Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri

Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri is an al-Qaeda recruiter and planner responsible for plotting various al-Qaeda attacks on the Arabian Peninsula, and is considered the mastermind of the USS Cole bombing in October 2000, which left seventeen American soldiers dead.“The Guantanamo Docket: Abd al Rahim al Nashiri: JFT – GTMO Assessment,” New York Times, accessed August 16, 2017, 3-4, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/projects/guantanamo/detainees/10015-abd-al-rahim-al-nashiri/documents/11;
Carol Rosenberg, “In a first, former CIA captive appeals Guantanamo trial to Supreme Court,” Miami Herald, March 18, 2017, http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/guantanamo/article139424468.html;
National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States, Thomas H. Kean, and Lee Hamilton. 2004. The 9/11 Commission report: final report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States. (Washington, D.C.): 152, http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/911/report/911Report.pdf.
Nashiri was captured in November 2002 and transferred to Guantanamo in 2006 after four years in CIA custody.“The Guantanamo Docket: Abd al Rahim al Nashiri: JFT – GTMO Assessment,” New York Times, accessed August 16, 2017, 6, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/projects/guantanamo/detainees/10015-abd-al-rahim-al-nashiri/documents/11. In September 2011, he was charged by a military commission on nine counts related to his involvement in planning al-Qaeda attacks.Carol Rosenberg, “Alleged al Qaida bomber emerges from CIA shadows, waves,” Miami Herald, November 9, 2011, http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/guantanamo/article1938976.html. His trial has repeatedly faced delays, primarily owing to claims by the defense related to the torture that he underwent while in CIA detention.Carol Rosenberg, “In a first, former CIA captive appeals Guantanamo trial to Supreme Court,” Miami Herald, March 18, 2017, http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/guantanamo/article139424468.html.

Nashiri was born in Mecca, Saudi Arabia.“The Guantanamo Docket: Abd al Rahim al Nashiri: JFT – GTMO Assessment,” New York Times, accessed August 16, 2017, 1, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/projects/guantanamo/detainees/10015-abd-al-rahim-al-nashiri/documents/11. Little is known about his early life. According to the 9/11 Commission, he participated in the Afghan jihad against the Soviets in the 1980s.National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States, Thomas H. Kean, and Lee Hamilton. 2004. The 9/11 Commission report: final report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States. (Washington, D.C.): 152, http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/911/report/911Report.pdf. According to the U.S. Department of Defense’s Joint Task Force Guantanamo (JTF), he also waged violent jihad in Tajikistan from 1992 to 1993, when he met al-Qaeda operatives, including Hamza al-Ghamdi, bodyguard for Osama bin Laden. In 1993, Nashiri went to train at the Jihad-Wal Camp, an al-Qaeda training camp near Khowst, Afghanistan. The following year, Nashiri met bin Laden for the first time while staying at one of his guesthouses in Jalalabad, Afghanistan.“The Guantanamo Docket: Abd al Rahim al Nashiri: JFT – GTMO Assessment,” New York Times, accessed August 16, 2017, 2, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/projects/guantanamo/detainees/10015-abd-al-rahim-al-nashiri/documents/11.

Nashiri attempted to return to fight in Tajikistan in 1995, but was unable to enter the country and traveled to Afghanistan instead. While in Kandahar, Afghanistan, in 1996, he saw bin Laden for the second time and heard him talk about his plans to fight the United States.“The Guantanamo Docket: Abd al Rahim al Nashiri: JFT – GTMO Assessment,” New York Times, accessed August 16, 2017, 2-3, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/projects/guantanamo/detainees/10015-abd-al-rahim-al-nashiri/documents/11. He was encouraged to swear loyalty to bin Laden, but according to the 9/11 Commission, “found the notion distasteful and refused.” He then returned to Saudi Arabia and Yemen, where he reportedly first conceived of the idea to attack a ship.National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States, Thomas H. Kean, and Lee Hamilton. 2004. The 9/11 Commission report: final report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States. (Washington, D.C.): 233, http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/911/report/911Report.pdf. At some point he returned to Afghanistan, where he fought for the Taliban against the United Islamic Front for the Salvation of Afghanistan in 1997. He reportedly contracted malaria on the front lines and returned to Kandahar, where he recovered while staying in bin Laden’s guesthouse.“The Guantanamo Docket: Abd al Rahim al Nashiri: JFT – GTMO Assessment,” New York Times, accessed August 16, 2017, 2-3, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/projects/guantanamo/detainees/10015-abd-al-rahim-al-nashiri/documents/11.

Nashiri formally joined al-Qaeda in 1998, after he learned that his cousin, Jihad Harazi, was one of the suicide bombers in the August 1998 al-Qaeda attack on the U.S. embassy in Nairobi.“The Guantanamo Docket: Abd al Rahim al Nashiri: JFT – GTMO Assessment,” New York Times, accessed August 16, 2017, 3, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/projects/guantanamo/detainees/10015-abd-al-rahim-al-nashiri/documents/11. According to the 9/11 Commission, earlier that year, he had helped one of the embassy bombing operatives obtain a Yemeni passport, and also led a plot to smuggle missiles into Yemen.National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States, Thomas H. Kean, and Lee Hamilton. 2004. The 9/11 Commission report: final report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States. (Washington, D.C.): 233, http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/911/report/911Report.pdf. Later that year, Nashiri met privately with bin Laden, who suggested the idea of attacking a warship off of the coast of Yemen. The JTF’s report that such an attack was bin Laden’s idea conflicts with the 9/11 Commission’s claim that it was Nashiri himself who conceived the idea. He traveled to Yemen a week later, but returned to Afghanistan in late 1998 or early 1999 after an associate of his was arrested by Yemeni officials. Nashiri returned to Yemen in the spring of 1999, tasked by bin Laden to purchase a boat and observe U.S. ships off of the coast. Nashiri returned to Afghanistan that fall and reported his findings to bin Laden.“The Guantanamo Docket: Abd al Rahim al Nashiri: JFT – GTMO Assessment,” New York Times, accessed August 16, 2017, 3, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/projects/guantanamo/detainees/10015-abd-al-rahim-al-nashiri/documents/11.

In February 2000, Nashiri reportedly attempted to lead an attack on USS ship The Sullivans, which failed because the explosives used on board were too heavy and capsized the craft. Bin Laden instructed him to attempt the operation a second time. In September 2000, Nashiri returned to Yemen, selecting two suicide operatives for the operation. Nashiri learned that bin Laden disapproved of his choices, but instructed the suicide operatives to carry out the attack anyway. Nashiri returned to Afghanistan to tell bin Laden that he could not replace the operatives, and the operatives carried out the attack on the next U.S. ship to enter the port of Aden––the USS Cole on October 12, 2000.“The Guantanamo Docket: Abd al Rahim al Nashiri: JFT – GTMO Assessment,” New York Times, accessed August 16, 2017, 3-4, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/projects/guantanamo/detainees/10015-abd-al-rahim-al-nashiri/documents/11. According to the 9/11 Commission, the success of the attack brought Nashiri “instant status” within al-Qaeda, and he was later recognized as the head of al-Qaeda operations in the Arabian Peninsula.National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States, Thomas H. Kean, and Lee Hamilton. 2004. The 9/11 Commission report: final report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States. (Washington, D.C.): 153, http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/911/report/911Report.pdf.

In 2001, as instructed by bin Laden, Nashiri began planning an attack on a ship in the Straight of Hormuz. Nashiri spent time in Pakistan recruiting operatives and researching boats for the operation. Following the 9/11 attacks, Nashiri returned to Afghanistan, where he met with 9/11 architect Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM) in Kandahar to discuss the Straight of Hormuz operation. In the following months, Nashiri traveled around Afghanistan and Pakistan, meeting with al-Qaeda associates and helping plan other attacks. In April 2002, Nashiri was denied entry into Saudi Arabia. Around this time, for an unspecified reason, the Straight of Hormuz operation was cancelled. That summer, Nashiri rented an apartment in Dubai, and began plotting an attack on Dubai’s Port Rashid.“The Guantanamo Docket: Abd al Rahim al Nashiri: JFT – GTMO Assessment,” New York Times, accessed August 16, 2017, 4-6, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/projects/guantanamo/detainees/10015-abd-al-rahim-al-nashiri/documents/11. On October 6, the French oil tanker M/V Limburg was targeted in an al-Qaeda operation. Prosecutors later accused Nashiri of helping to plan this operation in a claim also made by the 9/11 Commission; however, the charges were discarded in 2014 due to lack of evidence.Charlie Savage, “Guantanamo Detainee Pleads Guilty in 2002 Attack in Tanker off Yemen,” New York Times, February 20, 2014, https://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/21/us/guantanamo-detainee-ahmed-muhammed-haza-al-darbi.html; Carol Rosenberg, “New Guantanamo judge throws out Limburg charges in USS Cole case,” Miami Herald, August 11, 2014, http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/article1979349.html; National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States, Thomas H. Kean, and Lee Hamilton. 2004. The 9/11 Commission report: final report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States. (Washington, D.C.): 153, http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/911/report/911Report.pdf. Nonetheless, Nashiri was known to have celebrated the success of the attack with another al-Qaeda associate in October 2002.“The Guantanamo Docket: Abd al Rahim al Nashiri: JFT – GTMO Assessment,” New York Times, accessed August 16, 2017, 6, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/projects/guantanamo/detainees/10015-abd-al-rahim-al-nashiri/documents/11.

Nashiri was captured in November 2002, while living in the United Arab Emirates. As of November 21, he was in U.S. custody.“The Guantanamo Docket: Abd al Rahim al Nashiri: JFT – GTMO Assessment,” New York Times, accessed August 16, 2017, 6, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/projects/guantanamo/detainees/10015-abd-al-rahim-al-nashiri/documents/11. After his capture, Nashiri was kept in several undisclosed CIA black sites in Eastern Europe, including in Poland, Romania, and Lithuania, where he was subjected to various torture techniques, including waterboarding.Peter Beaumont, “Bombshell report on CIA interrogations is leaked,” Guardian, August 22, 2009, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2009/aug/22/cia-interrogation-report-leaked; Charlie Savage, “Accused Al-Qaeda Leader Is Arraigned in U.S.S. Cole Bombing,” New York Times, November 9, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/10/us/abd-al-rahim-al-nashiri-arraigned-in-uss-cole-bombing.html; Charlie Savage, “C.I.A. Torture Left Scars on Guantanamo Prisoner’s Psyche for Years,” New York Times, March 17, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/17/us/politics/guantanamo-bay-abd-al-rahim-al-nashiri.html. Nashiri was transferred to Guantanamo Bay on September 4, 2006.“The Guantanamo Docket: Abd al Rahim al Nashiri: JFT – GTMO Assessment,” New York Times, accessed August 16, 2017, 6, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/projects/guantanamo/detainees/10015-abd-al-rahim-al-nashiri/documents/11. That December, the JTF concluded that Nashiri posed a high risk and was of high intelligence value.“The Guantanamo Docket: Abd al Rahim al Nashiri: JFT – GTMO Assessment,” New York Times, accessed August 16, 2017, 2, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/projects/guantanamo/detainees/10015-abd-al-rahim-al-nashiri/documents/11.

In February 2009, the United States dropped its charges against Nashiri after an order from President Barack Obama to freeze the proceedings of all cases involving Guantanamo inmates pending their review.“U.S. drops Guantanamo charges per Obama order,” Reuters, February 5, 2009, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-guantanamo-dropped-idUSTRE5150IL20090206. On April 20, 2011, federal prosecutors reopened the case and levied eleven different charges against Nashiri related to his direction of the USS Cole attack and other al Qaeda plots, with the intent of seeking the death penalty.Carol Rosenberg, “Pentagon seeks death for accused USS Cole bomber,” Miami Herald,  April 20, 2011, http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/guantanamo/article1938015.html. In July 2011, Nashiri’s lawyers moved to have the death penalty revoked as an option, claiming that in using torture on Nashiri, the United States forfeited the right to try, convict, and put him to death.Charley Keyes, “Guantanamo detainee lawyers ask that death penalty case be dropped,” CNN, July 19, 2011, http://edition.cnn.com/2011/CRIME/07/19/guantanamo.detainee/. In September, the Guantanamo war court that would try Nashiri issued nine of the prosecutors’ initial eleven charges against Nashiri for the trial.Carol Rosenberg, “Alleged al Qaida bomber emerges from CIA shadows, waves,” Miami Herald, November 9, 2011, http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/guantanamo/article1938976.html.

Nashiri made his first court appearance on November 9, 2011, for his arraignment.Carol Rosenberg, “Alleged al Qaida bomber emerges from CIA shadows, waves,” Miami Herald, November 9, 2011, http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/guantanamo/article1938976.html. The start of Nashiri’s trial has since been repeatedly delayed owing to efforts by the defense to argue against the legitimacy of the case and to acquire evidence about his torture while in CIA detention.Carol Rosenberg, “In a first, former CIA captive appeals Guantanamo trial to Supreme Court,” Miami Herald, March 18, 2017, http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/guantanamo/article139424468.html. In February 2013, the court heard testimony from Dr. Vincent Iacopino, an expert on torture, in light of the defense’s allegations that Nashiri suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder from his CIA interrogations.Carol Rosenberg, “Judge orders mental health exam for waterboarded Guantánamo captive,” Miami Herald, February 4, 2013, http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/guantanamo/article1946950.html. In December 2014, Nashiri submitted a petition for habeas corpus, claiming that that the attempt to try him in a war court was unlawful given that Nashiri’s criminal actions did not take place in the context of a recognized war due to claims that at the time, the armed conflict between the United States and al-Qaeda had not yet officially begun.“Al-Nashiri v. Obama, 76 F. Supp. 3d 218,” District Court for the District of Columbia, December 29, 2014, https://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?q=In+re+Al-Nashiri&hl=en&as_sdt=2006&case=17913061328848492746&scilh=0; Jonathan Hafetz, “The DC Circuit’s Latest Ruling in Al-Nashiri: Why the Military Commissions Cannot Escape the Taint of CIA Torture,” Just Secturity, September 9, 2016, https://www.justsecurity.org/32820/dc-circuits-latest-ruling-al-nashiri-military-commissions-escape-taint-cia-torture/.

In August 2016, a panel of judges from the United States Court of Appeals rejected the defense’s appeals to have Nashiri prosecuted in a civilian court instead of a military court, stating that the case had to run its course before Nashiri could appeal his conviction.Charlie Savage, “C.I.A. Torture Left Scars on Guantanamo Prisoner’s Psyche for Years,” New York Times, March 17, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/17/us/politics/guantanamo-bay-abd-al-rahim-al-nashiri.html. In March 2017, newly declassified documents from the National Security Council revealed that Nashiri suffers from long-term psychological damage from torture.Charlie Savage, “C.I.A. Torture Left Scars on Guantanamo Prisoner’s Psyche for Years,” New York Times, March 17, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/17/us/politics/guantanamo-bay-abd-al-rahim-al-nashiri.html.

In May 2018, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that the Romanian government had violated the rights of Nashiri by hosting one of the CIA “black sites” where he was detained and reportedly tortured. The ECHR characterized his 2003-2005 detention in Romania as an “extremely harsh detention regime” where he suffered “inhumane treatment . . . which Romania had enabled by co-cooperating with the CIA.” The ruling held that Nashiri’s detention in Romania was in contravention of Article Three of the European Convention on Human Rights, “Prohibition of Torture,” and awarded Nashiri damages in the amount of €100,000 ($117,000).“Lithuania and Romania Complicit in CIA Torture – European Court,” BBC News, May 31, 2018, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-44313905.

On April 16, 2019, the District of Columbia Circuit Court threw out more than two years’ worth of decisions issued by the military judge overseeing the U.S. government’s death penalty case against Nashiri. The decision stemmed from concern that the military judge on the case, Colonel Vance Spaeth, failed to disclose a potential conflict of interest. The situation was found “especially troubling” to Nashiri’s due process rights, and the court invalidated all of the judge’s decisions on the Nashiri case between November 2015 and February 2018.Carol Rosenberg, “Court Rejects 2 Years of Judge’s Decisions in Cole Tribunal,” New York Times, April 16, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/16/us/politics/cole-bombing-case-judge.html.

On May 18, 2021, the military judge presiding over the case agreed to consider information obtained during Nashiri’s torture by CIA interrogators to support an argument in pretrial proceedings at Guantánamo Bay. It was the first publicly known time that prosecutors had been allowed to use information gained from torture in the proceedings at Guantánamo Bay.Carol Rosenberg, “Judge Permits Information from C.I.A. Torture in Terror Case,” New York Times, June 3, 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/03/us/politics/cia-torture-terror-guantanamo-bay.html.

 
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