I’m Flying to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba tomorrow for U.S. Military Commission Hearings
When I enrolled at Indiana University McKinney School of Law almost 3 years ago, I learned that the school had a program that focused on Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. After my first year, I participated in that program – the Military Commissions Observation Project (MCOP) — and I observed a pre-trial hearing in the case against Hadi al Iraqi, who is an alleged high level al Qaeda member who and liaison with the Taliban. I viewed the Hadi hearing at the Ft. Meade, Maryland army base via secure satellite transmission live from Guantanamo Bay. This was my first time observing a military commission, not to mention a Guantanamo Bay hearing of such a magnitude. Also I did legal research for the Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Manual, which observers and others are using to help them determine whether rights are afforded to individuals and groups related to Guantanamo.
Tomorrow (Saturday, 11 March 2017) I am scheduled to fly from Andrews Air Force Base to Guantanamo Bay, where I will be monitoring the military commission case against al Nashiri, who is alleged to have masterminded the 2000 suicide bombing of the U.S.S. Cole, off the coast of Yemen, killing 17 U.S. sailors and wounding dozens more. Rather than view the hearings via CCTV at a military base in Maryland, I am expecting to view the hearings while sitting in the galley of the actual courtroom at Guantanamo Bay. I am representing the Indiana McKinney School of Law’s MCOP (also known as the Gitmo Observer). Hearings are set to begin Monday, 13 March 2017.
Travel to DC – Friday, 10 March 2017
10:00 – 11:30: I woke up today feeling slightly better than I felt yesterday. I had hoped to fully recover from whatever it is that I have before departing for DC and beginning my mission to Guantanamo Bay. Nonetheless, I am still fully functional and very excited for what’s set to come these next 8 days.
12:00 – 16:00: The hour and a half flight from Indianapolis to DC was as smooth as ever. Passing through security was a breeze. I won the armrest war. My bags were one of the first few down the conveyor belt.
16:00 – 18:30: After learning that my Verizon phone would not work in Guantanamo Bay and that I would need my own SIM card to communicate with the MCOP director while there, I searched for the nearest T-Mobile store on my phone and hopped onto the DC metro green line headed towards Gallery Place Station (in an area known as Chinatown). I ran into some slight issues at the T-Mobile store when trying to obtain a pre-paid SIM card. The employee must have been new because he said that the $50, 2GB talk/text, pre-paid SIM card that I had sought use in Guantanamo Bay did not exist. However, after some back and forth, a few calls to customer service, and a brief chat with his coworkers, we discovered that there was indeed a $50 pre-paid SIM card available for purchase ($66 total, $10 for the SIM + Tax). Our Project Director, Professor George Edwards, published in Know Before You Go To Guantanamo Bay that T-Mobile began operating at Guantanamo last summer. In one of my blog posts from Guantanamo I will report on how well the T-Mobile sim card works.
19:30 – 22:00: After obtaining the SIM card, I hopped back onto the green line and headed towards Branch Avenue. I am comfortably familiar with this line as I had taken it practically every day during my 2015 summer law internship with the Navy JAG Corp, when I worked at the Washington Navy Yard.
I got to my hotel – the Holiday Inn near Andrews Air Force Base – checked into my room, and unloaded my luggage. I then read additional parts of the Know Before You Go To Guantanamo guide while I had dinner (which I had brought with me from Indianapolis). Afterwards, I introduced myself via email to the 9 other NGO representatives who will be observing the hearings, and attached a copy of the Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Manual, and the Know Before You Go To Guantanamo guide so that they could reference these materials before, during and after the hearings.
I learned that one of the observers scheduled to attend will not join us on the flight from Andrews tomorrow, which means that there will be at most 8 other NGO representatives will join me at the hearings.
22:00 – 22:30. I believe this trip to Guantanamo Bay will be a unique, informative and rewarding experience. I anticipate having much more to write about once set foot on the Guantanamo Bay Naval Station.
Tex Boonjue, J.D. Candidate
Military Commission Observation Project
Program in International Human Rights Law
Indiana University McKinney School of Law