At Andrews Air Force Base — Heading to Guantanamo Bay


5 non-governmental organization (NGO) representatives after our pre-flight briefing at Andrews Air Force Base. I’m second from left.

I am a third year law student at Indiana University McKinney School of Law, and am traveling to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba through our law school’s Military Commission Observation Project. The Pentagon granted our Project status to send McKinney faculty, staff, students and graduates to Guantanamo to monitor military commission hearings. I am monitoring hearings in the case against Mr. Majid Khan, who pleaded guilty at Guantanamo to war crimes charges. His hearings are scheduled for 17 and 18 July 2018.

Our plane to Guantanamo departs from Andrews Air Force Base, in Maryland, just outside of Washington, DC. Andrews is known as the home of Air Force One, the plane used by the President of the United States.

My Experience at Andrews Air Force Base

Last week the Pentagon’s Office of Military Commission (OMC) sent me and other monitors a “Trip Brief” that provided detailed instructions for today’s trip, and informed us of what to expect.

We were instructed to meet at the Andrew’s Visitor Center, just outside the main gate of the base. There, a Pentagon driver picked us up and drove us to the Andrews air field. We checked in for our flight, just as we would check in for any commercial flight. In addition to our passport, we had to show certain documents that the Pentagon had sent us to obtain a boarding pass.

Briefing for NGOS

After I checked in for my flight, I was introduced to our two “escorts” who would be traveling to Guantanamo with the monitors. We were taken to a separate room, and the escorts introduced themselves to everyone present. We all introduced ourselves and asked questions. I also distributed the manuals provided for us from IU McKinney for NGOs. Our group consisted of five monitors (or observers)–3 law students, 1 attorney, and one law professor–from 5 different states.


An NGO monitors reading the Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Manual Excerpt, provided by Indiana’s Gitmo Observer.

The escorts reviewed different rules for us on the ground at Guantanamo. For example, we were told about photography limitations, badge requirements, opportunities while on base, and the approximate schedule for the next 3 days. Our escorts emphasized that we need to remain observant of rules and restricted areas. In addition, they explained that we needed to remain flexible, because rules and day to day activities can and do change with little to no notice. Our escorts also said we could possibly pet the iguanas and to watch out for banana rats.

Feelings About Being on Andrews Air Force Base

I felt very humbled. As I sat there waiting among other NGO’s, members of the press, and members of prosecution and/or defense teams, I readily acknowledged that I was now a part of something very important that many people are not privileged to experience. I already felt this mission is pertinent; however after overhearing partial conversations about Khan’s case (that I will not regurgitate, because some of it may very well be privileged) and witnessing men and woman in uniform who have signed contractions to join our armed forces in person, I began to develop an even deeper admiration for the commission.


After our briefing we were sent through security, which looked like security at any U.S. airport. Here the scanner machine was inoperable. We put our personal items into a bin for hand inspection and then walked through the metal detector.


Also reading the Guantanamo Fair Trial Manual Excerpts – At Andrews

Around the corner from security we provided our passport and boarding pass to a soldier. We waited for approximately 15 minutes before we were taken from our terminal to our plane. In the plane, the flight attendants completed a head count. We are now headed to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

A. Shashan Deyoung, J. D. Candidate, 2019
NGO Monitor, U.S. Military Commission Observation Project (MCOP)
Indiana University School of Law Program in International Human Rights Law

Day 2 at GITMO – Al Nashiri Hearings – Tues., 4 November 2014 – Charles Dunlap

NGO Boat tour of Guantanamo Bay

NGO Boat tour of Guantanamo Bay

Hearings delayed

We arrived at GTMO on Monday, but hearings did not begin until Wednesday.  So had some time today (Tuesday) to get some logistical tasks done and have some tours. We began by having breakfast at the base commissary.  All you can eat buffet for $2.55, not bad.  We then all came back to get our credentials that will get us access to the courtroom for the hearings.  Obviously there is a high level of security but the credentialing process was very smooth.  The level of security in the area really ramps up on days of hearings when the defendant is brought to this side of the base from the detention facility located several miles away.

NGO's "exploring" the bay (aka "fact finding mission")

NGO’s “exploring” the bay (aka “fact finding mission”)

Boat tour of Guantanamo Bay

Once we completed the credentialing process, we went to one of the docks to get a boat for a tour of the Bay. We were divided on to 2 different pontoon boats with some military personnel who took us around to various parts of the bay.  It certainly wasn’t a difficult assignment for any of us as the pictures will

Site of abandoned and  demolished base hospital from WWII era

Site of abandoned and demolished base hospital from WWII era


Dinner; It’s a small  military base

After returning from the boat trip and getting cleaned up we went to dinner as a group at the Irish Pub on the island. To further demonstrate what a small place this is, the Chief Prosecutor General Mark Martins and his team were also having dinner there at the same restaurant, and sate at the table next to us.  This can actually be a challenging issue (especially for the judge) since many stakeholders, including the victims’ families, fly down to GTMO together, use the same gym and facilities and restaurants, which can lead to potential issues of ex parte communication, among others.

Call it a day

After dinner we all went back to our tents to retire and get ready for the first day of hearings the next day which I will report on and post tomorrow.

Base Commander's House

GTMO Base Commander’s House

Sea-life at GITMO

Sea-life at GITMO

Gitmo NGO Observers With Chief Prosecutor General Mark Martins

Chief Prosecutor Gerneral Mark Martins and NGO Observers - GTMO - 16 June 2014

Left to right: Professor Andrew Clapham, Mr. Jason Aldrich (Judicial Watch), Mr. Mark Sorsaia, Professor George Edwards (Founder, The Gitmo Observer), Brigadier General Mark Martins (Military Commissions Chief Prosecutor), Ms. Kate Rocco (Cravath, Swaine & Moore), Mr. Evan Matheney, Lt. Col. Dru Brenner-Beck (Ret.), Dr. Jerry Green.

Guantanamo Bay Military Commissions Chief Prosecutor Brigadier General Mark Martins met with 8 NGO Observers who traveled to Guantanamo Bay for hearings in the 9-11 case and for the arraignment in the case against Abd al Hadi al-Iraqi. These proceedings occurred at Gitmo during the week of 16 – 20 June 2014. At the meeting with the NGOs, General Martins discussed a wide range of issues related to the Military Commissions, including the range of charges brought against various accused, the suitability of these cases being tried at Guantanamo Bay (more…)

Washington Trip 5/29/14 – Whitney Coffin

I took a short trip to Washington yesterday to meet up with a friend I hadn’t seen in years. We ate at a place called Sushi Sono — I highly recommend it! The scenery was beautiful even though it was raining. It’s located right on Lake Kittamaqundi off of Patuxent Parkway. The food was delicious! I had a box lunch, which included chicken teriyaki with white rice, as well as California rolls with wasabi and soy sauce.

Pictured: Walking down steps to where several restaurants were located on the lake.

Pictured: Walking down steps to where several restaurants were located on the lake.


Pictured: A closer picture of the bank and lake. Several paddle boats were tied off on the dock across from Sushi Sono.


Pictured: Sign directly outside the restaurant.