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WikiLeaks: The Guantánamo Files

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by Andy Worthington
Published April 24, 2011
WikiLeaks.ch

On Sunday April 24, 2011 WikiLeaks began publishing 779 secret files from the
notorious Guantánamo Bay prison camp. The details for every detainee will be
released daily over the coming month.

WikiLeaks Reveals Secret Files on All Guantánamo Prisoners

PLEASE NOTE: This article has been published in languages other than English
at WikiLeaks, linked here.

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.

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 or were 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 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 because 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”
still 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 totalling
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.

(Andy Worthington)
How to Read WikiLeaks’ Guantánamo Files

The nearly 800 documents in WikiLeaks’ latest release of classified US documents
are memoranda from Joint Task Force Guantánamo (JTF-GTMO), the combined
force in charge of the US “War on Terror” prison at Guantánamo
Bay, Cuba, to US Southern Command, in Miami, Florida, regarding the disposition
of the prisoners.

Written between 2002 and 2008, the memoranda were all marked as “secret,”
and their subject was whether to continue holding a prisoner, or whether to
recommend his release (described as his “transfer” — to the custody
of his own government, or that of some other government). They were obviously
not conclusive in and of themselves, as final decisions about the disposition
of prisoners were taken at a higher level, but they are very significant, as
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.

Under the heading, “JTF-GTMO Detainee Assessment,” the memos generally
contain nine sections, describing the prisoners as follows, although the earlier
examples, especially those dealing with prisoners released — or recommended
for release — between 2002 and 2004, may have less detailed analyses than the
following: [Ed. note: See Index posted at source for easiest search tool.]

1. Personal information

Each prisoner is identified by name, by aliases, which the US claims to have
identified, by place and date of birth, by citizenship, and by Internment Serial
Number (ISN). These long lists of numbers and letters — e.g. US9YM-000027DP
— are used to identify the prisoners in Guantánamo, helping to dehumanize
them, as intended, by doing away with their names. The most significant section
is the number towards the end, which is generally shortened, so that the example
above would be known as ISN 027. In the files, the prisoners are identified
by nationality, with 47 countries in total listed alphabetically, from “az”
for Afghanistan to “ym” for Yemen.

2. Health

This section describes whether or not the prisoner in question has mental health
issues and/or physical health issues. Many are judged to be in good health,
but there are some shocking examples of prisoners with severe mental and/or
physical problems.

3. JTF-GTMO Assessment

a. Under “Recommendation,” the Task Force explains whether a prisoner
should continue to be held, or should be released.
b. Under “Executive Summary,” the Task Force briefly explains its
reasoning, and, in more recent cases, also explains whether the prisoner is
a low, medium or high risk as a threat to the US and its allies and as a threat
in detention (i.e. based on their behavior in Guantánamo), and also whether
they are regarded as of low, medium or high intelligence value.
c. Under “Summary of Changes,” the Task Force explains whether there
has been any change in the information provided since the last appraisal (generally,
the prisoners are appraised on an annual basis).

4. Detainee’s Account of Events

Based on the prisoners’ own testimony, this section puts together an account
of their history, and how they came to be seized, in Afghanistan, Pakistan or
elsewhere, based on their own words.

5. Capture Information

This section explains how and where the prisoners were seized, and is followed
by a description of their possessions at the time of capture, the date of their
transfer to Guantánamo, and, spuriously, “Reasons for Transfer to
JTF-GTMO,” which lists alleged reasons for the prisoners’ transfer, such
as knowledge of certain topics for exploitation through interrogation. The reason
that this is 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.

6. Evaluation of Detainee’s Account

In this section, the Task Force analyzes whether or not they find the prisoners’
accounts convincing.

7. Detainee Threat

This section is the most significant from the point of view of the supposed
intelligence used to justify the detention of prisoners. After “Assessment,”
which reiterates the conclusion at 3b, the main section, “Reasons for Continued
Detention,” may, at first glance, look convincing, but it must be stressed
that, for the most part, it consists of little more than unreliable statements
made by the prisoners’ fellow prisoners — either in Guantánamo, or in
secret prisons run by the CIA, where torture and other forms of coercion were
widespread, or through more subtle means in Guantánamo, where compliant
prisoners who were prepared to make statements about their fellow prisoners
were rewarded with better treatment. Some examples are available on the homepage
for the release of these documents: http://wikileaks.ch/gitmo/

With this in mind, it should be noted that there are good reasons why Obama
administration officials, in the interagency Guantánamo Review Task Force
established by the President to review the cases of the 241 prisoners still
held in Guantánamo when he took office, concluded that only 36 could
be prosecuted.

The final part of this section, “Detainee’s Conduct,” analyzes
in detail how the prisoners have behaved during their imprisonment, with exact
figures cited for examples of “Disciplinary Infraction.”

8. Detainee Intelligence Value Assessment

After reiterating the intelligence assessment at 3b and recapping on the prisoners’
alleged status, this section primarily assesses which areas of intelligence
remain to be “exploited,” according to the Task Force

9. EC Status

The final section notes whether or not the prisoner in question is still regarded
as an “enemy combatant,” based on the findings of the Combatant Status
Review Tribunals, held in 2004-05 to ascertain whether, on capture, the prisoners
had been correctly labeled as “enemy combatants.” Out of 558 cases,
just 38 prisoners were assessed as being “no longer enemy combatants,”
and in some cases, when the result went in the prisoners’ favor, the military
convened new panels until it got the desired result.