Andy Worthington writes in the first of an eight-part series profiling the 176 detainees still at Guantanamo Bay:
The 20 prisoners listed below were the first group of prisoners seized crossing from Afghanistan to Pakistan in December 2001. They have been identified as the “Dirty Thirty,” because of allegations that they served as bodyguards for Osama bin Laden, although these allegations have long been challenged by the prisoners and their attorneys, and by those who have studied the stories in detail, for three reasons: firstly, because the majority of the men had been in Afghanistan for such a short amount of time that it is inconceivable that they would have been trusted with such an important role; secondly, because one source of the allegations is Mohammed al-Qahtani (ISN 063, see below), who was tortured at Guantánamo, and who later withdrew his false allegations; and thirdly, because two other sources of the allegations are Sharqwi Abdu Ali al-Hajj and Sanad Yislam Ali al-Kazimi (ISN 1457 and ISN 1453), whose false confessions were recently exposed in a US court, in the habeas corpus petition of Uthman Abdul Rahim Mohammed Uthman (ISN 027, see below).
Moreover, as the figures indicate, ten of the “Dirty Thirty” have already been released, and although some were Saudis, there are no indications that any of them have returned to militant activity (unlike others — 11 in total — who, according to reports in February 2009, had “left the country and joined terrorist groups abroad”). In fact, the most significant story, out of all the released prisoners, seems to be that of Farouq Ali Ahmed, a Yemeni released in December 2009, who maintained throughout his detention that he was a missionary, despite counter-claims that he was a bodyguard for bin Laden, and that he had been seen at Osama bin Laden’s private airport in Kandahar, where he was “wearing camouflage and carrying an AK-47.”
As I explained in 2007, this particular allegation proved so intolerable to Ahmed that his Personal Representative (a military officer assigned to the prisoners in place of a lawyer during the tribunals at Guantánamo in 2004-05) investigated his files, and submitted a written protest, in which he stated that the government’s sole evidence that Ahmed had been at bin Laden’s airport was the statement of another prisoner, who, according to an FBI memo that he presented to the tribunal, was a notorious liar. According to the FBI, he “had lied, not only about Farouq, but about other Yemeni detainees as well. The other detainee claimed he had seen the Yemenis at times and in places where they simply could not have been.” As the Personal representative discovered, after cross-referencing the detainees’ files, this particular man had made false allegations against 60 of his fellow prisoners.
Bearing this in mind, an analysis of the 20 remaining members of the so-called “Dirty Thirty” reveals that only three have been subjected to any kind of serious allegations relating to their involvement with al-Qaeda, although it is certain that, of the rest, some are among the 26 Yemenis that, in January, the Obama administration’s interagency Guantánamo Review Task Force recommended should continue to be held indefinitely without charge or trial.