The Guantánamo parole board has cleared another “forever prisoner,” a Yemeni who took part in the prison’s so-called “Milk & Honey project” designed to show ambition to settle into a peaceful life after more than a decade of detention.
Mansoor Abdul Rahman al Dayfi, now in his mid-30s, got to the prison in southeast Cuba on Feb. 9, 2002, when captives were still kept at Camp X-Ray.
In September, according to a Pentagon transcript, he told the national security Periodic Review Board that he had become a fan of American popular culture — in particular Taylor Swift and the television shows Boston Legal and Little House on the Prairie. He said he acquired his fluent English at the prison by reading the Jules Verne adventure novel Around the World in 80 Days.
“It took me eight months to finish the book,” the Yemeni told the board by teleconference between the Navy base in Cuba and its hearing room in the Washington, D.C., area. “A guard here taught me grammar, when he saw I liked learning English. He would call me and say, ‘class time.’ ”
A brief statement from the six-member board, dated Oct. 28, said a consensus concluded that Dayfi’s “law of war detention . . . is no longer necessary to protect against a continuing significant threat to the security of the United States.”
It recommended he be sent to any other country but his turbulent homeland. Yemen, wracked by civil war, has a potent offshoot of Osama bin Laden’s terror group, al-Qaida of the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP.
The decision means that, of the 112 captives still at the Pentagon prison, 53 are approved for release pending security arrangements that satisfy Secretary of Defense Ash Carter. Ten others are in military commissions proceedings, leaving the rest as either indefinite detainees under the Law of War, known as forever prisoners, or on a list as potential candidates for trial.
53 of the prison’s 112 captives are now approved for transfer
The captive’s 2008 prisoner profile described him as having prior knowledge of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, a claim U.S. military intelligence apparently dropped by his latest profile, drawn up in July. It concluded he was “probably a low-level fighter who was aligned with al-Qaida, although it is unclear whether he actually joined the group.”
It added: “He probably has exaggerated his involvement in and knowledge of terrorist activities during some of his interrogations.”
For his part, Dayfi told the board that when he first got to Guantánamo he was young, 20, and fearful, and, “I said many things then because I was angry and scared. I made mistakes. I did stupid things. I regret that now.”
He probably has exaggerated his involvement in and knowledge of terrorist activities during some of his interrogations.
U.S. intelligence profile
The board also described Dayfi’s detention at Guantánamo since 2012 as “largely compliant” and well spent: He completed all the courses required to pass the high school equivalent General Education Development test, it said — and recommended that, wherever the Yemeni is resettled, he should be provided with “social and psychological support as appropriate” plus an opportunity to pursue more education.
In 2013, the Yemeni was among five men there who designed a business plan for a utopian, self-sufficient “Milk & Honey” farm business in Yemen to illustrate their after-Guantánamo ambitions — and to submit to the parole board.
All five of the self-described “Board of Directors” were at the time held in the category of forever prisoner. Of the five, three directors have now been approved for release and the other two have yet to get a date for a hearing by the Periodic Review Board.
Dayfi has since apparently abandoned that plan. He told the board he wanted to go to college, get a degree in information technology and “marry an educated lovely woman who can be my friend and my wife.”