June 15, 2008
McClatchy Newspapers

Guantanamo Often Held the Wrong Men

by Tom Lasseter

The militants crept up behind Mohammed Akhtiar as he squatted at the spigot to wash his hands before evening prayers at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.

They shouted "Allahu Akbar" - God is great - as one of them hefted a metal mop squeezer into the air, slammed it into Akhtiar's head and sent thick streams of blood running down his face.

American troops dragged Akhtiar out of his home in Gardez, Afghanistan, in May 2003, flew him to Guantanamo in shackles that July and held him there for more than three years. . . .

An eight-month McClatchy investigation in 11 countries on three continents has found that Akhtiar was one of dozens and perhaps hundreds of men whom the U.S. has wrongfully imprisoned in Afghanistan, Cuba and elsewhere on the basis of flimsy or fabricated evidence, old personal scores or bounty payments. . . .

From the moment that Guantanamo opened in early 2002, former Secretary of the Army Thomas White said, it was obvious that at least a third of the population didn't belong there. . . .

Bush suspended the legal protection for detainees spelled out in Common Article Three of the 1949 Geneva Convention on prisoners of war, which outlaws degrading treatment and torture. . . .


Suzanne Goldenberg, "More Than 80,000 Held by US Since 9/11 Attacks," Guardian, November 18, 2005

Robert Dreyfuss, "Dirty War: Our Monsters in Iraq,", November 18, 2005

[The United States has less than 5 percent of the world's population. But it has almost a quarter of the world's prisoners. . . .

The United States has, for instance, 2.3 million criminals behind bars, more than any other nation, according to data maintained by the International Center for Prison Studies at King's College London.--Adam Liptak, "U.S. prison population dwarfs that of other nations,", April 23, 2008]

[Foreign suspects held in Guantanamo Bay have the right to challenge their detention in US civilian courts, the US Supreme Court has ruled.--Thomas Powers, "Major Guantanamo setback for Bush," BBC News, June 12, 2008]

Pamela Hess, "AP: Exams prove abuse, torture in Iraq, Gitmo," Associated Press, June 17, 2008

Marisa Taylor, "In a first, court says military erred in a Guantanamo case," McClatchy Newspapers, June 23, 2008

Mark Townsend, "Revealed: full horror of Gitmo inmate's beatings," Observer, February 22, 2009

[VIDEO: The "Truth Commission" . . . is an excuse for non-prosecution. It's essentially saying, "Let's put some stuff on the public record. Let's immunize people. And then," as he even said, "let's turn the page and go forward." That's really an excuse for non-prosecution. . . .

I don't think he would be out there without the Obama administration at least saying this is maybe a way to go. Look at, there's a lot of pressure in this country right now for prosecutions. I mean, the polls indicate that people want to see a criminal investigation. We've had open-open and notorious admissions of waterboarding by people like Cheney. And we know that waterboarding is torture, even according to Obama.

So, how do you diffuse that pressure? And one way you diffuse it is you set up a, quote, "truth commission" that's going to give immunity to people. And then, as Leahy himself says - the word he used, I think, is that he objects to those "fixated" on prosecution. Well, you know, it's a legal requirement that you prosecute torturers in your country. And yet, he calls us "fixated" on it and wants to make this excuse. So I think this is, in a way - you don't know this - but in conjunction with the Obama administration saying, "Let's do this. It will dispose of, you know, the human rights groups in the world and others. And let's go forward." . . .

But what we see in these memos - and I recommend them to everybody, because you read these, you are seeing essentially the legal underpinnings of a police state or a dictatorship of the president. There's no doubt about it. That's what it is, and it's not theoretical. These were the actual building blocks of what we had in this country for eight years, in which - and the one you mentioned when we opened, Juan, that what happened here was one of these memos said the military could operate in the United States, and operate in the United States despite the Posse Comitatus law, which prohibits the military from operating in the United States. And when it operates - this is really extraordinary - they can arrest and detain - "arrest" is not the right word - kidnap anyone they want and send them to a detention place anywhere in the world without any kind of law.--"Lawmakers Debate Establishing 'Truth Commission' on Bush Admin Torture, Rendition and Domestic Spying,", March 5, 2009]

[The long-awaited release Thursday of four Bush-era memos lays out in clinical detail many of the controversial interrogation methods secretly authorized by the Bush administration - from waterboarding to trapping prisoners in boxes with insects - while former President George W. Bush was publicly condemning the use of torture.--Margaret Talev and Marisa Taylor, "Bush-era interrogations: From waterboarding to forced nudity," McClatchy Newspapers, March 5, 2009]

Alex Spillius, "Risk of rejected torture evidence puts Obama in a bind over trials," Telegraph, May 5, 2009

[ . . . out of the 240 detainees currently on the island, 60 were cleared of any wrongdoing by the last administration and are just languishing there in a sort of limbo and 80 others have yet to be tried in whatever court the administration finally settles on. According to Sec. Def. Bob Gates, that leaves 50 to 100, who cannot be charged with terrorism but won't be released because they are supposedly too much of a risk. That leaves how many convicted "terrorists"? Three.--Kelley Vlahos, "Stop Calling Them 'Terrorists'!," American Conservative, May 20, 2009]

[Amb. Murray reports that the people delivered by CIA flights to Uzbekistan's torture prisons "were told to confess to membership in Al Qaeda. They were told to confess they'd been in training camps in Afghanistan. They were told to confess they had met Osama bin Laden in person. And the CIA intelligence constantly echoed these themes."--Paul Craig Roberts, "The Evil Empire,", November 6, 2009]

[George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld covered up that hundreds of innocent men were sent to the Guantanamo Bay prison camp because they feared that releasing them would harm the push for war in Iraq and the broader War on Terror, . . .

General Powell, who left the Bush Administration in 2005, angry about the misinformation that he unwittingly gave the world when he made the case for the invasion of Iraq at the UN, is understood to have backed Colonel Wilkerson's declaration.--"George W. Bush 'knew Guantanamo prisoners were innocent'," Times, April 9, 2010]

[72% of Guantanamo detainees who finally were able to obtain just minimal due process (which is what a habeas hearing is) - after years of being in a cage without charges - have been found by federal judges to be wrongfully detained.--Glenn Greenwald, "A disgrace of historic proportions,", May 28, 2010]

[The US military dossiers, obtained by the New York Times and the Guardian, reveal how, alongside the so-called "worst of the worst", many prisoners were flown to the Guantanamo cages and held captive for years on the flimsiest grounds, or on the basis of lurid confessions extracted by maltreatment.

The 759 Guantanamo files, classified "secret", cover almost every inmate since the camp was opened in 2002. More than two years after President Obama ordered the closure of the prison, 172 are still held there.

. . . US authorities listed the main Pakistani intelligence service, the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI), as a terrorist organisation alongside groups such as al-Qaida, Hamas, Hezbollah and Iranian intelligence.--David Leigh, James Ball, Ian Cobain and Jason Burke, "Guantanamo leaks lift lid on world's most controversial prison," Guardian, April 25, 2011]

[When it comes to prisons, we are No. 1. The United States has 743 people in prison for every 100,000 people in the country. England has 153; Germany has 89 and Japan a mere 63.--Patricia Hunt, "Webb takes on a U.S. hallmark: prisons,", September 17, 2011]

Carol Rosenberg, "Cost to house a captive at Guantanamo Bay is $800,000,", November 8, 2011

Scott Shane, "Beyond Guantanamo, a Web of Prisons for Terrorism Inmates,", December 10, 2011

[The "Dirty 30" probably weren't all Osama bin Laden bodyguards after all. The "Karachi 6" weren't a cell of bombers plotting attacks in Pakistan for al-Qaida. An Afghan man captured 14 years ago as a suspected chemical weapons maker was confused for somebody else.--Carol Rosenberg, "New Guantanamo Intelligence Upends Old 'Worst of the Worst' Myths,", October 7, 2016]

[Some emerged with the same symptoms as American prisoners of war who were brutalized decades earlier by some of the world's cruelest regimes.

Those subjected to the tactics included victims of mistaken identity or flimsy evidence that the United States later disavowed.--Matt Apuzzo, Sheri Fink and James Risen, "How U.S. Torture Left Legacy of Damaged Minds,", October 8, 2016]

[The official military line was that torture did not happen. As an insider, I knew this was a lie--James Yee, "I was an imam at Guantánamo Bay,", June 4, 2021]

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