Gitmo Detainee Files Working Thread

Hi folks, HUGE document dump tonight from the New York Times, NPR, Guardian, El Pais and even the Washington Post tagging in. Heck, just about everybody has them; probably the only people who won’t be able to read the files are …. the detainees themselves who, of course, are currently effectively precluded from discussing such things with their lawyers.

At any rate, I am plowing through Charlie Savage’s material at the NYT, and there have been numerous individual filings by the Times tonight. I am going to give the various links in the order they came across the wire tonight and open the floor for discussion:

Initial NYT Article

Second NYT Article

Third NYT Article

Fourth NYT Article

Fifth NYT Article

Official Response From Us Govt.

Overall updated joint NYT/NPR Database

Feel free to link and quote into comments anything from any other sources you feel appropriate. Happy hunting!

Bmaz is a rather large saguaro cactus in the Southwestern Sonoran desert. A lover of the Constitution, law, family, sports, food and spirits. As you might imagine, a bit prickly occasionally. Bmaz has attended all three state universities in Arizona, with both undergraduate and graduate degrees from Arizona State University, and with significant post-graduate work (in physics and organic chemistry, go figure) at both the University of Colorado in Boulder and the University of Arizona. Married, with both a lovely child and a giant Sasquatch dog. Bmaz has been a participant on the internet since the early 2000’s, including active participation in the precursor to Emptywheel, The Next Hurrah. Formally joined the Emptywheel blog as an original contributing member at its founding in 2007. Bmaz grew up around politics, education, sports and, most significantly, cars; notably around Formula One racing and Concours de Elegance automobile restoration and showing. Currently lives in the Cactus Patch with his lovely wife and beast of a dog, and practices both criminal and civil trial law.
  1. skdadl says:

    The actual cables are being released at WikiLeaks — see column to the left, which lists all files to come by country; those released are in bf (or whatever we call that). And now I see I have to go, b/c they’ve just released 1 of 2 Canadian ones, which means 1 of 2 Khadr brothers.

  2. manys says:

    The funny thing is that Wikileaks tweeted today that they are going offline for a week to “increase server capacity.” This means that the MSM is going to be responsible for everything we hear about this story this week.

    And I have to say that the timing on this is delicious.

  3. bmull says:

    Once again the NYT absolves itself of dealing with Wikileaks by obtaining the documents indirectly. Bunch of cowards.

  4. bobschacht says:

    Thanks, bmaz.
    The fact that the NYT would pump out 5 articles on this in rapid succession is a clue that this is BIG. Also looks like the NYT does not want to be scooped on anything significant.

    Bob in AZ

  5. earlofhuntingdon says:

    It is also useful to check the Times’ reporting by comparing it with the Guardian’s, which is much more straight up. EternalVigilance here notes the Times’ continuing use of euphemisms and its unwillingness to draw obvious conclusions.

    The Times, for example, describes this intelligence as “flawed”, but that it supports the Obama administration’s decision to keep Gitmo open.

    The Guardian says much of it was “extracted under torture” and is “unreliable”.

    The Times leans towards the truth, but remains devout and thus continues to mislead by omission. The Guardian is direct and skeptical, attributes rarely displayed in the US media outside of blog reporting.

  6. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Note the vacuum trawler approach to designating every sea creature as a potential terrorist. A sure sign of a potential terrorist is that he wears not a turban but a specific cheap model of Casio digital watch. The CIA and outsourced intel boys hire Yaleys to tell us that? Heaven help us.

  7. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Easter Sunday night. Next to Christmas Eve or late evening Thanksgiving Day, when everyone employed is snoring through the aftermath of dinner, this has got to be the best time to release news the media wants no one to read. Fortunately, that’s not true outside the US and this is a big data dump that will be trawled for gems for days.

  8. earlofhuntingdon says:

    This is a basic working definition for the latest document release. From the Guardian:

    The Guantánamo files consists of 759 “detainee assessment” dossiers written between 2002 and 2009 and sent up through the military hierarchy to the US Southern Command headquarters in Miami. They appear to cover all but 20 of the prisoners.

    As EW notes on the subsequent thread, the dossiers appear to have been added to repeatedly, with little attempt to synthesize conflicting data into a more accurate picture of their subject. Arguably, that’s true of Gitmo and its interrogation practices generally.

    For those with time, it’s important not to use the Times’ analysis of this release without checking it against others. A good first place to start would be the Guardian. For those without time, skip to the Guardian or another int’l source.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      From that same Guardian article (there are a series on its front page):

      All the detainee assessments are classified “secret” but sometimes they mention separate, more sensitive “secret compartmented intelligence” (SCI) dossiers held elsewhere.

  9. earlofhuntingdon says:

    From another Guardian article here:

    [Jamal] Harith, born Ronald Fiddler in Manchester in 1966, converted to Islam in his 20s and travelled widely in the Muslim world. He was detained near Kandahar by the Taliban because they suspected he was a British spy. For a while was forced to share his large cell with a horse that would panic when US aircraft bombed the city after 9/11….

    In January 2002…[he was flown to Gitmo because] “he was expected to have knowledge of Taliban treatment of prisoners and interrogation tactics”. Harith says over the next two years he was kicked, punched, slapped, shackled in painful positions, subjected to extreme temperatures, deprived of sleep, not given adequate water and fed on food with date markings 10 or 12 years old. On one occasion, he says, he was chained up and severely beaten for refusing an injection. He estimates that he was interrogated around 80 times, usually by Americans but sometimes by British officials.

    In September 2002 Michael Dunlavey, the major general who was Guantánamo commandant at that time, recommended that Harith be released “on the assessment that detainee was not affiliated with al-Qaida or a Taliban leader”, his file states. The following July he was still behind bars….

    [A]uthorities decided Harith should continue to be held because his “timeline has not been fully established” and because British diplomats who had seen him in Kandahar found him to be “cocky and evasive”.

    Harith was released in March 2004. In a statement given nine months later, he said he was still in pain.

  10. earlofhuntingdon says:

    More than a few detainees were held simply to provide intelligence data on others, not because of their own conduct or even for providing others assistance. In several cases, their imprisonment continued because their jailers felt they were “cocky”: they resisted being beaten, starved, injected, harshly interrogated and abused, and must therefore have something to hide.

    Little wonder Mr. Obama wants to look forward not back. As the new gardener in charge of the whole orchard, he doesn’t want to be the guy blamed for stating the obvious – the rotten apples, worms and all, are at the head office, not in the barrels or on the trees. Very few of them are or were held as prisoners at Gitmo.

  11. earlofhuntingdon says:

    The US seems exceptionally sensitive to prisoners who retain their sense of self despite years of mistreatment. Take the case of Shaker Aamer, a dual British and Saudi national, whom even Bush’s top ally has wanted released and returned to Britain for years.

    His file as released has not been updated for four years. The US has detained him for over nine years. In part, the rationale for detaining him seems based on his lack of “cooperation” with his captors.

    That puts the US in the role of Colonel von Luger, the Kommandant of Stalag Luft 3, and Aamer in the role of Capt. Hilts, the role played by the motorcycle riding Steve McQueen in the Great Escape. His leadership and charisma seem to irritate his captors more than any documented anti-American conduct, so it’s off to the Cooler for Aamer:

    “Detainee is extremely egotistical, has manipulated debriefers and guard staff, and will continue to attempt to do so to support his political agenda. Detainee refuses to participate in direct questioning, often citing imaginary or assumed mistreatment of himself, or others, as justification of this refusal in a classic example of al-Qaida counter-interrogation techniques.”

    The file’s authors quote one of his fellow prisoners allegedly saying Aamer “runs all the other detainees” and add their own assessment: “He can summon support from over one half of Camp Delta’s detainee population.”

    The US needs a few psychiatrists whose career paths are not dependent on smiles from the Steve Cambone or his successor at the Pentagon. Either that, or the brass needs to watch a few Alfred Hitchcock films. I suggest they start with The Wrong Man (Henry Fonda, Vera Miles, 1956) and then maybe move onto J’Accuse, either the 1919
    Abel Gance
    version or Jose Ferrer’s remake in 1958.

    Resistance to abuse does not establish anti-American behavior before that abuse took place or establish an al Qaeda connection. It merely establishes that your prisoner is still a man, and quite possibly the wrong one.

    • prostratedragon says:

      The US seems exceptionally sensitive to prisoners who retain their sense of self despite years of mistreatment.

      Viz. cultural tendencies related to slaveholding.

  12. earlofhuntingdon says:

    The Guardian’s explanation for why its and the Times’ attribution of these materials differ:

    Unlike previous occasions, today’s coverage by the Guardian of its leaked Guantánamo files does not attribute them to Wikileaks….

    Last year, the Guardian brokered a pioneering deal with Assange under which some of these packages, notably 250,000 leaked US diplomatic cables, would be published collaboratively across the world. The original partners were the New York Times and other European papers, such as El Pais in Spain.

    But Assange objected to some articles the Guardian and the New York Times had written, notably those detailing the Swedish sex allegations over which he is currently fighting extradition. He decided to tear up the original deal. According to those close to him, he conceived a plan instead to distribute the Guantánamo material only to a range of rival papers, including the right-wing Daily Telegraph, the Washington Post and Al Jazeera, whilst preventing readers of the Guardian and the New York Times from having access to it.

    The New York Times, however, obtained the file from its own sources. When other papers discovered the Guardian and New York Times joint publishing plans late last night, they hurried out their own versions of the Guantánamo files, in an attempt to catch up.

    The Guardian quotes the Times as saying that its source for these files provided them on condition that they “remain anonymous”. The Times’ policy on conferring anonymity leaves the implication that such a source is non-governmental and therefore needs protection, since some of these materials are market secret, not for disclosure to foreigners.

    The Times has previously admitted, however, that it submits such stories to the US government for review prior to publication. That leaves open the possibility that the Times received this tranche, or an additional copy of it, from the USG, thus allowing it to say its source was not WikiLeaks or Julian Assange, whose credibility Bill Keller has gone out of his way to impugn, while scarfing up their materials to increase his circulation.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      That Guardian speaker’s self-serving characterization doesn’t square with Carol Rosenberg’s description of events. She says that she and others in WikiLeaks’ distribution chain had been working on stories for a month when they obtained two hours’ notice that the Times and Guardian would break their stories early.

      Competitors of the Times (and its collaborator, NPR – both work closely with the USG) and Guardian are not playing catch-up. This is the Times/NPR and the Guardian attempting to manufacture a “scoop” that a dozen global heavy hitters were already deeply engaged in reporting. The two are jumping the gun in an attempt to frame the debate, the Times/NPR almost certainly in ways that support the Obama narrative.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Greg Mitchell recounts how WikiLeaks lifted the embargo it had requested from its distribution chain, which was intended to provide its members an opportunity properly to sift through and synthesize a large amount of contradictory data:

        “WikiLeaks abruptly lifted the embargo Sunday night, after the organization became aware that the documents had been leaked to other news organizations, which were about to publish stories about them.”

        It’s not the Time/NPR and the Guardian’s competitors who were trying to play “catch-up”. Shame on you, Guardian. Sometimes you sound like the Times; you should know better.

  13. earlofhuntingdon says:

    These files indicate the US considers Pakistan’s intelligence service a “terrorist organization”, with the US legal consequences that participation in or providing material support to it implies. The list of US intelligence and special forces operatives and contractors, and bankers, now in jeopardy should be as long as the line at your local soup kitchen or the free clinic. From the Guardian:

    The revelation that the ISI is considered as much of a threat as al-Qaida and the Taliban will cause fury in Pakistan. It will further damage the already poor relationship between US intelligence services and their Pakistani counterparts, supposedly key allies in the hunt for Osama bin Laden and other Islamist militants in south Asia

    .

    The fractured and conflicting loyalties among ISI’s leadership, and its rivalries with its own army and government, has long been known. A formal declaration that the USG ranks the “Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI) alongside al-Qaida, Hamas and Hezbollah in Lebanon as threats” is remarkable for its candor and quite possibly its stupidity.

    • lysias says:

      Speaking of ISI connection with terrorism, there’s this from the Wikipedia entry on Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh:

      On October 6, 2001, a senior-level U.S. government official, told CNN that U.S. investigators had discovered Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh (Sheik Syed), using the alias “Mustafa Muhammad Ahmad” had sent about $100,000 from the United Arab Emirates to Mohamed Atta. “Investigators said Atta then distributed the funds to conspirators in Florida in the weeks before the deadliest acts of terrorism on U.S. soil that destroyed the World Trade Center, heavily damaged the Pentagon and left thousands dead. In addition, sources have said Atta sent thousands of dollars—believed to be excess funds from the operation—back to Saeed in the United Arab Emirates in the days before September 11. CNN later confirmed this.[15]

      The 9/11 Commission’s Final Report states that the source of the funds “remains unknown.”

      More than a month after the money transfer was discovered, the head of ISI, General Mahmud Ahmed resigned from his position. It was reported that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was investigating the possibility that Gen. Ahmed ordered Saeed Sheikh to send the $100,000 to Atta [13]

      The Wall Street Journal was one of the only Western news organizations to follow up on the story, citing the Times of India: “US authorities sought General Mahmud Ahmed’s removal after confirming the fact that $100,000 was wired to WTC hijacker Mohamed Atta from Pakistan by Ahmad Umar Sheikh at the instance of General Mahmud.”[16] Another Indian newspaper, the Daily Excelsior, quoting FBI sources, reported that the “FBI’s examination of the hard disk of the cellphone company Omar Sheikh had subscribed to led to the discovery of the “link” between him and the deposed chief of the Pakistani ISI, Mahmud Ahmed. And as the FBI investigators delved deep, reports surfaced with regard to the transfer of $100,000 to Mohamed Atta, one of the terrorists who flew a hijacked Boeing commercial airliner into the World Trade Center. General Mahmud Ahmed, the FBI investigators found, fully knew about the transfer of money to Atta.”[17]

      U.S. investigators later said that this was a confusion with Mustafa al-Hawsawi, also known as Mustafa Muhammad Ahmad, who is currently held in Guantanamo Bay.[18]

      The Pittsburgh Tribune notes that there “are many in Musharraf’s government who believe that Saeed Sheikh’s power comes not from the ISI, but from his connections with our own CIA.”[19]

      If it was just a confusion of names, I doubt if Gen. Ahmed would have had to resign as head of ISI.

      By the way, Gen. Mahmud Ahmed was in D.C. on 9/11. In fact, he was meeting with the chairmen of the congressional intelligence committees at the very time the planes struck the twin towers.

      General Mahmud was known to visit the United States regularly during his time as the head of ISI consulting senior officials in the U.S. administration in the weeks before and after 9/11. In fact, he was with Republican Congressman Porter Goss and Democratic Senator Bob Graham in Washington, discussing Osama bin Laden over breakfast, when the attacks of September 11, 2001 happened.[4] He was immediately called into meetings with American officials where demands of Pakistani cooperation were made and he was told to convey this to the Pakistani government.

  14. earlofhuntingdon says:

    NATO strike hits Gaddafi compound. We are not, however, attempting to impose regime change through lethal force, by drones or manned aircraft. We are merely attempting to act as a megaphone, to give the rebels and American corporations a greater voice in Libya’s government.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Meanwhile, we are again taking our eye off the ball in Afghanistan, ensuring that that war, too, will be never ending. From Reuters, via France24:

      At least 478 prisoners, including many senior Taliban figures, escaped from a prison in Kandahar province on Sunday using a 320-metre-long tunnel into the prison that had been dug over several months.

      My earlier reference to the Great Escape was meant to be metaphorical, and I see I directed it at the wrong prison.

      This takes place at the start of the spring fighting season. Let’s keep all those faux Taliban figures tied up in Gitmo, at excruciating financial and political cost, so that we needn’t admit what fools we were. How I miss Art Buchwald.

  15. fatster says:

    Memory refresher.

    In Gitmo Opinion, Two Versions of Reality

    “When Judge Henry Kennedy Jr. ordered the release of a Guantánamo Bay detainee last spring, the case appeared to be a routine setback for an Obama administration that has lost a string of such cases.

    “But there turns out to be nothing ordinary about the habeas case brought by Uthman Abdul Rahim Mohammed Uthman, a Yemeni held without charges for nearly eight years. Uthman, accused by two U.S. administrations of being an al-Qaida fighter and bodyguard for Osama bin Laden, is among 48 detainees the Obama administration has deemed too dangerous to release but “not feasible for prosecution.”

    “A day after his March 16 order was filed on the court’s electronic docket, Kennedy’s opinion vanished. Weeks later, a new ruling appeared in its place. While it reached the same conclusion, eight pages of material had been removed, including key passages in which Kennedy dismantled the government’s case against Uthman.”

    LINK.