Author: tinakloufetos

Traveling to Washington DC and Onwards to Guantanamo Bay: Reflections

Indy Airport Celebrates 10th Anniversary of Colonel H. Weir Cook Terminal -  HOK
The Indianapolis International Airport

This morning, I woke up at 6:00 o’clock, double-checked my packing list, and left for the Indianapolis, Indiana airport, heading to Washington, DC, where tomorrow morning I am scheduled to board a plane to Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. The law school where I am enrolled – Indiana University McKinney School of Law – is sending me to Guantánamo to monitor hearings in a U.S. military commission case against a man named Hadi al Iraqi // Nashwan al Tamir, who is charged with being a high-ranking member of al Qaeda Iraq and liaison with the Taliban, and is accused of being responsible for deadly attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan in 2003 and 2004.

I arrived at the airport around 8:00 AM to discover that my flight had been delayed a couple of hours. To burn some time, I perused the airport kiosks and grabbed some refreshments at Sun King Restaurant and Brewery. And, I began writing this blog, which is for the Gitmo Observer, the website of my school’s Military Commission Observation Project, which sends students, faculty, staff, and graduates on these missions.

While sitting at the bar eating my avocado toast, I met a really interesting woman from Indiana who was very fascinated by my journey. We talked for around forty-five minutes, and I was surprised at how little she knew about Guantánamo Bay.

Since I learned some weeks ago that my school nominated me to go to Guantánamo, and the Pentagon cleared me for travel, I have mentioned this trip to many people.  In general, it has surprised me  that people often respond with, “oh, what happened at Guantánamo Bay again?” or “is Guantánamo still open?“ or, “I thought that President Obama closed that place.”

Have many people forgotten about Guantánamo Bay?

I know that the Guantánamo prison was opened about 3 months after the 9/11 attacks, and that was over 20 years ago. Much has transpired since then to occupy the minds of people, including, recently, the global pandemic, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and so much more. But, what about the 38 men being held in Guantánamo now , some of them for almost 20 years, most without charges? Some men have been charged, and in fact 2 have been found guilty of charges. But, many of the 38 men at Guantánamo have been cleared for transfer from Guantánamo, but transfer arrangements have not been made. In a future blog post, I can provide more details about the 38 prisoners still at Guantánamo. I will note for now that I mentioned to my new Indianapolis airport friend that the word alleged makes a tremendous difference when speaking about people who have been charged with a crime, and that many people at Guantánamo had not been charged.

Staying in Regular Contact With the Program Director While Traveling

After my morning snack and chat, I checked my emails one last time before boarding the plane. On this particular day of travel, it was very important to consistently check my emails from my law school’s Guantánamo Program Director, Professor George Edwards, who along with our school, has been involved with Guantanamo since 2003, and who founded the project that is sending me to Guantánamo.

Arriving in DC

Professor Edwards has insisted that I (and other law school travelers) stay in regular contact with him and the Program. Part of the reason is that I am traveling outside the continental U.S. on an Indiana University program, and IU wants to know the whereabouts of its students on such trips. Part is because he wants to help ensure that all is running as smoothly as possible on my journey. He is on the other end of the phone and fax in case there are issues. For example, last week, the Indiana University traveler was told at the last minute that her week of Guantánamo hearings was canceled, and that cut her Indiana to DC trip short, triggering a range of actions that needed to be taken.  I have been trying to stay in touch with Professor Edwards, while also trying to be present in this travel experience, which is a challenge, for many reasons.

Retrieving Important Items . . .

I touched down at Washington National Airport and took a Lyft to my hotel, the TownePlace Marriott near Joint Base Andrews (formerly Andrews Air Force Base), which is where the plane is scheduled to depart from tomorrow. I took a well-needed rest.

My room at the TownPlace Suites in Clinton, MD

Then, I walked to the Comfort Inn Joint Base Andrews down the road where three packages were waiting for my retrieval. Why were there three packages at the Comfort Inn waiting for me? Last week, Professor Edwards arranged for 3 packages to be delivered to the Comfort Inn to be picked up by last week’s scheduled Guantánamo monitor from Indiana, Ms. Anna Samland (whose posts are here). Her trip was canceled, so the packages remained. 

The packages contained an iPhone, a SIM card, and plastic stands for NGO coins.

I understand that though Indiana University has been sending monitors to Guantánamo for years, the IU program has never had a phone dedicated to it that its monitors can use while they are on their Guantánamo missions. Professor Edwards purchased such a phone for us to us, and I am carrying it to Guantánamo for the first time. It is an iPhone X.

The SIM card is from T-Mobile, which I am told is the only U.S. service provider that operates at Guantánamo. I am supposed to insert the SIM card into the iPhone, and it should work – not only here, but at Guantánamo.

“NGO” stands for “non-governmental organization”. The IU Program in International Human Rights Law is the “NGO” that the Pentagon designated to have “observer” (or “monitor”) status, permitting us to send people to Guantánamo. Professor Edwards designed a “Guantánamo NGO Challenge Coin”, that anyone interested can acquire. This coins spells out the NGO Observer mission – to attend, observe, be seen, analyze, critique, and report on Guantánamo proceedings. That is my mission, and that is why, for example, I am writing these blog posts!

 I am delighted that I will be the first person to use the new Gitmo Observer / IU Guantánamo iPhone!

Picking up the packages (and grabbing a little caffeine boost!) from the Comfort Inn

Getting Dinner and Phone Call with NGO Organizer

I walked back to my hotel, which was just a ten-minute walk from the Comfort Inn where the packages were located. 

I realized I was very hungry, so I decided to splurge and venture out into DC to have dinner at a nice restaurant. I hired a Lyft to take me to a lovely farm-to-table restaurant just off of Pennsylvania Avenue. On the drive downtown (which took about 30 minutes and cost $50), I received a phone call from an NGO organizer from the Pentagon who told me whom I was to meet at the Joint Base Andrews Visitor Center the next morning. She was very clear in her instructions. We chatted for a bit on the phone after realizing we both had ties to Pennsylvania. I appreciated the time she took to brief me on my upcoming journey and ensure I would be prepared for travel from Joint Base Andrews to Guantánamo in the morning.

Nighttime Strolling

I was enlivened by the night, so I decided to walk to the Lincoln Memorial after dinner. Lincoln is one of my favorite leaders in US history, and I have studied his life journey in a number of contexts. I especially enjoyed this part of the evening; time slowed from my solitude. I walked through the Constitution Gardens towards the Memorial, and the clouds mixed with the lights to create a purple and black haze of light mixed with darkness. The Memorial area is breathtakingly beautiful, especially at night.

The Washington Monument as seen from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial

I took a few pictures and thought about my upcoming journey. I rested in front of the water that sits between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial. As I sat there, I thought about two abstract concepts: image and perfectionism. Many believe that The United States seeks to preserve this image of perfectionism and exemplary status among other sovereign nations. However, I wonder if the concept of perfectionism is perhaps nonexistent whenever social interaction and intangible human consciousness play a role, as is the case in any government or political system. Maybe this is why we create art and memorials – to remind ourselves that “perfect” is only attainable in the tangible and physical? And even within our personal observation of perfection, there is always a duality. The Monument’s reflection is rippled on the water.

I returned to my hotel by Lyft. I finished up this draft blog post and sent Professor Edwards a link so he could have a look at it before it goes live.

My next post is expected to be from Andrews in the morning.

Konstantina Kloufetos

J.D. Candidate (2022)

NGO Observer, Military Commission Observation Project (MCOP)

Program in International Human Rights Law (PIHRL)

Indiana University McKinney School of Law

The beginning of my journey to witness the U.S. Military Commission pre-trial hearings of Mr. Abdul Hadi al Iraqi // Nashwan al Tamir at Guantanamo Bay 


As I was scrolling through my e-mail messages one cold afternoon in January 2022, I noticed an email announcing the opportunity to travel to Guantánamo Bay, Cuba to observe the 9/11 pre-trial hearings through a program at the law school where I am enrolled – Indiana University McKinney School of Law. 

I submitted an application through the law school’s Military Commission Observation Project (MCOP), which is part of the school’s Program in International Human Rights Law (PIHRL). Not long after that, I was interviewed by the program director, and soon after I received a message from the program telling me that I had been selected to travel to monitor Guantánamo Bay pre-trial hearings in the case against a prisoner named Hadi // Tamir who has been charged with multiple war crimes in connection with his alleged role as commander of Taliban and Qaeda forces in Afghanistan.

And then, I received an e-mail from the Pentagon, attaching a number of documents that I was required to fill out – I discuss those below. 

The Pentagon message confirmed that I would be scheduled to fly from Joint Base Andrews (outside of Washington, D.C.) to Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, at the end of March 2022. 

While Cuba might have beautiful beaches and warmer weather than Indianapolis where my law school is, my mission to Guantánamo is not about the weather. 

Background Facts

The Guantánamo Bay prison opened in January of 2002 in the aftermath of September 11th. Since then, 780 men and boys were taken to Guantánamo, foreign soil leased from Cuba over a century ago, because they were suspected of war crimes and for other various reasons. Today, thirty-eight prisoners remain. I am scheduled to attend the hearings of one of these prisoners: Mr. Hadi // Tamir.

The man claims his birth name is Nashwan al Tamir, but the US government has charged him under the name Hadi al Iraqi. Mr. Hadi // Tamir was held in secret CIA custody in 2006 after he was captured in Turkey and kept in a secret location for 5 – 6 months. In April of 2007, Mr. Hadi // Tamir was transferred to Guantánamo Bay. 

About Me

I am a third-year law student at IU McKinney pursuing my Juris Doctorate degree with concentration certificates in both International Law and Corporate Law. 

After I pass the bar exam, I plan to work at the Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP law firm as an associate in the Indianapolis office. As of now, it appears that I will likely join the Employment Law practice group. I hope that traveling to Guantánamo will offer me insights into human rights issues that might aid me as I practice law at Faegre. 

Bryn Mawr College

Before law school, I studied Mathematics and Education at Haverford College and Bryn Mawr College through the school partnership (known as the “bi-co”) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 

After Bryn-Mawr, I taught for two years at Allen Academy, a small school in Bryan, Texas. During my experience teaching math in both urban Philadelphia and rural Texas, I developed a profound recognition of the individual human experience. Engaging with students that came from wildly different backgrounds and home environments inspired me to understand and acknowledge others’ perspectives and challenges. I began reading and studying theories of consciousness to better connect with my students, which led me towards my interest in international issues and human rights work. 

Attending the 2017 National Association of Independent Schools Student Diversity Leadership Conference (NAIS SDLC) in Anaheim, CA when I was a math teacher at Allen Academy

After teaching for a few years, I decided to pursue my Juris Doctorate at Indiana University, McKinney School of Law.

During the 2020 summer, I took a course on International Law with Professor George Edwards. In International Law, we discussed topics ranging from humanitarian issues to constitutional questions of due process in extraterritorial regions and alleged torture when due process is ignored. 

I learned about the Military Commission Observation Program through my connection with Professor Edwards and other students that traveled in the program before me. I am extremely honored to have been chosen as an observer and objective, civilian reporter of Mr. Hadi // Tamir’s pre-trial hearings at Guantánamo Bay. I am grateful to be at Indiana University McKinney School of Law where Professor George Edwards has crafted this tremendous learning opportunity for students and alumni through his honorable endeavors in human rights education.

My Mission

My mission is to attend, observe, be seen, analyze, critique, and publish materials on the al-Nashiri hearings through an objective, fact-based perspective as an MCOP NGO observer. 

I hope to provide a non-biased analysis of my observations and report my fact-based impressions to the rest of you on this blog.

Filling out many forms! 

I have submitted all my forms and requisite materials to travel to Guantánamo. This mission required great preparation, from extensive reading of manuals to long checklists. 

I have been required to submit documents to three entities: 

  1. PIHRL
  2. Indiana University
  3. the Pentagon.

For the Program in International Human Rights Law, I was required to submit the following two documents: (1) the Military Commission Observation Project acknowledgment and agreement form; and (2) the Military Commission Observation Project Agreement checklist. As I complete more items on the checklist, I am required to submit updated checklists to comply with the Program’s requirements. 

For Indiana University, I was required to submit the following fifteen documents: (1) Cuba Travel Advisory Waiver, (2) Agreement and Release Form, (3) Proof of Covid-19 Vaccination, (4) Confirmation of Participation in the study abroad program, (5) Copy of my passport, (6) Travel planning and itinerary (travel itinerary was the last form I completed since travel arrangements came last in the process), (7) Visa information, (8) Emergency Contacts, (9) Emergency Plan, (9) Medical Information, (10) Traveler’s Health Form, (11) Insurance through the Study Abroad Office, (12) Trip Insurance, (13) Contact information while abroad, (14) Travel registration, and (15) Pre-departure requirements completion form

To officiate and confirm my travel with the government, I also submitted to the Pentagon the following six forms:

  1. a Hold Harmless Agreement,
  2. an acknowledgment of the NGO Ground Rules for Observation of Military Commissions,
  3. an Invitational Traveler Worksheet to organize my journey from Joint Base Andrews to Guantánamo,
  4. a Naval Station Guantánamo Bay temporary access card form,
  5. an acknowledgment of the NGO Representative procedures for observation of military commissions; and
  6. an NGO Observer bio, for a total of six forms. 

I am also required to read the Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Manual and the Know Before You Go To Guantanamo informational document. The extensive Manual describes the various stakeholders in the Guantánamo Bay Trials and provides further details on the legal issues involved. The Manual also provides an in-depth discussion on the importance of taking an objective position as an NGO observer. The Know Before You Go document provides over 100 pages of helpful information and anecdotes about traveling to Guantánamo Bay. Both are essential to read and understand before embarking on the mission. 

The lengthy logistic process for witnessing the pre-trial hearings feels necessary when compared with the tremendous opportunity presented. Preparation is the key to understanding. 

Excited for my journey. . . 

My next blog will be published before I board the plane at Joint Base Andrews (formerly Andrews Air Force Base) bound for Guantánamo on 26 March 2022.  

Konstantina Kloufetos

J.D. Candidate (2022)

NGO Observer, Military Commission Observation Project (MCOP)

Program in International Human Rights Law (PIHRL)

Indiana University McKinney School of Law