The Guardian and the NYTimes have coordinated another release of redacted ‘security papers’ from Wikileaks, this time concerning Guantanamo. From a quick scan, there are no “shocking new revelations”, just confirmation that the DFHs were right… again. Here is the Guardian:
Guantánamo files lift lid on world’s most controversial prison
• Innocent people interrogated for years on slimmest pretexts
• Children, elderly and mentally ill among those wrongfully held
• 172 prisoners remain, some with no prospect of trial or release…
The 759 Guantánamo files, classified “secret”, cover almost every inmate since the camp was opened in 2002. More than two years after President Obama ordered the closure of the prison, 172 are still held there.
The files depict a system often focused less on containing dangerous terrorists or enemy fighters, than on extracting intelligence. Among inmates who proved harmless were an 89-year-old Afghan villager, suffering from senile dementia, and a 14-year-old boy who had been an innocent kidnap victim. The old man was transported to Cuba to interrogate him about “suspicious phone numbers” found in his compound. The 14-year-old was shipped out merely because of “his possible knowledge of Taliban…local leaders”.
US authorities listed the main Pakistani intelligence service, the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI), as a terrorist organisation alongside groups such as al-Qaida, Hamas, Hezbollah and Iranian intelligence. Interrogators were told to regard links to any of these as an indication of terrorist or insurgent activity…
US authorities relied heavily on information obtained from a small number of detainees under torture. They continued to maintain this testimony was reliable even after admitting that the prisoners who provided it had been mistreated….
The leaked files include guidance for US interrogators on how to decide whether to hold or release detainees, and how to spot al-Qaida cover stories. One warns interrogators: “Travel to Afghanistan for any reason after the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 is likely a total fabrication with the true intentions being to support Usama Bin Laden through direct hostilities against the US forces.”
The inclusion of association with the ISI as a “threat indicator” in this document is likely to pour fuel on the flames of Washington’s already strained relationship with its key regional ally. A number of the detainee files also contain references, apparently based on intelligence reporting, to the ISI supporting, co-ordinating and protecting insurgents fighting coalition forces in Afghanistan, or even assisting al-Qaida.
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.
The NYTimes adds, in its best Grey Lady manner:
What began as a jury-rigged experiment after the 2001 terrorist attacks now seems like an enduring American institution, and the leaked files show why, by laying bare the patchwork and contradictory evidence that in many cases would never have stood up in criminal court or a military tribunal. […]
Obama administration officials condemned the publication of the classified documents, which were obtained by the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks last year but provided to The Times by another source. The officials pointed out that an administration task force set up in January 2009 reviewed the information in the prisoner assessments, and in some cases came to different conclusions. Thus, they said, the documents published by The Times may not represent the government’s current view of detainees at Guantánamo.
Mandatory disclaimer: Bush started it, the Bush Administration and its hand-picked lackeys were responsible for the worst abuses, and Bush holdouts in both the military and the DoJ are undoubtably making the situation worse this very day. Also, the NIMBY whiners in Congress should be ashamed of themselves. But Bush is not the leader standing in today’s harsh spotlight, and the current Administration’s stated policy of “looking forward, not back” would seem to make it unlikely that Dubya will be called upon.
“No worse than our critics expected” is hardly an exculpation for the history books.
Safe prediction: It’s not going to be a happy Monday anywhere in the political spheres.