For 19 minutes over a streaming video feed on Tuesday morning, the American public got its first glimpse into President Obama’s new review process for Guantánamo detainees, touted as a key step toward closing the notorious detention center.
The few members of the public who witnessed the session – a handful of journalists and representatives of human rights groups, more than 1,000 miles away in Virginia and watching on a 40-second delay – never heard from Abdel Malik Ahmed Abdel Wahab al-Rahabi, a Yemeni who has been held without charge at Guantánamo Bay for 12 years.
Rahabi, a slim 34-year-old in a white shirt whom the Defense Department believes was “almost certainly” a member of al-Qaida, bobbed in his swivel chair, occasionally scratching his nose as his representatives read statements arguing for his release. He was not invited to speak, unlike during the panel’s Bush-era antecedent.
Then, at about 9.40am ET, the feed stopped, as the participants adjourned to begin a classified hearing – away from cameras, far from public view and expected to last for hours.