The Cleared Gitmo Detainees: Abdul Latif Nasir
Abdul Latif Nasir is a 52-year-old Moroccan detainee at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay. He has been imprisoned without charge or trial for over 15 years, although the U.S. government has acknowledged it no longer has reason to keep him.
Of the 14 Moroccans ever held at Guantanamo, Nasir is the last one left. The rest have been transferred, all but one back home to Morocco. (The other was sent to Spain.) Of the five remaining detainees cleared for transfer from Gitmo by all relevant U.S. agencies, he is one of the two who have been cleared by the Guantanamo Periodic Review Board (PRB). He has been waiting for transfer since the PRB cleared him in July 2016.
The PRB, established by President Obama and codified by Congress, is an interagency process “to determine whether certain individuals detained at [Guantanamo] represent a continuing significant threat to the security of the United States such that their continued detention is warranted.” It is made up of senior officials from the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, Justice, and State, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
This group decided by consensus that Nasir’s detention at Guantanamo was “no longer necessary.” The board determined that, despite his alleged past conduct, “in light of the factors and conditions of transfer … the threat the detainee presents can be adequately mitigated.”
Yet, despite this decision, Nasir is still detained. His lawyers have attempted to force the U.S. government to make good on the PRB’s recommendation, but the D.C. District Court ruled against them.
We have limited access to the facts about Nasir’s conduct before he was brought to Guantanamo. One source is the 2008 assessment conducted by Joint Task Force Guantanamo (JTF-GTMO), the U.S. military group in charge of the prison. Though the veracity of the JTF-GTMO assessments has been repeatedly called into question by U.S. military authorities and federal courts, and the assessments’ findings have been at odds with later government analysis (including some presented as part of Nasir’s PRB hearing), it appears that the account of Nasir’s activities has been relatively consistent. It should be noted, however, that the U.S. government has not publicly provided any evidence to back JTF-GTMO’s claims.
The information available suggests that Nasir may have received weapons training in Afghanistan in the late 1990s and become an al Qaeda weapons trainer and member of the terrorist organization’s training subcommittee. After the 9/11 attacks and the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, he allegedly fought with the Taliban against coalition forces and led fighting at Tora Bora.
However, this account may lack some key details. Most importantly, Nasir’s attorney claims that Nasir was sold to U.S. forces for a bounty. The same is true for many of the detainees held at Guantanamo over the years—in fact, it is probably true for the vast majority of the 41 men still held there today. After 9/11, the United States paid bounties ranging from $3,000 to $25,000 for individuals with possible connections to al Qaeda and the Taliban to warlords, militant groups, local governments, and even neighbors with grudges. The nature of these detainees’ transfer to U.S. custody calls into question the real danger any detainee poses.
The U.S. government has provided no indication of why Nasir was never charged and tried for his alleged involvement in hostilities against U.S. forces or involvement with al Qaeda. When the Obama Administration’s Guantanamo Review Task Force assessed his case, he was not referred for possible prosecution. Nor has the government provided any reasons why Nasir has not been transferred home to his family or to a third country. All the government has said is that Nasir’s detention at Guantanamo is no longer necessary, and that it recommends his transfer.
As his representatives testified at his PRB hearing, Nasir has a family waiting in Morocco to welcome him home and provide him with a new life, including employment with his brother’s water treatment company. His representatives also noted that they plan to aid his reintegration.
Each detainee at Gitmo costs more than $10 million per year to keep at the island prison. Since the U.S. government has decided that Nasir does not pose an unmanageable threat to the United States and recommends transfer, his continued detention is a waste of taxpayer money and U.S. military resources. It is also a continued injustice.