At least 22 captives at Guantánamo today were held earlier in secret CIA detention or got there after harsh interrogations in other countries, such as Jordan and the United Arab Emirates.
One such man is Sharqawi Abdu Ali al Hajj, 37, whose photo shows a balding, wispy-bearded Yemeni known as "Riyadh the Facilitator."
His intelligence file says he funneled bodyguards to bin Laden and helped hundreds of foreign fighters flee Afghanistan. Yet last year, U.S. District Judge Henry Kennedy excluded from a court case what Hajj had said in interrogation about another captive, noting that U.S. government lawyers hadn't even attempted to rebut an argument that Hajj "had recently been tortured" before calling the other captive a bodyguard.
In Jordan, according to a declaration by Hajj's defense attorney, Kristin Wilhelm, the Yemeni "was regularly beaten and threatened with electrocution and molestation." So much so that, the judge noted, "he eventually 'manufactured facts' and confessed to his interrogators' allegations 'in order to make the torture stop.' "
Also being held at Guantánamo, even though they've been cleared for release, are men from Syria, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia, who need new countries to resettle them. They can't be moved unless the secretary of defense certifies or issues national security waivers for each transfer.
Five Uighur Muslims from China may not need such waivers. A U.S. federal judge ordered them released in 2008. The U.S. government offered them sanctuary in the Pacific Island nation of Palau, but their lawyers want them released to the United States, something that the White House and Congress don't want to happen.
Less well-known is Guantánamo's last Tajik, Umar Abdulayev, 32, who sports a ponytail and said he was picked up in Pakistan before being turned over to U.S. forces. The U.S. military summary says he's a "probable member of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan" — a militant Islamist group allied with al Qaeda — once suspected of getting al Qaeda training in chemical and biological weapons.
But Abdulayev claims he was a victim of mistaken identity. His leaked intelligence summary said he was "possibly" a man listed on an al Qaeda training roster as Abdullah al Uzbeki, and he was cleared for release several years ago. His lawyer, however, has sought to stop his repatriation to his homeland out of fear he'll be subject to retaliation there.
A total of 29 who are still at Guantánamo have sued for their freedom in federal court, and 11 have won their cases, but except for the Uighurs' case the government has appealed the outcomes.
An example: Mauritanian Mohamedou Slahi, 40, a German-trained computer technician shown squinting for the cameras at Guantánamo. He was arrested in his North African homeland after 9/11, sent to Jordan for interrogation and then in August 2002 to Guantánamo, where Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld had him subjected to so-called enhanced interrogation.
His March 2008 Guantánamo intelligence assessment declares him a valuable source of information, a one-time jihadist who helped funnel some 9/11 hijackers to Afghanistan.
But two years later Judge James Robertson declared his detention unlawful. The U.S. government's case against him was "so tainted by coercion and mistreatment, or so classified, that it cannot support a successful criminal prosecution."