Traveling to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to Monitor the Hearings in the Case Against the Alleged 9/11 Co-Conspirators

From 20 to 31 January 2020, the U.S. government is holding pre-trial hearings at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in the military commission case against 5 alleged masterminds of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

I was nominated by the Indiana University  McKinney School of Law in to travel to Guantanamo to monitor these hearings. I graduated from the law school in 2018, and am participating in the school’s Military Commission Observation Project, that sends faculty, staff, students and graduates to Guantanamo to monitor hearings live, and to Ft. Meade, Maryland to monitor the hearings via CCTV.

At Guantanamo, my mission is to attend, observe, be seen, analyze, critique, and report on the military commission proceedings in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. 

From Indiana to Maryland

Today I traveled from Indiana to a small town in Maryland near Joint Base Andrews (Andrews Air Force Base), which is where my plane to Guantanamo is scheduled to depart at 10:00 tomorrow morning (Saturday).

I stand in Reagan National Airport in Washington D.C. holding a copy of the “Know Before you go to Guantanamo Bay” manuals and one of the NGO observer challenge coins on 17 January 2020.

This is my seventh observer mission to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and I have picked up a few tricks to help ensure a successful mission.

It is essential to arrive near Andrews the day before a scheduled flight out of Andrews because the flights to Guantanamo Bay usually depart early in the morning. It is a good idea to book direct flights early in the day in case there are flight delays or cancellations, because there are no flights from Indiana that would arrive in time on the morning of the Guantanamo flight.

I arrived in Washington DC at approximately 1:00 pm today on a direct flight from Indianapolis, and from there I took a Lyft to the Quality Inn at Joint Base Andrews in Clinton, Maryland. I chose this hotel because it is very close to the Visitor Control Center (VCC) at Joint Base Andrews, where I will meet my military escort to get on base in the morning. It is so close, in fact, that I can see the VCC from my room. In the morning I will check out of the hotel and walk across the street to meet my escort. From there we will drive through the Andrews main entrance and go to the base air terminal (the home of Air Force One) to catch our flight to Cuba.

Know Before You Go to Guantanamo / NGO Coin

I left Indiana this morning I stopped by the law school where I picked up fourteen copies of the Know Before You Go to Guantanamo Bay manual, which is a continuously updated color publication authored by Professor George Edwards, who founded our law school’s Guantanamo projects. We provide copies of Know Before You Go to observers from other groups we meet at Joint Base Andrews, and the observers can use the Manual during the week at Guantanamo. PDF copies of the Know Before You Go to Guantanamo Bay can be downloaded on 

Two NGO challenge coins designed by Professor George Edwards of the Indiana University  McKinney School of Law Program in International Human Rights Law, with input from other Guantanamo stakeholders.

Additionally, I picked twenty NGO observer challenge coins which can be purchased for $15.00. Professor Edwards designed the coin with guidance and input from various Guantanamo stakeholders.

Testimony at Guantanamo This Week

At the hearings this week we are expected to hear testimony from psychologists James Elmer Mitchell and Bruce Jessen who are purported to have developed the Enhanced Interrogation Techniques (EIT) program, containing techniques such as waterboarding, that was implemented following the 9/11 attacks in CIA-operated black sites. 

The first day will likely be 22 January 2020 due to the observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

I plan to make another blog post from the terminal at Joint Base Andrews in the morning and plan to continue to post on the blog throughout the hearing week.

Benjamin Hicks

Juris Doctor (2018)

Military Commission Observation Project Trial Observer / Monitor

Program in International Human Rights Law

Indiana University McKinney School of Law

17 January 2020

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