A massive leak of more than 700 military documents, attributed to infamous transparency group WikiLeaks, was released Sunday night. Much of the new information deals with detainees held in Guantanamo Bay, records that begin immediately after the September 11 terrorist attacks and range to 2009, including documents relating to 172 prisoners still held at the controversial detention facility.
Here are seven shocking revelations about Guantanamo Bay and the practices there.
One hundred twenty-seven “high risk” prisoners remain at Guantanamo Bay, but almost as many “high risk” prisoners have been released to other countries or freed, despite being described as “likely to pose a threat.” Of the 600 detainees known to have been transferred out of the prison since 2002, 160 fell under the “high risk” categorization, according to NPR. At least two dozen transferred “high risk” prisoners have been linked to terrorist activity since their Gitmo exit, including two Saudis who became leaders of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
“There’s a group there that we all agree never gets let out, and then there’s the rest,” Rep. Mike Conaway (R-TX) said of Guantanamo detainees at a recent congressional hearing. “As you close on that number of folks who should not ever be let go, then you run the risk of letting somebody go who shouldn’t be.”
Officials aren’t sure what they’re doing. In 704 leaked documents assessing detainees, the word “possibly” appears 387 times, “unknown” 188 times and “deceptive” 85 times. Two conflicting committees from the Department of Defense worked at the facility and clashed frequently over how to classify prisoners’ threat levels and the quality of information they shared.
While some “high risk” prisoners have returned to terrorism, still others have become U.S. allies. A former Gitmo detainee whose files identify him as “a probable member of al-Qaeda,” Abu Sufian Ibrahim Ahmed Hamuda bin Qumu, is now a key figure on the rebel side of the Libyan revolution, a leader of a rebel brigade in the northern part of the country. When Qumu was captured in Pakistan shortly after 9/11, he was considered an enemy of the United States. Now, he and the U.S. have a goal in common: unseat Gaddafi.
Instead of getting closer to catching Osama bin Laden, the documents show that the focus has broadened from catching key al-Qaeda operatives, noting information about other foreign operations. One captive was sent to Gitmo so officials could glean any information he had on the Bahraini court, and another was interrogated about any knowledge he had of Uzbekistan’s secret service.
Officials took note of every possible piece of evidence, in hopes of building mosaics of information — even evidence as trivial as origami art. McClatchy reports:
Guards plucked off ships at sea to walk the cellblocks note who has hoarded food as contraband, who makes noise during the Star Spangled Banner, who sings creepy songs like “La, La, La, La Taliban” and who is re-enacting the 9/11 attacks with origami art.
Officials noted that information from some unstable prisoners may be faulty or untrue, but used it anyway. Yasim Mohammed Basardah, a detainee who gave information about 60 other prisoners, was noted as being unreliable, and his file stressed that information he shared should be independently verified. However, he was also given a “high” intelligence value, and his threat level was lowered from high to medium in exchange for his cooperation. He was resettled in Europe in 2010. According to the documents, eight prisoners have revealed information about 235 others.
Suspects were nabbed and shipped to Gitmo because they wore cheap watches. A specific model of watch — a Casio style released in the 1980s — was suspected to be used as a timer by al-Qaeda operatives. People in Afghanistan were seized and sent to the detention facility because they were wearing the watches, but most have been quietly released because of a lack of evidence.
Image via Wikimedia Commons.
Kase Wickman is a reporter for Raw Story. She holds a journalism degree from Boston University and grew up in Eugene, OR. Her work has been featured in The Boston Globe, Village Voice Media, The Christian Science Monitor, The Houston Chronicle and on NPR, among others. She lives in New York City and tweets from @kasewickman.
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