WikiLeaks documents reveal that the principal purpose of the prison was to extract information from inmates, whether they were guilty of allegiance to Al Qaeda or not
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The detention center at Guantánamo created a penal and police system without guarantees in which only two questions were deemed important: how much information could be gleaned from the prisoners (whether they were innocent or not) and if they could pose a security threat in the future. Senior citizens with senile dementia, adolescents, people with serious psychological illnesses, school teachers and farmers with no links whatsoever to Al Qaeda or the jihad were taken to the prison and thrown in with genuine terrorists such as the architects of the September 11 attacks. EL PAÍS, along with other international media, has had access through WikiLeaks to military dossiers on 759 of the 779 prisoners who have passed through Guantánamo, 170 of whom are still being held there.
Almost 60 percent of inmates were classified as posing no threat to the US
A Saudi had joined a training camp to lose weight, according to his file
The reports, dated between 2002 and 2009, are in most cases concerned with recommendations on whether an inmate should continue to be held, be freed, or transferred to another country, revealing for the first time how the United States evaluated each detainee and what they knew about them. What emerges is an arbitrary system based on the accusations of other inmates without clear rules and regulations, where suspicion and conjecture replaces juridical doctrine and proof of evidence is not required to hold detainees for long periods - 143 people have been held at Guantánamo for more than nine years.
The prisoners are catalogued under three simple categories. The highest risk level is that an inmate "probably poses a risk to the United States, its interests and allies;" the medium level states that a prisoner is "possibly" a security threat; the lowest denominator, under which prisoners have been held for up to nine years, states it is "improbable" that an inmate poses a threat.
In some cases, the reports reveal, not even the US government was aware of the motive for bringing a detainee to Guantánamo. In others, it was concluded that the prisoner posed no risk at all: an 89-year-old with senile dementia and depression; a father who was picked up searching for his son at the Taliban front lines; a merchant who was traveling without documentation and a man who was hitch-hiking to buy medicine.
The US concluded that 83 Guantánamo inmates bore no risk to national security and a further 77 were classified under the lowest risk level - "improbable." Twenty percent of all inmates were taken to Guantánamo arbitrarily on the basis of evaluation by military personnel. An additional 274 were classified as "possible" security risks, so it can be concluded that the US did not genuinely believe almost 60 percent of inmates were guilty of a crime or constituted a serious threat to national security. In the parlance of US military authorities, the prisoners were held primarily to be "exploited" - to determine if they had any useful information.
Only seven inmates of Guantánamo have been tried, six in military tribunals at the base and one in a civil court in New York. One of the fundamental parameters to determine whether or not a prisoner should be freed is his "intelligence value," according to the terminology employed in the secret dossiers. In spite of this stated determination to prize information from prisoners to use in the fight against terrorism, nine years and three months after the base was set up, only 22 percent of those who have passed through it have been of interest to US intelligence services.
The detainees were interrogated by several inquisitors: the CIA, military personnel and security forces from their home countries, including Spanish authorities. They paid covert visits to their cells to extract statements from the inmates, who were handcuffed and chained to the floor. Prime objectives of these interrogations were information on training camps in Afghanistan, experiments with explosives, the jihadists' attempts to secure "dirty" bombs, and their knowledge of Osama bin Laden, Ayman al Zahawiri and Taliban leader Mohammed Omar. If an inmate wore a Casio F91W watch, investigators considered it sufficient proof of explosives training.
The reports do not detail under what circumstances a prisoner had admitted his guilt, or incriminated a fellow inmate. On occasions, accusations of torture were leveled by inmates, but these claims were discredited on the reports. Some, though, refused to divulge anything under any form of coercion: "I'm ready to be in Guantánamo for 100 years if necessary, but I will reveal no information," spat Khalid Abdullah Mishal al Mutairi, a Kuwaiti inmate, at his interrogators.
The reports are written in cold, functional prose. Even when faced with suicide attempts, the health of hunger strikers and prisoners with mental illnesses, the documents are limited to a simple annotation as to whether it is useful to continue questioning a prisoner.
The reports also offer a brief biography of everybody that has passed through Guantánamo, and the circumstances that led to their arrests, justified or not. Some traveled to fight in the jihad after seeing videos of Russian suppression of Chechnyan Muslims. A Frenchman - one of seven in the camp - had gone to Afghanistan to continue his studies of Islam in a purely Islamic state. A Saudi national, Abdul Rahman Mohammed Hussain Khowlan, had entered a training camp to lose weight, according to his file.
Before reaching Guantánamo, many inmates traveled through war zones, crossing the Afghanistan-Pakistan border on foot or meeting other activists in a Lahore mosque. The reports relate that many were arrested with $10,000, the habitual amount Al Qaeda issues to its members.
But on many occasions just being in the area prompted sufficient suspicion to send dozens of people to the US prison camp in Cuba. In a two-page report on Imad Achab Kanouni, a French citizen, the reason given for his detention is that he couldn't explain why he had traveled to Afghanistan via Germany, Albania and Pakistan. There was no incriminating evidence against him yet General Geoffrey Miller, the first commander of JTF-GTMO, who also oversaw the notorious Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, ordered Kanouni to be held in Guantánamo. He was transferred to France in 2004 after three years at the base.
The reports also feature two Spanish citizens, Hamed Abderramán, known as the "Ceutan Taliban" and Lahcen Ikasrrien, a Moroccan with Spanish residency. Both men were absolved by the Supreme Court after a High Court conviction. The superior body threw out the evidence gained by Spanish inquisitors at Guantánamo.
The three released Guantánamo inmates taken in by Spain in 2010 - a Palestinian, a Yemeni and an Afghan - are a small sample of the pathologies of the prison. One has serious mental illness born of years of confinement and interrogation. Another, who fought with Bin Laden in the hills of Tora Bora became an informant for the US. The third, against whom irrefutable proof of allegiance to the jihad was never brought, is described as problematic. However, he is the only one of the three at this stage who has managed to settle into a relatively normal life after leaving Guantánamo.
Guantánamo uncovered · ELPAÍS.com in English