The Gitmo Documents Reveal Disparities between US and Other Countries’ Assessment of Risk

I’m working on weedy readings of the Gitmo Files released today. But I wanted to note the important revelation–and the source of the government’s concerns–regarding the release.

These files assess how big a risk these prisoners are. And in a number of cases, the assessments label prisoners who have subsequently been released to other countries a “high risk.” Thus, the international community may draw several conclusions from the release of these documents: either that the US pawned off high risk prisoners onto their countries, or the US trumped up charges against detainees to justify continued detention.

This tension shows, for example, in this story from Spain’s el País: High Risk in the United States, Absolved in Spain. It describes the assessments of two detainees with Spanish ties–Hamed Abderramán and Lahcen Ikasrrien–who were released to Spanish custody and subsequently released after a court ruled the evidence against them was not credible. (These are two of the detainees whose treatment at Gitmo Spain was trying to investigate.)

The tension also shows in the the joint release from DOD flack Geoff Morrell and Special Envoy for Closure of the Guantanamo Detention Facility Ambassador Daniel Fried. They struggle to explain how it is that detainees labeled high risk got released and emphasize that these assessments may have used different information than the Gitmo Review Task Force convened by President Obama.

The Wikileaks releases include Detainee Assessment Briefs (DABs) written by the Department of Defense between 2002 and early 2009.  These DABs were written based on a range of information available then.

The Guantanamo Review Task Force, established in January 2009, considered the DABs during its review of detainee information.  In some cases, the task force came to the same conclusions as the DABs.  In other instances the review task force came to different conclusions, based on updated or other available information.  The assessments of the Guantanamo Review Task Force have not been compromised to Wikileaks.  Thus, any given DAB illegally obtained and released by Wikileaks may or may not represent the current view of a given detainee. [my emphasis]

They even go so far as to suggest that if detainees were improperly released, it’s Bush’s fault, since he transferred so many more detainees.

Both the previous and the current administrations have made every effort to act with the utmost care and diligence in transferring detainees from Guantanamo.  The previous administration transferred 537 detainees; to date, the current administration has transferred 67.  Both administrations have made the protection of American citizens the top priority and we are concerned that the disclosure of these documents could be damaging to those efforts.

Of course, all of this dodges the real problem here. The DABs rather obviously include every claim against a detainee, even if doing so required relying on dubious intelligence.

So while Morrell and Fried are right that revealing what DOD claimed about these detainees might make it more difficult for other countries to accept them as transfers, the problem lies in the Administration’s refusal to speak the truth about the shoddy claims used to justify Gitmo in the first place.

  1. scribe says:

    We know, from the Guardian putting up the assessment on Briton Binyam Mohammed, that Jose Padilla’s unique identifier number assigned him by the USG, is US-10008.

    These numbers, it would appear, only get applied to someone once they are captured.

    What we need to know, now, is who were/are the persons identified as US-10001 through -10007?

    And who else has a “US” identifier number?

    Because AFAIK, Jose Padilla and John Walker Lindh are the only US persons both accused of being a terrist and captured by the USG. Given the government’s proven penchant for disappearing and holding people incommunicado and away from, say, the Red Cross and niceties such as lawyers, we have to conclude there are other US citizens held somewhere, under those identifier numbers.

    • emptywheel says:

      We don’t know what the standard is for being given one of those numbers. Does it reflect DOD custody? If not, it’s not surprising there are a bunch more, bc there are a lot of “terrorists” convicted of other charges.

      • scribe says:

        My best guesstimate is that it’s a universal list so all departments of the USG can know who they are talking about, even if they can’t agree on what the guy’s name might be. The military/intel mind cannot abide disorder; “a place for everything and everything in its place” is dogma. This is a way of keeping their files straight and of being able to find stuff more quickly. As bad as their files have been reported to be, they’d be even worse without the ISNs. It’s also patently clear to anyone who served more than a week in the military/intel that the hardest thing to do is count. Seriously. And a universal identifier number would help alleviate that problem. (I’m only a little surprised the USG didn’t tattoo the detainees with their number or a bar code or chip them like my dog. I’m sure at some point they seriously discussed doing it.)

        What would be helpful, as people go through the documents, would be to compile a list of name and ISN (that’s the name for the identifier number). (Call it a name/number-line, as contrasted to a timeline.) I suspect it will show some serious gaps. I suspect those gaps will indicate that people held elsewhere have ISNs, but that they don’t show up in the Gitmo papers because they never got to Gitmo.

        It will also allow for some pointed questions (which will elicit goofy, humiliated non-answers from government flacks), such as “who is US-10002 and where is he/she?”

      • Cheryl says:

        I like this search link for the number of the detainee:

        There are numbers that are not represented in the Wikileaks dump but many are there. Abdallah Aiza Al Matrafi appears to be number 5 and Mullah Norullah Noori appears to be number 6.

        I hope I’m reading the files correctly.

      • scribe says:

        So, are we saying that the sequence number is not counting by nationality but is rather one list of all prisoners? Or does it go US-10001, SA-10001, and so on?

        Either is logically sustainable as a means of counting. But , if there is one sequential list (and not different sequences for each nationality) that would mean either

        (a) Padilla was detained (or given an ISN identifying him as a terrist) well prior to the time he was arrested because he was arrested in May 2002 and the first twenty detainees arrived in Gitmo well before that, or

        (b) there are still gaps in the sequence which can be explained either as

        (1) the numbers of detainees who either were not in Gitmo when this compilation of reports was prepared because

        (A) they had previously been released,

        (B) they had previously been shipped off to another prison,

        (C) they had died,

        (D) they had never been in Gitmo,

        (E) the jailers can’t count

        (F) the jailers are assigning numbers randomly instead of in a sequence, or

        (2) the list assigning numbers was prepared at some point after Gitmo was opened, and numbers were assigned retrospectively.

        Alternatively, if there is a sequence of numbers for each nationality, then we are still stuck with the question of who are US-10001 through -10007.

        • Cheryl says:

          I see the problem with my analysis (not a surprise!) and it does look like there would be numerical listings within each nationality. Hicks from Australia is US9AS – 000002DP so he would be number 2 from AS. I see one other person from Australia, Habib US9EG-000661DP but I’m guessing the US lumped him in with the Egypt detainees because he was born there which explains his ISN. If that follows then there would be a number 1 from Australia?

          A search of all the PDFs of detainees files to see if the detainee numbers you are looking come up like the one for Padilla did would be a help. Is it possible to search the Wikileaks files that way without having to open up each one and search it individually?

  2. skdadl says:

    Remember the classic definition of chutzpah: Kid kills both his parents and then throws himself on the mercy of the court as an orphan.

    Geoff Morrell always makes me think of that.

  3. donbacon says:

    This innocent person will forgive & forget his multi-year brutal incarceration & torture ____yes ____no

  4. Jeff Kaye says:

    Don’t get too caught up in the “weeds”, as this is the Sargasso Sea of document releases, i.e., full of lies and crazy mixtures of “fact” from tortured sources, gossip, government spin, and maybe, once in a while, an actual intel report. In other words, as seriously silly as the AZ assessment you took apart elsewhere.

  5. JThomason says:

    These two articles concern the forced resignation of a District Judge, a judge of unlimited general state jurisdiction, in the 8th Judicial District of New Mexico for holding persons cited for contempt in his court room during a sentencing without evidence in 2009. The persons held were mostly from the Taos Pueblo The tension over the scope of due process is piqued by this forced resignation leveraged by the New Mexico Supreme Court. Due process is not a dead issue.

  6. orionATL says:

    what these docs, taken in their totality, may explain is why all the congressional fuss about closing guantanamo early on in the obama presidency.

    republicans (leaders) would have known what a shell-game gitmo was,

    they would have realized that closing it and trying detainees in civilian courts would have revealed the truth about the trivial value of many of these “high value” detainees

    that in turn would have reflected badly on the bush admin’s motives for pursuing war with iraq and it’s exaggeration of the dangers of al-quaeda

    and which would inevitably have lead to widespread public info about america’s exceedingly harsh detention and its torture of hundreds of people hoovered up in security sweeps or sold to the americans for reward money, people who had little in the way of info to be detained and tortured for.

    i wonder if dick and liz cheney’s song and dance routine in 2009 (?) was an effort to keep the truth about gitmo covered up (so torture would stay covered up). i suspect cheney is terrified of being held accountable for the torture he visited on these men.

    in short, closing guantanamo would have posed a huge problem of reputation for all high-level bush officials involved in the gwot.

    • PeasantParty says:

      I’ve got the same feelings. I read the WaPoo article this morning and felt that every bit of that had Bush family and Cheney written all over it. Besides, we have to remember that the many close encounters with Bin Laden by both CIA and Military were aborted. They were told to stand down and let him go on his merry way. They have all the details of where and when he was, how he was low on money, who he talked to and all sorts of details, yet nobody could get him.

      You see, he was part of the program and probably paid very well to instigate it for the PTB!

      • scribe says:

        Of course it has Bush and Cheney written all over it. They’ve been playing politics with this since minute one, and particularly since Obama took office. It would seem their, and the Rethuglicans’, calculus is something along these lines:

        – keep gas prices going higher and higher (if you think they can’t be manipulated, think again: you were not looking back in 2006 when they kept going down until the day after the election and then started going up again);

        – (rely on Obama to) exacerbate the tensions between Obama and the Dems’ left base over Gitmo and civil liberties, and economics;

        – keep the Rethugs running through potential 2012 candidates (just like they did in 2008, when no one seemed to want to stay in the race save McSame) until it’s pretty late in the primary season, when either Mittens or Jebbie will (seem to) get pushed forward to take one for the team and the party will fall in behind them like a school of fish.

        The expectation would be that between discontent, economics, and dirty tricks, the Rethugs could win and use the win to finish burying their crimes.

  7. PeasantParty says:


    Following the links from the stories I read this morning, one had a photocopy of a US check to Cuba to pay for the lease of the Gitmo compound. Millions are being spent just for the lease and here we are cutting the life blood off for seniors in the Ryan road to Regression.

  8. lysias says:

    Cheney and his daughter Liz both seem to have a personal interest in keeping the torture hidden. If this 2005 report by Wayne Madsen is correct, at least: Cheney’s Visit to Covert Torture Center:

    Cheney’s January 2005 trip to Poland to mark the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp may have had a side trip.

    Informed sources in Washington report that when Dick Cheney flew to Poland for the 60th anniversary ceremonies marking the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp last January, his three day visit also included a clandestine visit to a secret CIA camp in Poland where suspected “Al Qaeda” prisoners were being subjected to torture. Cheney was in Poland from January 26 to 28. The Auschwitz solemn ceremonies were on January 27. On January 26, Cheney held talks in Krakow with Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski and Ukraine’s President Viktor Yuschenko and he visited the Galicia Jewish Museum.

    Poland and Ukraine have been identified by U.S. intelligence sources as the location for secret CIA prisons and airfields. In the case of Ukraine, an intelligence source personally witnessed the defense and intelligence contractor Raytheon providing the logistics for Soviet-era airfields to handle the prisoner flights.

    The Cheney detour allegedly took place on Friday, January 28, after he paid a quick visit to the Auschwitz camp and wrote in the guest book “may the evils committed here never again darken our world.” Cheney’s personal party included his wife Lynne Cheney; his daughter Elizabeth Cheney, and Lewis “Scooter” Libby. Two weeks after the Polish visit, Elizabeth Cheney, who served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs from 2002 to 2003, was named by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs and Coordinator for Broader Middle East and North Africa Initiatives.

      • lysias says:

        I had to look up Cheney’s remarks at that Auschwitz commemoration: Vice President’s Remarks at Reception for Survivors of Auschwitz :

        VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: Thank you very much Mr. Ambassador and distinguished guests. Lynne and I are delighted to be here this evening and want to thank all of you for joining us. I had the privilege of visiting Auschwitz once before with President Ford in 1975 en route to the Helsinki Summit in Finland and although it was some 30 years ago, it was one of those days that you never forget, and I was pleased to be asked by President Bush to lead the delegation to come commemorate the 60th anniversary. I am honored to make the journey once again and participate in the ceremonies. It’s been a special honor as well to be in the company of Americans who survived the Holocaust. I remember reading General Eisenhower’s account of seeing one of the Nazi death camps at the end of World War II. He wrote, and I quote: I visited every nook and cranny of the camp because I felt it my duty to be in a position from then on to testify at first hand about these things in case it ever grew up at home the belief or the assumption that the stories of Nazi brutality were just propaganda. Eisenhower was one of the many who were determined to let the world know what happened, and to ensure that the evidence be kept so that the terrible truth could never be forgotten or erased. We have the preservation of memory at the camps themselves and for these last 60 years, we will have lived amongst survivors of the camps, and America and the world are grateful for your witness. As prisoners, you saw the face of systematic merciless cruelty, that killed innocent people of many nationalities and religious backgrounds, and murdered Jews only because they were Jews. But you also saw among your fellow captives great courage and acts of kindness. For six decades, you shared horror stories, recalling the horrors that you witnessed, keeping alive the memory of good people, righteous people, who did no wrong and who no man had any right to harm. Today many Holocaust survivors have children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren. That, I believe, is the greatest victory of all. Evil did not have the final say. You survived terror. You have let the world know the truth, and you have preserved the memory of those who perished here. Tomorrow-prior to the official ceremony-I am privileged to join Eli Wiesel in speaking to an international forum with many young people in attendance. I will remind them these great evils of history were perpetuated not in some remote uncivilized part of the world, but in the very heart of the civilized world. Men without conscience are capable of any cruelty the human mind can imagine. Therefore we must teach every generation the values of tolerance and decency and moral courage. And in every generation, free nations must maintain the will, the foresight and the strength to fight tyranny and spread the freedom that leads to peace. Our presence in Krakow today, together with our European and Israeli friends, shows our determination to oppose anti-Semitism, religious intolerance, bigotry and genocide. We must face down hatred together. We are dedicated to the task at hand, and we will never forget. Let he who makes peace in the heavens grant peace to all of us. Thank you very much for joining us.

        Is Cheney totally oblivious to the content of what he says, or is it a ghoulish sense of humor?

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          Sadly interesting, given some of the parallels between Bradley Manning, Gitmo prisoners in general and Capt. Albert Dreyfus is that the Dreyfus Affair was about two intertwined themes: rabid anti-Semitism and an army code that precluded it (and the French state, from which it considered itself inseparable) from being wrong.

          Dreyfus was convicted in 1894, Zola’s J’Accuse letter wasn’t published until 1898, and Dreyfus wasn’t exonerated and reinstated until 1906. He was a broken man after his largely solitary confinement at Devil’s Island; he retired in 1907, but rejoined the army in 1914.

          The follow-on is multi-generational. Three of Dreyfus’ sons also served in the artillery during the First World War; two were killed. His granddaughter was exposed as a Jew under France’s Second World War collaborationist Vichy regime, arrested by the Gestapo and murdered at Auschwitz.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          As for Cheney, I suspect that the only thing he lacks more of than a sense of irony is self-awareness, except possibly the belief that he might ever, just possibly be a teensy, eensy bit wrong.

        • bobschacht says:

          Is Cheney totally oblivious to the content of what he says, or is it a ghoulish sense of humor?

          Sociopaths like Cheney cope with such things by compartmentalizing. He just doesn’t see the equivalency between the things he authorized at Gitmo and elsewhere, and the things Hitler and his minions authorized.

          But Cheney deliberately probed the “Dark Side,” about which Jane Mayer wrote a whole book (which of course derives from Cheney’s own words). I just hope he lives long enough to be confronted in a meaningful (to him) way with the evil he has done.

          Bob in AZ

  9. PeasantParty says:

    Still looking, the link seems to have disappeared from the site. I have to leave the desk for a little while, but will definitely get back to the search quickly.