US knew many Guantanamo detainees were innocent –leaked documents reveal

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Leaked Guantanamo Bay files expose the perils of wearing a Casio watch and working for Al Jazeera, said legal charity Reprieve on Monday, after newspapers published leaked military dossiers obtained on 759 detainees.

The US knew that many prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay were innocent or only low-level operatives.

Some were held because camp authorities were unable to admit they should have been released.

Military dossiers, Detainee Assessment Briefs (DABs) written between 2000-2009 were sent up through the military hierarchy to the US Southern command headquarters in Miami.

They appear to cover all but 20 of the 779 prisoners, and reveal that 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.

Other leaked documents spell out guidelines for interrogating and deciding the fate of detainees.

The dossiers from the US military internment camp were part of a cache of tens of thousands of secret US military files leaked from WikiLeaks last year.

US military analysts considered only 220 of those ever detained at Guantanamo to be ‘dangerous extremists’.

As many as 150 were innocent Afghans and Pakistanis, including drivers, farmers and chefs, and 380 detainees were deemed to be low-ranking suspects.

In many cases, US commanders concluded there was ‘no reason recorded for transfer’.

Haji Faiz Mohammed was arrested in Afghanistan aged 70.

His file states he had senile dementia, and there is ‘no reason on record’ for his being transferred.

Naqib Ullah, aged just 14 when arrested, spent a year in Guantanamo.

His file states he had been kidnapped by the Taleban and presented no threat to the US.

Hami al-Hajj, a cameraman for Al Jazeera, was held for six years, partly so he could be questioned about the Arabic news network.

Other inmates included British residents who were interrogated about supposed British connections that did not exist.

Suspects were rendered to Guantanamo for intelligence-gathering purposes, rather than because they were considered a security threat.

Ahmed Belbach, an Algerian asylum seeker and waiter at a hotel in Bournemouth, was suspected of training at a camp in Afghanistan and was sent to Camp X-ray primarily to ‘provide information on the . . . leaders of the Finsbury Park mosque in London.

Mukhibullo Abdukarimovich Umarov, a Tajik man, was arrested in Karachi in 2002 and spent almost two years at Guantanamo before being released – the reasons for detaining him were ‘undetermined’.

Omar Deghayes, a Libyan-born refugee who settled in Brighton, was arrested in Pakistan after fleeing Afghanistan after 9/11.

British government papers disclosed at the High court last year show he was sent to Guantanamo after MI5 interogators decided he was not being cooperative during questioning at Baghram.

MI5 knew he was being tortured before they questioned him. He lost the sight of an eye during a severe beating in prison.

The files show the US claimed Deghayes was a courrier for Al-Qaeda with links to Libyan militants, He was eventually released without charge in 2007, after almost six years.

The files reveal the US believe a network of London mosques provide a key staging point for transit of Al-Qaeda fighters from 12 countries to Afghanistan.

Camp authorities decided Rubel Ahmed, one of the Tipton Three, should continue to be detained because they believed he had lied during interogation.

Later when released without charge, the British official on the flight back to the UK said: ‘Make sure you say that you were treated properly’.

In the file created for US senators, the men said they had been repeatedly punched, kicked, slapped, forcibly injected, deprived of sleep, hooded, photographed naked and subjected to sexual and religious humiliations.

These details have been heard before in various forms, but never from an official US source.

Still imprisoned without trial are 179 detainees deemed to pose a high risk to the US if released without adequate supervision.

Reprieve said on Monday: ‘Today’s revelations from Wikileaks and elsewhere offer a small insight into the absurdities of the US military “justice” system. 

‘The leaked prisoner files show how false and discredited allegations remained on prisoners’ military files as statements of fact.

‘One example is the “Casio watch” theory that anyone with that brand of time piece has suspected links to Al-Qaeda.

‘Another is the so-called “dirty bomb” plot, derived from a spoof blog by US writer Barbara Ehrenreich who described how a nuclear weapon is made “using a bicycle pump’ and with liquid uranium “poured into a bucket and swung round”.’ 

Men known by the military to be innocent were imprisoned for years because they were useful to the US authorities.

Almost 100 of the inmates were listed by their captors as having had depressive or psychotic illnesses. Many went on hunger strike or attempted suicide.

US authorities listed the main Pakistani intelligence service, the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate (ISI), as a terrorist organisation alongside groups such as Al-Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah and Iranian intelligence.

US authorities relied heavily on discredited ‘information’, obtained from torturing a small number of detainees, to keep innocent men detained.

They also relied on a handful of serial informants, who fabricated stories against hundreds of prisoners to avoid abuse and earn favours.

Reprieve’s Director Clive Stafford Smith OBE said: ‘While the leaked documents only tell a tiny part of the story, they do provide some insight into what has been happening in Guantanamo.  

‘For example, they confirm what we told the world three years ago – that Al Jazeera journalist Sami el Haj was held and interrogated solely to try to spy on the news network.

 

‘The US military lied about it back then, and no doubt they will try to obfuscate now.’

Cori Crider, Guantanamo lawyer and legal director at Reprieve said:  ‘These files offer a fascinating look into the military mind – its blind spots and biases – and expose the absurdity that Guantanamo lawyers deal with every day.

‘Some of the DOD’s assertions look scary, others just silly, but check the sources and underneath what you find is rubbish intelligence.

‘Even laughable allegations that have been thrown out of court remain on prisoners’ files as statements of fact, simply because the military cannot stand to admit it was wrong.

‘The saddest part is that men have lost, and continue to lose, years of their lives because of this tissue of nonsense.’