Another High-Value Gitmo Detainee Receives PRB Hearing
By Amy Morello
The Guantanamo Periodic Review Board (PRB) convened on Tuesday morning to discuss the case of Abu Faraj al-Libi, a 46-year-old Libyan national who is one of the 15 remaining “high-value detainees” imprisoned at Guantanamo.
According to the U.S. government, al-Libi was the operational chief of al Qaeda who served as a “trusted advisor for and communications conduit to Usama Bin Ladin and deputy amir Ayman al-Zawahiri.” The government claims that al-Libi joined the terrorist group when he “traveled to Afghanistan to fight at a young age” and then “worked his way up through al-Qa’ida’s hierarchy” to become al-Qa’ida’s general manager after relocating to Pakistan in early 2003.
It also maintains that al-Libi later acted as third in command “following the detainment of several senior al-Qa’ida leaders,” and “played an overarching role in al-Qa’ida’s external operations” until his arrest by Pakistani authorities in May 2005.
Al-Libi’s government profile notes that he has been “generally compliant” while in U.S. military custody, with a low number of infractions despite the fact that “he is prone to act out, sometimes with violence,” in situations where he’s attempting “to enact change or if [he] believes his point of view is not being heard.”
However, while al-Libi has provided “limited details about his own activities and associations with al-Qa’ida,” admitting only to “minor details and incidents” and sometimes even professing “blanket denials,” the U.S. government believes that he “most certainly remains committed to al-Qa’ida’s global jihadist ideology.”
In their short opening statement, al-Libi’s personal representatives also underlined how compliant he had been during their meetings, describing him as “respectful and polite” and stating that “he is eager to live a life of peace,” desiring only to return home to his wife and three children so he can “resume his role as the father and caregiver.”
For his part, al-Libi claims that “he harbors no ill will to the U.S. and does not consider himself a threat.” In fact, he points out, “his medical issues alone would present a barrier to any kind of threat.” Indeed, concern about his health issues eventually led CIA officers to discontinue the use of so-called "enhanced interrogation" techniques to question al-Libi while he was held captive at a CIA black site in Romania.
The Senate intelligence committee’s torture report states that al-Libi was subjected to “repeated and extensive” use of these techniques for over a month, yet it is unclear what exactly was done to him.
Proponents of “enhanced” interrogation techniques have erroneously credited the torture of al-Libi and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, alleged mastermind of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, for helping the United States find and kill Osama Bin Laden. This notion was soundly debunked in the Senate torture report. Furthermore, an overwhelming number of interrogators from the military, FBI, and CIA, as well as many top U.S. officials and national security experts say that torture is an ineffective—and often counterproductive—means of gathering actionable intelligence.
Al-Libi’s review hearing came just one day after the Obama Administration announced its largest single-day detainee transfer, with 12 Yemenis and three Afghans transported from Guantanamo to the United Arab Emirates. Of the 15 released former detainees, nine were cleared through the PRB process (six Yemenis, and all three Afghans). The other six were cleared by the Bush Administration.
The board also announced its decision to continue to detain Libyan captive Ali Faraj Ali Bakush, who received his first PRB hearing last month. Sixty-one detainees remain imprisoned at Gitmo: twenty are cleared for transfer, three are serving prison sentences, seven have been charged with war crimes and are in pretrial proceedings, 9 detainees still await PRB decisions, and 4 have yet to receive a PRB hearing. The Obama Administration aims to complete all initial hearings by this fall.