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No More Guantanamos

December 2010 Newsletter

In this issue:

Wikileaks Releases Cables on Guantánamo, Bagram, and Rendition

Grassroots News:

  • Berkeley, CA, resolution to welcome cleared detainees heads to city council
  • Chicago affiliate to show documentary “Outside the Law” on December 14
  • North Carolina Stop Torture Now gathers letters for detainees and petition signatures
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Wikileaks Releases Cables on Guantánamo, Bagram, and Rendition: What Might Have Been

NMG has reviewed about 50 U.S. State Department cables released by Wikileaks. The cables report on our government’s contacts and negotiations with foreign governments over U.S. detainee policies, requests to resettle detainees, and follow-up on resettlements. We believe that the following examples, had they been shared or shared more broadly, could have helped build support among the American people for closing Guantánamo Bay prison.

In a 1/15/10 cable from Embassy Luxembourg, classified “confidential,” the U.S. ambassador observed that former Guantánamo detainee Moazzam Begg “is doing our work for us, and his articulate, reasoned presentation makes for a convincing argument. It is ironic that after four years of imprisonment and alleged torture, Moazzam Begg is delivering the same demarche to [the government of Luxembourg] as we are: please consider accepting Guantánamo detainees for resettlement.”

Several exchanges with Germany, France and China concern the resettlement of the Uighurs, whom Federal District Judge Ricardo Urbina had ordered released to the U.S. in 2008, to communities where homes and jobs awaited them. The cables bring to light the difficulty for European governments of angering China by accepting the men. For example, in a 12/7/09 confidential cable from Embassy Berlin, although the state secretary expressed a willingness “to consider the two Uighur cases on humanitarian grounds, [he] noted that they would present special difficulties because of the diplomatic row which would likely ensue.” Switzerland eventually accepted two brothers as a humanitarian gesture, and the others were resettled in Bermuda and, temporarily, in Palau.

Several more exchanges report that courts in France, Spain, and Afghanistan who accepted detainees whom the U.S. assumed would then be imprisoned and prosecuted were ultimately released. For example, a 7/28/06 secret cable from Embassy Madrid explains how the Spanish court freed the “Spanish Taliban,” Abderrahaman, after dismissing him as a threat. “In early 2005, a confidential police assessment shared with [U.S. government] officials concluded that Abderrahaman had the ‘mental maturity of a 12-year-old,’ was ‘naïve and foolish,’ and did not seem to comprehend the gravity of his detention in Guantánamo.” The cable states further that “prosecutors had improperly translated Abderrahaman’s statements and had omitted exculpatory evidence” such as “a document in which U.S. authorities allegedly acknowledged that Abderrahaman was not a member of al-Qa’ida.”

A number of cables cover U.S. attempts at damage control, such as discussions with the Spanish government over Spanish National Court investigating judge Baltasar Garzon’s plan to investigate “allegations the U.S. tortured terrorism detainees at Guantanamo.” Then attorney general Alberto Gonzales and then Secretary of State legal advisor John Bellinger are among those who attempted to improve their audience’s perceptions of U.S. detention policies. For example, a 2/15/06 confidential cable from Embassy Brussels relates that Bellinger assured his audience, falsely, that “most detainees have been picked up by our armed forces on foreign battlefields,” although in truth most were sold to U.S. forces for bounties, having been picked up far from any battlefield. Bellinger also attempted to reassure his audience that the Combatant Status Review Tribunals had effectively determined which detainees should be released and which were dangerous.

But the single most pointed statement, repeated in some form by every government asked to resettle some detainees, is that it is a “pre-condition,” or nearly so, that the U.S. accept some detainees first. The foreign governments’ responses to our government’s unwillingness to do so are predictable and show how the lack of U.S. support placed their governments in difficult circumstances as they tried to help the U.S. government clear up its mess. For example, “The French public wondered why France should accept detainees who were too dangerous to be transferred to the United States.”

Finally, foreign diplomats did offer good advice that the U.S. government would be wise to heed. From the European Union (Brussels) on 2/25/09, a representative of Spain’s government put it well:

“[She] highlighted the gap between public perceptions of the kinds of detainees at Guantanamo and the reality that many are very low risk. She felt that this was a message the U.S. had to carry, and urged the administration to ‘plainly’ explain to Americans (and thus Europeans) that while some detainees are very dangerous, many of them do not pose a serious threat. [She] also commented that whenever a European newspaper ran a story on Guantanamo, they ran the typical picture of a hunched-over detainee in an orange jumpsuit. She said that ‘we need better pictures’ and urged us to turn the story around by showing low-risk detainees in a better light.”

The back-story in the cables is the enormous amount of work and the squandering of goodwill and foreign diplomacy over the U.S. government’s past mistakes and current unwillingness to be a true international partner and to share in the problem-solving, rather than foist the entirety of problems of our government’s own making upon our allies.

Grassroots News

Berkeley, CA, resolution to welcome cleared detainees heads to city council

On December 6, under the skilled leadership of Cynthia Papermaster, a resolution put forward by Berkeley No More Guantánamos received a nearly unanimous recommendation for passage by the city council from the city’s Peace and Justice Commission. Papermaster, who is also the director of the National Torture Accountability Action Network and Golden Gate Codepink Women for Peace, noted in her press release that the city’s approval of the resolution would be especially meaningful as “the home of torture policy architect John Yoo.”

The resolution now moves on to the Berkeley City Council, which is expected to consider its passage later in December.

Read the resolution and press release on the Berkeley chapter’s page of our website.

Chicago affiliate to show documentary “Outside the Law” on December 14

Witness Against Torture Chicago is sponsoring a screening and discussion of the documentary Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo directed by Andy Worthington and Polly Nash. The program will be held on Tuesday, December 14, at 7 p.m. at St. Gertrude’s Ministry Center. The address, directions, and a link to the Facebook discussion page are available here.

North Carolina Stop Torture Now gathers letters for detainees and petition signatures

NMG’s October newsletter reported on the campaign of North Carolina Stop Torture Now (NCSTN) to gather letters for current and former detainees, along with signatures on a petition pledging to work for accountability. NCSTN reports that its members gathered 800 signatures on their petition during three weeks in October. They also provided us with copies of some of the thoughtful letters to specific detainees which they collected and sent to Guantánamo Bay prison. You can read excerpts of some of those letters here

Fund Drive to Help Former Guantánamo Detainee Reaches First Goal

A huge thank you to everyone who responded to our November plea for donations to help Abdul Aziz Naji rebuild his life after his repatriation to Algeria last July. Mr. Naji’s lawyers used the first $5,900 contributed to order a prosthetic leg. Funds must still be raised for physical therapy to help him become really mobile. Once that is achieved, Mr. Naji can benefit from mental health care to recover from his depression. This letter from Mr. Naji’s U.S. legal team outlines the fund drive in more detail and includes an address for sending donations. 

Congress Receives Misleading Report about Guantanamo "Recidivism"

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence complied with Congress’s demand to report on Guantánamo recidivism. The Center for Constitutional Rights criticized the report in this press release.  NMG director Nancy Talanian’s Huffington Post blog also analyzes why the report is misleading and how it encourages dangerous, wrong assumptions and lawmaking.

Join Call for Investigation into CIA’s Destruction of Interrogation Tapes

Last month, a special prosecutor declined to pursue obstruction of justice charges against Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officials involved in destroying videotapes of interrogations and torture at CIA black sites, in violation of a judge’s order to preserve the evidence.

No More Guantánamos is a signatory to a letter thanking the National Archives and Records Division for demanding the CIA account for its illegal destruction of the evidence. The letter was drafted by

What you can do: Read and sign the letter, in the form of a public petition, here.  Organizations wishing to add their names to the current signatories should contact Amy Fuller, afuller (at)

Please support NMG's work to demand human rights for detainees

Contribute by credit card or mail your check to:

No More Guantánamos
P.O. Box 618
Whately, MA  01093

No More Guantánamos is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. All donations are tax-deductible to the fullest extent of the law.

Contribute by credit card or mail your check to:

No More Guantánamos
P.O. Box 618
Whately, MA  01093

No More Guantánamos is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. All donations are tax-deductible to the fullest extent of the law.

Telephone: 413-665-1150