A Letter to President Obama

On Monday, I wrote President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder wanting to know why U.S. officials are essentially holding two remaining Kuwaiti detainees hostage at Guantanamo Bay, refusing to release them unless the Government of Kuwait imposes unfair and restrictive conditions on two Kuwaitis who were freed by a federal court last year. The full text of my letter to President Obama and Attorney General Holder may be found below.

Dear Mr. President:

According to recent news reports, you are struggling to fulfill your commitment to close Guantanamo in part because you are having trouble finding other countries that will take detainees. I know a country that is ready, willing and able to take two: Kuwait.

Kuwait is our faithful ally. The U.S. Ambassador to Kuwait has described the relationship between the two countries as "foundational" and has acknowledged that Kuwait's logistical support has been "essential" to our military operations in Iraq.

Furthermore, Kuwait has established a state-of-the-art rehabilitation center and program to reintegrate detainees with their families and society. Yet the center stands empty, and its staff idle, while two Kuwaiti citizens languish in their eighth year of imprisonment at Guantanamo. Why?

Perhaps it has something to do with the two Kuwaiti detainees who were recently released by order of the U.S. district court in Washington, D.C., which granted their petitions for habeas corpus after examining the evidence and concluding that the United States had no basis to detain them as enemy combatants. The case of one of them, Fouad al Rabiah, is particularly instructive. At the time he was taken to Guantanamo, Mr. Al Rabiah was a middle-aged man with a wife and four children, twenty years in a job with the same employer, a documented record of volunteer relief work, and no connection with any extremist group. A CIA analyst who examined Mr. Al Rabiah's case shortly after he arrived in Guantanamo concluded that it was the classic situation of someone who had been in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Yet the U.S. claimed that Mr. Al Rabiah was a high-level Al Qaeda financier and supply chief during the battle of Tora Bora. As the federal court found, however, these fantastic claims were based almost entirely on false "confessions" wrung out of Mr. Al Rabiah through the same abusive and coercive interrogation methods designed by the North Korean and Chinese Communists during the Korean War, and for the same purpose: to extract false confessions from American POWs that could be exploited for propaganda purposes. The court explained,

Al Rabiah's interrogators began using abusive techniques that violated the Army Field Manual and the Geneva Convention... [T]he use of these methods is likely to 'yield unreliable results... and can induce the source to say what he thinks the interrogator wants to hear.'

Not surprisingly, Mr. Al Rabiah's statements given under these abusive conditions were so absurd and self-contradictory that, as the court pointed out, "even the Government's own interrogators did not believe them." Yet the Department of Justice -- your Department of Justice -- vigorously defended these interrogation techniques in court and argued that Mr. Al Rabiah should continue to be imprisoned based on the statements obtained through those methods.

Officials of your administration have now informed the Government of Kuwait that they will not even consider returning the last two Kuwaiti detainees unless Kuwait imposes restrictive conditions on Mr. Al Rabiah and the other Kuwaiti released by the federal court -- as if they were paroled criminals instead of men who never should have been imprisoned in the first place. This makes no sense, either as a matter of justice or necessity. The remaining Kuwaiti detainees will be placed into the rehabilitation program, and Kuwait has promised that it will take all security measures necessary for the safety and security, not just of the United States and its citizens, but of Kuwait and its citizens as well.

The way to close Guantanamo, and to make America safer, is there. Allies like Kuwait are willing to help. Please give them the chance.


David J. Cynamon
Attorney for the Kuwaiti Detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba

cc: The Honorable Eric H. Holder, Jr.