Wells Dixon is a staff attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York, and in that capacity represents a number of current and former prisoners of the United States military detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. On July 1, 2008, I had the privilege of interviewing Mr. Dixon by telephone. What follows are my interview notes, corrected as appropriate by Mr. Dixon.
The Talking Dog: You have recently commented that the government's answer to the depression it is causing by subjecting its GTMO guests to near-total isolation is to involuntarily medicate them. Can you comment on this, and on allegations of other medication administration such as possibly intended to aid in interrogation (i.e. if there are contentions of administration of "truth serum"), or other uses (hallucinogenic experimentation). How did you come to learn about the involuntary drug administration, and has the government ever confirmed (or officially denied) it?
Wells Dixon: At the outset, I should make a disclaimer so it is clear: anything I tell you during this interview does not include or involve any classified information of which I am aware, but is based entirely on information that is publicly available, and based on the public record only. That said, we had heard for quite some time, from a number of sources including several prisoners who had been released, that medications were administered, and that these prisoners were required to take these medications. The military, of course, does not confirm or deny any of this. Some of the prisoners who have been released have discussed these issues publicly, others have not. This implicates a number of privacy and other issues, and is therefore not something we can discuss in great detail.
The Talking Dog: With respect to the Chinese national/Uighur prisoners you represent, can you tell me (1) how many the government has determined are "not-enemy-combatants" or "cleared for release" or whatever the current Orwellianism for "we're holding them wrongfully" is, now; (2) the status of efforts to resettle them, and I'm specifically asking about Canada, and what has happened with that since Chinese/Canadian Huseyin Celil appears to have been sentenced to life in prison in China despite Canada's not taking in any Uighurs, and (3) anything else you'd like to comment on with respect to the Uighurs? Also, can you comment on the recent Parhat decision?
Wells Dixon: CCR is indeed involved in a joint representation of most of the GTMO detainees. I represent with my former law firm 4 of the Uighurs still held there (their names are Ahmad Turson, Adel Noori, Abdur Razakah and Abdulghappar Abdulrahman), and three who have been transferred to Albania. There are 17 Uighurs still at GTMO, all were designated enemy combatants, but all have been cleared for release! As Parhat is now no longer an enemy combatant after the D.C. Circuit ruling, there are now 16 who are designated enemy combatants!
The status of efforts at resettlement is that we had been hopeful that Canada, or perhaps Germany or a Scandinavian country, where there are Uighur communities, would step up and accept some of the Uighurs as refugees. Everyone agrees that the Uighurs were captured by mistake, but at this point, there is nowhere to send them. Canada had a number of diplomatic discussions with the U.S. about this, and it was looking like Canada was going to be a place for resettlement. But then Huseyin Celil, a Canadian national, was arrested in Uzbekistan, turned over to the Chinese, the Chinese have thrown him in prison and sentenced him to life imprisonment, and it has all caused a diplomatic row between Canada and China. In my view, the Chinese got the better of Canada diplomatically; the Canadians were not successful either on Celil, or with respect to Uighurs from Guantanamo... on Celil, Canada just got outmaneuvered by China.
After the Parhat decision, and other decisions that should follow, there will be a renewed effort to resettle the Uighurs, especially with Canada and Germany. We have asserted that if no other country takes them, then the United States should take them... there is no question that none of these men represent a threat or are otherwise hostile to us. Indeed, the Uighurs are a preferred group regarding seeking asylum in the United States, as they are a pro-Western persecuted minority in China.
The Talking Dog: I understand that you were down at Guantanamo Bay recently, when Boumediene came down. Assuming you can even talk about this until your notes are cleared, did you have an opportunity to convey news of the Boumediene decision to them, and if so, what was their reaction? Do you anticipate any kind of immediate response by the courts now hearing habeas cases, i.e., will any GTMO prisoners be released as a result of judicial process before George W. Bush leaves office?
Wells Dixon: I can only tell you three things. (1) On the date of the decision's release, I was meeting with Majid Khan (2) On that date, the military provided me with a complete copy of the Boumediene decision, during lunch, and (3) the military authorized me to provide it to my client and to state so publicly.
At this time, that is all I can say.
The Talking Dog: Can you briefly tell me which of the current round of "military commission" defendants that CCR is involved in representing? Do you anticipate any of these commission trials even getting to the point of taking evidence (let alone concluding) prior to the next President taking office (if ever)?
Wells Dixon: We need to clarify that Majid Khan has not been charged by the commissions. If he is charged, we would represent him, but it has not yet happened. As to someone who was charged, but is no longer, CCR represents Mohamed Al-Qahtani, who was alleged to have been involved in the 9-11 plot and was horribly tortured at the direction of Donald Rumsfeld. Those charges, however, were rejected by the Defense Department, and he is no longer charged by the military.
It is highly unlikely that the Commissions will take any evidence during the remainder of the Bush Administration. Yesterday, charges against Al-Nashiri for involvement in the Cole bombing were announced, but al-Nashiri is one of three prisoners whom the government admits were subjected to waterboarding. Until the issues of "is waterboarding torture" and similar ones are resolved, the commissions cannot realistically take evidence, and I do not believe that these issues are going to be resolved in that time frame.
The Talking Dog: On that note, particularly with respect to your client, allegedly "high value" detainee Majid Khan, or for anyone else, can you tell me the status of efforts (both before the federal courts and the commissions) to preserve evidence such as videotapes of "harsh interrogations" (and things that some of us used to call torture)? To the extent you can publicly discuss it, what are your clients' allegations with respect to coerced statements (or worse)?
Wells Dixon: Since you mentioned the issue, I cannot confirm or deny anything concerning videotapes. There are only two things I can tell you. The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has entered an interim order requiring the Government to preserve any and all evidence of torture, and (2) we have no reason to question whether the government is complying with that order. Beyond that, I cannot discuss individual allegations of torture.
The Talking Dog: What if anything can you tell us about "Camp 7" and "Task Force Platinum" with respect to the so-called "high value" detainees?
Wells Dixon: That is something I cannot discuss.
The Talking Dog: Is there anything else I shoulud have asked you, or anything else my readers should know about Guantanamo and American detention policy in the war on terror?
Wells Dixon: The litigation will continue, even after the Supreme Court's ruling in Boumediene said that the costs of delay can no longer be borne by the detainees, and the detainees can petition the federal courts for habeas corpus relief. We are, unfortunately, already seeing an effort by the government to delay proceedings still further, and to avoid any actual hearing on the merits. Parhat was an exception to this insofar as it reached an appellate court which actually made a decision that he is not properly held as an enemy combatant, but by and large it appears that the government fully intends to leave this current human rights disaster for the next President, and certainly, this will lead to litigation continuing at least into 2009. Until then, hopefully, Boumediene, Parhat and other decisions will lead to an increase in pressure to take Parhat and the other Uighurs and some of the other detainees (who the government has admitted have done nothing wrong!) out of Guantanamo in the interim.
The Talking Dog: I join all of my readers in thanking Mr. Dixon for taking the time to speak to us and for that informative interview.
Readers interested in legal issues and related matters associated with the "war on terror" may also find talking dog blog interviews with attorneys Rebecca Dick, Wesley Powell, Martha Rayner, Angela Campbell, Stephen Truitt and Charles Carpenter, Gaillard Hunt, Robert Rachlin, Tina Foster, Brent Mickum, Marc Falkoff H. Candace Gorman, Eric Freedman, Michael Ratner, Thomas Wilner, Jonathan Hafetz, Joshua Denbeaux, Rick Wilson,
Neal Katyal, Joshua Colangelo Bryan, Baher Azmy, and Joshua Dratel (representing Guantanamo detainees and others held in "the war on terror"), with attorneys Donna Newman and Andrew Patel (representing "unlawful combatant" Jose Padilila), with Dr. David Nicholl, who spearheaded an effort among international physicians protesting force-feeding of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, with physician and bioethicist Dr. Steven Miles on medical complicity in torture, with law professor and former Clinton Administration Ambassador-at-large for war crimes matters David Scheffer, with former Guantanamo detainees Moazzam Begg and Shafiq Rasul , with former Guantanamo Bay Chaplain James Yee, with former Guantanamo Army Arabic linguist Erik Saar, with law professor and former Army J.A.G. officer Jeffrey Addicott, with law professor and Coast Guard officer Glenn Sulmasy, with author and geographer Trevor Paglen and with author and journalist Stephen Grey on the subject of the CIA's extraordinary rendition program, with journalist and author David Rose on Guantanamo, with journalist Michael Otterman on the subject of American torture and related issues, with author and historian Andy Worthington detailing the capture and provenance of all of the Guantanamo detainees, and with Joanne Mariner of Human Rights Watch to be of interest.