The Pentagon’s greatest shame:
the illegal Guantánamo prison
• WikiLeaks reveals details of prisoner abuse
The files, which run from February 2002 to January 2009, were simultaneously published by a number of U.S. and European newspapers.
The cases of the majority of the prisoners – 758 out of 779 – are described in detail in memos that the Joint Task Force in Guantánamo Bay sent to the U.S. Southern Command in Miami, Florida.
The documents note what the detainees carried in their pockets and even their state of health, as well as the series of interrogations to which they were subjected, their infringements of prison regulations and comments to each other during years of detention in the prison created by George W. Bush in January of 2002, the one which his successor, Barack Obama, promised to close down, which he has not done through now.
According to WikiLeaks, Abu Zubaydah, an alleged "high-value" detainee seized in Pakistan in March 2002, who spent four and a half years in CIA secret prisons, including those in Thailand and Poland – was subjected on 83 occasions to the torture technique known as water boarding, a controlled form of asphyxiation by drowning, while he was in CIA custody in August of 2002.
Among cases of incarcerated innocents, The New York Times highlights the story of an Afghan shepherd called Sharbat, captured close to a road where a bomb exploded. The Guantánamo analysts confirmed that he knew about shepherding but knew nothing about "political and military concepts." Even so, a military court declared him an "enemy combatant" and sent him back to Afghanistan in 2006.
The Guantánamo Bay Naval Base comprises land and a military base which the United States usurped from Cuba under the Platt Amendment of 1903, which imposed spurious conditions on the island after the U.S. military intervention.
The U.S. naval base occupies approximately 117.6 square kilometers (49.4Km2 of terra firma and the rest water and swamp) is known for its military prison housing detainees allegedly linked to Islamic terrorist groups. On January 11, 2009, in Washington DC, the president elect, Barack Obama, ratified his commitment to closing down the prison on Guantánamo Base, while he noted that that would take time. On January 22, 2009, two days after Obama’s inauguration as president, the Guantánamo Penitentiary Center was closed. However, four months later, he announced the reestablishment of the facility.
Through the WikiLeaks documents, the international media had access to the secret military files of 759 of 779 prisoners who have passed through the prison, 170 of whom are still confined there.
Elderly people with senile dementia, adolescents, patients with severe psychiatric disorders and teachers or farmers with no links whatsoever to the jihad were taken to Guantánamo.
The innards of the prison are revealed in 4,759 pages signed by the senior commands of the Guantánamo Joint Task Force, and sent to the Southern Command of the Department of Defense in Miami.
SYSTEM CREATED OUTSIDE OF THE LAW
This X-Ray of a prison created by George W. Bush in 2002, outside of national and international law, comes at a bad moment for President Barack Obama. Closing down the prison was his first promise after taking office in January 2009. The announcement one month ago that trials by military courts were to recommence, was a recognition of his failure.
The 2002-2009 reports, in the majority of cases directed at recommending whether prisoners should continue to be held in the facility, released or transferred to another country, document for the first time how the United States assessed each of the inmates and what it knew about them. They reveal a system based on denunciations by other prisoners, with no clear rules, based on suspicions and conjecture, and which did not require evidence in order to keep persons detained for long periods – 143 people have been there for more than nine years – and which establishes three levels of risk defined in barely one sentence.
According to the secret reports, there have been cases in which not even the U.S. government knows why someone was transferred to Guantánamo, and others in which it has been concluded that the detainee did not pose any danger whatsoever: an elderly man of 89 suffering from senile dementia and depression who lived in a residential complex with a satellite telephone; a father who was going to look for his son on the Taliban front; a merchant traveling without documents; a man who was hitching a ride to buy medicines.
The United States decided that 83 prisoners did not suppose any risk to national security and, in the case of another 77, acknowledged that it was unlikely that they would pose any threat to the country or its allies. According to the assessment of U.S. soldiers, 20% of prisoners were taken to the prison in an arbitrary manner.
If one adds to that the fact that those who might only possibly pose any danger – 274 in total – it can be concluded that the United States did not seriously believe in the guilt or threat of almost 60% of its prisoners. Detainees were held fundamentally to exploit them, according to its own terminology; in case they knew something which might be useful.
Guantánamo is a prison, but the priority is not to hand down sentences for crimes committed. Only seven prisoners have been tried and sentenced to date: six in military courts on the base and one in a civil court in New York. The basic objective, according to the reports, is to obtain information via interrogations. One of the two parameters used to decide whether a prisoner can be released or not is precisely his "intelligence value," to use the terminology employed in the secret files.
The prison functions like a vast police department without any limit on detention and in which the duration of the punishment is not proportionate to the alleged crime committed. The secret files show prisoners treated as if they were guilty and who not only had to demonstrate their innocence but their lack of knowledge about Al Qaeda and the Taliban in order to secure their release. The only crime which the authorities could bring against them was that of having a cousin, friend or brother related to the jihad; or living in a town in which there had been significant Taliban attacks; or traveling on routes used by terrorists and, of course, knowing them well.
Nine years and three months after the opening of Guantánamo, the secret reports reveal that only 22% of prisoners have presented a high level of interest to the U.S. intelligence services. In the case of the remaining 78%, the informative value of inmates was medium or low, as the military itself acknowledges.
The detainees saw the faces of many interrogators: soldiers, CIA agents and police from their own countries who passed by their cells in secret and took statements from them while they were handcuffed and chained to the floor by a ring. A Casio F91W watch on the wrist of one prisoner was considered sufficient evidence of his having received explosives’ training.
THE WORD TORTURE DOES NOT APPEAR IN THE DOCUMENTS
The files do not specify the methods used to obtain information in the prison. The word torture barely appears in the close to 800 documents.
Each file usually has a section under the epigraphy headed "Reasons for continued detention." If a detainee himself does not admit to having sworn loyalty to Bin Laden or to have fought against the United States in the Tora Bora mountains, his own fellow inmates’ names and last names appear denouncing him or identifying him.
But at no point is there any information as to the circumstances in which prisoners have admitted their alleged guilt or incriminated others. Sometimes a prisoner states that he has been tortured, but the writers of the report take it upon themselves to affirm that such a statement has no credibility whatsoever.
The reports are cold texts in functional prose. They barely mention personal matters such as suicide attempts, state of health or hunger strikes and, in the case of the string of prisoners with psychiatric disorders, one of the most twisted aspects of Guantánamo, they confine themselves to stating whether, despite the disorder (frequently accompanied by multiple suicide attempts), it could be useful to continue asking them questions.
They made a fruitless attempt to give Afghan detainee Kudai Dat, diagnosed as schizophrenic, a final interrogation despite the fact that he had been hospitalized with severe psychotic symptoms. When he improved they gave him a polygraph test, provoking renewed hallucinations in the sick man, according to a prison psychiatric report. His long-term prognosis was "poor." But, despite his medical record, the military authorities insisted that he was faking the nervous attacks and recommended keeping him on the base. He spent four years incarcerated there.
The documents are extremely formal, but behind the administrative language information can be glimpsed which contributes to a portrait of living conditions in the prison. When they refer to a detainee’s conduct, disciplinary infringements are mentioned on one side and acts of aggression on the other. Every incident is confirmed with a minimum of details: "Inappropriate use of body fluids, unauthorized communication, damage to government property, inciting and participating in mass disturbances, attempted assault, assault, provocative words and gestures, possession of food and the contraband of items that are not weapons…"
Everything has been entered and recorded, but concrete information is only given about the most recent disciplinary incident. And it is there, precisely, in those fleeting, passing details, that some idea of the harsh life on Guantánamo can be glimpsed; the majority of prisoners have thrown urine or feces at their guards. The punishment they suffer for those actions is never specified nor is the context in which they were perpetrated.
Other detainees have gone down on record as having covered their cell ventilation with toilet paper, having returned a book to the library with underlinings or marks, having refused food or to come out of the shower.
(Taken from CubaDebate)