Wilkerson: Cheney and Rummy Knew Gitmo Detainees Were Innocent

About a hundred of you have pointed to this story, which reports that Lawrence Wilkerson signed a declaration to support the lawsuit of a former Gitmo detainee, Adel Hassan Hamad, stating that Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld knew there were innocent people at Gitmo.

Colonel Wilkerson, who was General Powell’s chief of staff when he ran the State Department, was most critical of Mr Cheney and Mr Rumsfeld. He claimed that the former Vice-President and Defence Secretary knew that the majority of the initial 742 detainees sent to Guantánamo in 2002 were innocent but believed that it was “politically impossible to release them”.


He also claimed that one reason Mr Cheney and Mr Rumsfeld did not want the innocent detainees released was because “the detention efforts would be revealed as the incredibly confused operation that they were”. This was “not acceptable to the Administration and would have been severely detrimental to the leadership at DoD [Mr Rumsfeld at the Defence Department]”.

Referring to Mr Cheney, Colonel Wilkerson, who served 31 years in the US Army, asserted: “He had absolutely no concern that the vast majority of Guantánamo detainees were innocent … If hundreds of innocent individuals had to suffer in order to detain a handful of hardcore terrorists, so be it.”

He alleged that for Mr Cheney and Mr Rumsfeld “innocent people languishing in Guantánamo for years was justified by the broader War on Terror and the small number of terrorists who were responsible for the September 11 attacks”.

Now, as Mary has pointed out, there was actually a study done in summer 2002 that showed that vast majority of those at Gitmo were innocent. So this is not news.

But I certainly welcome some public discussion about the maltreatment of a number of innocent people at Gitmo as we enter back into discussions on closing Gitmo.

77 replies
  1. wavpeac says:

    What happened to the adolescent boys who were being held there? Were they let go? How long were they held? And can you imagine what that does to a developing brain?

    • JTMinIA says:

      >> “What happened to the adolescent boys who were being held there?”

      They were handed over to the Catholic Church.

      Two weeks later, they asked to return to Gitmo.

  2. Jim White says:

    I agree that the information was already out there, but as I responded to Barry Eisler in the comments on my current diary, I put a little extra emphasis on the new story because we now have word that Wilkerson was willing to say it in a sworn statement in an active suit. Since Wilkerson was in a position where we could reasonably believe that he would know what the big 3 knew or didn’t know, this gives a bit more weight to the conclusion that these guys knew they were holding innocents.

    • emptywheel says:

      Agree with you there.

      Though part of me wishes Wilkerson would just put all this in a book, to hell with getting it pre-approved, and be done with it.

  3. b2020 says:

    Isn’t the premise of indefinite detention and pre-trial execution that you are guilty unless and until proven innocent? I am sure “Bygones” Obama appreciates the intellectual consistency of the Rumsfeld/Cheney approach to justice.

  4. alabama says:

    You can’t indulge a taste for torture without torturing living, sentient responsive beings whose protections under the law are fragile–women and children in the first place–then creatures outside the law, animals and foreigners, not well protected by your own legal system. Cheney and Rumsfeld–whose tastes for torture, like that of Bush, are thoroughly documented–are not gratified by the torturing of animals; and given their need to be seen as responsible citizens, the torture of fellow Americans can only take the form of verbal and managerial harassment and misrule; for the torture of people, adults in particular, you are bound to seek out your victims among foreigners whose legal protections are largely a wishful fiction.

    This is all pretty obvious. What is not so obvious is the skill with which a torturer keeps his or her indulgent practice “behind closed doors”; Cheney is a so florid that he leaves little to the imagination; Bush and Rumsfeld are quite a bit cagier. They don’t often snarl or sneer; they prefer to looked hurt and surprised. But we have only to remember that wonderful line from Macbeth to clear our heads: “There’s no art to find the mind’s construction in the face” (Banquo, on being betrayed by the Thane of Cawdor).

  5. qweryous says:

    O.T. And submitted without additional comment:

    H.T. to truthseeker77@tpm link

    From ABC News link:

    U.S. Vice Admiral Apologizes for Afghan Deaths
    Special Forces Commander Apologizes for Civilian Deaths, Follows Afghan Custom

    Which begins:

    “In the dusty Afghan village where U.S. troops killed two pregnant women and three other innocent civilians in February, a remarkable scene played out today between an aggrieved father and the most senior special operations officer in the United States military.
    Vice Admiral William McRaven — the commander of Joint Special Operations Command — showed up with two sheep, and in the cultural understanding of the region, surrendered himself.”

    Times Online coverage: Link

    Excerpt from Times Online:

    “Admiral McRaven was clearly unimpressed to see The Times there. Afghan soldiers tried to stop us watching the proceedings or taking photographs, until the family intervened.”

  6. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Anything that makes clearer the likely knowledge and direction of such events and circumstances by the White House is a good thing.

  7. Palli says:

    corporate silence kills miners, military silence cultivates enemies, government silence condones crime and endangers citizens

  8. Stephen says:

    Another opportune time for Powell to step forward and confirm. I won’t hold my breath though.

  9. tjbs says:

    Isn’t this the lesson Nuremburg tried to leave us as well as the framers of the constitution?

    This is an evolving evil traceable to the Nixon era but absolutely the roots and top growth are visible in Iran Contra and the associated players. In the open,a government unelected in a government, this happened and again was washed away with despicable pardons.

    Now we don’t even to pretend we follow the law with the attendant pardon, get out of jail free card joke after an open trial. We just look forward, forgetting the encroachments upon our common humanity.

    What gets me is the fear, the fear of finding the truth in the JFK assassination rather settling for an absurd single bullet, The Gulf of Tonkin,The Iran contra white wash, the 2000 election and I could go on for a long time but it does bring us to the ramifications of 9-11 now doesn’t it ?

    Torture, The Iraq war, the outted CIA Agent, Secret torture sites, Afgahn war the central nexus is 9-11 which we even refuse to discuss let alone find out the truth about.

    • 1boringoldman says:

      At times, I share your pessimism about this story. One of the reasons I read this particular blog is that Marcy decries all this stuff too, but she continues to broaden the narrative with her almost daily revelations of the details. I agree that a lot of the history of the second half of the twentieth century in the U.S. has been covered over rather than addressed head on – so it has continued to repeat. But this one isn’t getting covered over, at least not by the sleuths we all read. And some of it makes it up to the mainstream. It actually feels that the narrative thread is alive and kicking, waiting for the moment when someone will be able to finally use it effectively.

      9/11 was a true national trauma. Breakthroughs in the treatment of traumatic illnesses always come way further down the road than anyone wants, way way down the road…

  10. 1boringoldman says:

    What this story brings to mind is the Mantra of the Bush Administration, “Fight Bullshit with Bullshit!” Saddam Hussein was the biggest bullshitter ever. He refused to let anyone know the truth, that he had nothing – no nukes, no anthrax, no nerve gas to speak of. His so called “elite republican guards” lasted only days in both the First Gulf War and the later invasion. He had nothing, but he refuse to let anyone know. What he said in captivity was that he was afraid the Iranians would over-run his country if the truth were known.

    So President Bush and Vice President Cheney believed his bullshit in spite of the fact that our intelligence said he had nothing. Never ones to be out blustered, out sword rattled, out bullshitted, they matched him lie for lie. They filled up the high security prison in Guantanomo Bay with people that the Pakistanis sold them – hardly any of which were ever even combatants. I guess it looks good if you have a high security prison to have it full of people. Then they actually got some real prisoners and tried to torture them into fingering Hussein as an al Qaeda ally. They hyped a bogus Uranium story to accuse him of having nukes. And they sort of made up the rest based on the reports of a guy they never actually met [Curveball].

    Then, when it turned out that their detainees weren’t the real McCoy, imagine how embarrassed they might have felt if it had come to light. So they decided to keep them out of our courts by trying them with Military Tribunals. But apparently that too might have been embarrassing, so the just never got around to having any trials at all. The detainees just hung out at GITMO for years with no trials of any kind.

    There’s a symmetry about all of this. Saddam Hussein was the biggest fraud in the Middle East, so we countered by becoming the biggest frauds in the West.

      • 1boringoldman says:

        When I’m having a “good Obama” day, I think it’s because it’s such a insoluable tangle that he’s afraid that attempting to untangle it will stir up a hornet’s nest – Republicans, Cheney, the world, etc. In my “bad Obama” moods, I think he goes for the sweeping Abe Lincoln/FDR history-making and just doesn’t want to be bothered with “ground clutter.” But when I try to rationally answer your question, I come up with a blank – it makes no real sense to me either.

      • tjbs says:

        If you could target and assassinate anyone who pissed you off , you would give up that power?

        This here unitary executive power is so neat and clean, tough to roll back without the fight mentioned above, so let’s just be afraid.

  11. Leen says:

    ot whoa
    NRG/Maariv reports today that workers at the Dimona reactor who submitted
    VISA requests to visit the United States for ongoing University education in
    Physics, Chemistry and Nuclear Engineering — have all been rejected,
    specifically because of their association with the Dimona reactor. This is a
    new policy decision of the Obama administration, since there never used to
    be an issue with the reactor’s workers from study in the USA, and till
    recently, they received VISAs and studied in the USA.

    Israeli Defense Officials have stated that these reactor researches have no
    criminal background in Israel or in the USA, and yet they are being singled
    out purely because of their place of employment at the reactor.

    Professor Zeev Alfasi, the head of Nuclear Engineering at Ben-Gurion
    University in the Negev stated that “the United States doesn’t sell anything
    nuclear-related to the Dimona reactor, and that means absolutely nothing.
    Radiation detectors, for example have to be purchased now in France because
    the USA refuses to sell these to Israel.”

  12. JasonLeopold says:

    Hey folks, I think Wilkerson’s sworn declaration is much better reading than the stories that have been published, much of which is based off the Times of London story, which is not very good, IMO.

    I’ve uploaded a link to his declaration here: http://www.truthout.org/files/Wilkerson.pdf

    and here is a copy of the lawsuit which it was filed in support of (which also names Geoffrey Miller): http://www.truthout.org/files/hassanvgates.pdf

    Nothing surprising per se, but I agree with Jim that it is newsworthy in that it was filed in support of a lawsuit against former Bush officials.

    Still good reading. For example and on topic:

    Having been a military officer for 30 years, I knew to start at the
    beginning so I started immediately to investigate our detention policies from the very start of the war in Afghanistan. During my investigation, I discovered that U.S. forces had murdered two Bagram detainees at Bagram airbase, in about December 2002, very close in time to when Mr. Hamad was apparently in custody there. I recalled my service in Vietnam and what a great challenge it was to stop troops from committing war crimes against captives, or during combat, and how to have such things happening as a matter of policy was very destructive.

  13. JasonLeopold says:

    Also, Wilkerson explains:

    I have made a personal choice to come forward and discuss the abuses that
    occurred because knowledge that I served in an Administration that tortured and abused those it detained at the facilities at Guantánamo Bay and elsewhere and indefinitely detained the innocent for political reasons has marked a low point in my professional career and I wish to make the record clear on what occurred. I am also extremely concerned that the Armed Forces of the United States, where I spent 31 years of my professional life, were deeply involved in these tragic mistakes. I am willing to testify in person regarding the content of this declaration, should that be necessary.

    • b2020 says:

      Echoing Mary’s point, how can Wilkerson possibly be completely honest without implicating Powell and through him, the other “principals”?

      Human pyschology is fascinating – I am reminded of McNamara, even Nixon, or (in a military context) the Wehrmacht conspirators of the 20th of July. There is something about the belated noble act that almost inevitably limits and hollows the accomplishment.

      • JasonLeopold says:

        According to the declaration, he disclosed the discussions that took place with Powell so in that sense Powell is already implicated in that he is named, albeit he is portrayed as innocent (although that may be the wrong word to use)

    • jdmckay0 says:


      I have made a personal choice to come forward and discuss the abuses that
      occurred because knowledge that I served in an Administration that tortured and abused those it detained at the facilities at Guantánamo Bay and elsewhere and indefinitely detained the innocent for political reasons has marked a low point in my professional career and I wish to make the record clear on what occurred.

      “Personal choice” (8+ yrs after fact)… because torture he knew about “marked” a “low point in my professional career”.

      Sheesh… this a “good” guy (isn’t he?), yet that reads like he’s choking the truth down w/diplomatic fuzzy double speak. I wish somebody would tap him on the shoulder and remind that this “low point in his career” was extrapolated outwards as expression of US policy and inflicted on (who knows how many). EG. it really wasn’t about him.

      I have a friend high up in Brazil University & Health ministry… one of finest people I ever met. He was a practicing Psychiatrist there for some years before “moving up”, and had associations w/other shrinks who participated in Brazil’s torture program in 60/70’s. This guy has told me stories of these folks, decades later, broken people who never recovered. I read several books on the episode some years ago, this was discussed there as well.

      Similar documentation available cataloging other torture participants/programs, this result seems to be a bigger and more unavoidable law then the “laws” du jour Marcy’s been documenting as BushCo justice system’s work product.

      And this law’s got teeth: you torture, your life is going to be hell… period. Bascially, you’re fucked. Sanity down the toilet, depression, and very possibly some form of psychosis, w/remaining lifetime wrapped in a suit trying to “hold it together.”

      I’ve read Powell is on meds to keep him “even”.

      • JasonLeopold says:

        I know what you mean! And that is the best we can do at this point, which is a low in and of itself. Physicians for Human Rights put together a pretty amazing report a couple of years ago, if I remember correctly, documenting how former Gitmo detainees were permanently scarred. The report is Broken Laws, Broken Lives. Heartbreaking stuff

        • jdmckay0 says:


          documenting how former Gitmo detainees were permanently scarred.

          Yes, of course. But I was talking about US torture team. Even guys on periphery, that watched, well some would say there is tacit agreement in that alone.

          Wilkerson strikes me as a broken man.

          I’ll put it like this: human beings are built to function well telling the truth. They thrive building on that. It’s not that complicated AFAIC. There’s no burden in the truth.

          Steer away from that… make stuff up as you go along to paper over bad stuff (crimes), and not only do the torture-ees suffer, it seems to me useful in society to acknowledge the torturers get sick as well… sick in the head, sick in the heart. Sick, sick mother fuckers.

          As I’m thinkng about this, it occurrs to me that over recent years, when Wilkerson has spoken up (from memory, no citations at hand), it is always to defend Powell. Almost like he’s a well trained, knows his place subordinate. Or to put the ideal more afirmatively, I haven’t seen him make explicit statements on principle… his own declarations, put his stake in the ground.

          Poor guy.

        • harpie says:

          Your comment reminded me of “Torture’s Long Shadow”; Vladimir Bukovsky; Washington Post; 12/18/05

          “[…] I know from my own experience that interrogation is an intensely personal confrontation, a duel of wills. […] Now, who is going to guarantee that even the most exact definition of CID is observed under such circumstances?
          But if we cannot guarantee this, then how can you force your officers and your young people in the CIA to commit acts that will scar them forever? For scarred they will be, take my word for it.
          Today, when the White House lawyers seem preoccupied with contriving a way to stem the flow of possible lawsuits from former detainees, I strongly recommend that they think about another flood of suits, from the men and women in your armed services or the CIA agents who have been or will be engaged in CID practices. Our rich experience in Russia has shown that many will become alcoholics or drug addicts, violent criminals or, at the very least, despotic and abusive fathers and mothers. […]”

        • JThomason says:

          There was another comment in the WP about the history of inevitable corrosion of modern political regimes in the aftermath of torture practices which I have been looking to find again for years. I think it was written by a retired CIA operative. Do you have this too at your fingertips?

        • harpie says:

          Do you mean Eric Fair? [Number 4, below] He “served in the Army from 1995 to 2000 as an Arabic linguist and worked in Iraq as a contract interrogator in early 2004”

          I think of this series as “Mirrors

          “[…] how can you force your officers and your young people in the CIA to commit acts that will scar them forever? For scarred they will be, take my word for it.-Vladimir Bukovsky [1]

          “[…] It’s the detainees and the guards like myself that will have to live every day with what they went through, saw, and did while there.[…]-Spc. Brandon Neely [2]

          “[…] But when I close my eyes and think back on those days, what I see first is the colour green, a nightmarish swirling green of helmets and tanks […].”-Chen Guang [3]

          The reality of nightmare:

          “A man with no face stares at me from the corner of a room. He pleads for help, but I’m afraid to move. He begins to cry. It is a pitiful sound, and it sickens me. He screams, but as I awaken, I realize the screams are mine.”-Eric Fair [4]

          The nightmare of reality:

          I woke up, naked, strapped to a bed, in a very white room. The room measured approximately 4m x 4m [13 feet by 13 feet]. The room had three solid walls, with the fourth wall consisting of metal bars separating it from a larger room. I am not sure how long I remained in the bed….”-Abu Zubaydah [5]

          [1] Torture’s Long Shadow, Vladimir Bukovsky, 12/18/05 http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/12/17/AR2005121700018_pf.html
          [2] Testimony of Spc. Brandon Neely, Guantanamo Testimonials Project, 12/4/08 http://humanrights.ucdavis.edu/projects/the-guantanamo-testimonials-project/testimonies/testimonies-of-military-guards/testimony-of-brandon-neely
          [3] Even the rising sun was stained green, 6/4/09 http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/jun/02/tiananmen-square-protests-1989-china
          [4] From: An Iraq Interrogator’s Nightmare, Eric Fair, 2/9/07 http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/02/08/AR2007020801680.html
          [5] From Abu Zubaydah’s ICRC interview, 12/06 http://www.nybooks.com/articles/22530

        • JThomason says:

          Thanks, yes, I believe the Eric Fair piece is the one, though I had remembered it somewhat differently.

        • harpie says:

          I’m glad, though I’m still looking for something that may fit your memory of it a little better-I’m not a regular reader of the WaPo. Eric Fair’s piece deeply affected me.

        • jdmckay0 says:

          (…)will be engaged in CID practices. Our rich experience in Russia has shown that many will become alcoholics or drug addicts, violent criminals or, at the very least, despotic and abusive fathers and mothers. […]”

          Thanks for that.

          I’m pretty sure if some person/group (whatever) reconstructed all this evidence, in a manner as diligent & detailed as Marcy has done here, result of this kind of behavior could be traced and substantiated as reliable moral code. Or as I said above, a law… guarantee: you torture, your life and those you touch are going to be hell. Guaranteed.

          It all kind of begs for a detailed, well written definition of corruption. AFAIC, a zillion ways to go down that road, but symptoms are always within the same context, generally described in your quote. Some kind of baseline of truth-telling must (again, IMO) be the standard from which deviation is measured.

          The thing is, the truth is not so much in vogue these days… a sticky wicket indeed.

          And yah, I know, defining all this is the challenge of the ages. However, personally, I think it’s doable.

          FWIW, after reading tons of philosophy, couple years in seminary, bible cover 2 cover many times, just tons of stuff… most useful manual on understanding these deep questions in a practical, useful and mind-clearing manner was Bucky Fuller’s: Synergetics & (and especially) Synergetics II. In short, his purpose was excruciatingly detailed investigation into defining: principle. For me, he closed gap beteen metaphysical & physical into one satisfying, understandable whole.

          But I guess that’s a discussion for another day.

        • harpie says:

          Sorry it’s taken me so long to get back to you, jdmckay0. I’ve been having computer issues. [sigh]

          I agree with your “It all kind of begs for a detailed, well written definition of corruption”. Does the Will to confront it exist? Your “think it’s doable” gives me hope.

          Thanks very much for the reading suggestion.

      • b2020 says:

        I was trying to make a similar point: I could respect Wilkerson had he resigned at the time. I could respect even Powell (who already had committed his share of crimes and coverups by the time he joined the Bush administration) if he had resigned before his “Pretend Adlai Stevenson” moment.

        But neither one resigned. I am not impressed.

        If you want to know what is wrong with Congress, ultimately the issue is just the same: Who, if not a Senator or Representative, is able and required to Do The Right Thing, even it it will cost chairmanship, donors, and even re-election? Who, if not those that are guaranteed to suffer no bodily or financial harm from upholding theior oath on the constitution, should stand up for the law? But what we get is the likes of Harman, Reid, Pelosi, Roberts, Rockefeller – and that is just the top of the list.

        That, ultimately, is why I despise Obama: His campaign was tailor-made to make and evoke promises that, surely, would risk and quite possible destroy his 2012 re-election prospects. But he was not elected to be re-elected. He was elected because of those promises, and whatever hope there was for actual change in this blighted nation has been “indefinitely detained” in his capable hands.

        • jdmckay0 says:

          Yep, US is is knee deep in the soup… no ? about it.

          That, ultimately, is why I despise Obama: (…)

          Yep. I started saying that before his inauguration, after initial cabinet announcements portended this outcome. Said it long, said it wide, said it loud. Said it in BO’s headquarters here (which I worked 24/7 for 3+ mos), said it to our Cong. Reps & Sens, said it here on EW, KOS, in church, at the coffee shop, on the tennis court, to my wife in bed…

          Oh well. I think I’m over it… I get it.
          This is it.
          Let the good times roll.

          (heading to screaming room for catharsis g> ).

      • jdmckay0 says:

        I’ve read Powell is on meds to keep him “even”.

        Came across this quote from Powell’s autobiography @ Jonathan Schwarz’ blog (“that war” is VN):

        Many of my generation, the career captains, majors, and lieutenant colonels seasoned in that war, vowed that when our turn came to call the shots, we would not quietly acquiesce in halfhearted warfare for half-baked reasons that the American people could not understand.

        This was adendum to Schwarz’ link to Consortium article:
        Behind Colin Powell’s Legend — Pentagon-Man

    • alabama says:

      There’s one thing we shouldn’t forget: the investigation of the Plame affair did not fall from the sky; it was an opportunity seized upon by bureaucrats in different places and at different levels who were fighting an internal war against Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and their various courtiers. And Powell was an important go-to guy for the marshalling of this opposition (along with Mueller and various figures in the CIA and the DOD).

      To which we might reply, “so what”? But if we say “so what?”, how can we also overlook the fury of Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld, all of whom lost that particular fight?

      As someone who’s spent a lifetime fighting small wars in minor bureaucracies, I’d say that it’s not an easy job. You know you’ll be punished, you won’t get any prizes, and you still have to work with the folks you’re fighting against. And so you fight and you win a thing or two, but mostly you lose a lot more, and of course the story is never truly told. You will always hear that you didn’t do the right thing, or that you did it too late to matter, and did it for self-serving reasons. The satisfaction comes from another sources.

      Bureaucrats whose workplace is a battlefield–whose enemy is the very field of battle itself (the bureau that has fallen into bad hands)–they cannot be easily judged. Their courage has to be weighed against their timidity, and the scales for such a weighing are not to be found.

    • Leen says:

      “I am also extremely concerned that the Armed Forces of the United States, where I spent 31 years of my professional life, were deeply involved in these tragic mistakes.”

      When torture takes place with torture intended…not mistakes.

  14. Mary says:

    I’m always for hitting harder on some of what is technically already out there, but has been buried, ignored by MSM, or is just able to be presented with a better narrative over time.

    A lot of the reason we have ended up as a torture regime with an Obama as our “leftist” leader is repetition, repetition, repetition.

    I’m glad Wikerson has done this, but I’d have a lot of questions and reservations until I’ve seen his declaration.

    The pieces of the narrative that I have some confidence in and have repeated are found in part in Mayer’s book and also in other parts elsewhere. Those pieces are that beginning in December, 2001, as detainees are being shipped to GITMO, the admin is already receiving complaints from GITMO about breaches of Geneva Conventions and possible war crimes (in addition to hearing about incidents like the Dostum shipping container killings, with which there may have been CIA or special forces or other involvement).

    In Jan, 2002, after getting briefings from Taft at State on why the administration should follow the Geneva Conventions, and from Yoo et al from the war council on issues like war crimes and torture under the War Crimes Act, Gonzales issues his memo to Bush, saying that if they don’t use the pretense of a category of people not covered by law or the Geneva Conventions, “unlawful enemy combatants,” then they may be pursued by future adminsitrations for their violations of the War Crimes Act.

    Someone – it has never been clear who or, more likely, a several whos – has been instituting programs of bounties (also likely illegal and war crimes) for the turnover of ‘al-Qaeda’ operatives, that results in everyone and their brother being sold into human experimentation programs at GITMO and Bagram and elsewhere. [Obviously, that’s a part of the story – the who(s) and whys and wherefores on the bounty programs – that I’d like to hear more about]

    By summer of 2002, the CIA is getting upset that, despite all the really good torture going on there, the info coming out of GITMO isn’t very helpful or reliable. So they send someone down to check things out and give them an idea of why the intel is so bad. Mayer doesn’t name that someone. A recently released opinion (in the “no one leaves GITMO innocent) refers to the workproduct of a CIA analyst, but without declassification and release of the workproduct or the qualifications/findings of the analyst.

    Mayer doesn’t mention who the analyst is, either, when she describes the upshot of his investigation – oral reports followed by signing out an August, 2002 memo that describes that at least a third of those at GITMO are pretty much wholly innocent non-combatants (and Mayer explains that in exchanges between the analyst and the camp commander at the time, the commander thinks the 1/3 is more like over half). Then there are an assortment of guys who have been fighters in Afghanistan(although some were fighters AGAINST the Taliban) so they could technically maybe be called combatants, although they weren’t necessarily fighting us and they definitely weren’t involved in 9/11, then you had some low level Taliban conscripts, etc.

    So while I don’t think his report back said that the vast majority were completely innocent, per se, if you meant innocent of having anything to do with 9/11 or al-Qaeda, I think that would be fair.

    And I don’t think he was any ol analyst, either. This is just spec, but I’d say it’s very likely that the CIA analyst who generated the Aug 2002 memo (that went to Bellinger/Rice as well as Gonzales for Bush, Addington and Flannigan for Cheney and Bush, etc.) was Dr. Emile Nakhleh


    He was the “Director of the Political Islam Strategic Analysis Program, the intelligence community’s premier group dedicated to the issue of political Islam” and in September, 2006 he gave the interview linked above to Ken Silverstein with Harpers. He was asked about an 11 day trip he took to GITMO in 2002 and his findings that, “Some of the detainees participated in jihad in Afghanistan, mostly against the Northern Alliance; others did not but were caught in the dragnet—having been at the wrong place and at the wrong time. Even the command down there knew that probably one-third of the prisoners were neither terrorists nor jihadists, and wouldn’t have been there if we weren’t paying a bounty to Pakistani security forces for every Middle Eastern-looking person they handed over to us.”

    Now, keep in mind that in Jan, Gonzales was telling Bush that the only thing that kept him from looking at war crimes charges was the fact that the victimes were “unlawful enemy combatants” Now two things happe in August, 2002. First, a CIA analysts says *a big chunk of these guys aren’t unlawful enemy combatants or enemy combatants of any kind* Second, Newsweek comes out with what should have been a big story – although it fizzled out.

    That story, called The Death Convoy of Afghanistan, detailed the shipping container killings. And some of the survivors of those shipping container killings were British citizens, in Aug 2002 being held at GITMO. The basis for declaring them enemy combatants? Their torture confession that they were the previously unidentified men in a picture with Osama Bin Laden – but unfortunately British intel was in the process of bursting that bubble as they were confirming that, given the timing of the Bin Laden picture, none of the Brits physically could have been where he was to be in the picture.

    So – with that Newsweek story coming out, it would have been particularly problematic to have it become public that a lot of innocent people were being held at GITMO, including innocent survivors of the shipping container killings. And with the Jan memo, advising Bush that the only thing standing between him and war crimes was the validity of the “unlawful enemy combatant” label, it was all that much more problematic.

    And so Addington tells Bellinger, after receiving the CIA memo, that the President has already decided that *they* are *all* unlawful enemy combatants and that’s not changing. And all of this, with Yoo’s and Bybee’s freshly minted torture memos in hand.

    It doesn’t get much sleazier or more direct, BUT …
    … that said, I think for purposes of a judicial declaration that should be based on personal knowledge, I wonder a bit about what Wilkerson has said.

    He’s not in the middle of any of the story that has come out so far, so his personal knowledge might be questionable on some of it, and to the extent he did have any kind of contemporaneous personal knowledge, then I don’t see how he leaves POwell off the list of those who had knowledge. If Wilkerson didn’t have contemporaneous personal knowledge, but has somehow since acquired some kind of second or third hand, after the fact, knowledge, then I think his declaration may come under some fire.


    • JasonLeopold says:

      regarding the shipping containers killings, Wilkerson says:

      A related problem with the initial detention was that predominantly US forces were not the ones who were taking the prisoners in the first place. Instead, we relied upon Afghans, such as General [Abdul Rashid] Dostum’s forces, and upon Pakistanis, to hand over prisoners whom they had apprehended, or who had been turned over to them for bounties, sometimes as much as $5,000 per head.

      I believe Dostum was suspected of that crime.

      • Mary says:

        Yes he is. While you could just as arguably weave the GITMO story completely separately, I think to get the punch out of what the guilty persons were juggling you have to look also at the shipping container killings and the US problem of having the British survivors of those killings right there at GITMO, with Newsweek breaking a big story on the killings and a CIA analyst telling you that a chunk of your GITMO detainees were innocent and Jay Bybee handing out succor for torture suckers, all at pretty much the same time. And a very cowardly President who still hadn’t come to terms with his responsibility vis a vis 9/11 completely unwilling to now fess up to war crimes against innocent people when instead he could just bury it all at an isolated concentrated population camp of his own making while ginning up yet another war in Iraq and using torture to try to lay out the case for that national distraction.

    • emptywheel says:

      Dunno if you’ve read the declaration yet, but I think he read that report. He doesn’t allude to it directly (though he does say stuff he read reinforced it), but he’s got the numbers right, doesn’t he?

      • Mary says:

        He does. If he hasn’t read it, he’s talked to the originator or others who have read it.

        We do know that in addition to there was a non-lawyer person with military background in that meeting with Bellinger, Addington, Flanigan and Gonzales. We also know that Nakhleh has been very forthcoming in what he was willing to publically say in his Harper’s interview from 2006.

        It seems to me that a declaration from Nakhleh with nothing more than what he had in the Harper’s piece would almost be more damning from a legal point of view, given his direct involvement in interviews and his expertise. I don’t know if anyone has ever approached him for one or not. If he added in that he did generate a report to the CIA and White House as well – I think you’d be starting to cook with oil.

  15. b2020 says:

    “I certainly welcome some public discussion about the maltreatment of a number of innocent people at Gitmo as we enter back into discussions on closing Gitmo.”

    Pace Greenwald, it would seem that discussion has just fragmented along at least three vectors. In addition to the patriotic “Save Gitmo” movement, we have human rights and civil liberty groups opposing the possible Gitmo-Thompson,IL swap on grounds that this is just another Obama attempt to further improve the unacceptable, and we also have the “Bagram is the old new Gitmo” aspect.

    I suppose we are going to have all three – Gitmo, Thompson, and Bagram – and whatever other sites are out there in Iraq, at Diego Garcia etc. The standard response to any challenge to the “apparat” and call for its reform is the addition of another limb – JSOC, DHS, MCA, the more redundancy the better.

    • Mary says:

      And transfer to third country torture – which you can’t really call rendition, but which Obama does anyway.

      • b2020 says:

        “And transfer to third country torture – which you can’t really call rendition, but which Obama does anyway.”

        I must have missed that – do you have a reference? I am aware of this

        and this

        but I did not catch any reports or actual evidence that Obama’s new and inmproved rendition has already led to torture “under oversight”.

        • Mary says:

          no, not under oversight. Just as another way of taking care of problems.

          @19 – thanks for the link. It’s an interesting document. I think the implications about Brits and the calls from Straw to Powell are floating around there. He also ties the period of the Hamad detention at Bagram to the Dilawar killing and he uses the word murder. I’m going to caution that, without more, I think a lot of his declaration might be subject to a motion to strike, but he’s definitely drawn a line in the sand, including offering up Powell in a way, by saying that he learned from Powell that Bush was involved in the decisions to keep the innocent at GITMO and quoting Powell as using “cowboy instincts” in reference to Bush.

  16. Batocchio says:

    Yeah, that was pretty much my take. I’m frustrated that stuff like this is “discovered,” and that particular piece seems designed mainly to shill the headline as important new information. Still, I’d love to see more coverage and an actual investigation here in the U.S….

  17. Gitcheegumee says:


    The 1961 film,Judgment at Nuremberg will be aired tomorrow night,April 10,2010 at 8:00 PM on TCM (Turner Classic Movies).

  18. bobschacht says:

    So, how many times has Dick Cheney said in public that the Guantanamo detainees are the “worst of the worst”? The Right wing has been conditioned by this mantra, and it is why American Constitutional rights have been tossed out the window. Regular law courts are too good for them. And even if they are judged “innocent,” we can’t just release them, they can only be released in remote places, far from the inquiring minds of the press.

    What happened to the America I once knew?

    Bob in AZ

    • b2020 says:

      There are many people – Lederman, Barron – that joined the Obama administration, and I cannot for the life of mine understand why they have not resigned yet. But Johnsen, who has been neglected with unbelieveable contempt, has had every reason to refuse to be used as fig leaf for somebody as unprincipled as Obama.

      But even if she refused out of principle (as opposed to the most recent humiliation of being denied a recess appointment), she seems to go to great length to appear supportive:

      I suppose this is better than letting yourself be drawn into the pervasive, post-partisan corruption at the DOJ, but it is still much less than what this nation needs of its best and brightest.

  19. jdmckay0 says:

    Anyway, I got off track.


    But I certainly welcome some public discussion about the maltreatment of a number of innocent people at Gitmo as we enter back into discussions on closing Gitmo.

    Somehow, in public mind/discourse, I think context is too narrow… it doesn’t include everything that made this happen, and where the ripples eroded everything they touched. We’re arguing point counterpoint w/Yoo, rather than presenting larger picture of contagion of corruption and what it costs everybody… everybody.

    And just in case, no criticism from me your way on anything about this… you’ve done the work pretty much yourself, that should’ve been done by government agencies. I rather in awe of what you’ve produced… the explicit, complete self-evident detail. Remarkable.

    Personally, I don’t think this will turn around until/unless:

    a) USA hits bottom… headed there fast, but it’s a deep pit.
    b) Somehow, definitions and understanding of principle gets “out there”. Principles are something everyone can use, everyone can benefit from, and glue that can remake society. And they exist.

    One of big disappointments for me, post BO election, is utterly fractured “I want this, I want that” noise from what I hoped was a more enlightened “progressive” community. This “community” largely born watching 2k election recount, then one BushCo crime after another… eg: unity against Bush

    But when we finally got “our guy”, community was all over the place, and no common well represented voice or agreement, no commonly shared principles, just cacophony of discordance AFAIC.

    I think people (for lack of better word) “of conscience” somehow need to come together and do in society & law what you’ve done on torture: break it down, define lie/define truth. Trace consequences of each. Re-establish baseline code/law on this, rebuild. And build agreement (I could give discourse on meaning of that word) in numbers… large, large people in agreement based on principle.

    US society is all upside down right now… dazed & confused, thumb up it’s butt.

    Oh well.

    • JasonLeopold says:

      I agree with you and yet I still think it’s important for someone of his stature to be willing to state that he would testify in addition to filing a declaration in support of the Hamad’s civil suit. I think that’s a big deal (and I am thinking how I would feel if I were the ex-detainee knowing that he was willing to do that). Maybe that’s his path to redemption. But I do agree with you also about Wilkerson defending Powell.

      A year ago, I reported that the ICRC informed Powell that detainees were being tortured at Iraq and Afghanistan prisons but Powell failed to act. Wilkerson was unable to explain that.

      • jdmckay0 says:

        A year ago, I reported that the ICRC informed Powell that detainees were being tortured at Iraq and Afghanistan prisons but Powell failed to act. Wilkerson was unable to explain that.

        Good article, thanks. I was struck by…

        “According to the allegations collected by the ICRC, ill-treatment during interrogation was not systematic, except with regard to persons arrested in connection with suspected security offences or deemed to have an ‘intelligence’ value,” the report said.

        … everything after the except part. That’s a lot of wiggle room, and wiggle they did. Reads to me like they are implicitly saying this category of detainees was systematically “ill treated”, no?

        Makes me wonder how ICRC got that data. Sounds like it was fed, rather than observed.

        Anyway, thanks for link.

  20. b2020 says:

    “[The] White House chose not to appoint Johnsen during Senate recess, which would have circumvented a likely filibuster but would have kept her in the position for less than two years.”

    I am not aware that a recess re-appointment is impossible? Bush did not do so (at least with Bolton), but it appeared to be under consideration. I also have not seen Johnsen object to a recess appointment, two years or not.

    Further: ‘White House spokesman Ben LaBolt said [..] “[The] President believes it is time for the Senate to move beyond politics [..] He will work now to identify a replacement […]”‘

    Either Johnsen’s move surprised them, or they are not quite ready to reveal the man behind the curtain, even on a Friday afternoon.


  21. JasonLeopold says:

    on a side note and for a bit of context, I spoke to one of Hamad’s attorneys and she said that Wilkerson’s declaration was originally intended to be filed in support of his habeas petition, but Hamad’s habeas case, along with more than 100 others (as Carol Rosenberg reported) was dismissed.

  22. bmaz says:

    Good thing the plaintiff filed this in the 9th I guess; because clearly it would not fly in the DC Circuit in light of Rasul v. Myers, Rumsfeld et. al.

    Venue is proper in the United States District Court of Western Washington pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b)(3) as Defendant Robert M. Gates is domiciled there.

    Uh huh, sure, that’s the ticket!

  23. workingclass says:

    Of course they knew. They also knew that the Iraq was mass murder. That’s why I hate their guts. They also knew they were not fighting terrorism. Terrorism was a boogyman of their own creation. They were in it for the money. Well yeah. They did have some PNAC wet dream about world conquest. Psycho Killers. So maybe it wasn’t ALL about the money.

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