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Bush administration lied about Gitmo detainees, many of them are innocent

Daisy Cutter, Daily Kos


Febraury 8, 2006

We've heard the same talking points about Gitmo detainees over and over again: "they were captured on the battle field in Afghanistan, they are bloodthirsty terrorists, they are bad people".

"These are people picked up off the battlefield in Afghanistan. They weren't wearing uniforms ... but they were there to kill."
-- President Bush, June 20, 2005

"These detainees are dangerous enemy combatants....They were picked up on the battlefield, fighting American forces, trying to kill American forces."
-- White House press secretary Scott McClellan, June 21, 2005

"The people that are there are people we picked up on the battlefield, primarily in Afghanistan. They're terrorists. They're bomb makers. They're facilitators of terror. They're members of Al Qaeda and the Taliban....We've let go those that we've deemed not to be a continuing threat. But the 520-some that are there now are serious, deadly threats to the United States."
-- Vice President Cheney, June 23, 2005

"These are people, all of whom were captured on a battlefield. They're terrorists, trainers, bomb makers, recruiters, financiers, [Osama bin Laden's] bodyguards, would-be suicide bombers, probably the 20th 9/11 hijacker."
-- Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, June 27, 2005

But thanks to a new report, we now know what we've suspected for a long time: that many of the detainees at Gitmo are innocent of any crime.

  1. Fifty-five percent (55%) of the detainees are not determined to have committed any hostile acts against the United States or its coalition allies.

  2. Only 8% of the detainees were characterized as al Qaeda fighters. Of the remaining detainees, 40% have no definitive connection with al Qaeda at all and 18% are have no definitive affiliation with either al Qaeda or the Taliban.

  3. The Government has detained numerous persons based on mere affiliations with a large number of groups that in fact, are not on the Department of Homeland Security terrorist watchlist. Moreover, the nexus between such a detainee and such organizations varies considerably. Eight percent are detained because they are deemed "fighters for;" 30% considered "members of;" a large majority - 60% -- are detained merely because they are "associated with" a group or groups the Government asserts are terrorist organizations. For 2% of the prisoners their nexus to any terrorist group is unidentified.

  4. Only 5% of the detainees were captured by United States forces. 86% of the detainees were arrested by either Pakistan or the Northern Alliance and turned over to United States custody. This 86% of the detainees captured by Pakistan or the Northern Alliance were handed over to the United States at a time in which the United States offered large bounties for capture of suspected enemies.

  5. Finally, the population of persons deemed not to be enemy combatants - mostly Uighers - are in fact accused of more serious allegations than a great many persons still deemed to be enemy combatants.

The following quotes come from the National Journal and they summarize the findings of the report.

Falsehoods About Guantanamo:

  • A high percentage, perhaps the majority, of the 500-odd men now held at Guantanamo were not captured on any battlefield, let alone on "the battlefield in Afghanistan" (as Bush asserted) while "trying to kill American forces" (as McClellan claimed).

  • Fewer than 20 percent of the Guantanamo detainees, the best available evidence suggests, have ever been Qaeda members.

  • Many scores, and perhaps hundreds, of the detainees were not even Taliban foot soldiers, let alone Qaeda terrorists. They were innocent, wrongly seized noncombatants with no intention of joining the Qaeda campaign to murder Americans.

  • The majority were not captured by U.S. forces but rather handed over by reward-seeking Pakistanis and Afghan warlords and by villagers of highly doubtful reliability.

Who Is at Guantanamo Bay:

Seventy-five of the 132 men, or more than half the group, are -- like Farouq Ali Ahmed, the subject of National Journal's accompanying story -- not accused of taking part in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners. (The 75 include 10 detainees whom the U.S. government "no longer" considers enemy combatants, although at least eight of the 10 are still being held at Guantanamo.) Typically, documents describe these men as "associated" with the Taliban or with Al Qaeda -- sometimes directly so, and sometimes through only weak or distant connections. Several men worked for charities that had some ties to Al Qaeda; Farouq lived in a house associated with the Taliban.

Some of the "associated" men are said to have attended jihadist training camps before September 11, an accusation admitted by some and denied by others. The U.S. government says that some of the suspected jihadists trained in Afghanistan, even though other records show that they had not yet entered the country at the time of the training camps. Just 57 of the 132 men, or 43 percent, are accused of being on a battlefield in post-9/11 Afghanistan.

The government's documents tie only eight of the 132 men directly to plans for terrorist attacks outside of Afghanistan.

Empty Evidence:

At least eight prisoners at Guantanamo are there even though they are no longer designated as enemy combatants. One perplexed attorney, whose client does not want public attention, learned that the man was no longer considered an enemy combatant only by reading a footnote in a Justice Department motion asking a federal judge to put a slew of habeas corpus cases on hold. The attorney doesn't know why the man is still in Cuba.

"The people you've been going up against in court have been saying he's the worst of the worst, Osama's right-hand man," said Anant Raut, an attorney with the Washington firm of Weil, Gotshal, & Manges. "Then you go in there, and it's a guy who is as confused as you are as to why he is there." Raut has one client, a Saudi, who is classified as an enemy combatant largely because he spent a couple of weeks on a Taliban bean farm. The man says the Taliban imprisoned him there because they thought he was a Saudi government spy.

National Journal could review only the unclassified parts of detainee files, consisting of memos, a summary of the evidence, and a transcript of the Combatant Status Review Tribunal proceeding. But federal courts ordered the Defense Department to give the volunteer lawyers the classified evidence by which their clients were found to be enemy combatants. The lawyers cannot discuss specifics of that evidence, but they uniformly say that nothing additional is there, just details and sourcing relating to the unclassified evidence.

"There is no smoking gun," said John Chandler, a partner in the Atlanta office of Sutherland Asbill & Brennan. One of his Guantanamo clients, picked up in Pakistan, is designated an enemy combatant in part because he once traveled on a bus with wounded Taliban soldiers in Afghanistan. The prisoner denies it, saying it was only a public bus. But then there's the prisoner's Casio watch. According to the Defense Department files, his watch is similar to another Casio model that has a circuit board that Al Qaeda has used for making bombs. The United States is using the Qaeda-favored Casio wristwatch as evidence against at least nine other detainees. But the offending model is sold in sidewalk stands around the world and is worn by one National Journal reporter. The primary difference between Chandler's client's watch and the Casio in question is that the detainee's model hasn't been manufactured for years, according to the U.S. military officer who was his personal representative at the tribunal.

Guantanamo's Grip

Some of the men who survived that convoy are at Guantanamo, and clearly, they were captured on a battlefield. But if proximity implies culpability, how do you justify the detention of so many others in Cuba who were arrested far from any Afghanistan front? How about the aid worker sleeping at home in Karachi, Pakistan? How about the men arrested in Sarajevo and sent by the Americans to Guantanamo even though they were clutching their exoneration-from-terrorism papers issued by the judge who had reviewed their cases? How about miscellaneous Arabs -- some fighters, some not -- who together with other refugees passed through Afghanistan's borders as war arrived? How about two British Muslims arrested as they stepped off a plane in Gambia? How about a hypothetical little old lady in Switzerland who writes checks to a charity, not knowing it's a terrorist front, but who a government lawyer nevertheless conceded in court could be properly termed an enemy combatant? The law of war has come far in a century of genocides and massacres and nuclear bombs. But has it come so far that when Al Qaeda made the entire world a battlefield, all of the world's population fell under the law of war?

Now the AP has picked up on the story.

Lawyers: Many Gitmo Detainees Not Accused

WASHINGTON - More than half of the terror suspects being held at Guantanamo Bay have not been accused of committing hostile acts against the United States or its allies, two of the detainees' lawyers said in a report released Tuesday.

Compiled from declassified Defense Department evaluations of the more than 500 detainees at the Cuba facility, the report says just 8 percent are listed as fighters for a terrorist group, while 30 percent are considered members of a terrorist group and the remaining 60 percent were just "associated with" terrorists.
According to the report, 55 percent of the detainees are informally accused of committing a hostile act. But the descriptions of their actions ranged from a high-ranking Taliban member who tortured and killed Afghan natives to people who possessed rifles, used a guest house or wore olive drab clothing.

Of course, we knew all of this before from past news reports:

Innocent Afghan Detainees At Gitmo?

How I entered the hellish world of Guantanamo Bay

Guantanamo inmates say they were 'sold'

Guantanamo prisoners tell their stories in secretive tribunals

US 'may hold cleared detainees'

This is a national disgrace. Our government is detaining and torturing innocent people without trial. There is absolutely no excuse for this. Gitmo has done nothing to protect us from terrorism. Every single common sense measure that could protect us from terrorism is being ignored. Our chemical plants, ports, borders, nuclear power plants, etc. are poorly guarded thanks to the administration's corporate ties. Meanwhile, we're supposed to feel safe because a bunch of Afghan chicken farmers are behind barbed wire?

Hopefully someday we will look back on Gitmo in much the same way we look at the internment of the Japanese during WWII. A pointless, cruel deprivation of human rights motivated by irrational fear, hatred, and bigotry.

:: Article nr. 20433 sent on 08-feb-2006 23:48 ECT


Link: www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2006/2/8/17049/30454

:: The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website.

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