Somali emerges from CIA black site in Guantánamo war court testimony

A Somali man who disappeared into the CIA’s dark sites in 2004, allegedly for targeting U.S. forces in Djibouti, appeared at the war court for the first time Thursday offering a window into the prison’s most secret lockup, Camp 7.

Hassan Guleed, 43, said he began experiencing noises, vibrations and smells caused by somebody at the prison starting in 2009, three years after he got there, but gave up complaining years ago. It happens “every day, every minute, every hour, every year,” he testified.

Attired in a traditional khamis and wearing a black and white keffiyah, Guleed looked fitter, leaner and better groomed than in the photo on his leaked 2008 Guantanamo prison profile. Defense attorneys called him to back up claims by one of the alleged 9/11 plotters of similar Camp 7 disruptions.

Guleed, who faces no war crimes charges, said he never met the man, accused Sept. 11 deputy Ramzi bin al Shibh, “a brother,” until they were put on the same cellblock at Camp 7.

“We have mental torture in Camp 7,” Guleed testified in English. “In Black Site we had physical.” A prosecutor, Ed Ryan, and the judge, Army Col. James L. Pohl, cut him off.

At issue is a bid by bin al Shibh’s lawyers to get Pohl to find the prison staff in contempt of a Nov. 2, 2015, order to stop the disruptions, if they are happening. Bin al Shibh testified on the episodes in February and his attorneys have called two never-before-seen black site captives to support him.

Prosecutors argued that he may be imagining the episodes or making them up as a weapon of their continuing jihad at Camp 7.

A security officer or the judge twice cut the audio from the court, which comes out on a 40-second delay during Guleed’s testimony. It happened once on a question by the defense, the other on a question from the prosecution. Pohl, unlike in past episodes, did not elaborate on what happened when the court feed was restored.

In a bid to demonstrate that Guleed was biased, prosecutor Ryan questioned Guleed about his biography, as alleged by the CIA — whether he trained at an al-Qaida camp in Afghanistan, tried at one point to get into the United States, planned to bomb U.S. troops in Djibouti. Guleed denied all of these.

“You’re lying,” Ryan told him at one point. He also asked Guleed for his “kunya,” describing it as the captive’s al-Qaida codename. Guleed resisted at first, then said he goes by “Jafar,” a nickname.

Another ex-CIA captive known as Abu Zubaydah was expected to testify later in the day. Guleed described the Palestinian captive, whose real name is Zayn al Abideen Mohammed al Hussein, as a block leader who interacts with Camp 7 leaders.

Neither Guleed nor the Palestinian are facing war crimes charges. Both await hearings at the Obama administration’s Law of War parole-style board known as a Periodic Review Board.

Carol Rosenberg: 305-376-3179, @carolrosenberg