For the First Time, the Inside Story of Britain's Shadowy Role in the Guantanamo Scandal ; Bisher Al-Rawi and Jamil El-Banna Are among Eight British Residents Who Remain Prisoners at the U.S. Naval Air Station at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba
Mickum, George B, The Independent (London, England)
BRITONS IN GUANTANAMO
Several weeks after 11 September, 2001, two MI5 agents arrived at Bisher al-Rawi's family home to recruit him to work for British Intelligence. The visit was part of an effort to recruit scores of individuals from London's Muslim community for reconnaissance work and assist the war on terror.
In particular, MI5 sought contacts with some of the Muslim clerics preaching in London. Mr al-Rawi was a perfect candidate, educated, fluent in English, and a friend of a Muslim cleric named Abu Qatada. The agents presented identification, introducing themselves to Mr al-Rawi as "Alex" and "Matt". However, they are the same names the agents used throughout the Muslim community in London.
The agents asked Mr al-Rawi wide-ranging questions, which he answered candidly. At the end of the meeting, they asked if would agreed to speak to them again.
Two more meetings took place at Mr al-Rawi's family home in London. At the agents' suggestion, Mr al-Rawi started meeting them at a coffee shop in Victoria Station. Shortly after, the agents asked Mr al-Rawi to work for MI on amore formal basis. He agreed. Over the next nine months, meetings took place in hotel rooms in and around London.
Throughout Mr al-Rawi's relationship with MI5, his agents pressured him to accept payment for his services. He refused all such overtures. The only thing Mr al-Rawi, 38, who is Iraqi born, ever accepted from MI5 was a mobile telephone He took it to put an end to the agents' demand for him to be contactable.
As his work with MI5 continued, Mr al-Rawi became increasingly alarmed about his relationship with MI5 and his potential exposure. Eventually, he sought assurances from Matt and Alex that his work as an intermediary between MI5 and Abu Qatada would not get him into trouble. Ultimately, he requested a meeting with MI5 and a private attorney, suggesting the human rights attorney Gareth Peirce. MI5 refused.
To assuage his concerns and convince him to continue working for MI5, the agents set up the first of two meetings with an MI5 attorney whom they called "Simon." Alex and Matt were present at both meetings. Simon introduced himself to Mr al-Rawi as a lawyer with MI5. He conceded that Simon was not his real name Simon assured Mr al-Rawi he was running no risk by working with MI5 and that MI5 and Simon himself would come to his aid if Mr al-Rawi found himself compromised. Simon told him that all he needed to do was record the date and time of his conversations with Simon, and MI5 would be able to identify and locate Simon. Mr al-Rawi's refusal to insist on a meeting with a private attorney would have devastating consequences.
Abu Qatada was completely aware of Mr al-Rawi's relationship with MI5. Mr al-Rawi carried questions and answers between the parties, served as a translator, and participated in negotiations with Abu Qatada. "All I did in Britain was try to help with steps necessary to get a meeting between Abu Qatada and the MI5. I was trying to bring them together. MI5 would give me messages to take to Abu Qatada, and Abu Qatada would give me messages to take back to them."
It was during this time that Mr al-Rawi's good friend, Jamil el- Banna, a Jordanian British resident, became involved. While the British government was publicly asserting Abu Qatada's whereabouts were unknown, Abu Qatada was actively engaged in a dialogue with British officials that involved Mr al-Rawi and Mr el-Banna. Mr al- Rawi asked Mr el-Banna to drive Abu Qatada's wife and son to meet Abu Qatada in London. Mr el-Banna followed Mr al-Rawi, who led the way on his motorcycle. When Abu Qatada was arrested, Mr el-Banna taxied his wife and child home at the request of the British officials on the scene. Mr el-Banna never was arrested: the police thanked him for his assistance. He was never even questioned because everyone was aware of his limited involvement. …