For the past few years, my tax dollars (and if you’re American, yours too) have been spent to detain dozens of men at Guantanamo Bay with a primary link used as evidence against them being the fact that they possessed a Casio F91W watch. This exceedingly common watch is listed on the Casio site as retailing at about twenty dollars; In bulk in most other parts of of the world, the watch costs about seven and a half dollars. Thousands of these watches have been sold around the world to people who, for the most part, just want to know what time it is.
But some of the people who wear this watch are being incarcerated without the right to appeal in Guantanamo Bay. Those detainees may or may not be held for legitimate reasons. As Mr. Neutron so eloquently put it in his heartfelt and profound letter to our new president:
Some have done far worse than wear a cheap digital watch. Some have done little else. In all cases the watches that they were wearing appear to have had nothing to do with anything. The tenuous link between this watch and terrorism is being used as an excuse to detain the innocent alongside the guilty; an excuse for the inexcusable. I wear an F-91w every day as a symbol of my hope that a terrible wrong will be made right. It represents the change that I want to bring to our future.
I love my country and I want to keep it safe from its enemies, which is why I don’t want to see our military and justice system waste its time pursuing, jailing, and punishing innocent people for absurd reasons. I’m a volunteer for your campaign because you’ve pledged to restore the writ of habeas corpus that would allow Guantanamo detainees to challenge these watches as evidence against them. Please keep this gift as a reminder of your promise to restore one of our most important and basic rights.
The new administration’s executive order to close Guantanamo Bay means that within a year, all 28 of the detainees who are being held with a Casio watch being used as one of the primary pieces of evidence for their detention will be subject to a revised review where both they and our government will be able to properly present the case for their innocence or guilt.
I’ve had a similar Casio watch when I was growing up; I even had a far more powerful Casio watch that had a calculator on it, as I bet a lot of you have as well. If I were a threat to my country, it wouldn’t be because of my watch. Fortunately, I’m an American citizen and I love my country despite its flaws. So it’s unlikely this fact would be used to detain me without trial. And that’s why it’s so disappointing to know that, though some of these men are undoubtedly despicable criminals of the worst sort, at least one of these men is probably being wrongly held because, as the Tribunal transcripts put it, “When captured, the detainee had a Casio watch. The Casio watch has been incorporated into improvised explosive devices that have been linked to al Qaida and radical-Islamic terrorists.”
We can do better than that, and thanks to our new President, I feel as if we will. And fortunately, President Obama may actually understand what it really means to have a watch that is literally a symbol of keeping us safe. As noted by watch enthusiasts (who charmingly and understatedly refer to themselves as “Watch Guys”), Barack Obama only last year stopped wearing a TAG-Heuer sports watch he’d had for more than a decade.
In its place, he’s been wearing a gift that he received from his Secret Service detail; A private-label watch emblazoned with the logo of the Secret Service. That watch, a symbol of just how positive his relationship is with the people who risk their lives to protect him, was on President Obama’s wrist as he was sworn in as President last Tuesday, as he signed his first proclamations, and presumably as he signed the executive order showing that a new watch has taken over in Washington.