Testimony unveiled on Sunday in documents released by Wikileaks from prisoners of the United States in Guantanamo, Cuba is not reliable because they were subjected to torture or other forms of coercion, or include false statements by other prisoners, an expert says.
Wikileaks on Sunday began to unveil a trove of secret U.S. documents detailing the lives of more than 700 people who had been detained over the past 10 years at Guantanamo and many who have already been released or transferred.
The documents draw on the testimony of witnesses -- in most cases, the prisoners' fellow prisoners -- whose words are unreliable, either because they were subjected to torture or other forms of coercion (sometimes not in Guantánamo, but in secret prisons run by the CIA), or because they provided false statements to secure better treatment in Guantánamo, said Andy Worthington, a freelance writer and author of The Guantanamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America's Illegal Prison.
His comments appeared on the Wikileaks website where the initial batch of documents was released.
The U.S. issued a statement on Monday calling the decision by various news sites to publish the documents unfortunate, adding that they were illegally obtained by Wikileaks.
It is unfortunate that several news organizations have made the decision to publish numerous documents obtained illegally by Wikileaks concerning the Guantanamo (GTMO) detention facility. These documents contain classified information about current and former GTMO detainees, and we strongly condemn the leaking of this sensitive information, the Pentagon said in a released statement.
The Pentagon said that the Detainee Assessment Briefs were created between 2002 and early 2009.
The Pentagon also stressed that while some of the information available from the Bush administration was confirmed by the Obama administration, different conclusions were reached in some cases.
Worthington said in the newly released documents that there certain witnesses in the documents appearing regularly whose words should be regarded as untrustworthy.
The Pentagon said the disclosure of the documents could be damaging to efforts to protect American citizens.
As of January of 2010, the last time a major official U.S. government report on the prison was released, there were 196 people still being detained there.
The report commissioned by the Obama Administration said 44 of the detainees were referred for prosecution in either federal court or a military commission. However only 36 remained the subject of active cases or investigations.
The report was created by the Guantanamo Review Task Force - which was ordered into existence by President Barack Obama two days after he took office on January 22, 2009 with the aim of closing the Guantanamo facility.
The report found that of the 240 detainees, 48 were determined to be too dangerous to transfer but not feasible for prosecution.
They will remain in detention, under rules authorized by Congress in response to the attacks of September 11, 2011.
Thirty of the detainees from Yemen were being detained based on the current security environment in that country.
Selected Worthington comments on detainees:
(Internment Serial Numbers - ISN - are used to identify detainees in government recors):
Abu Zubaydah (ISN 10016), the supposed high-value detainee seized in Pakistan in March 2002, who spent four and a half years in secret CIA prisons, including facilities in Thailand and Poland. Subjected to waterboarding, a form of controlled drowning, on 83 occasions in CIA custody August 2002, Abu Zubaydah was moved to Guantánamo with 13 other high-value detainees in September 2006.
Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi (ISN 212), the emir of a military training camp for which Abu Zubaydah was the gatekeeper, who, despite having his camp closed by the Taliban in 2000, because he refused to allow it to be taken over by al-Qaeda, is described in these documents as Osama bin Laden's military commander in Tora Bora. Soon after his capture in December 2001, al-Libi was rendered by the CIA to Egypt, where, under torture, he falsely confessed that al-Qaeda operatives had been meeting with Saddam Hussein to discuss obtaining chemical and biological weapons. Al-Libi recanted this particular lie, but it was nevertheless used by the Bush administration to justify the invasion of Iraq in March 2003. Al-Libi was never sent to Guantánamo, although at some point, probably in 2006, the CIA sent him back to Libya, where he was imprisoned, and where he died, allegedly by committing suicide, in May 2009.
Yasim Basardah (ISN 252), a Yemeni known as a notorious liar. As the Washington Post reported in February 2009, he was given preferential treatment in Guantánamo after becoming what some officials regarded as a significant informant, although there were many reasons to be doubtful. As the Post noted, military officials ... expressed reservations about the credibility of their star witness since 2004, and in 2006, in an article for the National Journal, Corine Hegland described how, after a Combatant Status Review Tribunal at which a prisoner had taken exception to information provided by Basardah, placing him at a training camp before he had even arrived in Afghanistan, his personal representative (a military official assigned instead of a lawyer) investigated Basardah's file, and found that he had made similar claims against 60 other prisoners. In January 2009, in the District Court in Washington D.C., Judge Richard Leon (an appointee of George W. Bush) excluded Basardah's statements while granting the habeas corpus petition of Mohammed El-Gharani, a Chadian national who was just 14 years old when he was seized in a raid on a mosque in Pakistan. Judge Leon noted that the government had specifically cautioned against relying on his statements without independent corroboration, and in other habeas cases that followed, other judges relied on this precedent, discrediting the star witness still further.
Mohammed al-Qahtani (ISN 063), a Saudi regarded as the planned 20th hijacker for the 9/11 attacks, was subjected to a specific torture program at Guantánamo, approved by defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld. This consisted of 20-hour interrogations every day, over a period of several months, and various other enhanced interrogation techniques, which severely endangered his health. Variations of these techniques then migrated to other prisoners in Guantánamo (and to Abu Ghraib), and in January 2009, just before George W. Bush left office, Susan Crawford, a retired judge and a close friend of Dick Cheney and David Addington, who was appointed to oversee the military commissions at Guantánamo as the convening authority, told Bob Woodward that she had refused to press charges against al-Qahtani, because, as she said, We tortured Qahtani. His treatment met the legal definition of torture. As a result, his numerous statements about other prisoners must be regarded as worthless.