[Ppnews] Guantanamo Deception - US admits Hundreds of Innocents Jailed

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Tue Apr 20 18:04:33 EDT 2010


http://www.counterpunch.org/quigley04202010.html

April 20, 2010


Wilkerson Discloses Hundreds of Innocents Jailed


The Guantanamo Deception

By BILL QUIGLEY

Colonel Lawrence B. Wilkerson, Chief of Staff to 
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, provided 
shocking new testimony from inside the Bush 
Administration that hundreds of the men jailed at 
Guantanamo were innocent, the top people in the 
Bush Administration knew full well they were 
innocent, and that information was kept from the public.

Wilkerson said President Bush, Vice President 
Cheney and Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld 
“indefinitely detained the innocent for political 
reasons” and many in the administration knew 
it.  The wrongfully held prisoners were not 
released because of political maneuverings aimed 
in part to cover up the mistakes of the administration.

Colonel Wilkerson, who served in the U.S. Army 
for over thirty years, signed a sworn declaration 
for an Oregon federal court case stating that he 
found out in August 2002 that the US knew that 
many of the prisoners at Guantanamo were not 
enemy combatants.  Wilkerson also discussed this 
in a revealing and critical article on Guantanamo for the Washington Note.

How did Colonel Wilkerson first learn about the 
innocents in Guantanamo?  In August 2002, 
Wilkerson, who had been working closely with 
Colin Powell for years, was appointed Chief of 
Staff to the Secretary of State.  In that 
position, Wilkerson started attending daily 
classified briefings involving 50 or more senior 
State Department officials where Guantanamo was often discussed.

It soon became clear to him and other State 
Department personnel “that many of the prisoners 
detained at Guantanamo had been taken into 
custody without regard to whether they were truly 
enemy combatants, or in fact whether many of them were enemies at all.”

How was it possible that hundreds of Guantanamo 
prisoners were innocent?  Wilkerson said it all 
started at the beginning, mostly because U.S. 
forces did not capture most of the people who 
were sent to Guantanamo.  The people who ended up 
in Guantanamo, said Wilkerson, were mostly turned 
over to the US by Afghan warlords and others who 
received bounties of up to $5000 per head for 
each person they turned in.  The majority of the 
742 detainees “had never seen a U.S. soldier in 
the process of their initial detention.”

Military officers told Wilkerson that “many 
detainees were turned over for the wrong reasons, 
particularly for bounties and other 
incentives.”  The U.S. knew “that the likelihood 
was high that some of the Guantanamo detainees 
had been turned in to U.S. forces in order to 
settle local scores, for tribal reasons, or just as a method of making money.”

As a consequence, said Wilkerson “there was no 
real method of knowing why the prisoner had been 
detained in the first place.”

Wilkerson wrote that the American people have no 
idea of the “utter incompetence of the 
battlefield vetting in Afghanistan during the 
initial stages
Simply stated, no meaningful 
attempt at discrimination was made in-country by 
competent officials, civilian or military, as to 
who we were transporting to Cuba for detention and interrogation.”

Why was there utter incompetence in the 
battlefield vetting?  “This was a factor of 
having too few troops in the combat zone, the 
troops and civilians who were there having too 
few people trained and skilled in such vetting, 
and the incredible pressure coming down from 
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and others 
to ‘just get the bastards to the interrogators.’”

As a result, Wilkerson’s statement continues, 
“there was no meaningful way to determine whether 
they were terrorists, Taliban, or simply innocent 
civilians picked up on a very confused 
battlefield or in the territory of another state such as Pakistan.”

In addition, the statement points out “a separate 
but related problem was that often absolutely no 
evidence relating to the detainee was turned 
over, so there was no real method of knowing why 
the prisoner had been detained in the first place.”

“The initial group of 742 detainees had not been 
detained under the processes I was used to as a 
military officer,” Wilkerson said.  “It was 
becoming more and more clear that many of the men 
were innocent, or at a minimum their guilt was 
impossible to determine let alone prove in any 
court of law, civilian or military.  If there was 
any evidence, the chain of protecting it had been completely ignored.”

Several in the U.S. leadership became aware of 
this early on and knew “of the reality that many 
of the detainees were innocent of any substantial 
wrongdoing, had little intelligence value, and 
should be immediately released,” wrote Wilkerson.

So why did the Bush Administration not release 
the men from prison once it was discovered that 
they were not guilty?  Why continue to keep innocent men in prison?

“To have admitted this reality would have been a 
black mark on their leadership from virtually day 
one of the so-called War on Terror and these 
leaders already had black marks enough: the dead 
in a field in Pennsylvania, in the ashes of the 
Pentagon, and in the ruins of the World Trade Towers,” wrote Wilkerson.

“They were not about to admit to their further 
errors at Guantanamo Bay.  Better to claim 
everyone there was a hardcore terrorist, was of 
enduring intelligence value, and would return to 
jihad if released,” according to Wilkerson.  “I 
am very sorry to say that I believe there were 
uniformed military who aided and abetted these 
falsehoods, even at the highest levels of our armed forces.”

The refusal to let the detainees go, even those 
who were likely innocent, was based on several 
political factors.  If the US released them to 
another country and that country found them 
innocent, it would make the US look bad, said 
Wilkerson.  “Another concern was that the 
detention efforts at Guantanamo would be revealed 
as the incredibly confused operation that they 
were.  Such results were not acceptable to the 
Administration and would have been severely 
detrimental to the leadership at the Department of Defense.”

At the Department of Defense, Secretary Rumsfeld, 
“just refused to let detainees go” said Wilkerson.

“Another part of the political dilemma originated 
in the Office of Vice President Richard B. 
Cheney,” according to Wilkerson, “whose position 
could be summed up as ‘the end justifies the 
means’, and who had absolutely no concern that 
the vast majority of Guantanamo detainees were 
innocent, or that there was a lack of useable 
evidence for the great majority of them.  If 
hundreds of innocent individuals had to suffer in 
order to detain a handful of hardcore terrorists, so be it.”

President Bush was involved in all of the 
decisions about the men in Guantanamo according 
to reports from Secretary Powell to 
Wilkerson.  “My own view,” said Wilkerson “is 
that it was easy for Vice President Cheney to run 
circles around President Bush bureaucratically 
because Cheney had the network within the 
government to do so.  Moreover, by exploiting 
what Secretary Powell called the President’s 
‘cowboy instincts,’ Vice President Cheney could 
more often than not gain the President’s acquiescence.”

Despite the widespread knowledge inside the Bush 
administration that the US continued to 
indefinitely detain the innocent at Guantanamo, 
for years the US government continued to publicly 
say the opposite – that people at Guantanamo were terrorists.

After these disclosures from deep within the Bush 
Administration, the newest issue now before the 
people of the U.S. is not just whether the Bush 
Administration was wrong about Guantanamo but 
whether it was also consistently deceitful in 
holding hundreds of innocent men in prison to cover up their own mistakes.

Why is Colonel Wilkerson disclosing this now?  He 
provided a sworn statement to assist the 
International Human Rights Clinic at Willamette 
University College of Law in Oregon and the 
Federal Public Defender who are suing US 
officials for the wrongful detention and torture 
of Adel Hassan Hamad.  Hamad was a humanitarian 
aid worker from Sudan working in Pakistan when he 
was kidnapped from his apartment, tortured and 
shipped to Guantanamo where he was held for five years before being released.

At the end of his nine page sworn statement, 
Wilkerson explains his personal reasons for 
disclosing this damning information.  “I have 
made a personal choice to come forward and 
discuss the abuses that occurred because 
knowledge that I served an Administration that 
tortured and abused those it detained at the 
facilities at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere and 
indefinitely detained the innocent for political 
reasons has marked a low point in my professional 
career and I wish to make the record clear on 
what occurred.  I am also extremely concerned 
that the Armed Forces of the United States, where 
I spent 31 years of my professional life, were 
deeply involved in these tragic mistakes.”

Wilkerson concluded his article on Guantanamo by 
issuing a challenge.  “When – and if – the truths 
about the detainees at Guantanamo Bay will be 
revealed in the way they should be, or Congress 
will step up and shoulder some of the blame, or 
the new Obama administration will have the 
courage to follow through substantially on its 
campaign promises with respect to GITMO, torture 
and the like, remains indeed to be seen.”

The U.S. rightly criticizes Iran and China for 
wrongfully imprisoning people.  So what are we as 
a nation going to do now that an insider from the 
Bush Administration has courageously revealed the 
truth and the cover up about U.S. politicians 
wrongfully imprisoning hundreds and not releasing 
them even when they knew they were innocent?  Our 
response will tell much about our national commitment to justice for all.

Bill Quigley is Legal Director at the Center for 
Constitutional Rights and professor of law at 
Loyola University New Orleans. He can be 
contacted at <mailto:quigley77 at gmail.com>quigley77 at gmail.com




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