by zunguzungu

In response to the release of Guantanamo Bay detainee files,  Nadim Kobeissi tweeted

Mohammed Nasim: detained in Guantanamo because “his name sounded like the name of a Taliban leader.” Such standards.

I scratched around, and here’s what he was talking about:

In Feb 2003, Mohammed Nasim was taken into custody in Afghanistan by the United States military. Two years later, he was deemed to have been arrested in error, and two months later, he was released. From Andy Worthington’s book:

Mohammed Nasim, like Mullah Jalil, was one of the 38 prisoners cleared for release after the CSRTs. Captured in February 2003, he described himself as “a poor man, very disabled: I am a poor farmer with very small kids,” and denied the allegations against him, which centered on claims that he had commanded 25 Taliban fighters for a military commander in Kabul. “Since I knew my left and right hands,” he said, “I never went out of my village.”

Nasim had no idea why he was caught, as he had no obvious enemies, but wondered if it was because his name had been confused with someone else’s. He also explained that, although the Pentagon had listed his date of birth as 1962, he was at least 55 years old, and he was one of numerous prisoners whose requests for outside witnesses to corroborate his story (his uncle and his brother) was turned down because the State Department had not received a reply to his request from the Afghan government within the very short time frame (just two weeks) that was allowed for responses.

His Wikileaked file indicates that this is exactly why he was picked up: his name was thought to be similar to someone else they thought might be someone they might want to arrest. Similar, that is, if “Mohammed” and “Mullah” are similar.

Detainee was apprehended after a name similar to his was heard on a radio intercept thought to be originating from a group of individuals acting as sentries, reporting US troop movements to the Taliban. It has been assessed that detainee is not the same individual mentioned in the intercept. He is not associated with the Taliban and/or Al-Qaida.
–Detainee was captured because he had the same name as one heard on an intercepted radio communication regarding troop movement.
–Detainee shares the same last name of a former Taliban leader.
–According to further reporting and analysis, the name that was intercepted was “Mullah Nasim.” It was assumed by the capturing troops that “Mullah Nassim” and detainee were one and the same. While the name mentioned in the radio transmission is similar to the detainee’s, it is not the same. (Analyst note: After careful review of detainee’s files and national-level databases, there has been no documentation discovered indicating that this individual is now or ever has been addressed by anyone as “Mullah” or “Mullah Nasim.”)

The story was more or less known — his sworn statement was already available — but as far as I can tell, the actual details of his mis-arrest were not officially admitted or confirmed until now. By the way, there were three Mohammed Nasim’s in Guantanamo and I found twenty on twitter, just with that spelling.

A bit more from the BBC:

At least 150 people were revealed to be innocent Afghans or Pakistanis – including drivers, farmers and chefs – rounded up during intelligence gathering operations in the aftermath of 9/11.

The detainees were then held for years owing to mistaken identity or because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time, the memos say. In many cases, US commanders concluded there was “no reason recorded for transfer”.

  • Sami al-Hajj, a Sudanese cameraman for al-Jazeera, was held for six years, partly so he could be questioned about the Arabic news network
  • Abdul Badr Mannan, an author, was considered high risk, but his files states US officials may have been “misled” by the Pakistani security services
  • Mukhibullo Abdukarimovich Umarov, a Tajik man, was arrested in Karachi in 2002 and spent almost two years at Guantanamo before being released – his assessment says the reasons for detaining him were “undetermined”
  • Haji Faiz Mohammed was arrested in Afghanistan aged 70 and is described as having senile dementia – his file states there is “no reason on record” for being transferred
  • Naqib Ullah, aged about 14 when he was arrested, spent a year in Guantanamo but his file states he had been kidnapped by the Taliban and presented no threat to the US.

From Amy Davidson, for the New Yorker:

Here are some of the reasons we’ve held people at Guantánamo, according to files obtained by WikiLeaks and, then, by severalnewsorganizations:

  • A sharecropper because he was familiar with mountain passes;
  • an Afghan “because of his general knowledge of activities in the areas of Khost and Kabul based as a result of his frequent travels through the region as a taxi driver”;
  • an Uzbek because he could talk about his country’s intelligence service;
  • a Bahraini about his country’s royal family (both of those nations are American allies);
  • an eighty-nine year old man, who was suffering from dementia, to explain documents that he said were his son’s;
  • an imam, to speculate on what worshippers at his mosque were up to;
  • a cameraman for Al Jazeera, to detail its operations;
  • a British man, who had been a captive of the Taliban, because “he was expected to have knowledge of Taliban treatment of prisoners and interrogation tactics”;
  • Taliban conscripts, so they could explain Taliban conscription techniques;
  • a fourteen-year-old named Naqib Ullah, described in his file as a “kidnap victim,” who might know about the Taliban men who kidnapped him. (Ullah spent a year in the prison.)

Our reasons, in short, do not always really involve a belief that a prisoner is dangerous to us or has committed some crime; sometimes (and this is more debased) we mostly think we might find him useful…Here are other signs, according to the files, that a prisoner is dangerous: attitude toward the Star Spangled Banner; having been caught wearing a Casio F91W watch (a common model); perceived support for fellow inmates who committed suicide (there have been five).And more: according to the Guardian, the “GTMO matrix of threat indicators for enemy combatants,” which runs to seventeen pages, also lists having a connection to Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, or I.S.I.; given how much money we’ve given Pakistan to fight the Taliban and Al Qaeda, that detail alone is enough to make one’s head spin, if the Casio didn’t do it already…Is a Casio watch better than no reason at all? “It is undetermined as to why the detainee was transferred to GTMO,” the base commander wrote in a report on one of “three hapless Tajiks,” as the Guardian described them, who had been shipped there after being rounded up with others—not on what supporters of Guantánamo like to call the battlefield, but in the library at the University of Karachi, in Pakistan. They were held for two years.

And Al Jazeera: