What We Know About the Guantanamo Prisoners

Friday, February 17, 2006

What We Know About the Guantanamo Prisoners

In his 2002 State of the Union address, President Bush declared:
Terrorists who once occupied Afghanistan now occupy cells at Guantanamo Bay.
But today at Political Animal, Kevin Drum asks:
Are the detainees at Guantanamo Bay really the "worst of the worst"? Some surely are, but for the most part we really don't know. And the reason we don't know is that we know almost nothing about most of the detainees in the first place.
Drum reports on a new study co-authored by a Seton Hall professor. The study of Guantanamo prisoners was based on prisoner reviews prepared by the government for use at tribunals. The results show:
... only 11% of the Guantanamo prisoners were captured on the battlefield by coalition forces. A full two-thirds of them were rounded up in Pakistan and turned over to the United States, likely in response to flyers like this distributed by the United States:

Get wealth and power beyond your dreams .... You can receive millions of dollars helping the anti-Taliban forces catch al-Qaida and Taliban murders [sic]. 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.

The Seton Hall study also concludes that fewer than half of the Guantanamo detainees are accused of any hostile action against the United States, and that evidence of association with al-Qaeda or the Taliban is often laughably weak.
Given that 2/3 of the Guantanamo prisoners were arrested by Pakistani authorities, it is also worth remembering that Pakistan has a track record of using police powers in highly inappropriate ways.

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