Via America’s Lawyer: Mike Papantonio is joined by RT Correspondent Brigida Santos to discuss the case of a Yemeni citizen who’s been detained at Guantanamo Bay for 17 years without charge, is now petitioning the Supreme Court to review his case.


*This transcript was generated by a third-party transcription software company, so please excuse any typos.

Mike Papantonio:             A Yemeni citizen who’s been detained at Guantanamo Bay for 17 years without charges, has petitioned the Supreme Court to review his case. He demands that he be tried or released. RT correspondent Brigida Santos joins me to talk about that. Brigida, first of all, the lower courts have already denied a habeas petition by this, by this particular individual ruling that he can legally be detained under the 2001 authorization for the use of military force. What will his legal team argue that’s different to the Supreme Court?

Brigida Santos:                   Legal documents filed by Al-Alwi’s lawyers argue that the US government doesn’t have the authority to detain him under the 2001 AUMF as claimed because he was captured and delivered by bounty hunters who were sought out by the US government through flyers that were posted in Pakistan, which is where he was caught. These flyers offered thousands of dollars in exchange for “suspicious people.”

Financial opportunists saw these flyers and then they apprehended and delivered 369 people to the US government, including Al-Alwi. The main characteristic that made these captured people suspicious was there Arab ethnicity, because again, this was Pakistan. Since his capture, he has been imprisoned indefinitely at Guantanamo Gay where he hasn’t been charged or sentenced despite the fact that the lower courts have not found any evidence that he ever used arms against the US or it’s coalition partners or any evidence that he had anything to do with the attacks on September 11th.

So his lawyer say it’s time for the Supreme Court to impose term limits on perpetual military detention and to see whether the government’s authority to detain him under the 2001 AUMF has unraveled.

Mike Papantonio:             Yeah, since the 2002, when Guantanamo prison first opened, more than 700 inmates have been held there. How many have been released? You want to see, because we know the story behind this. We know that a lot of the inmates that were there were put there because, you know, when the US went in, there were people that had personal family feuds and they would say this particular person is a terrorist or that person’s a terrorist, and they actually discovered that there were literally hundreds of people in prison like that, and they’ve worked, they supposedly worked through all that. How many have been released at this point?

Brigida Santos:                   So as you said most people have been released, all but 40 actually have been transferred or let go, and at least 26 of those who are still in custody, however, are considered forever prisoners. These are detainees who can’t be tried because the evidence against them is inadmissible or unreliable because it was extracted through torture. Al-Alwi’s lawyers say that the main evidence against their client also comes from unreliable interrogation reports.

Mike Papantonio:             What has the US government’s, how have they justified this indefinite detention of people? When they come back and you know, they have to answer that. The attorney general’s got to say, well, we’re doing this because. And we’ve all, we’ve all heard the argument is that there are different standards that we can use outside the country.

There are different standards that were put in place after 9/11 and we get all that, you know, there’s certainly is enemy combatant kind of standard that falls into this. But what is, what are they saying now, you know, in 2019 about why we can indefinitely detain people in Guantanamo?

Brigida Santos:                   Not much has changed. It still has to do with national security. The government argues that detainees who were held indefinitely are simply too dangerous to be released and that the 2001 AUMF gives the President the power over any war on terror policies, including those involving indefinite detention and keeping Guantanamo Bay operational.

Mike Papantonio:             You know, the US government imposes restrictions, Brigida on defense lawyers and those restrictions make it extremely hard for those lawyers to investigate and interview potential witnesses. As a matter of fact, there’s reports where, you know, there’s eavesdropping in on the conversation between the lawyer and the detainee which should not take place.

There is abuse, I mean outward abuse of the lawyers that show up to represent these people. What can you tell us about these restrictions? We heard that, oh yeah, we caught ourselves doing that. This is, this was Rumsfeld, this was his fault. He told us we could do what we want. What have they done about those restrictions though over the last few years, if anything?

Brigida Santos:                   Well there are many restrictions, but when it comes to defense lawyers, the US government bars them from interviewing CIA agents who know about how their client was treated while in CIA custody. Defense attorneys with top secret security clearance are also subject to a gag order that prohibits them from sharing information about CIA torture with their own clients or with the general public because that information is still classified.

Now, if defense attorney’s tried to interview CIA agents anyway, they can be threatened with criminal charges and that is something that has happened. This is just another way our government works to keep the details about the CIA’s torture program secret. To this day, only 528 pages of those 6,000 have been declassified from the 2014 senate intelligence report on torture.

Mike Papantonio:             Brigida, thank you for joining me. We’ll watch this case as it progresses. My guess is that there is going to be a new influx of prisoners at GITMO and we’re going to hear the same rationalization, but anyway, thank you for joining me.

Mike Papantonio is an American attorney and television and radio talk show host. He is past president of The National Trial Lawyers, the most prestigious trial lawyer association in America; and is one of the few living attorneys inducted into the Trial Lawyer Hall of Fame. He hosts the international television show "America's Lawyer"; and co-hosts Ring of Fire Radio, a nationally syndicated weekly radio program, with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Sam Seder.