WASHINGTON — One is a Malaysian named Mohammed Farik bin Amin who apparently is awaiting trial before a military commission. Another is from Yemen, Suleiman al Nahdi, now 36. He was cleared for release years ago, but he remains imprisoned at Guantánamo because President Barack Obama refuses to return anyone to Nahdi's violence-wracked homeland.
There's a man from Tajikistan and another from Russia. A dozen are from Saudi Arabia. In their official photos, they sport big bushy beards and close-cropped hair. Many have dark spots on their foreheads from repeatedly touching their mats in prayer, demonstrating their dedication to Islam.
One man, an Afghan father of three, stuck out his tongue as the shutter clicked. His American captors chose that image for Abdul Sahir's file.
Zayn al Abidin Mohammed Hussein, aka Abu Zubaydah, whom President George W. Bush once called a key catch in the war on al Qaeda, looks like a pirate, a patch covering the right eye his lawyer says he lost in U.S. custody.
For years, the U.S. has cast the captives at the Navy base prison camps in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, as dangerous terrorists, and many may be. There's Khalid Sheik Mohammed, who's bragged that he masterminded the Sept. 11, 2001, hijackings, which killed nearly 3,000 people. There's Abd al Rahim al Nashiri, who may stand trial soon on charges of orchestrating the October 2000 suicide bombing of the USS Cole, which killed 17 American sailors off the coast of Yemen.
But no comprehensive list has been available of who's currently being held at Guantánamo. Until now.
Using some 750 secret military-intelligence files obtained by the WikiLeaks website, and comparing them with other public documents and interviews with lawyers and U.S. officials, McClatchy has been able to give names, and frequently faces, to the 172 men who are still at Guantánamo nearly 10 years after the prison camps opened and more than two years after Obama ordered them closed.
About half, like the Malaysian, who's also known as Zubair, are designated to face terrorism trials or to be held indefinitely as war prisoners. But the other half were at worst what a senior government official called "low-level, ill-trained volunteers" whom the Obama administration would like to let go.
In all, 89 men, 57 of them Yemenis, have been designated for release or transfer to another country by an Obama administration task force using what Director of National Intelligence James Clapper called an "enhanced" review. That process took a harder look at the same material in the secret summaries — written before Obama took office — to decide what was reliable.
Many, like the Yemeni Nahdi, were first approved for release by military review boards during the Bush administration. His record shows he trained at an al Qaeda camp in Afghanistan before 9/11, then joined a band of Arabs who fled to Tora Bora, the mountainous cave complex where Osama bin Laden hid out before he eluded capture by U.S forces.
The records show that at least 65 men still held there, nearly all of them Arabs, were captured after they came down from Tora Bora and surrendered to Pakistani forces.
But even those who were cleared remain at Guantánamo, thanks to a combination of recent congressional legislation that restricts transfers and administration concerns that their nations might abuse or not monitor them. Obama, for example, halted most Yemeni transfers in late 2009 after disclosure that the suspected "underwear bomber," accused of trying to bring down a Detroit-bound plane that Christmas, had trained in Yemen.