Guantanamo Bay Is a Complicated Hell on Earth, New WikiLeaks Documents Show


On Sunday night, various media outlets like the New York Times, NPR, Washington Post, McClatchy, the Guardian and the Telegraph published numerous classified files and accompanying in-depth reports about the prisoners of Guantanamo Bay. WikiLeaks, Julian Assange’s pro-transparency organization, received the leaks and offered them to organizations like NPR and the Post, likely due to ongoing issues with previous publication partners like the Times and Guardian (stemming from personal dramas with Assange), who got the info regardless from “another source.” But now that it’s all out there, a fairly clear picture is starting to emerge, not that it wasn’t known already: Guantanamo Bay is a really screwed up place. And it’s still open.

Overall, the Guardian writes that the files “reveal how, alongside the so-called ‘worst of the worst,’ many prisoners were flown to the Guantánamo cages and held captive for years on the flimsiest grounds, or on the basis of lurid confessions extracted by maltreatment.”

The 759 Guantánamo files, classified “secret”, cover almost every inmate since the camp was opened in 2002. More than two years after President Obama ordered the closure of the prison, 172 are still held there.

The files depict a system often focused less on containing dangerous terrorists or enemy fighters, than on extracting intelligence. Among inmates who proved harmless were an 89-year-old Afghan villager, suffering from senile dementia, and a 14-year-old boy who had been an innocent kidnap victim.

As Salon’s Glenn Greenwald notes, the different newspapers are presenting information in varying ways, with the Guardian, for instance, using the information provided to highlight “how oppressive is this American detention system, how unreliable the evidence is on which the accusations are based, and how so many people were put in cages for years without any justification.”

The Times leads with the less critical “New Insights Into Detainees,” followed by the more pointed “Flawed Evidence
for Assessing Risk,” while the Telegraph puts front-and-center “more than 150 innocent people held at the U.S. prison.” The Post‘s lead angle is “WikiLeaks discloses new details on whereabouts of al-Qaeda leaders on 9/11.”

Another media story embedded in the leak, from the Guardian, tells of Sami al-Haj: “An al-Jazeera journalist was held at Guantánamo for six years partly in order to be interrogated about the Arabic news network.”

There’s much more to dig through, but the Pentagon has chimed in already, calling the leak “unfortunate,” emphasizing “the incomplete and snapshot nature of the assessments, known as Detainee Assessment Briefs, or DABs.” More of the “snapshots” are available here.

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 25, 2011

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