Parole board says 2 former CIA prisoners are too dangerous to leave Guantánamo

Somali Hassan Guleed poses for the International Commitee of the Red Cross at Guantánamo in March 2009.
Somali Hassan Guleed poses for the International Commitee of the Red Cross at Guantánamo in March 2009. Courtesy the Center for Constitutional Rights

The Guantánamo parole board has re-branded the Indonesian former CIA captive known as Hambali as a forever prisoner, declaring him too dangerous to release from U.S. military custody.

The Periodic Review Board said in a decision released Tuesday that Encep Nurjaman Hambali, with a “lengthy history as a jihadist,” has no real remorse about his “significant role in major terrorist attacks and plotting.” When he went before the board on Aug. 18, he was “elusive and non-credible,” the panel wrote, offering “half-truths and clear attempts to minimize and conceal his pre-detention activities.”

Two decisions announced Tuesday raised to 27 the number of Guantánamo ‘forever prisoners.’

A March 2016 intelligence profile described Hambali as “an operational mastermind in the Southeast Asia-based Islamic extremist group Jemaah Islamiyah” and the main link between that group and al-Qaida from 2000 until his capture in Thailand on Aug. 13, 2003, in a joint U.S.-Thai operation. It said he helped plan the Oct. 12, 2002, car-bombing of a nightclub in Bali, a popular tourist island, that killed 202 people. It also described two earlier board-declared indefinite detainees at Guantánamo as his lieutenants.

Hambali, now 52, was held in secret CIA prisons for three years before his September 2006 transfer to Guantánamo. The last time the Obama administration reviewed his case, a 2009 task force recommended that prosecutors consider putting him on trial, either in federal court or by military commission.

He has never been charged. Another prisoner, however, has pleaded guilty to providing some cash used to fund Jemaah Islamiyah’s Aug. 5, 2003, bombing of a Marriott in Jakarta that killed 11 people.

In a separate decision, the board upheld the indefinite detention status of Hassan Guleed, 42, a Somali captive who has never been recommended for prosecution. It said the former CIA captive had a “long history with al-Qaida” and had conducted surveillance on the U.S. base at Camp Lemonier in Djibouti, which was the target of an al-Qaida in East Africa plot.

It did not describe Guleed, however, as an AQEA leader and noted he had “reasonable thoughts on a plan for supporting himself” after Guantánamo. “The Board looks forward to reviewing the detainee’s file in six months and encourages him to be more candid about his past and current mindset,” the Sept. 29, 2016 decision said.

The decisions raise to 27 the number of Guantánamo forever prisoners — captives declared indefinite Law of War detainees by the board created by President Barack Obama in 2011. Three others await Periodic Review Board decisions.

The other half of Guantánamo’s last 60 detainees break down to 20 men cleared for transfer or release to other countries with assurances that satisfy Secretary of Defense Ash Carter — and 10 men facing war crimes charges. Captives charged at military commissions are not entitled to reviews.

Click here to see the Miami Herald Periodic Review Board Guide.

Hambali’s civilian attorney, Ohio federal public defender Carlos Warner, called the review process “a sham,” saying he was forbidden to “participate in the hearing in a meaningful way.” Warner was unable to get to Guantánamo for the video-teleconference hearing, transmitted between the captive at the base and the board not far from the Pentagon in Virginia.

“The Department of Defense has demonstrated that it is only interested in processing cases in a predetermined fashion without a full and fair hearing,” Warner said by email from Akron on Tuesday.

Hambali’s Periodic Review Board decision released Tuesday was dated Sept. 19.

The Center for Constitutional Rights, which represents Guleed, issued a statement saying the Somali had inadequate time to prepare for his hearing, describing it as “beset by problems and grossly unfair.” The New York civil defense firm came to represent Guleed earlier this year, after he appeared at a war court hearing describing conditions at Guantánamo’s clandestine Camp 7 prison for former CIA prisoners.

“We are disappointed but not surprised,” the CCR statement said. “This process was fundamentally flawed. We look forward to filing a habeas petition to force the government to release Guleed.”

Carol Rosenberg: 305-376-3179, @carolrosenberg