Leaked Gitmo Documents Reveal Bush’s ‘Hellhole’ — Incompetence, Injustice, Brutality

April 25th, 2011 - by admin

The World Can’t Wait & McClatchy Newspapers & The Miami Herald – 2011-04-25 23:59:01


WikiLeaks Reveals Secret Files on All Guantánamo Prisoners
Andy Worthington / The World Can’t Wait

(April 25, 2011) — On Sunday April 24, 2011 WikiLeaks began publishing 779 secret files from the notorious Guantanamo Bay prison camp. The details for every detainee will be released daily over the coming month.

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 DC, 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.

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison.

WikiLeaks: Secret Guantanamo Files Show US Disarray
Carol Rosenberg and Tom Lasseter / McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON (April 25, 2011) — Faced with the worst-ever single attack by foreigners on American soil, the US military set up a human intelligence laboratory at Guantanamo that used interrogation and detention practices that they largely made up as they went along.

The world may have thought the US was detaining a band of international terrorists whose questioning would help the hunt for Osama Bin Laden or foil the next 9/11.

But a collection of secret Bush-era intelligence documents not meant to surface for another 20 years shows that the military’s efforts at Guantanamo often were much less effective than the government has acknowledged.

Viewed as a whole, the secret intelligence summaries help explain why in May 2009 President Barack Obama, after ordering his own review of wartime intelligence, called America’s experiment at Guantanamo “quite simply a mess.”

The documents, more than 750 individual assessments of former and current Guantanamo detainees, show an intelligence operation that was tremendously dependant on informants — both prison camp snitches repeating what they’d heard from fellow captives and self-described, at times self-aggrandizing, alleged al Qaida insiders turned government witnesses who Pentagon records show have since been released.

Intelligence analysts are at odds with each other over which informants to trust, at times drawing inferences from prisoners’ exercise habits. They order DNA tests, tether Taliban suspects to polygraphs, string together tidbits in ways that seemed to defy common sense.

Guantanamo analysts at times questioned the reliability of some information gleaned from other detainees’ interrogations.

Allegations and information from one Yemeni, no longer at Guantanamo, appears in at least 135 detainees’ files, prompting Navy Rear Adm. Dave Thomas, the prison camps commander in August 2008, to include this warning:

“Any information provided should be adequately verified through other sources before being utilized.”

The same report goes on to praise the captive as an “invaluable intelligence source” for information about al Qaida and Taliban training, operations, personnel and facilities,” and warns that he’d be at risk of retaliation if he were released into Yemeni society. He was resettled in Europe by the Obama administration.

In fact, information from just eight men showed up in forms for at least 235 Guantanamo detainees — some 30 percent of those known to have been held there.

In many cases, the detainees made direct allegations of others’ involvement in militant activities; in others, they gave contextual information used to help build the edges of a case.

While many other intelligence sources were referred to in those detainee assessment forms, including in some cases confessions by the detainees themselves, the inclusion of information from such a highly questionable group of men would seem to raise serious issues about a key piece of the “mosaic” process at Guantanamo and the decisions that followed.

The documents also show that in the earliest years of the prison camps operation, the Pentagon permitted Chinese and Russian interrogators into the camps — information from those sessions are included in some captives’ assessments — something American defense lawyers working free-of-charge for the foreign prisoners have alleged and protested for years.

There’s not a whiff in the documents that any of the work is leading the US closer to capturing Bin Laden. In fact, the documents suggest a sort of mission creep beyond the post-9/11 goal of hunting down the al Qaida inner circle and sleeper cells.

The file of one captive, now living in Ireland, shows he was sent to Guantanamo so that US military intelligence could gather information on the secret service of Uzbekistan. A man from Bahrain is shipped to Guantanamo in June 2002, in part, for interrogation on “personalities in the Bahraini court.”

That same month, US troops in Bagram airlifted to Guantanamo a 30-something sharecropper whom Pakistani security forces scooped up along the Afghan border as he returned home from his uncle’s funeral.

The idea was that, once at Guantanamo, 8,000 miles from his home, he might be able to tell interrogators about covert travel routes through the Afghan-Pakistan mountain region. Seven months later, the Guantanamo intelligence analysts concluded that he wasn’t a risk to anyone — and had no worthwhile information. Pentagon records show they shipped him home in March 2003, after more than two years in either American or Pakistani custody.

McClatchy Newspapers obtained the documents last month from WikiLeaks on an embargoed basis to give reporters from seven news organizations — including McClatchy, The Washington Post, the Spanish newspaper El Pais, and the German magazine Der Spiegel — time to catalogue, evaluate and report on them. WikiLeaks abruptly lifted the embargo Sunday night, after the organization became aware that the documents had been leaked to other news organizations, which were about to publish stories about them.

Marked “SECRET // NOFORN,” the documents consist of more than 750 intelligence summaries, each consisting on average of between 2 to 12 pages, of the more than 500 detainees who’ve been transferred from the prison and for the 172 who still remain there. The summaries were written between 2002 and 2008.

Many include photographs of the men, information about each man’s physical and mental health as well as recommendations on whether to keep them in US custody, hand them over to a foreign government for imprisonment, or set them free.

They make little mention of the abuse and torture scandals that surrounded intelligence gathering — both at secret CIA detention centers abroad and at the Guantanamo camps.

Of an Australian man who came to Guantanamo in May 2002, Army Brig. Gen. Jay Hood noted two years later that the captive confessed while “under extreme duress” and “in the custody of the Egyptian government” to training six of the 9/11 hijackers in martial arts. He had denied the ties by August 2004 and was repatriated five months later.

The documents make clear that intelligence agents elsewhere showed photos of Guantanamo prisoners to prized war-on-terror catches held at secret so-called CIA black-sites, out of reach of the International Red Cross. Notably the reports reflect that at times some captives faces were familiar to Abu Zubayda — whom the CIA waterboarded scores of times.

At times the efforts seem comedic. Guards plucked off ships at sea to walk the cellblocks note who has hoarded food as contraband, who makes noise during the Star Spangled Banner, who sings creepy songs like “La, La, La, La Taliban” and who is re-enacting the 9/11 attacks with origami art.

But they also hint at frightening plots.

If you believe the intelligence profiles, the alleged Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed schooled four men now at Guantanamo in the summer before 9/11 in English and American style-behavior for an ancillary 9/11 attack — on US military sites in Asia.

The documents also show military intelligence offering what appears to be little more than prurient gossip about the detainees.

Saudi Abd al Rahim al Nashiri, 45, who made headlines just week as the first Obama administration candidate for a death penalty tribunal at Guantanamo, is cast in his risk assessment as a high-risk captive. The assessment makes no mention of that the CIA waterboarded him in a secret black-site interrogation before his transfer to military custody but includes his supposed strategy to not be distracted by women:

“Detainee is so dedicated to jihad that he reportedly received injections to promote impotence,” an analyst writes, without explanation of the source.

Elsewhere in the files, US military intelligence analysts discussing the dangerousness of two Iraqi men captured in Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan, include this observation: One Iraqi boasted that he had an affair with the other Iraqi’s wife, in the husband’s house. Both have since been repatriated to Iraq.

And they show how they got it wrong right from the very start. On Day One, the camps commander declared the first airlift of 20 men “the worst of the worst,” handpicked hardened terrorists plucked from the battlefield and shown shackled on their knees to their world in mute, blinded submission.

Not so, according to the military’s own analysis, which has so far set free eight of the first 20 men — the first of that batch just nine months later as a nobody swept up in the war on terror.

They also show the arc of American understanding of the men who were first locked up at the crude prison camp called X-Ray. Early on in the enterprise, the US military at Guantanamo profiled “The Dirty 30” — that number of men captured along the Afghan-Pakistan border near Parachinar — as Bin Laden bodyguards who had traveled in a pack from Tora Bora to escape the American forces.

But by the time Bush left office, his interagency process had freed 10 of the men. Mostt were sent to Saudi Arabia, some after concluding they were probably not part of the al Qaeda founder’s security detail.

Among those men is a convicted war criminal — Guantanamo’s lone lifer, Ali Hamza al Bahlul of Yemen — convicted not as a “Dirty 30,” but for serving as Bin Laden’s media secretary and an al Qaida filmmaker who fed the terror group’s propaganda machine.

Guantanamo Detainee Who Died
Was to Be Held Indefinitely

Carol Rosenberg / The Miami Herald

(March 2, 2011) — A 48-year-old ex-Taliban commander dropped dead of an apparent heart attack after exercising on an elliptical machine inside Guantánamo’s most populous prison camp, the military said Thursday.

The dead man, Awal Gul, had been in US custody since Christmas 2001 and at the prison camps in southeast Cuba for more than eight years. He was designated by the Obama administration as one of 48 “indefinite detainees,” meaning the US would neither repatriate him nor put him on trial.

Gul was working out Tuesday night in a collective cellblock at the cement penitentiary-style building called Camp 6, said Navy Cmdr. Tamsen Reese, a prison camps spokeswoman.

“He went to go take a shower and apparently collapsed in the shower,” Reese said. “Detainees on the cellblock then assisted him in getting to the guard station.”

From there he was taken to a prison camp clinic, then to the Navy base hospital, some miles away, but could not be saved despite what the commander called “extensive life saving measures.”

Gul is the seventh war-on-terror detainee to die during the nine years the Pentagon has confined some 800 men and boys to the prisons at Guantánamo.

The New York based Center for Constitutional Rights, which has represented detainess in lawsuits seeking their release, reacted angrily to the death, blaming President Barack Obama for a policy that allows their continued detention there without charges.

“Awal Gul’s death illustrates too well what Guantánamo has become — a prison where Muslim men are held indefinitely until they die because the president lacks political courage to release or charge them in any forum,” the group said in a statement.

Gul had never been charged with a crime during his more-than-eight-year detention. American officials said they suspected him of being a base commander for the Taliban. His lawyer, Matthew Dodge, said both sides argued Gul’s “habeas corpus” petition before US District Judge Rosemary Colyer in Washington D.C. in March, but she has not yet ruled on whether his detention lawful.

Dodge said in spite of what Colyer might have ruled, his client might not have been released. He said that an Obama administration task foce had designated his client as an “indefinite detainee,” despite documents that, Dodge said, proved Gul had quit the Taliban a year before the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.

“He resigned because he was disgusted by the Taliban’s growing penchant for corruption and abuse,” said Dodge, an Atlanta-based federal public defender who helped Gul sue for his return to Afghanistan in US District Court in Washington, D.C.

“It is shame that the government will finally fly him home not in handcuffs and a hood, but in a casket,” the lawyer added.

The military said it would repatriate Gul’s remains once an autopsy was complete. Meantime, the US military airlifted a Muslim cleric to the remote US navy base to ensure Gul was receiving his traditional Islamic rites.

FBI reports included in his federal unlawful detention suit described Gul as a former Taliban commander who told a San Diego-based FBI agent in June 2008 that he was “tired from war and thirsty for peace.”vIt also said he was a father to 18, 11 of them daughters.

An announcement by the Southern Command in Miami called Gul “an admitted Taliban recruiter and commander of a military base in Jalalabad,” who at one point allegedly operated an al Qaeda guesthouse. Gul also admitted to meeting with Osama Bin Laden and providing him with operational assistance on several occasions, Southcom said.

In a transcript of a 2004 military hearing, acknowledged that he had indeed trained on Stinger missiles, one reason for his detention. But he said that he had trained in the 80s, when the United States supplied the missiles to Afghan forces resisting the Soviet invasion.

Moreover, he said, he saw Bin Laden on three occasions, the first time in 1990 in a gathering for “rich Saudis” who had come to build a hospital and school but was unaware that the al Qaeda founder was anti-American.

The US notified the Afghan government as well as Gul’s family by the time the Pentagon made the death public Thursday.

Pending final autopsy results, Reese said, his death appeared to be “a heart attack or pulmonary embolism.”

Gul’s death came just days after a commander disclosed that the military had consolidated the vast majority of Guantánamo’s 173 captives — not quite 130 — in the communal Camp 6.

Gul was considered a cooperative captive. He had only been recently moved into the hardened prison building from an open-air compound, which was also equipped with ellipticals — the stationary exercise machine used to simulate stair-climbing or running.

The Southern Command statement added that the Naval Criminal Investigative Service was looking at the death, a routine requirement. The military says the previous six deaths at Guantánamo included five suicides in the camps — one in a psychiatric ward — and another Afghan man, who died of colon cancer.

A Guantánamo defense lawyer, Pardiss Kebriaei, said soon after the death was disclosed that she was concerned that the military would not conduct a “timely and meaningful investigation of this man’s death.”

“There hasn’t been for any of the other six who’ve died at Guantánamo,” said Kebriaei, a staff attorney at the New York Center for Constitutional Rights.

After three captives were reportedly found hanging simultaneously in the same cellblock in June 2006, she added, “the NCIS took two years to release the findings of its investigation, and only after being compelled” through Freedom of Information Act litigation.

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