Saturday, December 15, 2007

Guantanamo hearings

I was watching Guantonimo hearings on C-Span this morning (recording of meetings on Tuesday) and one of the presenters was professor Mark Denbeaux from Seton Hall who along with his students studied government documents on the status of detainees. I was surprised by his report and thought you would be too.

While certainly some at Guantanimo are very dangerous people, the report finds that many of the detainees fail to approach the "worst of the worst" variety that official public statements would have us believe.

Some of his key findings:
- fewer than half are known to have committed a hostile act against the US or allies. (most are not captured on field of battle - more below)
- 8% of detainees are characterized as Al-Qaeda fighters. 40% of detainees have no definitive Al Qaeda connection.
- 93% of detainees were captured by those other than US forces and handed over at a time when bounties were offered for turning in suspected enemies.

Here's some of the language in one of the flyers regarding bounties:

"Get wealth and power beyond your dreams....You can receive millions of dollars helping the anti-Taliban forces catch al-Qaida and Taliban murders. This is enough money to take care of your family, your village, your tribe for the rest of your life. Pay for livestock and doctors and school books and housing for all your people."

A link with an image of the flyer referenced in the report.

Here he quotes the record on one of the detainees who was a conscript and was apparently a cook's assistant for the Taliban forces in Afganhistan:

The following is an example of the entire record for a detainee who was conscripted into the Taliban:
a. Detainee is associated with the Taliban
i. The detainee indicates that he was conscripted into the
b. Detainee engaged in hostilities against the US or its coalition
i. The detainee admits he was a cook’s assistant for Taliban
forces in Narim, Afghanistan under the command of Haji
Mullah Baki.
ii. Detainee fled from Narim to Kabul during the Northern
Alliance attack and surrendered to the Northern Alliance.

All declassified information supports the conclusion that this detainee remains at Guantanamo Bay to this date.

Certainly this is not a typical record for someone classified as an enemy combatant, but if you're like me you're wondering why is he in Gitmo? He doesn't sound significant, and doesn't seem much different than any of the thousands of Taliban forces in Afghanistan when we invaded the country. The report concludes there are many others who were likely in the wrong place at wrong time and/or turned in for the bounty without much corroborating information.

My main concern with all of this: If the war against terror lasts generations how long do we hold people in Gitmo without a trial? And even if we conclude that it's a necessary cost of a "war", how American is that?

Here's a link to the full report by professor Mark Denbeaux.

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