Well, the cat is now out of the bag, and Guantánamo will, hopefully, be closer to closure — and the lies that powerful Americans tell about it will, hopefully, be closer to silence — as a result. For the last few weeks, I’ve been working as a media partner with WikiLeaks, along with the Washington Post, McClatchy Newspapers, El Pais, the Daily Telegraph, Der Spiegel, Le Monde, Aftonbladet, La Repubblica and L’Espresso, navigating thousands of previously unseen documents about Guantánamo that were made available to the whistleblowing website last year, allegedly by Pfc Bradley Manning, who has been imprisoned for nearly a year by the US government, awaiting a trial.
With the release date of the project brought forward unexpectedly, the files — profiles of nearly all of the 779 prisoners who have been held at Guantánamo, compiled by the Joint Task Force responsible for running the prison — have begun to be made available on WikiLeaks’ website, accompanied by an article that I wrote introducing them, and offering a first attempt to indicate their importance — both in what they hide and what they reveal — along with a guide to how to read them.
Needless to say, there will be much more analysis in the days and weeks to come, but for now I hope you enjoy my explanation, cross-posted below, which is borne of five years of research and writing about Guantánamo, filtered through a careful analysis of JTF-GTMO’s compromised and compromising cache of documents, which, as I explain, constitutes “the anatomy of a colossal crime perpetrated by the US government on 779 prisoners who, for the most part, are not and never have been the terrorists the government would like us to believe they are.”
WikiLeaks Reveals Secret Files on All Guantánamo Prisoners
By Andy Worthington, WikiLeaks, April 24, 2011
In its latest release of classified US documents, WikiLeaks is shining the light of truth on a notorious icon of the Bush administration’s “War on Terror” — the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, which opened on January 11, 2002, and remains open under President Obama, despite his promise to close the much-criticized facility within a year of taking office.
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, in files arranged by nationality from “af” for Afghanistan, featuring 213 files, to “ym” for Yemen, featuring 109 files.
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.
Beyond these previously unknown cases, the documents also reveal stories of the 397 other prisoners released from September 2004 to the present day, and of the seven men who have died at the prison.
The memos are signed by the commander of Guantánamo at the time, and describe whether the prisoners in question are regarded as low, medium or high risk. Although they were obviously not conclusive in and of themselves, as final decisions about the disposition of prisoners were taken at a higher level, they represent not only the opinions of JTF-GTMO, but also the Criminal Investigation Task Force, created by the Department of Defense to conduct interrogations in the “War on Terror,” and the BSCTs, the behavioral science teams consisting of psychologists who had a major say in the “exploitation” of prisoners in interrogation.
Crucially, the files also contain detailed explanations of the supposed intelligence used to justify the prisoners’ detention. For many readers, these will be the most fascinating sections of the documents, as they seem to offer an extraordinary insight into the workings of US intelligence, but although many of the documents appear to promise proof of prisoners’ association with al-Qaeda or other terrorist organizations, extreme caution is required.
The documents draw on the testimony of witnesses — in most cases, the prisoners’ fellow prisoners — whose words are unreliable, either because they were subjected to torture or other forms of coercion (sometimes not in Guantánamo, but in secret prisons run by the CIA), or because they provided false statements to secure better treatment in Guantánamo.
Regular appearances throughout these documents by witnesses whose words should be regarded as untrustworthy include the following “high-value detainees” or “ghost prisoners.” Please note that “ISN” and the numbers in brackets following the prisoners’ names refer to the short “Internment Serial Numbers” by which the prisoners are identified in US custody:
Abu Zubaydah (ISN 10016), the supposed “high-value detainee” seized in Pakistan in March 2002, who spent four and a half years in secret CIA prisons, including facilities in Thailand and Poland. Subjected to waterboarding, a form of controlled drowning, on 83 occasions in CIA custody in August 2002, Abu Zubaydah was moved to Guantánamo with 13 other “high-value detainees” in September 2006.
Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi (ISN 212), the emir of a military training camp for which Abu Zubaydah was the gatekeeper, who, despite having his camp closed by the Taliban in 2000, because he refused to allow it to be taken over by al-Qaeda, is described in these documents as Osama bin Laden’s military commander in Tora Bora. Soon after his capture in December 2001, al-Libi was rendered by the CIA to Egypt, where, under torture, he falsely confessed that al-Qaeda operatives had been meeting with Saddam Hussein to discuss obtaining chemical and biological weapons. Al-Libi recanted this particular lie, but it was nevertheless used by the Bush administration to justify the invasion of Iraq in March 2003. Al-Libi was never sent to Guantánamo, although at some point, probably in 2006, the CIA sent him back to Libya, where he was imprisoned, and where he died, allegedly by committing suicide, in May 2009.
Sharqawi Abdu Ali al-Hajj (ISN 1457), a Yemeni, also known as Riyadh the Facilitator, who was seized in a house raid in Pakistan in February 2002, and is described as “an al-Qaeda facilitator.” After his capture, he was transferred to a torture prison in Jordan run on behalf of the CIA, where he was held for nearly two years, and was then held for six months in US facilities in Afghanistan. He was flown to Guantánamo in September 2004.
Sanad Yislam al-Kazimi (ISN 1453), a Yemeni, who was seized in the UAE in January 2003, and then held in three secret prisons, including the “Dark Prison” near Kabul and a secret facility within the US prison at Bagram airbase. In February 2010, in the District Court in Washington D.C., Judge Henry H. Kennedy Jr. granted the habeas corpus petition of a Yemeni prisoner, Uthman Abdul Rahim Mohammed Uthman, largely because he refused to accept testimony produced by either Sharqawi al-Hajj or Sanad al-Kazimi. As he stated, “The Court will not rely on the statements of Hajj or Kazimi becasue there is unrebutted evidence in the record that, at the time of the interrogations at which they made the statements, both men had recently been tortured.”
Others include Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani (ISN 10012) and Walid bin Attash (ISN 10014), two more of the “high-value detainees” transferred into Guantánamo in September 2006, after being held in secret CIA prisons.
Other unreliable witnesses, held at Guantánamo throughout their detention, include:
Yasim Basardah (ISN 252), a Yemeni known as a notorious liar. As the Washington Post reported in February 2009, he was given preferential treatment in Guantánamo after becoming what some officials regarded as a significant informant, although there were many reasons to be doubtful. As the Post noted, “military officials … expressed reservations about the credibility of their star witness since 2004,” and in 2006, in an article for the National Journal, Corine Hegland described how, after a Combatant Status Review Tribunal at which a prisoner had taken exception to information provided by Basardah, placing him at a training camp before he had even arrived in Afghanistan, his personal representative (a military official assigned instead of a lawyer) investigated Basardah’s file, and found that he had made similar claims against 60 other prisoners.
In January 2009, in the District Court in Washington D.C., Judge Richard Leon (an appointee of George W. Bush) excluded Basardah’s statements while granting the habeas corpus petition of Mohammed El-Gharani, a Chadian national who was just 14 years old when he was seized in a raid on a mosque in Pakistan. Judge Leon noted that the government had “specifically cautioned against relying on his statements without independent corroboration,” and in other habeas cases that followed, other judges relied on this precedent, discrediting the “star witness” stlll further.
Mohammed al-Qahtani (ISN 063), a Saudi regarded as the planned 20th hijacker for the 9/11 attacks, was subjected to a specific torture program at Guantánamo, approved by defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld. This consisted of 20-hour interrogations every day, over a period of several months, and various other “enhanced interrogation techniques,” which severely endangered his health. Variations of these techniques then migrated to other prisoners in Guantánamo (and to Abu Ghraib), and in January 2009, just before George W. Bush left office, Susan Crawford, a retired judge and a close friend of Dick Cheney and David Addington, who was appointed to oversee the military commissions at Guantánamo as the convening authority, told Bob Woodward that she had refused to press charges against al-Qahtani, because, as she said, “We tortured Qahtani. His treatment met the legal definition of torture.” As a result, his numerous statements about other prisoners must be regarded as worthless.
Abd al-Hakim Bukhari (ISN 493), a Saudi imprisoned by al-Qaeda as a spy, who was liberated by US forces from a Taliban jail before being sent, inexplicably, to Guantánamo (along with four other men liberated from the jail) is regarded in the files as a member of al-Qaeda, and a trustworthy witness.
Abd al-Rahim Janko (ISN 489), a Syrian Kurd, tortured by al-Qaeda as a spy and then imprisoned by the Taliban along with Abd al-Hakim Bukhari, above, is also used as a witness, even though he was mentally unstable. As his assessment in June 2008 stated, “Detainee is on a list of high-risk detainees from a health perspective … He has several chronic medical problems. He has a psychiatric history of substance abuse, depression, borderline personality disorder, and prior suicide attempt for which he is followed by behavioral health for treatment.”
These are just some of the most obvious cases, but alert readers will notice that they are cited repeatedly in what purports to be the government’s evidence, and it should, as a result, be difficult not to conclude that the entire edifice constructed by the government is fundamentally unsound, and that what the Guantánamo Files reveal, primarily, is that only a few dozen prisoners are genuinely accused of involvement in terrorism.
The rest, these documents reveal on close inspection, were either innocent men and boys, seized by mistake, or Taliban foot soldiers, unconnected to terrorism. Moreover, many of these prisoners were actually sold to US forces, who were offering bounty payments for al-Qaeda and Taliban suspects, by their Afghan and Pakistani allies — a policy that led ex-President Musharraf to state, in his 2006 memoir, In the Line of Fire, that, in return for handing over 369 terror suspects to the US, the Pakistani government “earned bounty payments totaling millions of dollars.”
Uncomfortable facts like these are not revealed in the deliberations of the Joint Task Force, but they are crucial to understanding why what can appear to be a collection of documents confirming the government’s scaremongering rhetoric about Guantánamo — the same rhetoric that has paralyzed President Obama, and revived the politics of fear in Congress – is actually the opposite: the anatomy of a colossal crime perpetrated by the US government on 779 prisoners who, for the most part, are not and never have been the terrorists the government would like us to believe they are.
Today's New York Times prominently features "The Guantanamo Files," asynthesis of "700 classified military documents" obtained by WikiLeaks, about the Cuba prison's current and former inmates. It's the latest blockbuster data cache to be trumpeted by the paper. And though the paper has had a complicated relationship with the secret-sharing site run by Julian Assange since the two partnered up for a post-Thanksgiving barrage of "State's Secrets" last year, the paper has become increasingly reliant on its documents.
By our count, on 63 days so far this year the paper's reporters have relied on WikiLeaks documents as sources for their stories. Since April 25th is the 115th day of the year, that's over half of all their issues this year. And just to be clear, we didn't count stories that merely mentioned WikiLeaks or Julian Assange or Bradley Manning, only the ones that used documents from the site as a reporting source.
It now seems routine for WikiLeaks to serve as a source when it comes to American diplomacy, especially regarding the Middle East. Sometimes these stories are billed as revelations from WikiLeaks' cache, such as the March 2 story by James Risen on the Qaddafi sons' bitter business battles which was headlined, "2 Qaddafis Fought Over Business, Cables Show." But often the WikiLeak-ed documents are used as a stand-in for an American diplomatic spokesperson, source or expert. A typical example is the recent feature on Muammar Qaddafi's illegitimate means of acquiring wealth. The seventh paragraph of the front-page story reads:
The government not only exploited corporations eager to do business, but willing governments as well. Libya’s banks apparently collected lucrative fees by helping Iran launder huge sums of money in recent years in violation of international sanctions on Tehran, according to another cable from Tripoli included in a batch of classified documents obtained by WikiLeaks. In 2009, the cable said, American diplomats warned Libyan officials that its dealings with Iran were jeopardizing Libya’s enhanced world standing for the sake of “potential short-term business gains.”
And it's not just Libya. Times readers have learned about Cairo's top military officials wrestling for control of post-Mubarak Egypt, Pakistan's nuclear might, and American diplomats' role in selling Boeing jetlinersto foreign leaders all thanks to WikiLeaks.
· Diplomats Help Push Sales of Jetliners on Global Market, Eric Lipton, Nicola Clark, Andrew Lehren, New York Times
· Pakistani Nuclear Arms Pose Challenge to U.S. Policy, David Sanger and Eric Schmitt, New York Times
· Egypt's Military Leaders Face Power Sharing Test, Thom Shanker and Eric Schmitt, New York Times
· Shady Dealings Helped Qaddafi Build Fortune and Regime, Eric Lichtblau, David Rohde and James Risen, New York Times
· NATO Set to Take Full Command of Libyan Campaign, Steven Erlanger and Eric Schmitt, New York Times
· 2 Qaddafis Fought Over Business, Cables Show, James Risen, New York Times
· Dealing with Assange and the WikiLeaks Secrets, Bill Keller, New York Times Magazine
· Leaked Cables Offer Raw Look at U.S. Diplomacy, Scott Shane and Andrew Lehren, New York Times
· What We've Learned So Far from the Guantanamo Files, Erik Hayden, The Atlantic Wire
The latest documents obtained from WikiLeaks provide an inside view of a highly controversial system: More than 700 classified US government files on the prisoners held at Guantanamo show how lax the American military was in its dealings with the facts. SPIEGEL has analyzed the documents.
In total, 765 documents provide portraits of all the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. In all, they represent 765 attempts to classify the danger presented by the prisoners into three categories: high, medium or low. This simple effort to categorize the prisoners alone shows just how helpless the undertaking was to create reliable profiles of the Guantanamo prisoners.
The documents, obtained by SPIEGEL and other international media, underscore the shortcomings of the Guantanamo system. They also make it possible, for the first time, to get a precise idea of just who the 779 prisoners were: The files provide information about their country of origin, their age, the state of their health and their behavior in prison.
All the prisoners were provided with numbers after arriving at the prison, with two characters in the alphanumeric codes in the documents obtained designated for the country of origin. "YM," for example, stands for Yemen; "KU" for Kuwait. The files obtained by SPIEGEL indicate that, with 214 prisoners, the single largest number of detainees came from Afghanistan, followed by Saudi Arabia (140), Yemen (110) and Pakistan (67). A further 44 countries are also listed.
The memoranda are classified as "secret" and bear the additional classification of "Noforn," or "Not releasable to foreign nationals."
Even though the material is incomplete, it still represents the most comprehensive files seen yet of the prisoners who have been held by the United States at the Caribbean prison. The memoranda contain the life stories of over 700 Afghans, Yemenis and Uighurs, of high-ranking al-Qaida leaders, the 14 so-called "high value detainees," and of guilty and innocent people for whom the United States, a country that follows the rule of law, could find no better way of dealing with than to detain them on an island where those principles did not apply.
Minors Treated the Same as Elderly Men
The documents stemming from a period of seven years, form a depressing archive of a system that saw minors treated and classified in the same way as elderly men. The documents show that several of the prisoners suffered from a range of mental illnesses, including depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety and schizophrenia.
The memoranda are structured schematically and contain personal information about the prisoners, biographical details, the location and activities of the person before and after Sept. 11, 2001, medical assessments and whether they represented a "high," "medium" or "low" risk.
Under this system, for example, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was categorized as a "high" risk, a man who posed a danger to the United States, the country's interests and its allies -- which was no doubt true in his case. The memorandum also indicates that Mohammed was of "high intelligence value" to the United States.
From the perspective of the Guantanamo inmates, the decisive passage can be found at the beginning of the files -- the recommendation of the Joint Task Force (JTF), which operated the prison at Guantanamo, on the further fate of the prisoners. In the case of Sheikh Mohammed, as with most of the prisoners in the information obtained, it "recommends this detainee for Continued Detention Under DoD (Department of Defense) Control (CD)."
Nevertheless, the material has considerable shortcomings: It doesn't represent the prisoner's final status and merely provides a snapshot of what was known at the time.
The US government itself has noted this in its first reactions to the publication. A working group has been reviewing the detainee assessments since January 2009 and has in some cases reached different conclusions to those contained in the files. Thus, the documents that have been obtained do not represent the US government's current assessments.
Prisoners Given a Face
Still, the documents, which cover the years between 2002 and 2009, do provide a more complete picture of the way the US dealt with those it had declared to be its enemies -- not least because they provide the prisoners with a face, in many cases for the first time. Numerous files contain portrait photos of the prisoners.
Given that the new abundance of documents provide a glimpse of the inner workings of the Guantanamo system, as well as including the statements of the "high value" prisoners, the masterminds behind the Sept. 11 terror attacks and high-ranking Qaida leaders, they are documents of contemporary history that are of public interest -- even if they do not mean that the history of Guantanamo and America's war on terror will have to be rewritten following their release.
For that reason, SPIEGEL decided to handle the new material supplied by WikiLeaks in the same way it treated the Afghanistan and Iraq war logs as well as the US diplomatic cables that were also published on the whistleblowing platform. A team of SPIEGEL editors and researchers analyzed the Guantanamo reports, evaluated and reported on them.
In the course of their work, they came across new details in the history of the Sept. 11 attacks. The documents provide information on where high-ranking al-Qaida leaders were after the attacks, where they hid, how they met each other and how they continued, as if they were drunk from their own success, to plan numerous attacks against the West. Nothing appeared to stand in their way anymore -- no plan was big enough, it seemed, if it meant bringing the "crusaders" -- the US superpower -- to its knees.
The inside glimpse into al-Qaida, derived largely from the documents pertaining to Khaled Sheikh Mohammed, the chief architect of the Sept. 11 attacks, and Ramzi Binalshibh, the Yemeni 9/11 coordinator, are among the most important documents to be published.
Part 2: Persistent Exaggeration and a Loose Relationship with Facts
The other key understanding the documents lead to is a sobering one that doesn't come as much of a surprise. The Guantanamo system was kept alive through persistent exaggeration and a lax attitude to the facts. The raft of detail in the personal files that have been obtained makes this insight seem more shocking than previously known -- they document how the detainees' alleged actions were recorded and described in a way that was arbitrary, incomplete and far removed from the kind of evidence-taking a normal court would require.
This is particularly clear in the case of the Guantanamo detainee with the prisoner number "US9TU-000061DP" -- Murat Kurnaz, who was born and raised in the German city of Bremen and who is also referred to as "Murat Kunn" and "Murat Karnaz" in his JTF assessment. In May 2006, he was still being described as a "high risk," in other words, as a prisoner who poses a great danger. According to the document, Kurnaz was "likely" to pose a threat to the US, its interests and allies.
His "intelligence value" was rated as "medium" and he represented a "moderate" threat from a detention perspective. The nine-page document concludes with the usual recommendation that the prisoner's detention be continued as a result of this assessment.
Only three months later, the supposedly "high risk" prisoner was released. Kurnaz -- regarded as an "enemy combatant" by the US Defense Department -- was sent back to Germany. There, he would later buy a sports car, give a series of interviews and publish a book about his time in Guantanamo. Since then, however, he has kept a very low profile in Germany.
Attempt to Justify Guantanamo
Former US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld once described the Guantanamo detainees as the "worst of the worst." Around 600 of them have now been transferred to other countries or been released, most of them during the Bush years. The 765 "detainee assessments" document the apparent effort in many cases to make the detainees look more threatening and dangerous than they probably ever were, in order to present Guantanamo as a justified tool in the fight against terrorism.
Numerous claims, statements and instances of speculation can be found in the reports that would not stand up in any normal court of law. In the "detainee assessments," however, such things are often treated as irrefutable facts.
Even Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the 9/11 mastermind, felt obliged to speak out on behalf of the many "innocent people" in Guantanamo during a hearing before the Combatant Status Review Tribunal. He called on the American authorities to deal more carefully with these detainees and to check the charges against them to see if they were true. For his part, however, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who the Americans code-named KSM, provided detailed information about his activities and plans against the enemy, both previously known and unknown.
'Sign of al-Qaida'
One of the most interesting reports is not a detainee assessment, but a set of guidelines for Guantanamo interrogators that was intended to give them tips on how to recognize members of al-Qaida and the Taliban. Some of the "threat indicators" listed in that document appear obvious and understandable -- such as a reference to prisoners who admit to having stayed in Tora Bora, the cave complex in Afghanistan that was a Taliban and al-Qaida stronghold.
But there are also surprising and strange "indicators," such as the possession of $100 banknotes. According to a footnote in the report, it is known that the al-Qaida leadership provided its fighters with $100 bills to help them flee Afghanistan. Interrogators were told to look out for a specific kind of digital watch, namely Casio's F-91W model, along with the silver version of the same watch, the A159W. The watches were regarded as "the sign of al-Qaida," as they were used by the organization in the construction of improvised explosive devices and were apparently handed out in al-Qaida bomb-making training courses in Afghanistan.
On the other hand, one of the darkest chapters in the history of Guantanamo is not mentioned in the files at all. The words "waterboarding" and "torture" appear in none of the documents.
The date of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's arrest is painstakingly given as March 1, 2003, as is the date of his arrival in Guantanamo, Sept. 4, 2006. But the documents do not contain any information about his whereabouts during the intervening three-and-a-half year period. The same is true for another high-value detainee, the Palestinian Abu Zubaydah. Both men were likely subjected to waterboarding.
Editor's note: SPIEGEL ONLINE International will publish a selection of SPIEGEL stories on the latest raft of WikiLeaks documents this week.
A statement from the Pentagon was published just after 9 pm ET on April 24th, no more than an hour or two after the New York Times had posted their package covering the Gitmo Files they had not obtained from WikiLeaks. The statement was posted on NPR and the Times website. Yet, again, it seems this is an instance of complete collusion between the press and government.
Michael Calderone reports "representatives from NPR and the Times visited the White House and spoke with Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell and members of Joint Task Force Guantanamo." And, "The news organizations agreed to some redactions requested by government officials but not all of them."
Recall, in February, it was found out that the Times had met with the State Department prior to their release of the US State Embassy Cables. Marcy Wheeler over at Firedoglake highlightedNYT’s close cooperation with the State Department:
Because of the range of the material and the very nature of diplomacy, the embassy cables were bound to be more explosive than the War Logs. Dean Baquet, our Washington bureau chief, gave the White House an early warning on Nov. 19. The following Tuesday, two days before Thanksgiving, Baquet and two colleagues were invited to a windowless room at the State Department, where they encountered an unsmiling crowd. Representatives from the White House, the State Department, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the C.I.A., the Defense Intelligence Agency, the F.B.I. and the Pentagon gathered around a conference table. Others, who never identified themselves, lined the walls. A solitary note-taker tapped away on a computer.
The meeting was off the record, but it is fair to say the mood was tense. Scott Shane, one reporter who participated in the meeting, described “an undertone of suppressed outrage and frustration.”
Subsequent meetings, which soon gave way to daily conference calls, were more businesslike. Before each discussion, our Washington bureau sent over a batch of specific cables that we intended to use in the coming days. They were circulated to regional specialists, who funneled their reactions to a small group at State, who came to our daily conversations with a list of priorities and arguments to back them up. We relayed the government’s concerns, and our own decisions regarding them, to the other news outlets.
Once again, the Times opted to subvert its duty and be for the State instead of fully owning its role as a member of the Fourth Estate. It chose to cover for power instead of covering power. [Unfortunately, on matters of national security and war, this is what typically happens.]
Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell’s statement is a well-prepared statement. It does not simply condemn the release of the files and then make a general note about the US and how it is committed to upholding human rights and so on and so forth. The statement clearly outlines that a Guantanamo Task Force was established in January 2009 and suggests that the material published may be outdated because the Task Force has made assessments of detainees and those reports were not released.
The statement also claims, “Both the previous and the current Administrations have made every effort to act with the utmost care and diligence in transferring detainees from Guantanamo.” That may be mostly true, as the US State Embassy cables released by WikiLeaks indicated Guantanamo detainees had been used as “bargaining chips.” American diplomats bargained with countries to help empty the prison by resettling detainees. They told Slovenia if it wanted to get a meeting with President Barack Obama. They offered Kiribati incentives “worth millions of dollars to take Chinese Muslim detainees.” Diplomats suggested to Belgium that by taking detainees it could be a “low-cost way for Belgium to attain prominence in Europe.”
If the process of resettling has not worked as planned, perhaps the manner in which the US went about trying to resettle detainees is partly to blame for the inconvenience these terror suspects have caused the supreme power. Or, perhaps, the fact that, as Amy Davidson of the New Yorker writes, the US reasoning for detaining individuals does "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"—Perhaps, that has something to do with the complications being experienced.
The Pentagon statement notes the “previous Administration transferred 537 detainees; to date, the current Administration has transferred 67” Former President George W. Bush occupied the position of US President of the United States for eight years. That means on average Bush released 67 detainees each year of his presidency. But, actually, that’s a poor calculation because the first detainee wasn’t released from Guantanamo until 2002. So, in reality, Bush released an average of 89 detainees each year he was president.
How many detainees has Obama released each year thus far? About 34 detainees each year. And, unlike Bush, President Obama was actually committed to closing Guantanamo.
The statement continues, “Both Administrations have made the protection of American citizens the top priority and we are concerned that the disclosure of these documents could be damaging to those efforts.”
The “security” of American citizens is of so much concern that detainees are a different class of people in the United States. They are de-human and not allowed civilian trials in the United States. They are “enemy combatants” and not prisoners of war and thus are not able to claim protections under the Geneva Conventions.
Finally, the statement concludes, “We will continue to work with allies and partners around the world to mitigate threats to the U.S. and other countries and to work toward the ultimate closure of the Guantanamo detention facility, consistent with good security practices and our values as a nation.”
But, just how hard does the Pentagon and the Obama Administration plan to work to close Guantanamo? In 2009, the Senate canceled $80 million to fund the relocation of Guantanamo detainees. Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye and Republican Sen. James Inhofe slid a provision into a war appropriations bill that made it so “none of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available by this act may be used to transfer, release, or incarcerate any individual who was detained as of May 19, 2009, at Naval Station, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to or within the United States."
In March of this year, President Obama announced he would restart military commissions for Guantanamo detainees and no longer push to secure civilian trials for the detainees in the United States. He also announced “a new process for continuing to hold those detainees not charged or convicted but deemed too dangerous to be free.”
Despite the fact that he had pledged to close Guantanamo by January 2010 days after his inauguration, he defended military commissions saying they “ensure our security and our values are strengthened.” But, these announcements virtually ensured that Guantanamo would continue to stay open.
Where are these detainees going to go when not being tried? And, if they are not being given civilian trials, what makes anyone think they will be resettled in civilian prisons? They would have to be held at military prisons. And, what is the likelihood that they would be resettled in prisons on the US mainland if there is no political will to support trying detainees in cities like New York?
The Obama Administration currently has no public campaign to close the Guantanamo prison beyond the words that are printed in this statement. It is not advocating vigorously for the closure. It is much harder for it to defend the prison’s closure than it is to defend it staying fully operational.
The Pentagon is not suggesting the release of this information will endanger lives. The Times and other news organizations are already spinning the reports as information that shows what alleged terrorists were up to on September 11 and after before they were seized or captured. Thus, the release of the information could, if spun correctly by media, help the government defend continuing the "war on terror." It could obscure revelations on the flawed process of assessing whether a detainee is dangerous or not, whether a detainee has information that can be used to capture leaders of al Qaeda, whether a detainee deserved to be transferred to Guantanamo, etc.
The disclosure of information will hurt the government not because this information was "obtained illegally" but because, like many releases from WikiLeaks, it shows us the truth of what has been going on with detainees right down to specific details about each detainee in the prison.
Contrary to Morrell’s suggestion, the released documents are more likely to help spur efforts to close Guantanamo than damage the efforts. The release will force Americans to once again ask themselves why the military prison in Cuba needs to remain open. It will give human rights organizations another opportunity to force the political class in Washington to confront the prison, one the Bush Administration crafted legal justification to help prevent officials from being prosecuted for illegal or inhumane conduct.
It may not have the impact of getting the prison closed, but the transparency or disclosure is still valuable to the world. If this doesn’t catalyze a second burst of will from America to close the prison, one thing is certain: It will reveal yet another inhuman and callous American reality.
McClatchy Newspapers writes “the US military set up a human intelligence laboratory at Guantanamo,” the Washington Post details new classified military documents obtained by the “anti-secrecy organization” present “new details” of detainees whereabouts on Sept 11, 2001 and afterward and the Daily Telegraph reports that it has exposed “America’s own analysis of almost ten years of controversial interrogations on the world’s most dangerous terrorists.”
Months after news organizations reported the Guantanamo Files might be WikiLeaks’ next release, the files are now posted on the WikiLeaks website. Nearly 800 documents, memoranda from Joint Task Force Guantanamo (JTF-GTMO), the combined force in charge of the Guantanamo Bay prison to US Southern Command in Miami, Florida.
The memoranda do not detail torture or how detainees were interrogated. The reports from between 2002 and 2008 show how JTF-GTMO justified when to keep detainees and also when it chose to release detainees. In cases of detainees “released,” that detainee’s “transfer” is detailed to “the custody of his own government or that of some other government.”
The reports represent not just JTF-GTMO but, according to WikiLeaks, they also represent the Criminal Investigation Task Force created by the Department of Defense to conduct interrogations and the Behavioral Science Teams (BSCTs) consisting of psychologists who had “a major say in “exploitation” of [detainees] in interrogations.”
The Washington Post, the McClatchy Company, El Pais, the Telegraph, Der Spiegel, Le Monde,Aftonbladet,La Repubblica, L’Espresso, and Andy Worthington are each listed as partners. (TheNew York Times has coverage of the documents but is not listed as a partner and neither is NPR.)
What is a Guantanamo file?
First, the detainee’s personal information is listed. That information includes what the US considers to be the detainee’s name, aliases, place and date of birth, citizenship. The information also includes an Internment Serial Number (ISN).
The second section describes detainees’ mental health or physical health issues.
The third section is a “JTF-GTMO Assessment.” This section is where recommendations on whether a detainee should be held or released can be found. “Executive Summaries” in this section provide explanation for why a detainee should continue to be detained or released. The section denotes whether the detainee is a low, medium or high-risk detainee. And, under “Summary of Changes,” whether there have been changes in the information provided since the last report on the detainee is listed.
The fourth section is the detainee’s own testimony detailing the detainee’s background and how the detainee was seized and captured.
The fifth section is “capture information.” This section may be one of the more interesting sections in the released reports. Here one can see “Reasons for Transfer.” These are alleged reasons for the detainee’s transfer. WikiLeaks, however, notes there is reason to be skeptical:
The reason that [these reasons are] unconvincing is because, as former interrogator Chris Mackey (a pseudonym) explained in his book The Interrogators, the US high command, based in Camp Doha, Kuwait, stipulated that every prisoner who ended up in US custody had to be transferred to Guantánamo -- and that there were no exceptions; in other words, the "Reasons for transfer" were grafted on afterwards, as an attempt to justify the largely random rounding-up of prisoners.
A sixth section contains an analysis from the Task Force explaining whether the Force finds the detainee’s testimony to be convincing.
The seventh section presents an assessment detailing how much of a threat the detainee happens to be. This is another one of the more interesting sections of the reports because the “Reasons for Continued Detention” often come from statements from fellow detainees in Guantanamo or secret prisons run by the CIA where torture or other forms of coercion have been used to get detainees to talk. In some cases, detainees were offered rewards such as better treatment if they made statements on detainees in US military custody.
This section also looks at the “detainee’s conduct” and how a detainee has behaved citing “disciplinary infractions.”
The eighth section contains a “Detainee Intelligence Value Assessment.” This information suggests areas of intelligence that could be further “exploited.”
Finally, the “EC Status,” yet another interesting section, details whether the detainee is to still be considered an “enemy combatant” or not. Based on findings from the Combatant Status Review Tribunals, just 38 out of 558 detainees that came before tribunals held in 2004-05 were determined to no longer be enemy combatants.
Now, as of 12:15 AM ET on April 25, sixty-seven detainee reports have been posted on the WikiLeaks website.
This is WikiLeaks first new leak since Cablegate. Presumably, WikiLeaks will continue to post US State Embassy Cables to its website as it releases these files.
*WLCentral will have coverage all week of the Guantanamo Files. Check back here regularly for updates.
1. Main Wikileaks Resources
2. Cablegate Resources
3. War Leaks
4. Frequent Falsehoods
5. Twitter Archive
6. Press Archive
7. Video Archive
2. Cablegate Resources
3. War Leaks
4. Frequent Falsehoods
5. Twitter Archive
6. Press Archive
7. Video Archive
WASHINGTON, April 25 (UPI) -- The U.S. Supreme Court rejected an early review of a challenge to the new U.S. healthcare law by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli Monday.
Read more: http://www.upi.com/#ixzz1Ka2OH0iP
Read more: http://www.upi.com/#ixzz1Ka2OH0iP
WASHINGTON, April 25 (UPI) -- The U.S. Supreme Court rejected an early review of a challenge to the new U.S. healthcare law by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli Monday.
No justice dissented and no comments were offered, Scotusblog.com said.
The action returns the case to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
"The petition for a writ of certiorari before judgment is denied," the order says.
Cuccinelli, a Republican who is challenging the law's mandate that individuals must have health insurance, petitioned the court to consider the case as soon as possible, The Hill reported.
"Given the importance of the issues at stake to the states and to the economy as a whole," Cuccinelli argued in his Feb. 8 motion, "this court should grant certiorari to resolve a matter of imperative public importance."
Two federal judges have ruled the law's individual mandate is unconstitutional, but several others have upheld it.
The Obama administration has argued the matter should go through the appeals process, while critics of the healthcare law said the divergent opinions issued so far are creating legal uncertainty and should be resolved by the Supreme Court as soon as possible.
WASHINGTON, Feb. 13 (UPI) -- Bad news for those who think watching the healthcare challenges slowly work their way through the federal courts is like watching paint dry: The latest attempt by Virginia to speed things up isn't given much of a chance.
Challenges to President Barack Obama's federal healthcare reform have been popping up all over the country. But so far, the rulings have been mixed.
A federal judge in Virginia struck down as unconstitutional the law's requirement that everyone has to pay for health insurance; and a federal judge in Florida ruled the same thing, adding that since the individual mandate cannot be severed from the entire law, then the entire law must go.
Meanwhile, at least three federal judges have ruled against separate challenges on strictly technical grounds.
Besides the Virginia suit, 25 states have joined Florida's healthcare reform challenge and Oklahoma has filed its own suit.
Peppery Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, a victorious challenger at the trial court level, said earlier this month he intends to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to take the case directly, skipping the federal appeals court level.
Cuccinelli is racing Florida for the glory of getting the first case to the Supreme Court.
A hard-shell Republican, Cuccinelli appears to prefer having his challenge judged by the enduring 5-4 conservative majority in the Supreme Court rather than face the risks that might be incurred at the appellate level -- even though the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., is one of the more conservative appellate panels in the country.
"Regardless of whether you believe the law is constitutional or not, we should all agree that a prompt resolution of this issue is in everyone's best interest," Cuccinelli said in a statement.
However, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Justice Department said expediting the challenge would not be much of an advantage, since the appeals court has agreed to hear the Virginia case in May, The Washington Post reported.
Under any timeline, whether the appeals court hears the case or not, the Supreme Court would be unlikely to hear the case until next term.
The Justice Department is opposing Cuccinelli's proposal. The Obama administration argues Congress has the power to enact healthcare reform under the commerce clause of the Constitution -- the healthcare industry occupies about a sixth of the U.S. economy.
The Post reported legal experts say they think the Supreme Court is unlikely to grant Virginia's request, .
"This is exceptionally rare," Jonathan Turley, a professor at George Washington University's law school, told the Post.
But Gov. Robert F. McDonnell, a fellow Republican and religious conservative, said Cuccinelli's request for an immediate high court review was necessary. "All other court decisions and reviews prior to that moment will serve simply to exacerbate the uncertainty and continue the delay," McDonnell told the newspaper.
At least one very authoritative voice says, not so fast.
Speaking at The George Washington University in Washington after Cuccinelli announced his plan, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg strongly suggested the healthcare reform challenge would have to reach the Supreme Court through the normal route.
Ginsburg was interviewed in front of a packed Lizner Auditorium by Nina Totenberg, NPR's legal correspondent.
The justice described the high court as a "reactive institution," adding, "We don't decide, 'We better get this or that case sooner rather than later," the campus newspaper The Hatchet reported.
Some high-profile cases have received a very rare quick Supreme Court review, Ginsburg said, but the justices feel they benefit from reading lower-court opinions: "We have a range of views before us and can make a better informed decision."
Ginsburg's comments in the student newspaper are gradually filtering out to the legal blogosphere.
Lyle Denniston, the canny dean emeritus of the Supreme Court press room, said in SCOTUSBLOG.com that since Virginia had not yet filed its request, it's conceivable Ginsburg did not know she was commenting on an issue that would shortly be before the high court.
But he said it was also possible Ginsburg was directly addressing Virginia's chances.
Even after a filing, the Supreme Court would not act until it gets a brief in opposition from the Justice Department. Then four of the nine justices would have to vote to hear the case on an expedited basis.
Ashby Jones, on the Wall Street Journal Law Blog, also cited Ginsburg's comments. As for the chances of Virginia getting the fast-track constitutional challenge straight to the Supreme Court, Jones said, "Uh, yeah, don't hold your breath."
Of course, the experts could always be wrong. That's what makes court cases and horse races.
Read more: http://www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2011/02/13/Under-the-US-Supreme-Court-Ginsburg-chills-healthcare-speedup-hopes/UPI-27051297585800/#ixzz1Ka3Sn5dm
Health Law Won't Get High-Court Review Yet
Wall Street Journal
Wall Street Journal
By BRENT KENDALL WASHINGTON—The Supreme Court refused Monday to consider an early challenge to the federal health-care law, allowing appeals courts to hear arguments first over the constitutionality of the Obama administration's signature legislative ...
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