Government To Allow Release of Guantanamo Detainee

Photo by flickr user <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/paulk/3080299313/">Paul Keller</a> used under a <a href="http://www.creativecommons.org">Creative Commons</a> license.

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


For nearly seven years the US government has defended its detention of Mohamad Jawad, possibly the youngest inmate at Guantanamo Bay. But in an abrupt about-face late on Wednesday, Justice Department lawyers said they will allow Jawad to be released, acknowledging that key evidence in their case had been tainted by torture. This admission could affect the cases of more detainees and complicate the administration’s attempt to close down Guantanamo by the end of the year.

The government’s decision to release Jawad suggests that it may stop trying to delay the release of at least some of the detainees whose cases hinge on evidence contaminated by torture. It could also signal a real break between Obama’s Justice Department and the agencies that have previously run the show at Guantanamo: the Defense Department and the CIA.

Jawad’s detention was controversial from the beginning. He was brought to Guantanamo after being apprehended in December 2002 when he was as young as 14—perhaps even younger. He had been accused of throwing a hand grenade at two US service members and their Afghan interpreter in an attack in Kabul.

However, when a military prosecutor named Darrel Vandeveld was assigned to Jawad’s case, he found serious problems with the evidence. In particular, he came to the conclusion that Jawad’s statements about his alleged crimes had been obtained under torture. Vendeveld eventually resigned and started helping Jawad’s defense effort.

Less than a week ago, government lawyers conceded Jawad had been tortured at Guantanamo, and that his statements could not be used against him. (In a blistering exchange on July 16, the federal judge hearing the case described it as “an outrage.”) However, the government also said that it had access to alternative evidence that could be used to continue to hold Jawad, and asked for more time to assemble it. On Wednesday, it abandoned that tactic. (Keeping their options open, DOJ lawyers did suggest that they may still pursue criminal charges against Jawad after he’s released.)

“I think it just shows the rule of law is starting to take hold again,” Major David Frakt, one of Jawad’s military lawyers, told me on Wednesday evening. He said the Obama administration’s lawyers “are starting to take a critical, skeptical eye to what they were given.”

Now the big question for the Obama administration is: How many Jawads are there?

Libby Lewis is a print and public radio journalist and a former Knight Fellow at Yale Law School.

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate