Last night, a handful of news organizations released hundreds of pages of documents profiling past and present detainees held at Guantánamo. Among other things, the documents reveal:
- Evidence the government held detainees not because they were serious threats, but rather because the government thought the detainee could be of some use in the future.
- The government has imprisoned children as young as 14, and men as old as 89 at Guantánamo.
- Possession of a of a widely available Casio wristwatch was a “sign of al-Qaeda” and a factor in the government’s decision to detention.
- An al-Jazeera cameraman was held not because he was suspected of terrorist activity, but because the U.S. government wanted details on al-Jazeera’s news-gathering capabilities.
Viewed with judges’ rulings on legal challenges by detainees, the documents reveal that the analysts sometimes ignored serious flaws in the evidence — for example, that the information came from other detainees whose mental illness made them unreliable. Some assessments quote witnesses who say they saw a detainee at a camp run by Al Qaeda but omit the witnesses’ record of falsehood or misidentification. They include detainees’ admissions without acknowledging other government documents that show the statements were later withdrawn, often attributed to abusive treatment or torture.
There is a lot of information in these documents that is of great value to the public, but keep in mind that they’re all government documents, and only give one side of the story. The best way for the public to learn the government’s justification for its actions would have been, and still is, for the government to present the evidence in a federal court of law.
Hina Shamsi, Director of the ACLU’s National Security Project, said in a statement today:
“These documents are remarkable because they show just how questionable the government’s basis has been for detaining hundreds of people, in some cases indefinitely, at Guantánamo. The one-sided assessments are rife with uncorroborated evidence, information obtained through torture, speculation, errors and allegations that have been proven false.
“The documents are the fruit of the original sin by which the rule of law was scrapped when Guantanámo detainees were first rounded up. If the government had followed the law, it would have established a meaningful and prompt process to separate the innocent from those who are legally detainable.”
In the News:
- The New York Times: The Guantánamo Files
- The New Yorker Close Read blog: Wikileaks: The Uses of Guantánamo
- The Guardian: The Guantánamo Bay Files