I was selected to travel to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to monitor the U.S. Military Commission in the case against the alleged masterminds of 9/11. I was approached just over a week ago by Professor Edwards when he was inquiring into my availability to travel to Guantanamo Bay either the first or second week of December. He informed me that there was no guarantee of nomination or acceptance, but I was very excited to even have the possibility of traveling to Guantanamo Bay to monitor the 9/11 hearings. I quickly responded that I was available to monitor the hearing during the first week of December. Less than 24 hours later I was on a video conference with Professor Edwards regarding my interest in traveling to Guantanamo Bay to monitor the 9/11 pre-trial hearing. I was nominated by the Program a few hours later and my information was sent to the Pentagon for selection approval. To my surprise, less than three hours after being nominated by the Program, I received the following email from the Office of Military Commissions (OMC) – Convening Authority:
Good afternoon Justin,
You have been CONFIRMED to observe the December 5-9 9/11 military commission in-person at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. We are scheduled to depart Andrews Air Force Base at 1000 on Saturday, December 3, 2016, and will return on Saturday, December 10, 2016, around 1330.
I was very excited to have received the confirmation, and I was incredibly surprised that it occurred so quickly. I was concerned that the process might be slowed down by the upcoming holiday, so I was very happy to have received the confirmation the same day.
On the evening of December 2nd, I will be arriving at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, Arlington, VA. That night I will be staying at a hotel at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland. Joint Base Andrews was formed when Andrews Air Force base and Naval Air Facility Washington merged in 2009. I am scheduled to depart Joint Base Andrews at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, December 3rd. I plan to arrive at Guantanamo Bay from December 3rd until December 10th. Travel plans have frequently changed during other NGOs’ missions, so I am trying to book refundable tickets in case anything changes in the next week. I currently do not have any information on the type of plane or the estimated time of arrival in Guantanamo Bay.
In the email that I received from the OMC – Convening Authority, I was informed that I would need to complete and return four documents: (1) a hold harmless agreement, (2) an invitational travel worksheet, (3) a Department of Navy base access pass registration, and (4) the NGO ground rules. Aline Fagundes was kind enough to provide me with copies of
her paperwork so that I could use them as a guide to properly fill out my forms. The forms are generally self-explanatory; however, there are some parts of the forms that would be difficult to accurately fill out without having a sample. I am currently working on creating a pdf with sample forms and instructions for completing the four documents required by the OMC.
I did run into an issue with sending the documents back to the OMC. I sent the four documents as .pdf attachments. Three of them went through fine, but the OMC told me that one of the documents was too dark. I opened the document up and it looked great on my end. I resent the document but again the OMC stated that the document was too dark. I rescanned the document into individual pictures (not .pdf). Then I sent the document in two individual attachments, with one page in each attachment. This time the OMC was able to clearly read the document. I used the same scanner both times and both times the document was clear and legible on my end.
NOTE: If the OMC is having issues reading your document, try to send the document in .jpeg format instead of .pdf.
Preparing for the Hearing
I still have a lot of work to do in the next week. First, I will
continue to review the Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Manual. I will also be checking mc.mil to review the pleadings and filing that are currently available. Hopefully, by early next week, mc.mil will have more up-to-date postings. I will also be speaking with Aline because she was the last IU Affiliate to attend a 9/11 hearing. I was at Ft. Meade in October to observe the al Nashiri pre-trial hearing, see the blog post here, but I am not up-to-date on the 9/11 hearings yet.
I am honored to have been selected to travel to Guantanamo Bay to monitor the 9/11 hearing. I look forward to documenting my experience and providing my analysis of the proceedings.
Justin W. Jones, J.D. Candidate (2018)
NGO Monitor, U.S. Military Commission Observation Project (MCOP)
Program in International Human Rights Law
Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law