A prominent Democratic consultant who ran Howard Dean’s presidential campaign in 2004 is working for the release of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.
Joe Trippi is helping out with communications work for the International Counsel Bureau (ICB), which is representing the families of Guantanamo detainees from Kuwait.
His firm, Joe Trippi & Associates, has been paid nearly $38,000 so far for “digital services” by communications firm Potomac Square Group, according to Justice Department records. Potomac Square Group represents the ICB.
Christopher Cooper, a former Wall Street Journal reporter and partner at Potomac Square, said Trippi and his firm are working together as subcontractors.
Trippi said the Kuwaiti detainees should be given a trial or returned to their home country.
“Kuwait is one of our strongest allies in the region. Two Kuwaitis have been held prisoner at Guantanamo for more than a decade without trial or charge and I am working to help get them due process. After 11 years, they should be charged and tried or turned over to the Kuwait government,” Trippi said.
Trippi and others filed short-form registrations with Justice in October saying they were working for Cooper’s firm. Trippi reported that he was “contracted on a one-time, project-specific basis to support The Potomac Square Group, pursuant to its agreement with ICB. Registrant will work to secure legal due process for Guantanamo detainees.”
President Obama has come under renewed pressure to fulfill his 2008 campaign promise to close the prison. Riots broke out at the facility last month, and some prisoners are waging hunger strikes.
One of the main obstacles to closing Guantanamo is figuring out what to do with the prisoners who are held there.
One option is to return some prisoners to their home countries, as Trippi and others are pushing for.
Part of the work by Trippi’s firm has entailed pitching op-eds, including one that criticized the treatment of detainees at Guantanamo.
“Hi Stuart – I’m writing to see if you might be interested in this guest post about a recent development at Guantanamo Bay that has been largely ignored by the mainstream media,” wrote Eva Barboni, director of international projects at Joe Trippi & Associates, to Stuart Whatley at the Huffington Post in a December 19, 2012 email.
“It’s a timely issue, and one Trippi and I both think ought to get some more attention,” Barboni wrote.
David Cynamon, managing partner of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman’s Abu Dhabi office, wrote the op-ed and disclosed that he represented Kuwaiti citizens held at Guantanamo.
About a month after Barboni’s pitch to Whatley, the op-ed was published on the Huffington Post website.
Trippi has compiled an extensive portfolio of international work.
In 2011, he signed a contract with the Information Affairs Authority in Bahrain as the country cracked down on protests stemming from the Arab Spring. That work has since ended, with Trippi saying he focused on reaching out to human rights groups.
“I was advising and urging the government to release doctors who had been imprisoned for treating protestors. The sentences were annulled and the doctors were released,” Trippi said.
The Hill has previously reported on Trippi’s text-messaging campaign for Nigeria’s former vice president Atiku Abubakar. In addition, Trippi said he has worked for Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan's campaign as well as against Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe and in Iraq.
Other countries have turned to Washington consultants for help in freeing prisoners from Gitmo. The government of Bermuda hired a firm to facilitate the transfer of four Chinese Uighurs to the island nation.
Along with Trippi, other firms are working to help the Kuwaiti detainees.
ICB has had a number of communications and legal firms working on behalf of Kuwaiti detainees’ families since early last decade. Pillsbury Winthrop has helped with legal representation, and Potomac Square Group was hired last year to help with the communications effort.
It’s understood that the government of Kuwait helps fund ICB’s representation of the detainee families.
“I believe Guantanamo should be shut down,” Trippi said. “As the president says, it's an embarrassment to us as a nation, is incredibly expensive to maintain and it serves as a powerful recruiting tool for terrorists.”
Megan R. Wilson contributed to this report.