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.
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They are memoranda written by the detention facility commanders at Guantánamo between 2002 and 2008 discussing each detainee – including identifying sources of intelligence information.Skip to next paragraph
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Although the memos do not identify which of those sources were subject to aggressive interrogation tactics or alleged torture, much of that information is known from other reports. When pieced together with the newly released documents, the resulting overview provides a clearer picture of the Bush administration’s war against Al Qaeda.
The release of the documents comes shortly after the Obama administration conceded that it would put Mohammed and others on trial before special military commissions at Guantánamo rather than in federal courtrooms in the US with full constitutional and procedural protections.
Much of the evidence and sources revealed in the Guantánamo memoranda would routinely be excluded from a trial in federal court. In contrast, Guantánamo
commission rules allow a military judge more leeway to decide whether to admit hearsay evidence or evidence that was allegedly obtained under coercive conditions.
White House condemns leak
White House Spokesman Jay Carney said the Obama administration condemned the release of classified information “in the strongest possible terms.”
Mr. Carney declined to comment on the quality of intelligence in the released documents. But he noted that none of the documents reflected work completed during the Obama administration.
In early 2009, the president created a task force to review the evidence against each detainee to determine who could be released, who would face trial, and who would be detained indefinitely without trial.
“You should not assume that the conclusions of that [Obama administration] task force were the same as the conclusions in those briefs about individual detainees,” Carney said.
Vince Warren, executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, called on the Obama administration to release its task force assessments. He said the more recent assessments would help give foreign governments, Congress, and the US public a more accurate view of those who remain at Guantánamo.
“The broad picture these documents paint is not of men 'too dangerous to release,' " Mr. Warren said, “but of a government attempting to justify its mistakes and detaining, interrogating, and abusing men for years based on bad evidence, hearsay from self interested jailhouse informers, and sheer incompetence.”
He added: “The files show a breakdown in accountability for what was done to these men and a lack of transparency that continues to this day.”
Hina Shamsi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project, offered a similar critique. “These documents are remarkable because they show just how questionable the government’s basis has been for detaining hundreds of people, in some cases indefinitely, at Guantánamo,” she said.
“The one-sided assessments are rife with uncorroborated evidence, information obtained through torture, speculation, errors, and allegations that have been proven false,” Ms. Shamsi said.