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For Obama, WikiLeaks' Guantánamo files come at bad time

Now that the Obama administration has abandoned the idea of civilian-court trials for detainees, it wants to promote confidence in the military tribunal system at Guantánamo. But new WikiLeaks documents paint a picture of 'questionable' charges.

By Staff writer / April 25, 2011

A US Army guard stands in a corridor of cells in Camp Five, a detention facility at the Guantánamo Bay Naval Station in Cuba, Sept. 4, 2007.

Joe Skipper/REUTERS/file

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Washington

The public release of more than 700 secret documents related to detainees at Guantánamo by WikiLeaks is complicating Obama administration plans to shore up the international image of the detention camp and eventually conduct military commission trials there.

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The newly disclosed documents are raising fresh questions about the reliability of US government evidence against the detainees at precisely the time White House and Defense Department officials are trying to build international confidence in the largely untested military tribunal system at Guantánamo.

The documents provide behind-the-scenes access to the US government’s own assessments of detainees who were once branded by Bush administration officials as the “worst of the worst.”

In a statement on its website, WikiLeaks said its analysis of the documents shows that much of the information used to justify continued detention of individuals at Guantánamo was supplied by unreliable sources or those who made statements under coercion or during alleged torture.

“What the Guantánamo Files reveal, primarily, is that only a few dozen prisoners are genuinely accused of involvement in terrorism,” according to analysts at WikiLeaks. “The rest,” the statement continues, “were either innocent men and boys, seized by mistake, or Taliban foot soldiers unconnected to terrorism.”

Since it opened in early 2002, Guantánamo has housed 776 detainees. Of those, 604 have been transferred to their home country or resettled in a third country. Some 172 detainees remain.

New details on terror leaders

The WikiLeaks documents include new details about alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the alleged mastermind of the 2000 attack on the USS Cole.

A 15-page report on Mr. al-Nashiri says he is “so dedicated to jihad that he reportedly received injections to promote impotence and recommended the injections to others so more time could be spent on the jihad (rather than being distracted by women).”

The new information about Mr. Mohammed is contained in a 12-page report on Majid Khan, a Pakistani national whose family owned a gas station in Baltimore.

The report says Mohammed was attempting to assess Mr. Khan’s usefulness as an Al Qaeda operative. He wanted to know whether Khan was willing to “die for the cause.”

In March 2002, Mohammed gave Khan an explosive vest to wear in a mosque where Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf was to attend a prayer service. Khan was told to get as close as he could to Musharraf before triggering the vest.

It was only a test. Musharraf was not there and the vest was not loaded with explosives.

'Secret' documents show evidence

WikiLeaks said it expects to release more Guantánamo documents at intervals within the next month.

The released documents are marked “Secret/Noforn,” meaning that they are classified as “secret” and may not be shared with foreign officials.

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