Moral Low Ground



More than 700 classified US military documents leaked to the whistle-blowing website Wikileaks reveal that more than 150 innocent men and boys were imprisoned, sometimes for years on end, and often tortured in the Guantanamo Bay concentration camp. According to the New York Times and al-Jazeera, as many as 600 so-called “high-risk” detainees were released, even as the innocent men languished behind bars.

Much of the information contained in the leaked files, which were allegedly provided by jailed US soldier Bradley Manning, is nothing new to seasoned Guantanamo watchers, but the release is highly significant because it provides first-hand documentary proof that the US knew many of the detainees were innocent but still kept them locked up for long periods of time.

The files, which in GITMO parlance are called Detainee Assessment Briefs (DABs), give detailed descriptions of the intelligence value– or lack thereof– of the detainees as well as threat assessments.

The majority of the 172 remaining GITMO detainees– 130, to be exact– are “high-risk” individuals, according to the documents. The population of the concentration camp has fallen from a peak of 680 during the Bush years. Some 604 prisoners have been released.

In the hectic early days of the War on Terror, scores of innocent men and boys were rounded up and imprisoned in GITMO. These included drivers, farmers, shepherds, even chefs and a used car salesman. Many were held for years despite their innocence.

Among the innocent: an 89-year-old suffering from dementia and a 14-year-old kidnapping victim.

Another, Sudanese al-Jazeera cameraman Sami al-Hajj, was held for six hellish years largely so that American intelligence officials could glean information about the popular Arabic news network. His file clearly states that he was detained “to provide information on… the al-Jazeera news network’s training program, telecommunications equipment, and newsgathering operations.”

Some inmates were even helping the United States and its allies prior to their capture and imprisonment. According to the New York Times, one detainee, a former Taliban official who switched sides, “appears to be resentful of being apprehended while he claimed he was working for the US and Coalition forces to find [Taliban chief] Mullah Omar.” Another detainee was a British and Canadian intelligence agent.

Some GITMO prisoners, while not exactly innocent, are still being held there despite the fact that they clearly don’t belong in a concentration camp. Dozens of Yemenis, for example, were low-level fighters in that country’s civil war and had nothing to do with the global jihad America was fighting. But the unstable situation in Yemen has led to a decision to keep the men locked up indefinitely in Guantanamo.

The leaked documents also reveal that “hundreds” of detainees were tortured before it was determined that they were low-level fighters. New torture details include a description of the interrogation of Mohammed Qahtani, a Saudi who was believed to be an intended participant in the September 11, 2001 terror attacks. According to his DABs, the so-called “20th hijacker” was leashed like a dog, sexually humiliated and forced to urinate on himself.

Also revealed is the role of foreign intelligence officials in interrogating Guantanamo detainees. The New York Times reports that China, Russia, Tajikistan, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Kuwait, Algeria and Tunisia all sent personnel to GITMO to question prisoners.

US President Barack Obama, who reneged on a promise to close Guantanamo within a year of taking office, has criticized the publication of the leaked classified documents as “unfortunate.” “It is unfortunate that several news organizations have made the decision to publish numerous documents obtained illegally by Wikileaks concerning the Guantanamo detention facility,” administration envoy Daniel Fried and Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell added in a joint statement.

More unfortunate than the detention of 150 innocent men?

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  1. Betty FokkerApril 25, 2011 at 11:21 amReply

    And we wonder why the US is unpopular overseas …

  2. Henry Hertz HobbitMay 20, 2011 at 2:44 amReply

    Exactly what do these thugs think they are going to get by torturing an 89 year old person suffering from dementia? These thugs are not only evil. They are dumb. All they accomplished is an even more intense hatred toward the United States. Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God.

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