Barack Obama, Gitmo, and the Casio Watch

An internet prankster and hacker known on LJ as tongodeon says,

For the last year or two, a friend and I have been giving our friends Casio F-91w wristwatches. They are cheap, reliable, and a reason why 28 prisoners have been held in extrajudicial detention in Guantanamo. In late October I attended a rally in Reno, NV and gave an F-91w and letter to Barack Obama via a senior staffer on the national campaign team. Today Barack Obama issued an executive order closing Guantanamo. The wire photos don't show him wearing my watch, but I still feel a little vindicated today.
Here's his post about the affair, and here's a snip from his letter to President Barack Obama (OMG that feels awesome to blog for the first time):
I've been volunteering for your campaign because of this watch, the Casio model F-91w. These watches cost $7.50 in quantity. They are cheap, waterproof, and reliable. They are common throughout the developing world. And they have been listed by the Department of Defense as a reason for the continued extrajudicial detention of the 28 Guantanamo detainees listed on the following page.

In 1995, US intelligence recovered a document in Manila by Ramzi Yousef describing how to use this watch as the timing device for a bomb. Ahmed Ressam, the "millennial bomber" was captured with two Casio F91Ws. As a result, when Pakistani police and the Northern Alliance turned over alleged Taliban members to the military, their ordinary watches were identified as evidence that they were terrorists.


  1. Hey I used to wear one of those! They’re very accurate and reliable. They cost about $20 retail. I even replaced the strap on mine, but my diy attempt to put a new battery in it met with failure.

  2. the Monty Python sketch where a man at a bus stop is approached by the police, asked to remove his shoes and then arrested for having two blunt instruments.

  3. Unfortunately, even though Gitmo is eventually being closed, the owners of those watches will continue to be imprisoned at US military bases across the country while awaiting a so called “justice system”.

    I worry that all of Obama’s “Change” will be like this, lip-service and window dressing while leaving the core of the Bush Regime’s absurd abuses in tact.

  4. I used to wear one of those watches as a teenager in Mexico… Cheap, truly waterproof, what else can you ask of a watch?

  5. I used to have that watch in college.

    Eventually I painted the screen black and used it as a prop in a science fiction movie. To me, in the late 1980’s, that watch looked like a futuristic blade-runner type of watch.

  6. LJ said in the first quote:

    They are cheap, reliable, and a reason why 28 prisoners have been held in extrajudicial detention in Guantanamo.(Emphasis added)

    Let’s be clear, posession of these watches can be cited as a reason these detainees are, well, detained, but it is not the sole reason they were detained. Posession of the watch is not the primary reason those 28 folks are being detained.

    It’s a clever angle to make a point, but it could be a bit misleading – the careful reader will pick up the distinction.

  7. THEBES, You are probably right. We should immediately release anyone caught wearing one of these watches! We should all start buying these and wearing them like they are Lance Armstrong bracelets. Show your support!

  8. Thebes – Rome wasn’t built in a day. I’m sure that they’re going to try to sort something out so they either stand trial or go home. Give him a week…

  9. I like Rep. Bill Young’s idea: Put ’em in Alcatraz. That would absolutely energize Bay Area activists.

  10. If you put them in Alcatraz i will make a raft out of a few boxes of these watches and sail these guys to freedom!

  11. Thebes @3, Stumo @8: there are copies of what is said to be a final draft of the EO, that says that all the detainees’ cases will be reviewed by a panel of members of the cabinet, and they’ll be tried, released, or somehow processed in accordance with the law and the Geneva Convention, before Guantanamo can be closed, which has to happen within a year.

  12. #12 Yeah, but we gotta wear the watch! I go through these cheap Casios like crazy, usually due to ripping the bands. (Unlike the brave soul above, my attempt at band replacement ended in teeth-gnashing rage.)

    I have three I can donate to the cause; you’d have to tape ’em on. Still.

    Uh, ignore that Mr. NSA man. I have no Casio watches at all. Been a Timex guy my whole life.

  13. When put in perspective, it’s more like they’ve been detained because of possessing army knives, automatic weapons, bomb plans, fertilizer purchase orders, books like “How to poison my enemy” and “Death to the infidels – what do you have to loose?”, paper trail of regular transactions with organizations whose acronyms seem always to be A.L.Q.A.E.D.A. Inc., have been seen with guys whose bits the medics are scraping from the streets and walls of assorted towns AND on top of that all, the Casio Watch.

    Sure, all of those other things are irrelevant – but the watch is the real proof!

    Come on, nobody is *that* dumb to hold anyone over a watch. But suppose that one day an Wikipedia article gets a description on how to create a doomsday weapon with an iPhone and 1 kg of “substance X” and a week later there’s suddenly a surge of iPhones and “substance X” mail orders to a few specific addresses already under suspicion – it’s very safe to assume that possession of iPhones must be included among reasons for incarceration *in these particular cases*.

    1. it’s more like they’ve been detained because of possessing army knives, automatic weapons, bomb plans, fertilizer purchase orders, books like “How to poison my enemy” and “Death to the infidels – what do you have to loose?”

      That kind of evidence would explain the hundreds of trials and convictions. Oh, wait…..

  14. This person does know that this watch is a popular component of cheaply manufactured bombs… right?

    If anyone can show me that these watches are the SOLE reason for being detained it’d be greatly appreciated.*

    *I am not condoning torture or any of that, I’m just not that easily misled.

  15. many were seized by gangsters and sold for American bounty money as “terrorists”. How many Gitmo apologists would find themselves sold by their neighbours if their country were to be occupied?

  16. @#20 – Those who actually work for change don’t trivialize the efforts of their peers. There are precious few of us to begin with.

    Some harsh shit here. Empire friendly apologia at the slashdot level.

    Nobody said that the watches were the only reason for what’s happening to these people. I’d say the gist is that the powers that be are grasping at straws to justify their detentions.

    Nobody called the powers that be dumb. I’m assuming they know things like: you don’t get credible info from torture. Or: possession of a cheap, mass produced watch gives no info one way or the other as to a subjects pyrophilia . So I’m guessing that their motives aren’t what they claim.

    tongodeon: right on.

  17. Ivoras @14, actually, I’ve just looked through the list of detainees with Casio watches, skimmed over the entry for each one to see the allegations against them, and not one of them listed fertilizer orders or books on poisoning. In some cases, the only link to al Qaeda was a short version of the guy’s name (and a lot of middle eastern guys seem to share the same name) was on a list somewhere, or the guy was traveling with too much cash. Oh, yeah, and the dangerous watch!

  18. I campaigned for the release of Adel Hamad from Guantanamo. He was a hospital worker imprisoned for being in the wrong place at the wrong time and NOTHING more. I think it would be great if you Americans actually took some time to realise what a great injustice you have been perpetrating upon the people in Guantanamo, rather than assuming a “no smoke without fire” justification for their imprisonment. Then you might just applaud President Obama, rather than making uninformed comments about the amount of evidence necessary to get yourself arrested by the US of A.

  19. he used a Casio to make a bomb before…

    from Wikipedia Philippines Flight 434…
    “When Yousef went into the lavatory with his dopp kit in hand, he took off his shoes to get the batteries, wiring, and spark source hidden in the heel (below where metal detectors in use at the time could detect), removed an altered Casio digital watch from his wrist to be used as a timer, unpacked the remaining materials from his dopp kit, and assembled his bomb.”

  20. The obvious reaction to all this is for thousands to start wearing this very same watch as they travel America’s airways this year, and see if this specific Casio watch is indeed grounds for incarceration.

    They sell it at for just over $11, buy three and get free shipping (since the total order would be over $25, it would qualify for free shipping).

    To keep my post out of the moderator’s inbox, I’ll leave finding the Casio watch on as an exercise for the interested reader…

  21. does the Alarm function on this watch flash light? all you have to do is crush the little bulb and immerse it in sulfur from a match for cheap ghetto timed fuse
    there it is, now you are all terrorists

  22. I have that watch. I’m wearing it right now!
    I ordered it from an eBay seller from Hong Kong, ten bucks and shipping.

    Watchlist, indeed. I recently flew back and forth cross-country and not one TSA goon hassled me over my timepiece.

    They took my toothpaste, though. They let me keep my lighters and made me take off my shoes.

  23. Takuan,

    So if I read the links correctly (and I believe I did ;^), the interrogators that don’t use the so-called “enhanced” interrogation techniques are pleased that they won’t be allowed to use them… Big Deal. How do the folks that did use the “enhanced” interrogation techniques feel about – if they agreed it would be noteworthy, as it is, it is a few fellows that are happy the administration agrees with them.

    Personally, I agree that the so-called “enhanced” interrogation techniques are likely in-effective, but I also feel that our enemies should fear capture rather than welcome three hots and a flop in a tropical resort (Cuba).

  24. “our enemies should fear capture rather than welcome three hots and a flop in a tropical resort ”

    You tread dangerously close to the troll line.

    our enemies”: specious. Many are clearly not anyone’s enemies – or were, prior to capture and torture.

    “three hots and a flop”: 23 hour lockdown in solitary (many have gone mad), random torture, no charge or trial….

    “tropical resort”, tell me, do you not understand that there were no attacks on the USA in the past seven years because those who would realized their work was being done for them by the torturers and their fan-boys?

  25. #31 Takuan: Now hang on about the reason there have been no further attacks. I haven’t been ditching Bics and taking off my shoes in TSA lines for nothing.

  26. Personally, I agree that the so-called “enhanced” interrogation techniques are likely in-effective, but I also feel that our enemies should fear capture rather than welcome three hots and a flop in a tropical resort (Cuba).

    How do we know the prisoners at Gitmo are our enemies, again? Oh never mind. We’d best use those ineffective torture techniques on them just in case.

  27. TAKUAN:

    You said “You tread dangerously close to the troll line.” maybe, I apologize (a playful tweak gone too far).

    “Three hots and a flop” was a reference to the detention that prisoners would have once Gitmo closed, and we keep them under Geneva Convention rules. I did not, and would not refer to the treatment prisoners get at Gitmo as “Three hots and a flop”. If you re-read my statement, I was saying that I think our enemies should fear Gitmo (as it is/reported to be) rather than look forward to Geneva Convention-guaranteed “three hots and a flop”. I hope that’s clearer now.

    I said nothing about the lack of a successful attack on US soil since that day in September, so I don’t think I need to respond to your rhetorical question, which you somehow based on my reference to Cuba as a tropical resort (it was a popular travel destination in the 1950’s and earlier, then something happened…).

  28. TAKUAN – I apologize and clarify, now all my posts are moderated? I don’t get it… What’s the incentive to reconsider constructive feedback?

  29. TAKUAN – NEVER MIND. As soon as I submitted the above it went right through, I forgot that more than some magic number of links “earns” your post a trip to the moderator…

    My Apologies, I forgot about that policy when I posted on colorful synthesisers on BoingBoing Gadgets and included a few YouTube links.

    1. I forgot that more than some magic number of links “earns” your post a trip to the moderator

      Actually, the system pulls it out as spam. We don’t really understand the criteria. Multiple links is the only thing that I’ve come up with, but even that has a very random aspect.

  30. Antinous, sorry, you are correct (of course ;^), but the ultimate destination winds up being someone that will, I assume/hope take a moment to review it – I sort of skipped over the spam filter and went right to the conclusion…

    I wish there was another metric, I like to support my arguments with citations, but this filter dis-encourages that practice.

    Thanks for the clarification.

  31. don’t close Gitmo! Finally a good use: imprison those DEA scumbags, Army judges, Bush licking generals and other assorted mutinous filth that openly defy Obama’s orders as President.

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