WASHINGTON, D.C.—Quite aside from the United Nations’ broadside charge that the U.S. is running a torture camp at Guantanamo, a detailed study of the prison suggests that most of the prisoners there have little to do with terror, and are far from what Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld once called “the worst of the worst.”
The study by two Seton Hall professors and their law students found that the so-called terrorists include former cook’s assistants at Taliban camps, people caught while fleeing a U.S. attack, and individuals picked up in Pakistan who just happened to be in the proximity of other fighters.
The detainees have not been permitted to test the evidence compiled against them.
According to the report, of 517 detainees at Guantanamo brought before a government Combatant Status Review Tribunal, 55 percent were not even included in the government’s “summaries of evidence” as having committed hostile acts against American or coalition forces. And the 45 percent believed to have committed hostile acts, include marginal personnel such as the cook’s assistant.
Of the combatants, only 8 percent of detainees were characterized as al Qaeda fighters. Additionally, 40 percent have no definitive connection with al Qaeda at all and 18 percent have no definitive affiliation with either al Qaeda or the Taliban.
Entitled “Report on Guantanamo Detainees: A Profile of 517 Detainees through Analysis of Department of Defense Data,” the document was prepared by Seton Hall Professor Mark Denbeaux, who is of counsel to two Guantanamo detainees, with Joshua Denbeaux of the firm Denbeaux and Denbeaux, and a group of Seton Hall law students.
The Seton Hall report reinforces other recent findings. The National Journal, for example, recently reported that “the largest single group at Guantanamo Bay today consists of men caught in indiscriminate sweeps for Arabs in Pakistan,” with one example including helicopters hovering over a village and announcing over loudspeakers, “Please, you get $1,000 for one Arab.”
The White House dismissed the UN’s call to shut the prison. “These are dangerous terrorists that we’re talking about that are there,” White House spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters.