Tex Boonjue

I’m Scheduled To Fly To Guantanamo Bay Today

Showtime – Andrews Air Force Base to Guantanamo Bay

I am scheduled to travel to Guantanamo Bay today to monitor hearings in the case of al Nashiri, who is the alleged mastermind of the 2000 U.S.S. Cole bombing off the coast of Yemen that killed and wounded dozens of U.S. sailors. I am representing the Military Commission Observation Project of Indiana University McKinney School of Law, where I am a student. I am looking forward to carrying out my observer / monitor responsibilities, which include to attend, observe, analyze, critique and report on the military commissions that have charged several men with perpetrating war crimes.

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Arrival at Andrews Air Force Base

Most of the military commission flights to Guantanamo Bay depart from Andrews Air Force Base (AAFB).

Last night I stayed at a nearby Holiday Inn, and took a (taxi?) to the Andrews Visitor Center at 7:00 AM, where I met two other NGO representatives — Carol and Michelle – who were scheduled to join me on the trip to Guantanamo.

A government representative (Tony) picked us up around 7:30 AM and drove us to the Andrews terminal, where we met the rest of the NGO reps.

After we passed through security and I obtained my boarding pass, I handed all the NGO reps who were present a copy of the Know Before You Go To Guantanamo guide and the Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Manual excerpts. These documents were produced by the Indiana McKinney Military Commission Observation Project (Gitmo Observer). I received many thanks for providing such helpful documents.

While waiting to board, we saw Vice President Mike Pence board what looked like Air Force One, but was actually Air Force Two. There were several security personnel around him, including secret service agents and military. An hour after Pence departed, we boarded a bus that took us to the commercial plane (Atlas Air) bound for Guantanamo.

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I am now on the plane about an hour away from arrival. I am looking forward for what’s in store to come.

 

Tex Boonjue, J.D. Candidate

Military Commission Observation Project

Program in International Human Rights Law

Indiana University McKinney School of Law

I’m Flying to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba tomorrow for U.S. Military Commission Hearings

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.

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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.

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Reading the “Know Before You Go” Guide in my hotel room the night before departure

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

Indiana law students and faculty at Ft. Meade’s Guantanamo hearings

Ft. Meade # 1 of 4

Right to left — Mr. Tex Boonjue, Ms. Hee Jong Choi, and me. We’re standing in front of the Post Theater at Ft. Meade.

I was at Ft. Meade, Maryland today to monitor hearings in the Guantanamo Bay Military Commission case against an alleged high-ranking al Qaeda member, Hadi al Iraqi. Hadi faces war crimes charges in the court, located in a remote area of Cuba. The U.S. military broadcasts the hearings live to a Ft. Meade base movie theater (the Post Theater) via a secure video-link.

Indiana students at Ft. Meade

I was joined by two Indiana University McKinney School of Law students, both of whom have strong interests in human rights and international criminal law. They are both representatives of Indiana’s Military Commission Observation Project (MCOP).

Ms. Hee Jong Choi is a rising third year student who is an intern in Indiana’s Program in International Human Rights Law. She has been working on North Korean human rights issues, while she was based in South Korea for the first half of the summer, and while based in Washington, DC at an NGO (HRNK – The Committee for Human Rights in North Korea) for the second half of the summer.

Mr. Tex Boonjue is a rising 2nd year Indiana student, who is working for the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (CAAF) at the Washington, DC Naval Yard.

Fort Meade's Post Theater is screening Guantanamo Bay war crimes hearings during the day, and San Andreas in the evenings.

Fort Meade’s Post Theater is screening Guantanamo Bay war crimes hearings during the day, and San Andreas in the evenings.

Defendant’s opportunity to speak today – Conflict of interest

Today’s hearings were notable, in that the defendant had an opportunity to speak more than defendants typically speak at military commission hearings. Typically, at the beginning of a hearing week, the military judge will ask the defendant whether the defendant understands his rights. The judge lists our numerous rights, and the defendant is given a chance to answer as to his understanding of those rights. Generally, after that, the lawyers do the rest of the talking, along with the judge.

Today, an issue was presented regarding the possibility that the lawyer who represented Hadi for a year may have a conflict of interest that could have a negative impact on Hadi. The judge asked Hadi series of questions, in open court on the record, and Hadi replied. Hadi and the judge entered into a discussion about these issues.

Hearings suspended, again

Ultimately, due to questions concerning the possible conflict, the judge suspended the hearings, indefinitely.

The hearings for July 2015 had been scheduled for two weeks, beginning Monday, 20 July. The night before, this conflict issue was raised in special conference, and the judge postponed the hearings until today, Wednesday the 22nd. Today, we had about 3 hours of court time, including the time that the defendant and the judge conversed, and including pauses and a long break.

The two weeks of hearings could be over as of lunch time today.

In the meantime, many dozens of people associated with the hearings boarded a plane this past Sunday at Andrews Air Force Base, bound for 2 weeks at Guantanamo Bay. The plane may be forced to return to Andrews more than a week early, with only 3 hours of court.

At the Ft. Meade Commissary today

At the Ft. Meade Commissary today

Who else was at Ft. Meade today?

Also in the Post Theater observing today’s hearings were 7 law student interns from the Office of the Chief Prosecutor of the Military Commissions, along with one of their supervisors, Major Chris Hartley (Army JAG, International Law Advisor). Two law student interns from the Human Rights First National Security section were present, as was another gentleman who did not identify himself. A DoD contractor was there to help ensure that no one brought cell phones into the Theater. And a technician and another administrator popped in from time to time to check up on things.

It was an early lunch day at Ft. Meade.

Greg Loyd, our Indiana McKinney representative who is in Guantanamo Bay this week, reported that there is plenty to keep him and observers busy down there, even with the hearings being suspended. He, and the rest of us, are spending time working on the Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Manual.

George Edwards – Ft. Meade, Maryland

Traveling to Guantanamo Bay for Hearings Tomorrow

George Edwards & Greg Loyd - Pre-Gitmo - DC - 18 July 2015

Mr. Greg Loyd (left) & Professor in Washington, DC on the eve of Mr. Loyd’s departure for Guantanamo Bay hearings in the case against Hadi al Iraqi. Professor Edwards will monitor the same hearings at a secure location at Ft. Meade, Maryland, beginning Monday, 20 July 2015.

Greg Loyd will fly to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to monitor hearings in the military commission case again Hadi al Iraqi. Professor George Edwards will monitor those same hearings via a secure video-link at Ft. Meade, Maryland.

Mr. Loyd, who is a graduate of the Indiana University McKinney School of Law, is representing the law school’s Military Commission Observation Project (MCOP), founded by Professor Edwards. Three Indiana students and graduates will join Professor Edwards at Ft. Meade for the hearings, that commence Monday, 20 July 2015.

Abd al Hadi al-Iraqi

Hadi al-Iraqi

Who is the defendant?

The pre-trial hearings are in the case against Hadi al Iraqi, who is an alleged high ranking member of al Qaeda. He is charged with being an al Qaeda liaison to the Taliban, to al Qaeda in Iraq, and to other affiliated groups. Professor Edwards was in the courtroom at Guantanamo Bay in the 2014 summer when Hadi al Iraqi was arraigned on these charges.

The flight to Guantanamo Bay & drive to Ft. Meade

Mr. Loyd is scheduled to report to Andrews Air Force Base on Sunday, 19 July 2015, for his flight to Guantanamo Bay. Professor Edwards and the other Indiana monitors are scheduled to drive to Ft. Meade early Monday morning for the hearings. While Mr. Loyd will be in the Guantanamo courtroom, the Ft. Meade viewers will witness the proceedings live by video.

Blogging

All Indiana monitors will be posting blog entries about their observations. They are all using the Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Manual to help them assess whether in their opinion, all stakeholders are receiving the fair trial to which they are entitled. The defendants are entitled to a fair trial, and so too is the prosecution. Other stakeholders with rights and interests include the media, the U.S. an international public, and the victims and victims’ families.