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Classified U.S. Documents Detail Innocence Of Guantanamo Inmates

Camp Delta at the U.S. detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba
Camp Delta at the U.S. detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba
The United States held innocent men for years at its maximum-security detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, according to a new trove of more than 700 documents released by the antisecrecy group WikiLeaks.

The group made the documents available to "The New York Times," which shared the material with National Public Radio and Britain's "Guardian" newspaper.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said the latest release, like previous leaks of classified documents related to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, was worthy of condemnation.

"The release of classified information we condemn in the strongest possible terms, and we think it's unfortunate that 'The New York Times' and other news organizations have made the decision to publish numerous documents obtained illegally," he said.

The secret documents feature assessments by U.S. military intelligence officials of nearly every inmate held at Guantanamo Bay since the facility opened in 2002 in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

According to "The New York Times," the documents show "the seat-of-the-pants  intelligence gathering in war zones that led to the incarcerations of innocent men for years in cases of mistaken identity or simple misfortune."

As an example, the paper cites the case of an Afghan man identified as Sharbat, who claimed to be a shepherd and but was sent to Guantanamo for his possible role in a May 2003 roadside bomb explosion.

"The New York Times" also reports that the documents show that intelligence analysts at Guantanamo agreed with the man's story, but a military court declared him an "enemy combatant" and ordered him held for years.
A detainee's feet are shackled to the floor as he attends a "life skills" class inside the Guantanamo Bay detention center.

"The Guardian" cites an 89-year-old Afghan villager who was suffering from dementia and a 14-year-old kidnapping victim as other inmates who proved to be harmless.

'High-Risk' Detainees

But the documents also provide a look at why many U.S. lawmakers feel the detention center cannot be closed, despite its history of extracting information from prisoners through torturous methods.

Most of the 172 prisoners who remain at the facility are considered a "high risk" to the United States and its allies if released without proper rehabilitation and supervision. 

Yet the leaked documents show that more than 200 prisoners who have already been released to other countries were also designated "high risk."

In one of his first acts as president, Barack Obama pledged to close Guantanamo Bay by early 2010, describing it as a recruiting tool for Al-Qaeda. But opposition in Congress to bringing terror suspects to the U.S. mainland for trial or incarceration has derailed the effort.

In April, Obama reluctantly lifted a freeze on new military trials for terrorism suspects at the detention center.

Carney said that shuttering the facility still remains the administration's goal.

"I think what we're focused on right now is what the president is committed to, which is working towards the ultimate closure of the detention facility, consistent with the good security practices and values that we have as a nation," he said.

The U.S. Defense Department cautioned that the leaked documents may not represent the government's current view of Guantanamo detainees and that many of the assessments are incomplete.

Intelligence Or Terrorism?

"The Guantanamo Files," as some Western media outlets are calling them, also reveal the extent of U.S. distrust toward Pakistan's main intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI). The agency is classified in the documents as a terrorist organization, alongside groups such as Al-Qaeda, Hamas, Hizballah, and Iranian intelligence.

While U.S. and Pakistani intelligence have publicly touted their cooperation on counterterrorism since the 2001 terror attacks, U.S. officials have often voiced suspicions that elements of the ISI were either linked to or supporting militants.

The ISI declined to comment to journalists on the leaked documents, but the incident seems likely to further escalate tensions between Washington and Islamabad.

The leaked documents also revealed that many foreign countries, including China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Tajikistan, sent intelligence officers to question detainees.

The documents also detailed reasons for holding an Al-Jazeera journalist at the facility for six years, which included the hope that he would provide information on the television channel's operations in Chechnya, Kosovo, and Afghanistan.

The files also provide new details about Guantanamo's most infamous prisoner, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the 2001 terror attacks.

The documents say that in 2002, he ordered an associate to carry out a "martyrdom attack" against then Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. The assignment turned out to be merely a test of the associate's "willingness to die for the cause."

The documents say little about the use of harsh interrogation tactics at Guantanamo that have provoked international outrage.

with agency material

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