Extraordinary Popular Delusions

"Men… think in herds … they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one."

Tag: guardian

Beware spooks bearing gifts

There’s much in yesterday’s batch of Snowden revelations that still needs to be explained fully – this blog post by Matthew Green offers the most useful analysis I’ve seen so far.

In the meantime, this paragraph from the New York Times’ version of the story (as tweeted by Trevor Timm) caught my eye:

Even agency programs ostensibly intended to guard American communications are sometimes used to weaken protections. The N.S.A.’s Commercial Solutions Center, for instance, invites the makers of encryption technologies to present their products to the agency with the goal of improving American cybersecurity. But a top-secret N.S.A. document suggests that the agency’s hacking division uses that same program to develop and “leverage sensitive, cooperative relationships with specific industry partners” to insert vulnerabilities into Internet security products.

This caught my eye because it reminded me that, just this summer MI5 and GCHQ offered a “cyber-health check” to all FTSE 350 companies as a prelude to “an in-depth discussion with each company’s audit firm about areas in which a company may be particularly vulnerable.” In response to this announcement, John Colley, managing director of (ISC)², a membership body for information security professionals, questioned whether the methodology of the “health check” – asking company chairs, rather than technicians, to fill out a questionnaire – was likely to be draw out a well-informed response:

Logically, infosecurity professionals are better placed to provide such information as they are dealing with security issues on a day-today basis, they have knowledge of the exact security measures in place within their organisation and insight into areas where more investment is needed as they closely monitor the evolving threat landscape, and so are more likely to provide the relevant and accurate data.

Colley went on to note that it was not clear if audits were mandatory and sounded a note of caution over what might happen to data the authorities went over the heads of security professionals to obtain:

It is also unclear as to what the GCHQ and MI5 will do with the information revealed by these cyber-audits.  In this age of state sponsored cyber-attacks and PRISM, there are great sensitivities surrounding governments’ objectives for accessing data.

The “cyber-health check” is just one of a number of initiatives central government has recently launched in the area of cyber-crime, several of which are aimed at private companies. Some of this activity may be well intentioned, no doubt, but we also know from yesterday’s reports that GCHQ have a specific programme that focuses on compromising VPNs, the means by which many large companies enable employees to securely access their systems from outside the office:

By 2010, the Edgehill program, the British counterencryption effort, was unscrambling VPN traffic for 30 targets and had set a goal of an additional 300.

Ongoing revelations about Anglo-American attempts to undermine the fabric of online security make it difficult to assume good faith in this area. It is certainly interesting that the initial approach of the “cyber-health check” is being made to senior corporate positions, rather than those in the best position to weigh up the potential risks of such an approach.  Ultimately, if security of information is a selling point for any FTSE 350 company, they might be well advised to be wary of spooks bearing questionnaires and promises of audits.

Update (9/9)

This post started with a link to Matthew Green’s excellent discussion of the latest NSA revelations. Today it has emerged that the author has come under pressure to remove his post from the servers of his employer (Johns Hopkins University). The mirrored version of the post on university servers has in fact been removed.  It is not clear from where the impetus for this move originated, but Green has said that “this isn’t my dean’s fault.”

While there is no reason to suspect that Matthew Green’s post will disappear from Blogger, it is sensible to take precautions. The first link in the previous paragraph will take you to an archived version of the post.

Update II (10/9)

The move from John Hopkins became a textbook example of the Streisland effect – and it does not look like direct external pressure was involved. Ars Technica provides a comprehensive account here.

Update III (24/9)

Australia’s Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) is taking a different approach (“Unlike the UK government’s cyber security evaluation centre, the ACSC’s offer to the private sector will not focus on vetting technology equipment”), inviting private business to co-locate within their new headquarters.

A senior analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, Dr Tobias Feakin, welcomed the move to integrate private firms into the new cyber operations centre, but said companies would have to be “willing to share data with government, otherwise momentum will be lost and they won’t keep their focus on such efforts”.

#Miranda: Where is the UK Government getting its numbers from?

A few days ago I blogged on hints Glenn Greenwald made about witness testimony the UK Government was due to give in court about its grounds for continuing examination of electronic material confiscated from David Miranda.

In that blog, I suggested that if the UK Government really had only managed to decrypt “something like 75 documents”, it cast their assertions about the number of documents Miranda was carrying in a rather different light. Many news organisations have taken the “58,000 documents” figure as fact. But what is it really based on?

The court hearing was heard yesterday afternoon and, at its conclusion, Government lawyers released the testimony of Oliver Robbins, a senior civil servant who has held intelligence related positions in the Cabinet Office under the present and last governments. His is the securocrat’s voice par excellence.

At the outset, it should be noted that Robbins’ testimony isn’t the court filing Greenwald was referring to in the comment that prompted my last blog. That, it transpires, was a separate statement by Detective Superintendent Caroline Goode, from the Metropolitan Police’s Counter-Terrorism Command. Goode’s statement has not been released in full, but sections from it have been reported in the press. The fullest account of Goode’s statement, from which many of the others are drawn, is this Reuters piece.

Let’s look at what we know of Goode’s reported statement first.

Caroline Goode’s evidence

Use of TrueCrypt

Detective Superintendent Goode said that the information on the external hard drive was encrypted by a system called “True Crypt [sic],” which she said “renders the material extremely difficult to access.”

This is useful information. First of all, note the use of the word “access” to mean “access in readable form” and that Goode’s comments relate to just one of the devices taken from Miranda.

TrueCrypt is widely used encryption software that is free to use and download; many of those reading this blog will be familiar with its features. For those who aren’t, the TrueCrypt homepage describes what this software does (I’ve preserved the hyperlinks to more detailed resources on the Truecrypt website for those who want to read further):

Main features:

  • Creates a virtual encrypted disk within a file and mounts it as a real disk.

  • Encrypts an entire partition or storage device such as USB flash drive or hard drive.

  • Encrypts a partition or drive where Windows is installed (pre-boot authentication)

  •            (…)
  • Provides plausible deniability, in case an adversary forces you to reveal the password: Hidden volume (steganography) and hidden operating system.

Knowing what TrueCrypt does is useful because it gives us a good basis on which to assess the validity of subsequent statements. Note that TrueCrypt encrypts entire hard drives, or portions of them, rather than individual files. An area of a hard drive that has been encrypted with TrueCrypt is very much like a container you can drop files into. You need a password to open the container before you can access the files within it. This container is often called a TrueCrypt file but it can also be called a TrueCrypt volume.

60 GB of data and only a third of it “accessed”

Goode said the hard drive contained around 60 gigabytes of data, “of which only 20 have been accessed to date.” She said that she had been advised that the hard drive contains “approximately 58,000 UK documents which are highly classified in nature, to the highest level.”

Note first of all that Goode is still discussing only one of David Miranda’s electronic devices – an external hard drive . She then notes that only a 20GB portion of that external hard drive has been “accessed” – which either means that the remaining 40GB data is inaccessible (presumably because it is contained within one or more encrypted TrueCrypt volumes), or that the police simply haven’t got around to examining them. Given that Goode’s colleagues have now had access to that external hard drive for nearly two weeks, the former possibility is presumably the more likely of the two.

Incidentally, there is nothing in Goode’s statement to say that we’re dealing with a 60GB hard drive. The external hard drive could just as well be one of larger capacity holding only 60GB of data.

Finally, Goode “has been advised” about what the hard drive as a whole contains. This is not knowledge that she has determined herself, independently, from access to those 20GB of data. It seems odd that Goode’s reported statement about the content of the drive, including the 40GB of data she has not been able to “access”, does not rely to any extent on the 20GB she has.

“Only 75 documents have been reconstructed

Goode said the process to decode the material was complex and that “so far only 75 documents have been reconstructed since the property was initially received.”

This is the statement that Glenn hinted at earlier this week.

“Reconstructed” is a strange word for Goode to use. The most natural interpretation is to see “reconstructed” as a synonym for “decrypted” or “put into a form that can be read”, although this doesn’t really fit in with the idea of a “complex” process. They may not have the technical nous of Edward Snowden, but I assume that Counter Terrorism Command are familiar with the process of mounting an encrypted TrueCrypt volume and typing in a password.

So what else could Goode mean here? It’s easy to exclude a few possibilities: even if the Met and GCHQ were trying very hard to open an encrypted volume by brute force, they wouldn’t be able to individually decrypt the files within it one by one.

What Goode could mean is that analysts have been able to recover deleted files from unallocated space on the hard drive (space that isn’t being used for data now, but may have been in the past). That, at least, is more of a fit for the idea of a “complex process.”

Let’s leave the vagueness about where the files came from to one side for the moment.  Are there any other insights we can draw from Goode’s statement?

The first thing to note is that 75 documents out of an estimated total of 58,000 is an absolutely tiny proportion. It is difficult to see how such a minute sample could give a true indication of the entire collection of material held unless one or more of those decrypted files served as a kind of index to the whole. Indeed, if the files have been reconstructed from unallocated space – meaning they had previously been deleted – then they may tell you even less about what is currently on the drive.

There’s a further ambiguity when Goode talks about “the property” – is she referring to the external hard drive here, or Miranda’s confiscated belongings as a whole?  If the latter is the case, then it is by no means certain that the “accessed” 20GB portion of the external hard drive contains any documents at all – those 75 could have been obtained from elsewhere.

If we take the opposing view and suppose that Goode’s “the property” means only the external hard drive discussed previously, then those 75 documents came from the “accessible” 20GB portion of the external hard drive or were recovered from unallocated space. Caroline Goode’s evidence could just as easily mean one of these scenarios as the other: it is remarkable for the range of possibilities it does not exclude.

Summary of Caroline Goode’s evidence

Caroline Goode’s evidence suggests that David Miranda’s hard drive contains a TrueCrypt volume or volumes of a total size of 40GB that UK police have no access to. The 20GB encrypted portion of Miranda’s external hard drive that the police have been able to access contains, at most, 75 files. It is possible that some – or even all – of those files came from other devices, or from unallocated space on the same device.

Goode’s statements about the remainder of the documents do not seem to be based on insights gained from the 75. This would tend to support Glenn Greenwald’s assertion that UK police have not been able to access anything sensitive. It certainly does not clarify how the total figure of 58,000 documents the Home Office has asserted is on Miranda’s external hard drive has been arrived at.

Oliver Robbins’ evidence

What follows is a close analysis of Oliver Robbins’ testimony – and I do think it deserves to be looked at very closely indeed. There is much in Robbins’ statement that deserves detailed analysis but, for the purposes of this blog post, I will restrict my attention to Robbins’ comments on the UK Government’s access to, and analysis of, the Miranda data.

Indefinite room for ambiguity.

[in justifying why the Government needs “continuing access” to the material seized from Miranda] … no information that has so far been analysed by Her Majesty’s Government (“HMG”) has identified a journalist source or has contained any items prepared by a journalist with a view to publication. The information that has been accessed consists entirely of misappropriated material in the form of approximately 58,000 highly classified intelligence documents. [para 6]

The first thing to note here is that Robbins’ use of the word “accessed” is different from Goode’s. As we saw above, when Goode talks about data “accessed” she means data that can be accessed in readable form. Robbins’ use of the word is broader because his witness statement is making an argument about the Government’s need for “continuing access” [para 5] to all the material seized from Miranda, including that which has not been decrypted. Robbins’ use of “access” therefore more closely corresponds to the idea of physical access to the  devices themselves. This is confusing.

Robbins goes on to talk about a subset of  the information that has been “analysed.” We are not told whether this means analysis of encrypted information, but given that he goes on to make statements as to the content of this information, it is likely to be the case that this information can be read in some form. What Robbins says about this analysed material is that none of it “has identified a journalist source” and neither does it contain “items prepared by a journalist with a view to publication.”

Of course, Robbins’ purpose here is to reject the idea that the Miranda material contains anything that should be withheld from examination, but It’s worth noting that the category of data which meets those two stipulations of his is quite a wide one: it includes shopping lists, youtube videos of cats and many other items of limited relevance to national security.

What Robbins says next is interesting: he moves straight from a limited description of a small subset of data to make a claim about the entirety of the Miranda material (“that has been accessed”). Putting to one side for the moment the ambiguity about whether Robbins is really talking about Goode’s external hard drive here or the Miranda devices in total, It is not at all clear on what he is basing this rather striking claim.

Let’s think about this situation in a different context. Imagine if you had a bookcase that, apart from a couple of volumes, consisted only of books with unopened pages. What Robbins says would be like asserting that all the books in the bookcase are illustrated, purely on the basis that, of the two books you can examine without a penknife, neither was printed in London or inscribed with the owner’s name. It is certainly a claim that can be made, but not one that deserves to be taken particularly seriously.

Wait, so it’s not your assertion after all?

I am advised that the data recovered from the claimant is almost certain to contain some of the material passed by Mr Snowden to Ms Poitras and Mr Greenwald. Much of the material is encrypted. However, among the unencrypted documents recovered from the claimant was a piece of paper that included the password for decrypting one of the encrypted files on the external hard drive recovered from the claimant. I have been briefed that the authorities have therefore been able to examine the data contained in this file. They have been able to determine that the external hard drive contains approximately 58,000 highly classified UK intelligence documents. Work continues to access the content of the other files on the hard drive and the USB sticks. [para 13]

There’s a lot in this paragraph, so let’s take it line by line. The first sentence seems to answer the question posed in the previous section: Robbins’ assertion about the content of the Miranda data is second hand after all (“I am advised”).  It is also indefinite (“almost certain”) which seems to contradict the conclusive phrasing (“the data that has been accessed… consists entirely of”) of the previous paragraph.

Once again, this is confusing – so let’s try to resolve the contradiction. Is it possible that, when Robbins talks about “the data that has been accessed” in paragraph 6 he is slipping between the broad interpretation of the word “accessed” he has used in his previous sentences and the narrower sense – that of data that can be read and analysed – used by Caroline Goode? It’s much easier, after all, to be definite about the content of documents you’re able to read than ones you cannot.

I’m not sure this works either. Goode testified that the material “accessed” in the sense that it could be “analysed” amounted to a 20GB portion of an external hard drive, which may contain all, or maybe only some, of a total of 75 documents. To say this consists “entirely of misappropriated material in the form of approximately 58,000 highly classified intelligence documents” is just a nonsense.  Robbins must therefore be using the word “accessed” in his usual sense and what he says is inconsistent with his previous paragraph.

Does the rest of paragraph 13 make things any clearer? Certainly, the next three sentences are straightforward. We know that “much of the information” carried by Miranda was encrypted and that Caroline Goode and her colleagues were able to decrypt one encrypted file on the external hard drive. By Goode’s own account, she and her colleagues were able to examine the data contained within this file. These sentences are consistent both with Robbins’ own statement and those of others.

What follows is much more troublesome. “They [the authorities] have been able to determine that the external hard drive contains approximately 58,000 highly classified UK intelligence documents.” The analysis of Goode’s statement shows that she and and her colleagues could not derive the presence of “58,000… documents” from what she found – and she didn’t claim to have done.

But have I missed something here? Could it be that Robbins’ “they” isn’t referring to Goode and her police colleagues at all? Could he be referring to different “authorities” altogether? Might they be the same authorities who “advised” both Robbins and  Goode of “58,000 documents” figure and on whom both rely?  I think that is likely and, although a casual reader may feel that the two sentences below bear a logical connection, in fact they do not:

I have been briefed that the authorities have therefore been able to examine the data contained in this file. They have been able to determine that the external hard drive contains approximately 58,000 highly classified UK intelligence documents.

In my opinion, this comes close to being a misleading statement. Oliver Robbins could equally well have expressed himself as follows:

I have been briefed that the authorities have therefore been able to examine the shopping lists and pictures of cats contained in this file. Independently of this, others have been able to determine that the external hard drive contains approximately 58,000 highly classified UK intelligence documents.

GCHQ’s assessment

And what of that troublesome “58,000… documents” claim? The source for Robbins’ second authority becomes clearer in his next paragraph:

On the basis of GCHQ assessments, the totality of UK intelligence documents that would potentially have been accessible to Mr Snowden while we was working at the NSA is consistent with the volume of documents which we know to be on the external hard drive. [para 14]

This appears to be the best candidate for what the “58,000 documents” figure is actually based on. But what does it amount to? Let’s turn to “the volume of documents which we know to be on the external hard drive” first.

What we know about the external hard drive is that it is divided into at least two encrypted files, one of 20GB which the police are able to access and a further encrypted file (maybe more than one) of 40GB size. Because the police have access to the decrypted 20GB file, they can make an assessment about the number of documents within it (a maximum of 75). All that can be said about the other file(s) is that they have a total size of 40GB.

An encrypted file’s size is not dependent on the amount of data it contains.  A 10GB encrypted file could contain 10kb data or 6 GB data – unless you can decrypt the file, you have no way of telling which is the case.

As such, GCHQ’s statement is almost meaningless. You could say that the maximum volume of documents an encrypted file could contain is 40GB – but that’s something you could say of any 40GB encrypted file. GCHQ’s assertion about “the volume of contents which we know to be on the external hard drive” appears to play on an ambiguity in the word volume (one can talk about a volume of documents, but it’s also a synonym for an encrypted file) in order to hide that it has no basis in fact.

In essence, what GCHQ seems to be saying here is that what it assesses to be “the totality of UK intelligence documents… potentially accessible to Mr Snowden” would fit on a 40 GB hard drive. That logic, if applied widely, could lead to an awful lot of Schedule 7 detentions at our airports and it’s an assessment made entirely independently of the Miranda data.

So, where does that leave the “58,000 documents” figure? Nowhere good. It looks like nothing more than a worst-case scenario GCHQ based on guesswork but presented as indubitable fact.


Neither of the witness statements presented by the UK Government in Home Office v Miranda are adequately precise about the matters they raise.  Cryptographers have developed a vocabulary that is adequate to expressing these subjects with clarity – when they talk about “plain text” and “cypher text”, others understand what they mean. In contrast, when Caroline Goode and Oliver Robbins use terms like “access” and “analysis” in their statements, there is significant ambiguity in what they mean. This ambiguity leaves real potential for confusion; it also presents unacceptable opportunities for others to be misled.

I am concerned by the extent of the ambiguity in the statements presented in Home Office v Miranda. The UK Government has represented itself in language that is so vague that it may not have a case at all, yet it has presented its case in the strongest way possible – and has been accepted as such, without much demur, in much of the media.

I think it’s worth taking a moment to reflect on this. If a group of witness statements took a similar approach to legal issues as these have to technical ones, if they had eschewed technical terms in favour of ambiguous natural language and took advantage of that fact to obfuscate as these have, I think those imaginary witness statements would have received a much more critical reception.  I am concerned that our courtrooms and our newsrooms may not be equipped to cut through some of this confusion and dubious statements may be allowed to stand without receiving proper scrutiny. It is not difficult to see how parties could take advantage of this, if they wished to do so.


While I know what TrueCrypt is, I am by no means a technical expert. My intention in this piece is to show how ambiguous the UK Government’s statements are, rather than put together a definitive account of what happened – I’m not sure that’s even possible on the evidence available.

The Q&As that follow below are an outlet for some of the fun speculative stuff I couldn’t justify putting in this post.

If there’s something you think I’ve got wrong in this piece, I’d be very interested to hear about it. Please email me or leave a comment below.


Have Greenwald, Miranda and Poitras been guilty of “very poor judgement in their security arrangements”?

Travelling with a password written on a piece of paper isn’t great. Transiting through Heathrow may have been inadvisable. But, if – as seems very possible – nothing of significance has been  compromised you have to say that, on the face it it, not really.

Given that the Cabinet Office expressed its worries to the Guardian in terms of their ability to protect information from cyber attack, I think it’s relatively clear why the Government would like to cast doubt on others’ security practices if possible.

Is the 20GB encrypted file on the external hard drive a dummy volume intended to be surrendered without cost?

The thought has crossed my mind: it would certainly make it easier to explain why David Miranda was found in possession of an encryption key in a UK transit area. I am not sure it is possible to say for sure on the evidence of the statements presented, but I think this falls within the range of possibilities.

Is it possible that one of the 75 files the police have is an index to the rest?

It is possible – and if the case would make the “58,000 documents” figure much more credible – but I think on the balance of probabilities it is unlikely.

Were GCHQ just plucking a number out of the air with that “58,000 documents” thing?

Not entirely. One possibility is that they’ve plucked a number out of the Guardian.

On 2 August, the Guardian printed a fascinating feature article that is based partly on GCHQ’s internal “GCWiki”, making reference to this and many other GCHQ documents. That, and the discussions we know the Cabinet Office have had with the Guardian may have formed the starting point for GCHQ’s worst-case estimate.

Are you sure? They must know what Snowden has!

If the NSA doesn’t know what Snowden has, there’s no reason why GCHQ should.

Oh come on. if we’ve learned anything from the Snowden files it’s that GCHQ and the NSA have other ways of acquiring this kind of information.

Of course. Whether surveillance information is admissible in court is another matter, though, and one we should probably leave to David Miranda’s capable legal team.

Have the media been negligent in reporting the “58,000 documents” figure as fact?



Update (2/9)

This post proved to be quite a popular one, with 7250 page views yesterday alone. It also provoked quite a bit of discussion – I’d like to thank all of those whose contributions prompted me to make the following additions to my Q&A section.

Do you think Miranda was using a hidden volume?

It’s certainly a possibility and the first (pre-publication) draft of this post did in fact make that suggestion. Why did I leave it out? Because while the facts in Goode and Robbins’ statements do not exclude the possibility of a hidden volume, they also do not exclude a number of other possibilities. There’s nothing in the statements analysed to rule out the possibility that, for instance, police found a 20GB .tc file and a 40GB .tc file on that external hard drive but can only open the former.

Of course, this is yet another example of how the two witness statements are not adequately precise.

Why do you rule out the possibility that one of the files police have been able to access is an index to the rest?

I don’t rule it out, I say that – on the balance of probabilities – it is unlikely. Some of the reasons why I continue to think this are covered in this storify. Other very relevant points have been made in the comments section below.

Which media sources have used the 58,000 documents claim?

That’s an easy question to answer. A very cursory examination of articles published on this subject will reveal sources which take the “58,000 documents” claims as fact without even mentioning that they originated from a government witness statement (one, two, three, four).  The number of sources which note the origins of the claim  without subjecting it to any critical assessment is even higher. Critical scrutiny of the Government claims has in fact been strikingly absent, until now.

Has anyone else cast doubt on the Government’s story?

They have  – although, as far as I am aware, mine is the only account which goes through the Government witness statements in detail. Links which I could have included in my original post include this piece from Alan Rusbridger and Friday’s statement from David Miranda’s legal team.


Buried in the comments: Greenwald, Miranda, Clegg and an indefinite number of documents.

After a Snowden-imposed absence of a few days Glenn Greenwald posted a new blog early this morning. Of the items in the blog proper, I can definitely recommend David Carr’s NYT piece on journalists waging the US Government’s war against journalists for them. Unfortunately, the same has largely been true in the UK – in part due to wholly unadmirable, parochial concerns like the ones John Naughton points to here.

But there are a couple of interesting points hidden in the comments that also deserve to be drawn out.

Nick Clegg and the reasons for Miranda’s detention

The issue of whether the detention of David Miranda under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000 was lawful has been the subject of much excellent legal blogging. Pieces I have found particularly useful include those by Jack of Kent, Head of Legal and Adam Wagner. Daniel Isenberg’s roundup of these posts and others is very useful. And on the wider implications of Schedule 7, Tim Hardy’s article  is also well worth a look.

For David Miranda’s nine hour detention at Heathrow to have been lawful, he had to have been detained for the purposes of determining whether he was a ‘terrorist’, under the terms of the Act. Police do not need a reason to suspect someone is a terrorist to use Schedule 7 against them, but those powers must only be used to determine whether in fact they are a terrorist or helping a terrorist. As law and plain language often take divergent paths, there is a debate about how broadly ‘terrorism’ should understood under the terms of the Act – but there isn’t any doubt that uses of Schedule 7 must be justified in this way.

Last Friday the Guardian published a piece by Nick Clegg which merits little comment other than to note how it was edited post-publication. Hidden in the comments to Glenn’s latest piece is an archived copy of the Clegg article as originally published, complete with the now-deleted sentence at the start of paragraph six:

The intent behind detaining Miranda was the same: to retrieve or destroy classified information.

A footnote on the currently available version of the article reads as follows:

• This article was amended on 23 August 2013 after a request from the deputy prime minister’s office based on legal reasons. The footnote was amended on 25 August 2013 to give greater clarity.

Now, I Am Not A Lawyer – or even a legal blogger – but this particular amendment “for legal reasons” doesn’t increase my confidence that Schedule 7 was used in an appropriate way in David Miranda’s case. Just as concerning is that those in positions of power  – not least those who have posed in support of civil liberties in the past – in practice understand, or care, little about what the restrictions on their powers really are. To the extent that, on a point of law that is the talking point of the week, they don’t notice they’ve overstepped the mark until someone pulls them up on it.

Is the UK Government in possession of decrypted Snowden files?

Given that the UK Government, both in overt statements and in freudian slips like that above, has justified its actions in terms of protecting the public from the disclosure of documents of the utmost sensitivity,  I think also it’s worth taking a look at the factual coherence of those statements, regardless of whether they have legal weight or not.

David Miranda was detained at Heathrow for nine hours. During that time, according to his lawyers’ letter prior to legal action (see para 57):

Our client was required to answer numerous questions and to divulge the confidential passwords to his personal computer, telephone and encrypted storage devices.

Note that it is illegal to withhold encryption passwords from police in the UK.

In public comments and legal statements, the Home Office have asserted that Miranda was carrying “tens of thousands of documents… highly sensitive material.” Major media outlets have reported this as fact.

In light of all this, two responses from Glenn Greenwald (first, second) in the comments section of his latest piece are worth noting:

[UK police] haven’t been able to get access to those documents, as they acknowledged today.

In their court filing. I don’t know the exact numbers, but they said they were only able to access something like 75 documents of the tens of thousands they claim he was carrying – and I’d be willing to bet those 75 they claimed they access have absolutely nothing to do with NSA.

A few points to make here – foremost among them that I hope that the Home Office legal submission Glenn refers to makes it into the public domain soon. Secondly, it would make sense that, if indeed David Miranda were carrying journalistic material, he did not also carry the relevant encryption key(s). That would be sensible.

But, that being so, how can the Home Office assert so confidently that Miranda was carrying “thousands of documents”? Unless police have been able to access the file system on one of the devices Miranda was carrying while not being able to access the files themselves, this doesn’t really add up.


For those not aware of them, services like News Sniffer (for some UK publications) and Newsdiffs (US) track the changes in previously-published articles. It turns out that the Clegg article and its subsequent correction coincided with the Guardian changing its main URL, so – in one of those strange internet quirks – it was missed by News Sniffer.  Thanks to @semanticist and @johnleach for drawing that to my attention.

Update II (5/9)

David Allen Green was kind enough to reference this post at Jack of Kent.

Curfew nights and blood-stained days

Today’s Guardian includes a long article by Ahdaf Soueif on Egypt since the fall of Mubarak. Despite being part history, part personal recollection and part sigh for what-could-have-been, it’s the clearest introduction to that very complex situation I’ve seen. I was already sold by the time I got to this bit, near the end:

Also not ours is the confrontation between the official Egyptian media and the old, frayed governments of the west; the Britain that arrests Green party MP Caroline Lucas for taking part in an environmental protest, the US that persecutes the journalist Barrett Brown and convicts Bradley Manning have nothing of value for us. The common struggle of young people everywhere is against the elites enforcing a corrupt system that’s sending the world to hell. It’s just that in some countries, like the UK, there’s more of a margin for life, a margin for doing things without getting shot.

The other article on Egypt I’ve enjoyed reading this week is Mike Giglio and Christopher Dickey’s profile of General Abdel al-Sisi for the Daily Beast. But read the Soueif first.

Of names and pronouns

Chelsea Manning

Chelsea Manning’s contribution to our collective moral development was immense even before her announcement of this morning. Notwithstanding that some of the reaction to Chelsea’s coming out was so grotesque that even Louise Mensch felt moved to object, I have a feeling that what happened this morning will be remembered as a watershed moment.

Chelsea is beginning a 35 year term at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas, in a facility that does not offer hormone therapy  – but that may change as a result of Chelsea’s visibility or, failing that, the legal challenge her counsel has promised to launch. Chelsea is also beginning her sentence in a world where a large number of major media organisations do not feel able to respect a very straightforward and clearly expressed request about names and pronouns.

There’s no general rule that can be drawn about the creditable performances and omissions in the media. The Guardian has been good today, but then so has the Daily Mail. Interestingly, both the Washington Post and Politico felt compelled to explain in detail why they had decided not to respect Chelsea Manning’s clearly stated preference.

Just like the non-availability of hormone therapy in US military prisons – a circumstance out of step with developing norms outside that institution – the confusion that reigned today will not, I think, last for much longer. There are enough people who care about Chelsea Manning to ensure that eventually – and maybe not before too much longer – her wishes are respected. I fully expect that to happen and to change things for those with less of a public platform in years to come.

In the meantime, we have those Politico and WaPo pieces to consider. And I think they are worth considering, if only because we’ll be looking back at them in ten years time with absolute incredulity. By then, I think – I hope – they’ll be collectors’ items.

Update (24/8)

It’s already happening. NPR announced yesterday that they had changed their guidelines and will now be using Chelsea’s preferred name and pronoun.

On a slightly different note, Salon has just published a fascinating article comparing the reaction to Manning’s change of name to Muhammad Ali’s – turns out the New York Times were pretty slow to recognise that one too.

Update II (26/8)

This blog, by Lauren and Helen McNamara – on the former’s experience of being interviewed on this subject – outlines the challenges ahead very clearly.

Update III (27/8)

The New York Times has changed its tune.

“A catastrophe on every level” – Clive Stafford Smith on Guantánamo, transparency and the rule of law

This is a very-slightly-edited version of a webchat that took place on the Guardian’s website this afternoon (Tuesday). Clive Stafford Smith is the Legal Director of Reprieve and has represented many Guantánamo detainees, among them Shaker Aamer, Jamil al Banna, Sami Al Hajj, Sami Al Laithi, Abdul Salam Gaithan Mureef Al Shehry, Moazzam Begg, Omar Deghayes, Jamal Kiyemba, Benyam Mohammed and Hisham Sliti.

Unlike most commentators, Clive Stafford Smith has had access to the full files for a number of detainees and his perspective is therefore very important. His answers cover some pretty eye-opening statistics on the very slight number of cases that have even the faintest case of making it to trial and an espousal of the need for more transparency, notwithstanding certain reservations about the way the UK press has covered the release of the Guantánamo files. I’ve edited several of the questions below in the interests of brevity.

Will the information in the files be sufficient to produce a long-term change in political attitudes to human rights and situations such as Guantanamo?

There’s a lot to this question. I need to be careful up front and say that all I am talking about is the unclassified information, and I cannot mention all the classified stuff that I get to see. But the first issue is that these documents represent only the best case the US Military could come up with against people. Each document is based on literally hundreds of conflicting and often highly unreliable statements. Thus, what you are seeing is well less than 1% of the total.

Then the redactions mean that it is not possible to tell the source of the information. I know from unclassified information (Shaker himself as well as elsewhere), for example, that the bad allegations against Shaker Aamer saying he was big buddies with Bin Laden come exclusively from one of the most notorious informants in Guantánamo who has been totally discredited. Thus, it was rather ironic that the Guardian ran a story on the allegations against Shaker, and another about the unreliability of ISN 252 (the informant) but did not link the two, and thus did not point out that the allegation against Shaker is total drivel (the legal term!). And so on and so forth.

It’s inevitable, even if regrettable, that a number of innocent persons will be caught up in the net with the guilty. They should be compensated, but the errors are not of themselves grounds for closing down the facility. Rather it is a case for better methods for weeding out the innocent at an earlier stage and for a more critical approach to evidence and the way it is gathered.

I can’t agree with you here. You only need evidence, of course, if you’re going to have trials. The problem is that they don’t have trials – of any meaningful nature and for any number of prisoners (4 military cases, including 2 guilty pleas, in 9 years). But it is not a “number of innocent people” – the wikileaks show about 150 prisoners known to be innocent by the US, none of whom got compensation. But the numbers paint a far worse tale – of 779 prisoners, 6 died, 601 have been released after being determined to be “no threat to the US or its coalition partners” and of no intelligence value, 172 remain or whom 82 are cleared for release leaving just 90 who the US thinks should be held (just over 10% of the original total). Of these, the evidence is highly dubious for many, and only 4 have been brought to any kind of trial. It has been a catastrophe on every level – for the prisoners and for the US as well.

What percentage of the information in the documents is true? It appears as though they captors had to justify the illegality of their actions?

You’re right, as I mentioned these 759 (of 779) documents are the best case they think they can make out. It is impossible to put a figure on what proportion of the material is true or false, but the numbers I put up in response to Oldcon tell some of the story. Take the issue of the “London Cell of Al Qaeda” – of the six people meant to be a part of it, only two had ever lived in London, one (my client Mohammed el Gharani – ISN 269) would have been 11 years old at the time and had never left Saudi, and the other three were two Saudis and one Kuwaiti who had nothing to do with London. All this came from one of the notorious informants in Guantánamo and is total nonsense. Yet the Telegraph ran a story as if it was true, and the US held Mohammed for 7 years before a judge threw the case out against him. All that time he should have been in school.

Any chance of Jack Straw being prosecuted for sending UK nationals to be tortured? I know there’s no law against lying to the press, but what about lying to Parliament?

I’m not going to pick on Jack Straw, but there is plenty of information that has come out, and will over the next few weeks, about British knowledge and involvement in some of these issues.

The attorneys in the US who have security clearance are prohibited from seeing the classified documents. Is this the same for UK attorneys and do you also have to have security clearance to represent those at Gitmo?

No we can see the classified documents, but only in the US and we obviously cannot talk about what we see. But in general terms I can say from years’ of experience that these Wikileaks documents are created by a military functionary based on him parsing hundreds of other statements and cherry picking the “best” bits. One source of endless frustration to me is the fact that the US only lets out the “proof” that someone is a bad guy, without letting us speak in public about all the evidence that proves him innocent. This is precisely why we need a far more transparent system. A real justice system.

Looking at the leaked information, what percentage of inmates would you say are in for a legitimate reason (i.e. they were committing terrorist activities or took up arms against the US) and what percentage of inmates are there for non-legitimate reasons (i.e. kept purely for information gathering)?

I have put some of the figures up above. One salient issue is that if you read President Musarraf’s (rather dull) book In the Line of Fire, he boasts that more than half of the prisoners in GTMO were not captured on the battlefield at all, but sold by the Pakistanis.

Let’s take one sample that is easily discussed from the Telegraph today. There is irresponsible journalism where one glosses over inconvenient facts; and there is very irresponsible journalism, where one ignores the facts altogether. Today’s Telegraph falls into the latter category. “At least 35 Guantánamo Bay inmates fought against the West after being indoctrinated in Britain, leaked files disclose”: is the headine today. They say that 9 of these are British nationals and 8 are British residents. They do not identify the other 18.

Turning first to the 17 who are known, there is one fact that is patently clear – none, not one, has been shown to have fought in Afghanistan against the US or its allies. All have been freed. None has “gone back to extremism” as if they were ever there. Indeed, I am not aware of anyone having a parking ticket.

The most outrageous defamation involves Jamal al Harith who, far from fighting the US, had been held by the Taliban as a suspected spy for the UK, and was tortured by them. He was then taken to GTMO and badly mistreated to learn … intelligence on how the Taliban treat their prisoners.

Now the Telegraph does not name the other 18, but I have a pretty good suspicion who they are, and again their article is mindless nonsense.

Does operating an extra-judicial concentration camp not amount to crimes against humanity?

I suspect it does, but you have to have a court where you can prosecute. The US has not signed onto the ICC (International Criminal Court) and so we have no venue. While we are on the subject, it is important to note the broader issue: speaking as an American (which I am, a dual national) I fail to understand how we can proselytize for democracy and the rule of law while refusing to respect it – refusing to join the ICC (or, indeed, sign up to any human rights convention that can be enforced against us, including the Convention Against Torture), insisting on a veto at the UN, and so forth. We have to do better, and practice what we preach.

What in your opinion were the systemic faults at Guantanamo that led to such a debacle in terms of the evidence for holding the detainees being so faulty?

Hey Joyce, I am afraid that is a long topic. I have just finished a book on the subject that I shall inflict on the world soon (albeit about the justice system generally rather than just GTMO), and in a word it is that we have precisely the wrong people doing many jobs. Those who are in law enforcement or intelligence are not wickedly conspiring to make errors, but they tend to be people who believe the worst about anyone, and they therefore buy all the nonsense that informants feed them – which means we make very foolish decisions. It is a long discussion as I say….

Can you honestly see Obama being able to close down Guantanamo – given that even those who we might believe have done bad things appear to have been tortured, making any trial near impossible.

No, I think you’re right, he won’t close it. I hate to be too critical, as I voted for him and I feel that I would screw up being president much worse than he has, but he missed his opportunity early on and allowed the Republicans to make GTMO into a political football. Sadly, the US is out of touch with the rest of the world, and a majority still think that keeping GTMO open is a good thing for the world (and for the US), which is madness.

Clive, do you know why only some of the full files relating to British ex-detainees have been disclosed by the Guardian/Wikileaks? Related to this, do you know whether the Guardian liaised with any of the detainees before disclosing this very sensitive personal information.

Actually none of the “full files” have been released at all. The most you get is about 10-15 pages of their summary as I describe above. The full file of a case I am working on in the US at the moment runs to perhaps 10,000 pages. So this is a tiny portion of what is really there.

The Guardian has tried to be attuned to the sensitive issues – there is no point naming informants, for example, as it only makes their lives harder, and many people informed on others (in ways that were patently false) for very human if unfortunate reasons (if you or I were tortured, we’d do it I suspect). But I will say that some stories have been very unwise, such as the front page article today about one of our clients being an MI6 collaborator. That kind of thing can get someone killed very quickly, more often by an oppressive North African government (viz Gaddafi et alia) but sometimes by the real extremists who do exist out there.

This is an example of the failure of democracy, Obama ordered the prison to be closed yet somehow it never was…the people who ruled the country under Bush still rule the country under Obama. This will not change in a world where profits of war are too high to avoid.

Actually, I think this is an example of Democracy (with a capital D) at work, and why one does not really want a pure Democracy (which some Greeks considered a potentially tyranny) but rather a Republic, where there a checks and balances. The majority of the US wants to keep GTMO because dubious characters like Sarah Palin have scared them. Those who read the Telegraph today might have been similarly scared. The purpose of a judiciary is to protect the weak individual against the fearmongering that sometimes inspires the majority.

Is there any other judicial system that can hear these cases? It’s really an outrage that these innocent men cannot be represented in a fair, unbiased, forum rather than the proposed Military commissions. Is there a possibility after the release of these documents that the illegality of the process of arrest, the torture, the facility, etc., be brought before a world court?

We are gradually getting the cases before US federal courts on habeas. The figures are pretty shocking. Rumsfeld said all the prisoners were the “worst of the worst.” By the time we got into court, the number had already been reduced by about 500, so the remainder should be the “worst of the worst of the worst”. Yet on the latest figures, 34 of 53 (that is a whopping 64 percent) have been found wholly innocent by the federal courts – and that is with a low standard of proof (preponderance rather than beyond a reasonable doubt), using secret evidence the prisoner cannot see, etc. It is quite an indictment. One would be better off tossing a coin than depending on US military intelligence.

Do you think that the leaked files will make authorities less willing to keep accurate written records that relate to their human rights abuses? I know that this Q & A is about the leaked files. But Guantanamo is just part of the picture. It seems incredibly likely that the US will continue to detain people around the world without a fair trial if they think that they pose a serious threat to US national security. How can we stop prisoners disappearing into floating warship prisons and other hidden places, that are harder to detect?

I should say that I have to follow the rules when representing people and I do scrupulously, as I want to keep on doing it. But personally I think there is vastly too much secrecy in the world. We are using “national security” and “privacy” to cover up some terrible government actions. Even with the expenses scandal, if the Govt had its way the stuff about duck ponds would have been redacted as being “private”. So while they might cover up more if they knew it was coming out, they would also be vastly more afraid of misbehaving. Well worth the trade off, I believe, were I in charge.

In addition to those held in Guantanamo, what is your estimate for the numbers held elsewhere around the world on similar grounds either directly by the US or on behalf of the US?

Good question. We need constantly to be anticipating the next human rights abuses, and I can tell you it is now Drones. While there are proxy detention issues (no time for that now), the US has decided holding people in GTMO is too much of a problem, so they are now firing drones to kill them. No Pakistan taken prisoner to Bagram in two years, that I know of, yet now 2000+ killed in videogames conducted from California. Very worrying and something Reprieve is now getting deep into.

Who in you opinion headed up the faulty systems that led to both the poor treatment of detainees and inadequate evidential requirements for their detention?

The same people who thought torture would get useful intel fast – the armchair soldiers in Washington. I interviewed some of them for Ch4 one time, and was shocked by their naïve approach. Unfortunately, many politicians have had little experience of the real world out there.

I am reluctantly reaching the conclusion that if Guantanamo (and Bagram, etc.) are to be shut down, the pressure is going to have to come from the international community. I wonder what you think of that assessment and I wonder what we could hope for from other governments and, indeed, citizens in other nations to finally press the American government to close Guantanamo. At present, it certainly appears that Obama and the Congress are prepared to keep this gulag open indefinitely.

You’re right. We thought from the start that we had to pitch to an audience that would listen, and that was less the US than Europe and elsewhere. But ultimately we still have to get the US to close the place, and it has become harder since we got all the Europeans (except Shaker Aamer, who is a British resident) home. Unfortunately nearly 50% of the remaining prisoners are Yemeni, and nobody in the US cares about Yemen. So write to me about what you’re going to do about it. Email is: cstaffordsmith@gmail.com.

Much was made at the time of American efforts to find countries to “sponsor” released inmates. How successful (or not) were those efforts?

We have had a project working on that for several years. It’s tough as the US works against itself on this. While Obama has tried to find places to take people, the Republicans have gone around trying to prove that released prisoners have caused trouble (to try to show they were not so wrong in the first place). I am proud of the fact that of our Reprieve clients nobody has caused the least squeak of trouble, and that Obama just released a report saying that only 3/68 (4%) Guantanamo prisoners he released have done anything bad since release. That is the truth, and far far better than any US prison on the mainland; but it is hard to sell it to countries that have little to gain by taking prisoners, and a lot to lose if the tabloids pretend everyone is a bad guy. These leaks will make our job harder as now all the bad stuff is out there about each guy, while none of the evidence proving their innocence has been released.

Is knowing that a great deal of wrong has gone on [through info leaks] in Guantanamo make any difference to US policy in the short term, considering the hold of right wing politicians in Washington?
 Aren’t the practices in GTMO simply the emulation of what goes in other prisons all over the USA to some extent?

Overall, despite the problems the leaks have caused us in certain cases, a small part of the truth coming out is probably helpful. But we need a full inquiry in the US that can look at all the evidence because … you can’t learn from history if you don’t know what that history is. On the second point, GTMO is worse than any death row I have been to (and there are many) as the prisoners are so hopeless, held without trial, without hope of release, with a new congressional ruling that they cannot be released without specific congressional approval (the kind of law we condemned 400 years ago).

Our justice system is one based on the presumption of innocence, but reading about the detainees in Guantanamo and also some in the UK those suspected of terrorism are being detained on the presumption of guilt. Because of this even those released without trial or compensation for their mistreatment may still be thought of as guilty. If the US is unable to proceed in within a fair and transparent justice system will this not give credence to the Wikileaks files and the dogma of terrorism groups.

I would not mind even a presumption of guilt so much if only I had a fair place to hold a trial. But it is an irrebuttable presumption of guilt.

What will happen with the Aafia Siddiqui case? it to me is one of the more unpalatable examples (not like the rest are wholesome)

Aafia Siddique another in a long line of bullets that the US has shot into its own foot. By not allowing her a fair trial, and giving her 80 years in prison for not killing someone when (private US contractor in Pakistan) Raymond Davis got to use Sharia law to avoid any punishment for killing two people, the US has set back the cause of justice and peace in Pakistan still more.

Do you see a movement in the next 12 months or so by the Obama administration to at least close part of the centre at Guantanamo to try and minimise the political fallout he will inevitably receive during the 2012 Presidential cycle?

The problem is that he dithered and allowed this to become the divisive issue the Republicans wanted. Now there are many reasons he cannot do it. Congress passed laws saying he could have no money to close it, and that he has to get agreement each time a prisoner is released, etc.

Do you think there are any measures that can and should be implemented to deal with the defective performance of the ‘armchair soldiers’, if so what are they?

They need educating, and education is possible even with politicians! Sometimes, though, I am afraid we have to use corporal punishment on them, which involves smacking them about in the courts, as we had to in Binyam Mohamed’s case.

How many Guantanamo Bays are there, i.e, are there any other centres like this that are operating outside of national and international jurisdictions?

172 prisoners held beyond the rule of law in GTMO; 1500 in Bagram. So that is one that has received too little attention, and includes prisoners who were captured by the British as well. But beyond that the US is now using proxy detention much more, where we have someone banged up by the locals (as with our client Sharif Mobley in Yemen) and we rely on them to abuse him. Of course that is not new – Binyam Mohamed could tell you all about his experiences in Pakistan and then Morocco – but it is the preferred method these days.

Do you believe the US can be considered a terrorist state? I ask as some recent actions (i.e. Fallujah, the helicopter attack on reuters journalists and children, and the Drone bombings you mentioned earlier), seem to smack of terrorism and are certainly illegal in any conventional sense. As is Guantanamo for that matter.

The word terrorist is, in my opinion, not a helpful term – whether applied to the US or anyone else. Just as with torture – to say that we condemn torture tends to mean that we do not complain about cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment where it does not fit the definition. It would be better to turn the conversation around, and talk about what we should be doing – positives rather than negatives.

Do you feel that there is evidence to suggest that intelligence was ‘created’ by using torture at Gitmo, in order to build the WMD narrative for the Iraq Invasion?

Of course it has. Ibn Shaikh al Libi is the best example, where he was rendered to Egypt and tortured into saying that Al Q was in league with Saddam. But lots has been made of this in Gitmo too.

If we’re looking at nothing less than crimes against humanity (as you suggest above), including both Guantanamo and proxy detention centres, shouldn’t the UN be doing something other than nothing? Yes, the US is not signed up to the ICC and it has a veto in the Security Council, but what about the Commission for Human Rights and the like? Should right-minded countries give up on the UN?

Look, every institution has its flaws, but those who oppose the EU need to remember that it is better to jaw jaw than war war, and we’ve not fought the Europeans with bloodshed for years now, so it’s been a huge success. And the UN is hugely important. We just have to get the US to see that they will need it in a few years when trying to complain about the Chinese.

I was just wondering what you thought on the lack of habeas corpus in Guantanamo bay following the case of Hamdi v Rumsfeld. I know the decision mainly had an effect on US citizens; but in the obiter of the case the it is espoused that an ‘alleged enemy combatant’ should have have access to habeas corpus (relying on the geneva convention).
Also, do you think that the case sets a dangerous precedent in relation to discrimination between US and non US citizens?

Big question but the US needs to get the notion of human rights as a legal, rather than merely philosophical notion. Constitutional rights may only be for Americans etc, but human rights are obviously for humans. But the US has not signed up to ANY HR convention that is meaningfully enforceable in a court.

Guantánamo Files: The Camp No Records

As posted on twitter earlier today, the release today of inmate records from Guantánamo Bay presents us with the opportunity to investigate something rather important.

On the night of 9-10 June 2006, three Guantánamo inmates died in suspicious circumstances. The official report, from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (a heavily redacted version of which is available here) maintains that all three deaths were due to suicide. A report prepared by Seton Hall University pointed out many difficulties in the NCIS report and military whistleblower Joe Hickman later suggested that the three deaths may have been the result of enhanced interrogation techniques carried out at “Camp No”, a secret facility located just off the main Camp America base. Scott Horton later wrote about this at length for Harpers.

Shaker Aamer is the last individual with British connections (he is a resident) to be held at Guantanamo. As the Guardian reports today (Monday) the British Government has lobbied hard for Aamer’s release and neither they or officials in Saudi Arabia, where Aamer holds citizenship, hold that he has any criminal case to answer. According to testimony given to Aamer’s lawyer and cited by Horton in Harpers, Aamer was also subjected to interrogation techniques of questionable international legality on 9-10th June 2006.

The Guantánamo records for Shaker Aamer and Yasser Talal al-Zahrani, one of the men who died on 9-10 June 2006, have now been released by The Guardian and Wikileaks respectively. Both men are reported as presenting disciplinary concerns (a “high detention risk”). A later reported suicide, Muhammad Ahmad Abdallah Salih Al Hanashi, is also reported to have been a “high detention risk.”

At the very least this appears to warrant further investigation.

The files of the two other inmates who died on the night of 9-10 June 2006 have yet to be released. They are Mani Shaman Turki al-Habardi Al-Utaybi (of Saudi nationality, ISN 588) and Ali Abdullah Ahmed (a Yemeni citizen also known as Salah Ahmed al-Salami, ISN 693). There is one further death reported as suicide, that of Abdul Rahman Ma’ath Thafir al Amri (Saudi Arabia, ISN 199) and bearing in mind that Muhammad Al-Hanashi’s records denotes a “high detention risk” it would be useful to see Abdul al-Amri’s record too, once it is released.

At present, Wikileaks have released a selection of inmate records (which you can search by name, Internment Serial Number (ISN) and nationality) and the Guardian are providing limited possibilities for searching through all 779 records. At the time of writing, you can filter the Guardian records by nationality, relevance to a particular news story and whether they are one of the 172 currently being held at Camp Delta.

In addition to looking at the individual files above, it would be helpful at this point to ascertain what proportion of those at Guantánamo were reported as presenting disciplinary issues (a “high detention risk”) – James Ball at The Guardian has indicated that he might be able to sort this out (see below), so hopefully more on this soon.


The second part of this post may be found here.