Destination Gitmo: Embarking on a Journey to Guantánamo Bay, Cuba for the al-Nashiri Hearings


Tomorrow morning at approximately 4:45 AM EST, I will wake up in the comfort of my Upper Marlboro, Maryland hotel room to begin my journey to the beautiful country of Cuba. While embarking on a journey to the exquisite Cuban beaches may generate an illusion of a tropical vacation, my ultimate destination is Naval Station Guantanamo Bay (NSGB) – also known as “Gitmo.”

Thirty-nine men remain imprisoned at Guantanamo, many apprehended almost two decades, following 9/11 and the initiation of the “War on Terror.” One such prisoner is a Saudi Arabian named Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the alleged mastermind of the U.S.S. Cole Bombing.

It is al-Nashiri’s hearing(s) that I am scheduled to attend during the week of 26 September 2021 – 2 October 2021 through the Military Commission Observations Project (MCOP), an Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law Program. Through MCOP, I have been nominated as an NGO Observer, and my mission is to attend, observe, be seen, analyze, critique, and publish materials on the al-Nashiri hearings.

My Background

My name is Analiese W. Smith, and I am a third-year law student at Indiana University McKinney School of Law in Indianapolis, Indiana. I was born and raised in Signal Mountain, Tennessee, right outside of Chattanooga. At the ripe age of eighteen, I packed my bags and moved to the Midwest to pursue my undergraduate degree at Indiana University Bloomington, where I ultimately obtained a Bachelor of Science in Public Affairs (BSPA) in Law and Public Policy, a minor in Mandarin Chinese, and a Business Foundations Certificate. It was in the last year of my undergraduate degree that my desire to attend law school emerged.

I began law school at Indiana University McKinney School of Law in August 2019 and quickly learned of the school’s Program in International Human Rights Law (PIHRL), founded and directed by Professor George E. Edwards. My interest in the PIHRL inspired me to enroll in multiple courses taught by Professor Edwards, namely International Law and International Criminal Law. As a student in International Criminal Law and then, later, as a PIHRL Research Assistant, I have worked on teams to conduct research and write of Guantanamo prisoners’ fair trial rights, work that has ultimately contributed to the submission of Universal Periodic Reviews of the United States to the United Nations regarding Guantanamo Bay prisoners’ rights.

In addition to my educational background and experiences through PIHRL, I am also a member of the United States Army Reserves. I was commissioned as a Military Intelligence Officer on May 6, 2018 through the Indiana University Army ROTC Program. From there, I served as the Battalion Intelligence Officer of the 373rd Quartermaster Battalion, conducting intelligence support to petroleum logistics operations. I recently transitioned positions from that of the Company Executive Officer to Company Commander of the 1-415th Infantry Regiment (Det 2), 1st Battalion, Bravo Company.

Given my background in human rights and national security, embarking on my journey to Gitmo tomorrow is of the utmost importance to me. Despite my background, I travel to Gitmo tomorrow to execute one mission: to attend, observe, be seen, analyze, critique, and publish materials on the al-Nashiri hearings from the objective and neutral perspective of an MCOP NGO Observer.

Destination Gitmo awaits.

Analiese W. Smith

NGO Observer, Military Commission Observation Project (MCOP)

Program in International Human Rights Law

Indiana University McKinney School of Law

September 25th, 2021

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