Monday, April 25, 2011

WikiLeaks's Guantanamo Bay files

Last night, media outlets all over the world published hundreds of classified files on more than 700 past and present Guantanamo detainees. The leak was allegedly provided to WikiLeaks by Bradley Manning. Here's a roundup of what different people are saying:

The Guantanamo Files from WikiLeaks:
In thousands of pages of documents dating from 2002 to 2008 and never seen before by members of the public or the media, the cases of the majority of the prisoners held at Guantánamo -- 758 out of 779 in total -- are described in detail in memoranda from JTF-GTMO, the Joint Task Force at Guantánamo Bay, to US Southern Command in Miami, Florida.

These memoranda, which contain JTF-GTMO's recommendations about whether the prisoners in question should continue to be held, or should be released (transferred to their home governments, or to other governments) contain a wealth of important and previously undisclosed information, including health assessments, for example, and, in the cases of the majority of the 171 prisoners who are still held, photos (mostly for the first time ever).

They also include information on the first 201 prisoners released from the prison, between 2002 and 2004, which, unlike information on the rest of the prisoners (summaries of evidence and tribunal transcripts, released as the result of a lawsuit filed by media groups in 2006), has never been made public before. Most of these documents reveal accounts of incompetence familiar to those who have studied Guantánamo closely, with innocent men detained by mistake (or because the US was offering substantial bounties to its allies for al-Qaeda or Taliban suspects), and numerous insignificant Taliban conscripts from Afghanistan and Pakistan.
WikiLeaks: The Uses of Guantánamo from The New Yorker:
Here are some of the reasons we’ve held people at Guantánamo, according to files obtained by WikiLeaks and, then, by several news organizations: A sharecropper because he was familiar with mountain passes; an Afghan “because of his general knowledge of activities in the areas of Khost and Kabul based as a result of his frequent travels through the region as a taxi driver”; an Uzbek because he could talk about his country’s intelligence service, and a Bahraini about his country’s royal family (both of those nations are American allies); an eighty-nine year old man, who was suffering from dementia, to explain documents that he said were his son’s; an imam, to speculate on what worshippers at his mosque were up to; a cameraman for Al Jazeera, to detail its operations; a British man, who had been a captive of the Taliban, because “he was expected to have knowledge of Taliban treatment of prisoners and interrogation tactics”; Taliban conscripts, so they could explain Taliban conscription techniques; a fourteen-year-old named Naqib Ullah, described in his file as a “kidnap victim,” who might know about the Taliban men who kidnapped him. (Ullah spent a year in the prison.) Our reasons, in short, do not always really involve a belief that a prisoner is dangerous to us or has committed some crime; sometimes (and this is more debased) we mostly think we might find him useful.
Wikileaks: Many at Guantanamo 'not dangerous' from the BBC:
There are now just under 180 detainees at the US naval base in Cuba. Most are deemed to pose a high risk threat to the US if released without adequate supervision. But the files show that US military analysts considered only 220 of those ever detained at Guantanamo to be dangerous extremists. They include Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attacks on the US, and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, a Saudi accused of planning the 2000 bombing of the destroyer USS Cole in Yemen.

Another 380 detainees were deemed to be low-ranking guerrillas. At least 150 people were revealed to be innocent Afghans or Pakistanis - including drivers, farmers and chefs - rounded up during intelligence gathering operations in the aftermath of 9/11.
WikiLeaks discloses new details on whereabouts of al-Qaeda leaders on 9/11 from The Washington Post:
Regardless of how detainees are currently assessed, many of the documents shed light on their histories, particularly those of the 14 high-value detainees whose assessments were made available. When pieced together, they capture some of the drama of al-Qaeda’s scattering in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks. They also point to tensions between certain members of the terrorist group.

Among other previously unknown meetings, the documents describe a major gathering of some of al-Qaeda’s most senior operatives in early December 2001 in Zormat, a mountainous region of Afghanistan between Kabul and Khost. There, the operatives began to plan new attacks, a process that would consume them, according to the assessments, until they were finally captured.
Military Documents Detail Life At Guantanamo from NPR:
As a general matter, the Obama administration has been hesitant to return detainees to countries that can't guarantee that they will either keep the detainees locked up or keep a close watch on them. That's why nearly 60 Yemenis at Guantanamo are in a kind of purgatory, awaiting the day when the Yemeni government is stable enough to manage their return. As a general matter, in the Obama administration, each detainee's background is considered as much as the country to which he will be sent. Sending a "high-risk" detainee to Europe, for example, would be preferable to sending him to Afghanistan.

For detainees who will not be sent to third countries and are not slated for prosecution, the Obama administration introduced new rules that require a detainee's status be reviewed every three years to determine whether or not he remains a threat, should be scheduled for a military trial or should be transferred. That's the executive order that essentially codifies indefinite detention, though the administration was careful not to use that language.

It's also interesting to see the stark difference in the way international and American news sources are reporting on the leaked information.

Guantánamo leaks lift lid on world's most controversial prison from The Guardian:
Obama's inability to shut Guantánamo has been one of the White House's most internationally embarrassing policy failures. The files offer an insight into why the administration has been unable to transfer many of the 172 existing prisoners from the island prison where they remain outside the protection of the US courts or the prisoner-of-war provisions of the Geneva conventions.
 The range of those still held captive includes detainees who have been admittedly tortured so badly they can never be successfully tried, informers who must be protected from reprisals, and a group of Chinese Muslims from the Uighur minority who have nowhere to go.
Classified Files Offer New Insights Into Detainees from The New York Times:
The government’s basic allegations against many detainees have long been public, and have often been challenged by prisoners and their lawyers. But the dossiers, prepared under the Bush administration, provide a deeper look at the frightening, if flawed, intelligence that has persuaded the Obama administration, too, that the prison cannot readily be closed.
Glenn Greenwald sums it up perfectly as usual:
The idea of trusting the government to imprison people for life based on secret, untested evidence never reviewed by a court should repel any decent or minimally rational person, but these newly released files demonstrate how warped is this indefinite detention policy specifically.

1 comment:

  1. My brain can't even handle this. Appalling.


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