Published on Tuesday, April 26, 2011 by the McClatchy Newspapers
: Just 8 at Gitmo Gave Evidence Against 255 Others
by Tom Lasseter and Carol Rosenberg
The allegations and observations of just eight detainees were used to help build cases against some 255 men at
Concerns about the quality of the "facts" from the eight men goes to the heart of Guantanamo's "mosaic" approach of piecing together detainees' involvement with insurgent or terrorist groups that usually did not depend on one slam-dunk piece of evidence. Rather, intelligence analysts combined an array of details such as the items in detainees' pants pockets at capture and whether they had confessed to interrogators — American or otherwise.
More than two-thirds of the men and boys at
"I heard there was another detainee talking about me," former Briton detainee Feroz Abassi said in a recent interview with McClatchy. "I thought, let them talk. They're only going to corroborate my story."
After being held at
Abassi said it later became apparent that some informants were "straying away from the truth, trying to save themselves. They crack and they think it helps them to point fingers. But they only dig a hole for themselves."
That appears to have been the case for Mohammed Basardah, a self-described one-time jihadist whose information was used in assessments for at least 131 detainees. In some instances, he accused fellow detainees of training at militant camps or taking part in the fighting in
Other times, intelligence analysts simply inserted a sliver of a quote from Basardah about the guilt of everyone caught at Tora Bora — the rugged mountain region where Osama bin Laden and members of his inner circle fled following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks — as a sort of blanket truism.
The Yemeni's testimony was included despite worries highlighted in a 2008
At the Pentagon, Army Lt. Col. Tanya Bradsher said the military would not comment on the findings, based on documents obtained by WikiLeaks and given to McClatchy, because "the documents disclosed by Wikileaks are the stolen property of the
Among the other informants, who were used in the assessments to both make direct allegations against detainees and explain more general issues such as the relationship between various militant groups
A Syrian detainee known as Abdul Rahim Razak al Janko, whose own file said that "there are so many variations and deviations in his reporting, as a result of detainee trying to please his interrogators, that it is difficult to determine what is factual." He was quoted or cited in records for 20 detainees.
Muhammad al Qahtani, a Saudi man whose interrogations reportedly included 20-hour sessions and being led around by a leash, appeared as a source in at least 31 cases. A
At the Center for Constitutional Rights in
Ibn al Shaykh al Libi, a Libyan, told CIA de-briefers in 2004 that he had earlier exaggerated his status in al Qaida because he thought that's what American interrogators wanted to hear. He also said that he fabricated connections between
Mohammed Hashim, an Afghan whose reporting was described in one analyst's note as "of an undetermined reliability and is considered only partially truthful," showed up in assessments for 21 detainees.
Zayn al Abidin Muhammad Husayn, a Saudi-born Palestinian who's known more widely as Abu Zubaydah, was cited in about 127 detainee files. His interrogations are reported to have included at least 83 instances of water boarding, and his attorney, Brent Mickum, recently told McClatchy that "he provided tremendous amounts of information that was worthless."
Fawaz Naman Hamoud Abdullah Mahdi was used in only six cases. But given a 2004 Guantanamo assessment of the Yemeni, it seems surprising that the fruit of his interrogations would be used as evidence against anyone
On Sunday, the Department of Defense released a statement saying the Obama administration's current
Any lingering doubts about the eight men and the quality of their statements were rarely listed when their information appeared in the case files of other detainees.
But in a 2009 opinion ordering the Pentagon to release
While the government maintained that Basardah provided interrogators with "accurate, reliable information," Urbina said that Basardah had been flagged as early as May 2002 by a
The interrogation in which Basardah fingered Hatim for operating heavy weapons on the front lines in Afghanistan happened in January 2006.
For Human Rights Watch senior counterterror counsel Andrea Prasow, who earlier in her career defended several Guantanamo captives, the military's heavy reliance on such prison camp snitches vindicates the role of federal judges in analyzing the Pentagon's patchwork of cases.
"But for habeas," she said Monday, "we'd never have known that Basardah was a liar."
Kessler also wrote of the
Basardah was not named publicly in either case, but his identity is clear after comparing the new
In both cases, the judges ruled that the detainees should be freed.
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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs