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article imageOp-Ed: Innocence Lost — WikiLeaks unveils the ghastly goings-on at Gitmo

By Bill Lindner     Apr 26, 2011 in Politics
The recent release of documents by WikiLeaks details the ghastly goings-on at Guantanamo and the treatment detainees received in U.S. custody, and reveals, among other things, a myriad of war crimes committed by the Bush administration.
WikiLeaks, the controversial whistleblower website run by journalist Julian Assange, recently released a large amount of secretive, highly sensitive documents detailing the outrageous conditions of a day in the life of a prisoner at Guantanamo (Gitmo), the U.S. Naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Over 700 files, marked "secret" were released relating to the conditions in which prisoners were obtained, their medical condition, and any information they provided during interrogations while in U.S. custody.
Besides revealing more evidence of the Bush administration's war crimes, and the callous ways Military Commanders have ordered troops to commit war crimes, revelations from the Gitmo document dump include the facts that innocent people were interrogated for years, and there are still 172 prisoners being held there, most of whom have no prospect of ever receiving a trial or being released. An interactive guide to the 779 (not every detainee was on the list) prisoners listed in the WikiLeaks Gitmo docs dump can be found at the Guardian. The military dossiers of the alleged "worst of the worst" reveal that many prisoners were flown to cages at Gitmo and held for years based on "intelligence" that was gained under torture, neglect and inhumane treatment.
Of the 779 prisoners mentioned in the Gitmo document dump, only 220 were considered by military and intelligence officials to be dangerous, international terrorists. 380 prisoners were deemed by said officials to be low-level al-Qaeda or Taliban members who posed little danger to the U.S. outside of Afghanistan. Some prisoners were sold to the U.S., and sometimes U.S. Commanders found no reason for these prisoners being transferred.
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, alleged 9/11 mastermind and al-Qaeda commander, is the most famous Gitmo prisoner. Mohammed is facing a military tribunal later this year. His file states that al-Qaeda planned or is planning attacks in Asia, Africa, the United Kingdom, and the U.S., and that there is a nuclear bomb hidden somewhere in Europe that will explode if Osama bin Laden is ever captured or killed. Among the many problems with those assertions are the facts that Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times and this information was obtained under torture -- "enhanced interrogation techniques" and inhumane treatment were used repeatedly by the U.S. -- and Osama bin Laden, a known CIA operative, has been dead since December 2001.
Owning a Particular Casio Watch Could Make You a Terrorist
Gitmo opened in 2002. Even though President Obama ordered the Gitmo prison closed, it remains open and fully operational, with at least 172 "terrorists" still being held there. The leaked files reveal that a system focused more on extracting intelligence and less on containing dangerous "terrorists" or enemy combatants was instituted at Gitmo. Two prisoners, among the many who proved harmless, were an 89-year-old Afghan Villager suffering from Senile Dementia -- who was interrogated about "suspicious phone numbers," and an innocent 14-year-old boy who was kidnapped because of "his possible knowledge of Taliban...local leaders."
There are many revelations among the leaked documents, including: Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI) was listed as a terrorist organization by the U.S. Government with such groups as Al-Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah and Iranian Intelligence. Interrogators were instructed to regard links to any of these groups as terrorism or insurgent activity; Nearly 100 prisoners had depressive or psychotic illnesses, and many of them attempted suicide or went on hunger strikes; Many British nationals and residents were held for years despite the U.S. Government knowing they had nothing to do with Al-Qaeda or the Taliban, and; The U.S. Government relied heavily on information that was obtained from a small number of detainees under torture. Despite the truth, and the fact that torture does not produce reliable information, the U.S. Government continued maintaining that this testimony was reliable, even after they admitted that the prisoners who provided the information were mistreated. In fact, the U.S. military appears to have favored the highly questionable information of just 8 detainees to fabricate cases against 255 prisoners held at Guantanamo, despite the information being questioned by Guantanamo analysts themselves.
Fabricated "intelligence" gained from illegal interrogations resulted in a large number of prisoners being designated as "high risk" by Gitmo authorities before being released or transferred to other countries. Guidance for U.S. interrogators on how to decide to hold or release detainees and how to spot Al-Qaeda cover stories is included in the WikiLeaks Gitmo document dump. A 17-page file titled "GTMO matrix of threat indicators for enemy combatants" advises U.S. interrogators to look for signs of terrorist activities ranging from links to a number of mosques around the world, including two in London, to ownership of a particular Casio watch, proffering more evidence that the "War on Terror" is actually a war on Muslims. According to the report, the particular Casio watch referred to was known to be given to the students at Al-Qaeda bomb making training courses in Afghanistan. No, you really can't make this stuff up.
The 172 remaining Gitmo prisoners, who are permanently enshrouded in a gray area where they have no protections from the due process of the law or the prisoner-of-war provisions of the Geneva conventions, may prove to be a bigger embarrassment to President Obama who has so far failed to close down the illegal activities being conducted at Gitmo by the U.S. Government. Those remaining have been tortured so badly that they can never be successfully tried in a court of law, and many have no place to go.
Vast Majority of Gitmo Prisoners had no link to Terrorism
U.S. Government and Pentagon officials -- who condemned WikiLeak's Gitmo doc dump because they prefer for their inhumane treatment of innocent "terrorists" to remain secret -- called the release of the docs "unfortunate," and maintained that the docs were "obtained illegally by WikiLeaks." Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said "These documents contain classified information about current and former GTMO detainees, and we strongly condemn the leaking of this sensitive information. Now we know why they're so upset. The less people know about the Government's crimes, the happier they are.
Bradley Manning, the soldier accused of releasing thousands of documents to WikiLeaks has been presumed guilty by President Obama, and subject to many of the same inhumane, torturous conditions that Gitmo prisoners have faced, despite not being charged with any crimes for several months. Sometimes it takes a while to fabricate them. As Glenn Greenwald from Salon News has repeatedly written, America has a two-tiered Justice system -- one for the criminals in Washington and the corporations that own them, and one for everyone else, especially the poor and racial and ethnic minorities. Secrecy is the theme in Washington because it makes Government officials and their friends immune from accountability for the crimes they commit. People need to know the truth about Gitmo and the crimes that have been happening there.
The hundreds of documents released by WikiLeaks profile prisoners that passed through Gitmo between 2002 and 2009, and reveal that despite the lies used by the U.S. Government and the U.S. Military, there was no evidence connecting the vast majority of the prisoners to any form of terrorism, let alone terrorist threats against the U.S. Indeed, it appears that most of the terrorists in Gitmo were members of the U.S. Military or the U.S. Government. Careful review of the documents is necessary to get a bigger picture of how many war crimes were committed at Gitmo under the orders of the Bush administration. The precise details of the torture inflicted on Gitmo prisoners is limited in the documents, but there are many references to the fact that prisoners were tortured, and many of the prisoners, despite being innocent, have been or are still being detained illegally.
Much of the focus from beltway media that is reporting on the revelations at Gitmo focuses on the release of the documents, not the heinous crimes against humanity committed by the U.S. Government. That needs to change. Intentionally fabricating terrorism using information that is fundamentally unsound is illegal. The Bush administration and its military knew that only a small handful of Gitmo prisoners may have been involved in terrorism, yet Bush and company continued using fear-mongering to justify its inhumane treatment of innocent people while egregiously hiding the truth from the public. Bush lied, and many innocent people died. The time has come to hold the Bush administration and its cohorts accountable for their crimes and to put an end to U.S. Government’s secrecy.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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