackling, the "IRFing", and the use of temperature extremes,
light, and noise. The government denied all of it, claimed it was
patently false. But in December 2004, the FBI released thousands of
pages of documents from field agents who were on the ground in
Guantanamo. Those documents
establish that all of the information in the report was true. Despite
the evidence, the Bush Administration continues to deny that any of it
is true. By the way, two of the Tipton Three confessed to being in
videotapes with Osama bin Lade in Afghanistan at a time when each was
living and working in England. That tells you everything you need to
know about Guantanamo.
In any event, all of my clients were very, very hungry. Each day, I would bring each food. I have never seen men eat with such reverence. Whatever I brought them—pizza, sandwiches, dates, chips, pastry, candy-- not a crumb was wasted. It was a very poignant experience watching men, who had been deprived for so long, eat. The government insists that it serves the prisoners dishes like rice pilaf and lemon chicken. Like everything else the military says, it is an arrant lie. I remember telling Bisher the story. He laughed, telling me that he could state definitively that he had never even tasted lemon the entire time he had been in Guantanamo.
In fact, I can tell you that early on, the military, knowing that the prisoners were starving, would induce blindfolded prisoners to eat pork and then tell them they had eaten pork to try to make them sick.
Jamil is very good and simple man. He is religious. He wants me to read the Koran because he worries about me! Believe me, none of my clients are zealots. All are innocent. All are good decent men.
The Talking Dog: I understand that you were among the very first attorneys to visit Guantanamo Bay's detention facility. Can you tell me your impressions of Guantanamo based on having traveled there?
Brent Mickum: I was the second habeas attorney allowed into the camps. I was supposed to be in the first group of attorneys, but two days before we were to travel, the government informed us that we would only be permitted one visit. Because, at that time, we had no idea what the charges against our clients were, Joe Margulies and I felt it would be malpractice per se to expend our only meeting without know the charges. Accordingly, I had to cancel my trip. During the early period, I was paying my own expenses, and I lost $500 because the flight to Guantanamo that was not refundable. Eventually, the military released public statements that we'd be permitted multiple visits, and the DOJ relented.
Guantanamo is a "50's-ish" kind of place. It is not modern by any means. It is extremely dry, but there is a severe beauty about the place. I can only recall rain on one occasion! There are iguanas walking around, along with banana rats and land crabs. The water is beautiful; you can walk right off the shore and still see fish in the blue Caribbean waters on the "visitors" side of the base.
To see the prisoners , you need to take a ferry to the prison side. There is a town there, with a McDonald’s, a KFC and other restaurants, a department store, barracks and soldiers' facilities. And, on the far side, is the prison.
As the second attorney down, things were very pleasant for me; my military escort was a great guy, and very helpful. I gave him a case of beer when I left. This has changed as more attorneys have come down; the soldiers are now unpleasant and occasionally combative. One is checked in and checked out at all points. There is a lot of unnecessary aggravation. In my opinion, the military is doing its best to make things unpleasant. For example, clients frequently "are not available" to meet. This is a real problem. You lose two full days traveling to Guantanamo (one day each way). On one of my last trips, I was at the base for three full days, but I was only permitted a total of 7 hours of visits with my clients over three days. So I have to say that the military is constantly interfering with our ability to work with our clients.
The Talking Dog: Let's turn to your clients' involvement with British intelligence, and its attempts to gain information of Islamic cleric "Abu Qatada". What is your understanding of that involvement, and how did it affect them at Guantanamo and elsewhere? Has the British government ever formally acknowledged its role in their detention?
Brent Mickum: Bisher worked with MI5, primarily as a translator and an intermediary. There is no explanation for why the British turned on him, although the evidence seems very strong that the CIA was desperate to implicate Muslim cleric Abu Qatada in terrorism or other wrongdoing.
Before he left the UK for the Gambia, MI5 met with Jamil to try to enlist him as an informant. Jamil was promised money to set him up in business in the Middle East. We have a field memo from MI5 that was released by the British government confirming this. We received this document – and others - just before the initiation of a lawsuit in the UK and just after I published my second article, revealing Bisher's involvement with MI5.
With respect to the United States, it appears that the CIA and military imprisoned Bisher and Jamil in an effort to suborn perjury against abu Qatada. I presume this was at the behest of the British. Both men were repeatedly called upon to lie and implicate Abu Qatada in wrongdoing. To both Bisher's and Jamil's credit, they declined to do so. To this day, no charges have been filed against abu Qatada.
The Talking Dog: Let's follow up on Abu Qatada, a bit; my understanding is that the British had held him at Belmarsh prison ("Britain's Guantanamo") in the UK, but he has since been released; further, one of your clients was acknowledged by the CSRT as having given money to charity, while the other, giving money to the same place on more or less the same evidence, was believed to have been aiding terrorism by a different CSRT... do I have that right? Your clients were detained because of information provided by the British as to their association with someone who has been released from custody by the British?
Brent Mickum: That's not exactly correct. Abu Qatada was a Muslim cleric, originally from Pakistan, preaching in the London area. He was arrested under Britain's first anti-terrorism law. When Britain’s House of Lords found that law unlawful, he was released from prison, but held under house arrest. Then new legislation was passed, and he was re-imprisoned. As I said before, he still has NEVER been charged with violation of any law.
Bisher was determined to be an enemy combatant on a number of charges involving his association with Abu Qatada, collecting funds at mosques and possessing a simple battery charger. The military never made any inquiry about the nature of the charges. It never attempted to determine if the charges were false. To the contrary, the procedures call for the military to assume that the charges were true. It would have been very easy to ask MI5 about Bisher's activities, because MI5 was at Guantanamo. Bisher was interviewed by MI5 in Guantanamo on at least six occasions. It would have been easy to determine that the battery charger was harmless because there was a court record of it. To my knowledge, no exculpatory evidence was ever examined or advanced on the part of any prisoner. But you should understand, the process was not about truth. It was result oriented. And there could be only one result.
Jamil was arrested and held on the same facts as Bisher. In the end, the only charge he faced was his attenuated association with Abu Qatada. Jamil drove abu Qatada’s wife and son to meetings where Bisher was doing translation for MI5. That’s all he ever did. When abu Qatada was first arrested, MI5 called Jamil to come pick up the wife and son who were there at the house.
We have been trying to get the British authorities to admit that they knew where Abu Qatada was at all times during the period when Jamil was driving his wife and child. This is important evidence to rebut the accusation that Jamil was "harboring" Abu Qatada. As for the other charges - possessing a battery charger and allegations that he collecting funds for charity at mosques - Jamil's combatant status review tribunal was presented with no evidence and, thus, exonerated him of those charges. Five years later, Jamil remains in prison because, at the behest of MI5, he drove a man’s wife and son back and forth.
The Talking Dog: Can you describe the abuses suffered by your clients, in the Gambia, in Afghanistan, and then at Guantanamo?
Brent Mickum: All of my clients have been abused and tortured, at every location. Martin was transferred straight from Zambia to Guantanamo. He was subjected to temperature extremes, he was beaten terribly, he was kept in stress positions while chained and shackled. Interrogators wold stand on his hair and taunt him. All prisoners were kept in isolation for their first month at Guantanamo. After that, Martin was frequently punished with more isolation.
With respect to Bisher and Jamil, in Gambia, they were transferred directly to the CIA. I man who identified himself as “Mr. Lee” indicated that he was with the CIA. My clients were aware that CIA had been in contact with MI5 and that the British had been complicit in their detention. The CIA told them repeatedly that MI5 had turned them over to the CIA. While in CIA custody in The Gambia, they were taken outside the City, shackled at all times, and Jamil frequently beaten.
Approximately one month later, Bisher and Jamil were rendered by the CIA aboard a Gulfstream numbered N-379T. As part of the process, their clothes were cut off, they were blindfolded, bound and put on the aircraft accompanied by CIA. From The Gambia, the flight refueled in Cairo and went on to Kabul, Afghanistan. There, Bisher and Jamil were taken to the infamous “dark prison”, one of the early CIA black sites. There, they were thrown into dungeon-like underground cells. Encased in complete darkness, they were assaulted with a cacophony of music and noise that never abated. The noise let up briefly only one time during their imprisonment . When it did, Bisher heard Jamil call out to him, but he was too afraid to call back. Bisher was chained to a wall, and had shackles on him at all times. They had only brackish water and were provided almost no food.
Jamil was beaten, kicked, and dragged around. He too was subjected to the cacophonous music as well, which included the sounds of jet airplanes and what he called “devil music” because it human screams and moans. They were imprisoned there for about 2 1/2 weeks.
Then they were transferred to Bagram. They were hooded, ear-muffed, chained, and taken out– and frequently beaten even though they were incapable of any resistance at this point. They were thrown bodily into the back of a truck where they thought they would die as the bodies of other prisoners were heaped upon them.
They were taken by helicopter to Bagram, where they were imprisoned and tortured for another 2 1/2 months. Again, they were frequently beaten, deprived of sleep, subjected to extremes of temperature, and subjected to constant interrogations on only one subject: Abu Qatada!
After that, they were taken to GTMO. The trip to Guantanamo was itself torture. Prisoners were held in stress positions. If they moved, they were beaten. Imagine trying to maintain a single position for more than 20 hours without moving. Prisoners were starving and very disoriented. They had no water. Many were sick. Prisoners were beaten if they didn’t react immediately to verbal orders. Unfortunately, many prisoners did not understand English.
At GTMO, Jamil and Bisher were interrogated hundreds of times. As I’ve indicated, Bisher spent his last year in isolation. During their imprisonment at Guantanamo, both men were subjected to stress positions, sleep deprivation, temperature extremes. Both spent time in isolation. Jamil was chained in stress positions. Once after Jamil’s family was threatened, his interrogator beat him for five minutes.
The Talking Dog: I understand you are a partner at a law
firm in Washington with a number of private clients, and previously
served with the Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission. Can
you tell me your view of (now former) DOD official Charles "Cully" Stimson's recent remarks inviting
corporate clients to retaliate against attorneys representing
Guantanamo detainees? Has your overall practice been effected (either
before or after Mr. Stimson's remarks) by your representations? And of
course, since here at “the talking dog” we are at the cutting edge, can
you comment on the recent announcement of the government’s argument to the D.C. Circuit to restrict attorney’s access to Guantanamo detainees?
Brent Mickum: A lot of this is addressed in my recent Guardian article.
To answer the first question, no my practice has not been affected by Mr. Stimson’s remarks. Those remarks were unfortunate. But Stimson did not make these remarks without vetting them with his superiors. At exactly the same time he made his remarks, the Wall Street Journal ran an op ed making exactly the same comments. So it is clear that this was an orchestrated event, an organized campaign and orchestrated maneuver by the White House to label the attorneys as the enemy. Cully Stimson was just the designated fall guy.
In the government’s filing, the attorneys are, once again, the fall
guys – we are responsible for the hunger strikes, as if we were
orchestrating them! Imagine that for a moment: the military tortures
and imprisons men for five years without charges, with no hope of any
legal process, with no hope of release, and when they begin to rebel
and do the only thing left to the – go on hunger strikes. And the
government has the audacity to blame the attorneys. The detainees don’t
feel they have any hope. You should know that rather than leaving the
feeding tubes in prisoners, the military is now removing them between
feedings to make it much more painful and uncomfortable.
Shortly after I made a recent appearance on C-Span, Bill Spriggs, the founding partner of my law firm, got an e-mail THANKING HIM for allowing me to do this work.
The Talking Dog: I understand that before the Rasul case allowed attorneys to visit GTMO, there were also hunger strikes and mass suicide attempts...
Brent Mickum: There were hunger strikes before the attorneys were allowed in the camp, and clearly there were suicide attempts. But the argument now made is that we are somehow compromising security! This is utterly ridiculous. The problem at Guantanamo is that the men have no hope and there is no justice. Everything that this country stood for is absent at Guantanamo. The prison is really the only thing happening at Guantanamo. There are rarely, if ever more than five or six attorneys at the base. If the military can’t handle that, then are simply incompetent.
The Talking Dog: I understand that you wrote to your clients asking them not to participate in the military's combatant status review tribunals (CSRTs), though the letters were mysteriously delivered to your clients one day after they participated, though before you visited them. Can you tell me what happened at those CSRTs, and if the government has ever owned up to reading your ordinarily privileged mail?
Brent Mickum: One of the things the government wants to do is to permit the military to read– rather than just inspect for contraband– lawyer-client mail. In our case, there is no question whatsoever that the military opened and read my mail to my clients. The dates of each of my clients’ CSRTs was different, and yet in each case, my letter mysteriously arrived one day after their CSRTs, although I sent them all at exactly the same time.
Bisher pointed out this out to his CSRT, which had been unaware that
his mail had been read and not delivered.. Still, it didn’t make any
The fact is, the military wanted to game this. They wanted the
detainees to participate in the CSRTs to implicate themselves or
others. Of course the Government will not own up to doing this. But
everyone who has seen the CSRT process has called it a sham. The last
time anyone in the military uttered anything close to the truth was in
2004 when Brigadier General Lucente said that 90% of the prisoners at
Guantanamo didn’t belong there, had no connection to terrorism, and had
no intelligence value.
The Talking Dog: Are you aware of any efforts by the British to obtain the release of their remaining residents held at Guantanamo? What efforts have you undertaken with respect to lobby the British government to seek release of its residents?
Brent Mickum: I continue to try to publish pieces in the
United Kingdom to keep these issues in the public eye there. The
British are much more sensitive to these issues than Americans. But I’m
happy to say that Americans finally seem to be coming around. For a
long time, people here bought into the Administration’s “worst of the
worst” rhetoric. The Administration has been very clever, it keep
repeating the same line over and over again. Sadly many people came to
believe it. For example, consider weapons of mass destruction in Iraq–
many people STILL think that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.
That’s because the Bush Administration repeated so many times. It just
establishes the point that you have to question everything the
Administration says. Frankly, that’s sad.
I am involved in an ongoing dialog to try to get the U.K. government to accept the resident back. Its present position is that if it interceded on behalf of the residents at Guantanamo, it would set an adverse precedent that would require the UK to intercede on behalf of residents all over the world who may be detained. The government claims it could be required to intervene on behalf of thousands upon thousands of people. I don’t buy the argument, but that is the excuse they are using, and they’re sticking to it..
Some have suggested that a House of Lords, which is the U.K.’s highest court, is expected to render a decision in October that may require the U.K. government intercede on behalf of Jamil and Omar Deghayes. Family members who are British citizens brought the suit on their behalf. What the House of Lords does remains to be seen, but it is thought that the Law Lords may reverse the British government’s current position to some extent. Depending on the relief afforded by the Law Lords, it seems clear that an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights will result in a reversal of present policy.
Of course, at this point, time is of the essence. Guantanamo conditions are growing steadily worse. If the American government succeeds in restricting lawyers, conditions will become even worse still. The American military gets no credit whatsoever on this point– they will get away with whatever they can, as they have before.
So.... I am trying to keep up a dialog with the British and establish a framework for the repatriation of Jamil and the other residents. While the UK takes the position that some of the British residents now at GTMO were not legal British residents, that is not Jamil’s case: he has refugee status. I am not trying to preclude other detainees’ rights in any way– but that argument should not be used as a crutch or an excuse to block repatriation of Britain’s genuine legal residents. The U.K. government, in my view, has acted shamefully: while it calls for the closure of the camps, it does little or nothing to take its people back,
Now, some of this can be laid back at the feet of the Americans, who are demanding unreasonable conditions on the British such as 24 hour post release monitoring. The Americans are simply trying to cover their ass. None of the British residents pose any threat whatsoever– our own military doesn’t think they’re a threat.
I learned a lot when negotiating regarding Bisher’s release. You go
through a dance. The US would demand surveillance based on accusations
that Bisher had done something like take terrorist training in Bosnia
and Afghanistan. But I was able to provide evidence that demonstrated
that the charges were hogwash. For example, we were able to prove that,
although the US alleged he was elsewhere, Bisher hadn’t left the U.K.
since 1998. So the military’s allegations were utterly false.
Gradually, we whittled down the restrictions for Bisher’s release.
Ultimately he was released without any charges. He had to register his
address. If he wants to travel abroad, he has to let authorities know
where he intends to go. We have to do that in this country.
The Talking Dog: Do you have a view as to a possible "exit strategy" with respect to Guantanamo, either care of the Supreme Court (such as its recent refusal to grant certiorari review in Boumediene) or Congress perhaps... or do you believe that as long as George W. Bush is President, the facility will remain open (albeit perhaps with a slowly declining number of individuals held)?
Brent Mickum That’s actually a hard question. I’m certainly disappointed in the Supreme Court. But in the recent case, Justices Kennedy and Stevens did us a favor. If the Court had taken the case at this time, it would have later turned down the appeal for failure to exhaust the remedies available under the Detainee Treatment Act. Of course, that remedy – a petition to the D.C. Circuit– is a useless task. The petition of the CSRTs will go before the same court that the Supreme Court has reversed twice on detainee issues. It is the same court that, despite the Supreme Court’s clear holdings to the contrary in Rasul and Hamdan cases, once again ruled that aliens at Guantanamo have no rights at all!
But what is very interesting is that the government’s latest
maneuver of trying to shut out lawyers offers the possibility of
asserting jurisdiction before the Supreme Court on that issue. Justice
Stevens made it very clear in his opinion denying certiorari that there
were other avenues that would allow the court to assert jurisdiction if
detainees were prevented meaningful relief. We’ll see.
Just today [April 26, 2007] I filed a DTA petition on Jamil’s behalf. The petition describes in some detail what happened to Jamil in American custody. The D.C. Circuit will likely summarily deny his DTA petition, of course. But in doing so, the Court will have to ignore some grim factual evidence that the US government has engaged in torture, kidnapping, and the imprisonment of innocent men for years without any legal recourse. We know that Jamil was rendered. We know the exact plane that rendered him. We know that the only evidence against Jamil is that he drove Abu Qatada’s wife and child around in the UK at a time when the UK knew exactly where Abu Qatada was!
While we would ask that Bisher be permitted to testify on Jamil’s behalf, we would expect the US to deny Bisher entry into the US. We also intend to produce affidavits from Bisher and Jamil’s solicitor in Britain, Gareth Peirce. We hope to produce evidence that the British government knew where Abu Qatada was, that Bisher was serving as an intermediary on behalf of MI5, that Bisher was seeing abu Qatada with government approval, and that MI5 knew exactly where Abu Qatada was! We will produce evidence that MI5 attempted to recruit Jamil to work for it. When he refused, Jamil was thrown to the wolves.
Bisher and Jamil love England. Jamil has told me that he has told other prisoners that notwithstanding how badly he has been treated, other prisoners should consider the UK for asylum! He still has a longstanding love and respect for England. Certainly his feelings about the United States and our system of justice are markedly diminished.
The Talking Dog: Let me now ask my lawyer’s weasel catch-all question... is there anything else I should have asked you but didn't, or anything else my readers and the public need to know on these subjects?
Brent Mickum: People need to know that the number of men who are really innocent at Guantanamo is extraordinarily high. Leaving aside the recently transferred 14 so-called high value detainees, the military determined that only 8% of the prisoners are classified by our government as Al Qaeda or Taliban fighters. Only 5% were captured by American forces. 86% were turned over for bounties. Fifty five percent were found not to have committed any hostile acts against the United States or its coalition partners. This is very different from what the Administration has said.
In many cases, military tribunals found prisoners to be enemy combatants on the basis of their affiliation with 72 different terrorist organizations. The only problem with such a finding is that 52 of the organizations, 72% of the total, do not even appear on the Patriot Act Terrorist Exclusion List or state Department exclusion lists. Members of 64 of the 72 groups identified by the military as terrorists, 89% of the total, would be permitted entry into the United States.
The head of Afghanistan’s Reconciliation Commission is on record
saying that all 83 Afghans who were repatriated were innocent and ended
up at Guantanamo because of tribal or personal rivalries. A senior
official in the Pakistani Interior Ministry has said that investigators
determined 67 of 70 prisoners repatriated to Pakistan were sold for
bounties by Afghan warlords who invented the links to al Qaeda. He is
quoted as saying, “we consider them innocent.” Twenty-nine detainees
repatriated to Britain, Spain, Germany Russia, Australia, Turkey,
Denmark, Bahrain, and Maldives were freed, some within hours after
being sent home for “continued detention.” All of the Saudis who have
been repatriated, with the exception of the most-recently released
group, have been freed.
The Bush government cannot have it both ways. Its imperial hubris and its preternatural aversion to the truth have finally brought it down. No one now believes the Administration, whether it’s about Guantanamo or Alberto Gonzales firing U.S. Attorneys. People have simply turned the administration off. The congress and the press are no longer giving the administration a pass.
At this point it is imperative that people know the truth, and witnesses are coming out of the woodwork. After my recent C-Span appearance,
someone called me and spoke to me at length, telling me (without giving
his name) that he was a guard at the GTMO camps. He told me that he and
other guards were instructed to brutalize prisoners. He confirmed that
water-boarding, which he called “drown-proofing” took place. This
individual knew extensive details of the camp layout and the names of
military personnel. Eventually, the full story will be released and
peopled will be shocked at the extent of the depravity.
Finally, let me say this, the press that is real reason that anyone has been released. It is the collective, conveyed outrage of the civilized world that is responsible for turning around policy. It certainly is not the largesse of the Bush Administration or the military. This country’s judicial system has been sullied. All our legal efforts have been stymied. The judiciary should be ashamed. This points up how wrong the politicization of the judiciary is. Plenty of countries have an executive branch and a congress or parliament. But what makes this country distinctive and so great is an independent judiciary, with sound and ethical people in the position of judges. This has changed dramatically under Bush. We need to reestablish it.
I hope politicians in the future will take heed of this... Members of Congress– even Republicans- are incredibly disturbed about the revelations about how things are done in the Justice Department, which was supposed to be impartial. Gonzales resigning would be a step in the right direction, but only a small step in undoing just how disturbing things have become.
The Talking Dog: I join all my readers in thanking Mr. Mickum for being so generous with his time, and for providing us with such an extensive and informative interview.
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