Author: schilldog

Preparing to Travel to Guantanamo Bay

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U.S. Military Commissions charging defendants with war crimes are held at Camp Justice at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. (Photo by Catherine Lemmer, Indiana University McKinney School of Law)

I am a practicing attorney with the Office of the Indiana Attorney General and an alumnus of the Indiana University McKinney School of Law. I am also a veteran of Afghanistan.  I was selected to travel to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (“Gitmo”) to represent the  Military Commission Observer Program (“MCOP”) which is part of the law school’s Program in International Human Rights Law (“PIHRL”).  This program, which was founded by Professor George Edwards, sends law school affiliates to Guantanamo to monitor hearings in criminal cases related to a range of international crimes. My participation in this program is in my own personal capacity, and my blog posts and other comments are my own, and not of my employer or of my law school.

 

AAFB - Paul Schilling - 13 Feb 2016

Updated — Here I am at Andrews Air Force Base on Saturday, 13 February 2016, waiting for my flight to Guantanamo Bay. I’m reading the Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Manual that Professor George Edwards developed to help Observers understand rights and interests of stakeholders, and help them as they monitor the Military Commissions

I am scheduled to monitor the hearings scheduled for February 15-19, 2016, in the case against 5 alleged perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center Towers and the Pentagon.

 

I was previously scheduled to attend hearings in the case against Hadi al Iraqi, who was allegedly a liaison between al Queda Iraq and the Taliban.  Those hearings were postponed.  Those hearings were in Gitmo, but I was going to monitor them from a remote viewing site – at Fort Meade, Maryland, where the Gitmo courtroom proceedings are simultaneously projected by secure video link.

The Role of the Observers

The MCOP sends observers to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to monitor the commission hearings in person. Our role as observers is to attend, observe, analyze, critique and report on the proceedings.  We seek to gather information that sheds light on whether the rights of all stakeholders have been afforded to them.  A stakeholder is an individual (or organization) holding rights and/or interests in the Military Commissions.  Military Commission stakeholders include, for example, the defendants, defense counsel, the prosecution, victims and their families, judges, witnesses, the press, the international community and countries with detained citizens at Gitmo.

The MCOP has been researching international and domestic U.S. Law that governs the Military Commissions, and analyzing it in the Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Manual.  The Manual, which is in draft form, is used by Observers and others interested in ascertaining whether a fair trial is being afforded to all stakeholders.

Background:
In preparation for my trip, I took some time to review the charges and some background research on the defendants. On September 11, 2001, 19 men hijacked 4 planes in the US. Two planes crashed into the World Trade Center towers in New York City, 1 plane crashed into the Pentagon and the fourth plane crashed in Somerset County, Pennsylvania. In all 2,921 civilians were killed as a direct result of these attacks. Al Queda, a reported terrorist organization said to be run by Usama Bin Laden (“UBL”) claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Court documents charge that al Queda planned for the 9/11 attacks for years. It was charged that in August 1996, UBL proclaimed a holy war against the US, and that Khalid Shaikh Mohammad (“KSM”) and UBL discussed hijacking commercial airliners and crashing them into buildings in the US. Preparations would have included identifying the “pilots”, obtaining visas, funding the terrorists, flight schools and simulators and casing airport security to determine the feasibility of an attack.

All 5 of the defendants in the case I am scheduled to observe were allegedly involved in the planning process and allegedly provided material support to the hijackers.

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Khalid Shaikh Mohammad

KSM and and the other co-defendants, Walid Muhammad Salih Mubarak Bin Attash, Ramzi Binalshibh, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, and Mustafa Ahmed Adam al Hasawi are charged as having participated in various stages leading up to the 9/11 attacks.

The official charges against the defendants include the following, though it is not clear whether all the charges (e.g., the crime of conspiracy) will survive challenges by the defense:

Charges: All Defendants:
1. Conspiracy;
2. Attacking Civilians;
3. Attacking Civilian Objects;
4. Murder in Violation of the Law of War;
5. Destruction of Property in Violation of the Law of War;
6. Hijacking or Hazarding a Vessel or Aircraft;
7. Terrorism

The Military Commission Observation Program requires me to submit daily blog entries. My next blog post will be from Andrews Air Force Base, from where we are scheduled to fly to Gitmo on Saturday morning, February 13, 2016.

My next substantive blog post will likely summarize some of the motions that we are expected to hear this coming week. Also, I will report on my trip to Guantanamo Bay, noting my observations.

I recognize that I am serving as the eyes and ears of many people who will never be permitted to travel to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. I feel a special obligation to report comprehensively, thoroughly, and accurately on behalf of those who are not as fortunate as I am to have such an opportunity.

Paul Schilling — J.D. ’10, Indiana University McKinney School of Law; Indiana Deputy Attorney General (participating and commenting in my own personal capacity and not that of my law school or my employer).

Hadi al Iraqi Hearing – Background & Personal Reflections

Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi

I am privileged to have the opportunity to monitor the Military Commissions  of Abd Hadi al Iraqi (“Hadi”).  The Pentagon has granted Military Commission Observer status to the Program in International Human Rights Law (“PIHRL”) of my law school Indiana University McKinney School of Law.  Professor George Edwards developed the Military Commission Observer Program (“MCOP”).

The MCOP sends observers to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to monitor the hearings in person and to Fort Meade, Maryland to observe hearings on closed circuit TV.  Our job, as MCOP observers, is to seek to determine whether the rights all stakeholders (prosecution, defense, victims, etc.) have been afforded to them. Essentially, we are to review the applicable international law and determine whether a fair trial has been afforded to all stakeholders.  I will submit a future post(s) regarding the rights we are tasked with safeguarding.

As such, it is an honor for me to travel to Fort Meade to observe the Military Commission.  My intent in this post is to provide some background on the Hadi al-Iraqi case and some personal reflections.

Background:

I spent 15 years in the Army as a military policeman.  I deployed to Afghanistan while serving the Maryland National Guard with then 290th MP Company.  Additionally, a sister company in our battalion served 6 months at Guantanamo Bay (“Gitmo”) guarding some of the first prisoners located there in  2003 – 2004.

Once I was informed that I was selected as an observer, I did some background research.  I began by checking previous entries on the Gitmo Observer Blog.  I noticed that a previous entry regarding female guards mentioned that Col. David E. Heath was the commanding officer of the detention center.

JI Award

Col. (then Captain) Heath presenting me an award in June 1995.

I served under Col. Heath (then Captain Heath) from 1994-1995 as a military policeman on Johnston Island (referred to as “Johnston Atoll” by civilians) a small, desolate outpost in the south Pacific.  Johnston Island (“JI”) is located approximately 825 miles southwest of Hawaii. JI served as a storage and disposal point for chemical weapons. If I recall correctly, was Col. Heath’s first assignment as a commanding officer.

 

I then reviewed the charges and case materials and timeline for al Iraqi. It is alleged Hadi served as an Al Queda (“AQ”) liaison to the Taliban and later as an AQ commander.

Hadi is alleged to have sworn allegiance to Osama Bin Laden around 1999.  From 2002-03, he directed, funded, supplied, and supervised AQ operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan

Some key moments on the timeline stood out to me [Interspersed in bold / italics are some of my own personal reflections of my experiences in Afghanistan at the time some of the events occurred]:

Timeline of Allegations Against Hadi al Iraqi

June 7, 2003 – Hadi allegedly provided a suicide bomber to detonate a vehicle-borne explosive device (“VBIED”) hidden in a civilian vehicle near a bus carrying German military members.  The blast, which occurred near Kabul, Afghanistan, killed numerous German soldiers and Afghan civilians.

My unit (290th MP Company) arrived at Camp Phoenix, Kabul, Afghanistan in late June 2003, shortly after this incident.  The German unit that was bombed were on their way back to Germany.  Their duty in Afghanistan was complete.  Their bus was taking them from the ISAF base in Kabul to the airport when the VBIED went off next to one of the buses. This incident was briefed to us and provided a prime example of the importance of operations security (“OPSEC”).  We were aware how important is was to stay alert and not share too much information.

September 29, 2003 – Hadi allegedly organized and planned an attack on a US installation in Shkin, Afghanistan, killing one US soldier and firing RPGs and small arms at a marked medevac helicopter.  Additionally, the attack was videotaped.  The video showed the US soldier dying, and was used as a propaganda film.

October 2, 2003 – Hadi is alleged to have funded an improvised explosive device (“IED”) attack in which his co-conspirators planted an IED which detonated as a Canadian military convoy passed.  The blast killed 2 Canadian soldiers and injured another in Kabul.

I was in Kabul when this occurred.  The Canadians killed were a SGT and CPL.  Camp Phoenix observed a moment of silence for their passing. It also served as evidence that IEDs were being used in Afghanistan.  During this period of time, IEDs were mainly being used in Iraq.  That would change in the coming months and years. The use of IEDs in Afghanistan would accelerate rapidly. 

October 25, 2003 – Hadi’s alleged co-conspirators attacked a convoy using RPGs and small arms, killing 2 US persons in Shkin, Afghanistan.  They believed the convoy to be carrying “important persons” or “diplomats.”

November 16, 2003 – Hadi allegedly provided a reward of $200 – $300 US dollars to the Taliban for assassinating a civilian UN worker near Ghazni Afghanistan.

January 27, 2004 – Hadi allegedly provided a suicide bomber and funding for simultaneous attacks on coalition forces in Kabul.  The suicide bomber detonated an explosive vest directed at a Canadian convoy.  One Canadian soldier was killed, three injured.

It is my recollection (but it may have been another incident that occurred during this time frame) that this bomber used a motorcycle or motorbike to drive alongside the convoy, in traffic, and detonate alongside the passenger side of the vehicle.  This information was provided to US forces, so that future convoys and patrols would be on the lookout for motorcycles and items placed on our vehicles. 

Late 2003/2004 – Hadi allegedly provided $25,000 US dollars to a co-conspirator in a plot to murder Pakistani President Musharraf.

June 2006 – Hadi is alleged to have begun to travel to Iraq and acted as an AQ liaison.

October 2006 – Hadi attempted to travel to Iraq undetected, and presented false passports and documents to Turkish officials.

Late 2006-Early 2007– The details of his capture and transfer are unclear.  Hadi was ultimately detained.  At some point he was transferred to US custody and held by the CIA.  In April 2007, the US confirmed that al Iraqi, along with 14 other “high value detainees” had been transferred to Gitmo.

Conclusion

I am grateful for the opportunity to participate in this project.  I am looking forward to observing the hearing and providing feedback.

Paul Schilling

J.D. Graduate, Indiana University McKinney School of Law