UPDATED – WikiLeaks: The Unknown Prisoners of Guantánamo (Part One of Five)


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The update is here.

In May, when I first began analyzing in depth the classified military documents released by WikILeaks at the end of April (a project on which I worked as a media partner), I began with 84 stories that were previously unknown, as all that had been revealed about these prisoners previously were their names and nationalities (PDF), and in some cases, their dates and places of birth.

Securing information about these 84 men, who were all released from Guantánamo between 2002 and 2004, was both exciting and important, as it would, I realized, undoubtedly help to demonstrate how most of them were innocent people seized by mistake, through the Bush administration’s arrogance and hubris, or insignificant Taliban recruits or conscripts, sent to Guantánamo because of Bush’s hugely damaging insistence that, in the “War on Terror,” soldiers (those serving with the Taliban) could be equated with terror suspects (those involved with al-Qaida).

The files on these 84 men did indeed reveal that information, and I presented highlights from the files in “WikiLeaks: The Unknown Prisoners of Guantánamo,” a series of five articles written for Cageprisoners and cross-posted on my website between May 15 and June 15. Since that time, however, as I have moved on to create a 70-part series of articles adding information from the files released by WikiLeaks to the existing information about all the other prisoners, to create The Complete Guantánamo Files,” a million-word project that will, I hope, be complete for the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo on January 11, 2012, I have realized that my coverage of these files was not as detailed as it could have been.

As I have analyzed more of the files (I have currently completed 271 stories out of 779, with just three now remaining unknown), I have realized that it is of great importance to include the exact status of the prisoners in the files (whether they are “Transfer Recommendations,” for example, or a “Recommendation to Retain in DoD Control”), and to include the alleged reasons for the prisoners’ transfer to Guantánamo, which rarely have anything do with terrorism.

In addition, every “reason fro transfer” was actually grafted on after the prisoners’ transfer, because, as Chris Mackey, a senior interrogator, explained in his book The Interrogators, those directing the detention program (in the Pentagon and in Camp Doha in Kuwait) stipulated that every prisoner who ended up in US custody had to be transferred to Guantánamo, with no exceptions allowed.

The compilation of these aspects of the Guantánamo story will be of enormous significance at the end of the project, when I analyze all the data, focusing specifically on the stated reasons for transfer, and, in addition on the exaggerations in US authorities’ assessments of the perceived risk posed by the prisoners, and their perceived intelligence value.

As I have been demonstrating throughout my reporting, these assessments are both unreliable and institutionally prone to exaggeration, as patently innocent prisoners were defined as being “low risk,” and, therefore, prisoners who were “low risk” were assessed as “medium risk,” and so on. This would not be so troubling if it were not for the fact that some mainstream journalists have already begun to cite the assessments as through they are reliable, describing prisoners as “medium risk,” for example, when they is clearly no objective basis for trusting the Task Force assessments without detailed investigation of the actual allegations.

As a result of my sharpened perceptions about the files, and what is important in them, and why the material in them needs to be analysed and reported as thoroughly as possible, I’ve begun to overhaul my five-part series telling these 84 stories, and have finished a complete revision of “WikiLeaks: The Unknown Prisoners of Guantánamo (Part One of Five),” in which the original 4,200-word article has now become a 6,500-word article. Updates to Parts Two to Five will follow.

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Digg and YouTube). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in June 2011, “The Complete Guantánamo Files,” a 70-part, 700,000-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, and details about the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, and available on DVD here — or here for the US). Also see my definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all my articles, and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.

15 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    On Facebook, Malcolm Bush wrote:

    I like the idea of you revisiting the files; more information is slowly coming on all of these issues. We need all the information we can obtain in order to understand all that goes on around us. I like to revisit things that are generally forgotten; sometimes I get a big surprise.

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Malcolm. To be honest, I could have done without noticing that I hadn’t adequately covered the stories in “WikiLeaks and the Unknown Prisoners of Guantanamo,” as so much of my time is taken up with the ongoing research and writing needed to try and complete the series by the end of the year. I’m on Part 22 out of the 70 parts in “The Complete Guantanamo Files,” which I should be able to publish on Friday.

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Ann Alexander wrote:

    Then have the weekend for yourself I hope.

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Monique D’hooghe wrote:

    you know i love your writing style and in depth research…. unfortunately my health has been acting up and keeping me from typing much… but i will be translating some of your articles still and promise to keep you updated if and when i do

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Monique. That’s exactly what I love to hear, and it confirms that I’m doing my job as intended. Sorry to hear about your health problems. I wish you the best of health, and do keep me posted if you’re able to translate any of my work.

    And Ann, thanks, but my family are away in Scotland this weekend, so there’s nothing to stop me working. Btw, I just heard that October 21 is confirmed for a screening of “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantanamo” at Aberdeen University. I very much hope it will be feasible to stay!

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    George Kenneth Berger wrote:

    I’m Digging this now, Andy. Was busy all day.

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, George. Good to hear from you. I’m still up. Trying to do some more work on this project — it takes me 1-2 hours to do each prisoner’s story (and that’s fast!) and there are 11 stories in each article, and two articles a week, so it’s pretty relentlessly ongoing, especially as I’m also trying to keep up with everything else that’s happening.

    It’s getting on for 2 am here, and I just completed my weekly column for the Future of Freedom Foundation. I’m also keeping an eye on the developments in the Troy Davis case, where the Supreme Court is considering a stay, and the 7pm execution time has passed, which is good news, and watching a live stream of Amy Goodman talking to Troy’s sister Martina Correia.

    I should go to bed soon. Meeting Caroline Lucas MP in the morning to discuss Guantanamo!

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    George Kenneth Berger wrote:

    Nite Andy. Good luck tomorrow. I hate to say it but I cannot exclude the execution of a probably innicent person being an act to intimidate as many as possible, by means of a human sacrifice.

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, George. Good night to you too. I believe you have a point, and I’m only reassured because the Troy Davis case has led to so many people — hundreds of thousands of people — publicly voicing their opposition to the use of the death penalty, which is reassuring for the health of our common humanity.

  10. Andy Worthington says...

    Virginia Simson wrote:

    The death of a shared dream when with him. We BELIEVED we could stop it. I cried so hard I needed a Vick’s inhalor to breathe. Sadness, and JOY for I felt many more people cared this time than the jagged sorrow around Tookie Williams. Me, I just ranted @Sen. Al Franken’s staff about further demoralization of the American people.

  11. Andy Worthington says...

    Thank you, Virginia. Your dedication to this cause is an inspiration. Your words are very powerful …

  12. Andy Worthington says...

    Saleh Mamon wrote:

    We need your investigative work. Deep it up Andy!

  13. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Saleh. That’s just the encouragement I need!

  14. JAN (Cosmic Surfer) says...

    Andy –
    Hope you are feeling well and wanted to keep encouraging your great work! Thank you, as always, for keeping that light on and the truth out.
    You really are appreciated and even those who may not see it now, will some day come to appreciate it.
    The only way to be accountable is through transparency; the only way to be transparent is for people with your commitment to research and write.


  15. Andy Worthington says...

    Thank you, Jan. That’s exactly the kind of encouragement I need and love! It’s good to be reminded that this is an archive of work that can be used in the future. It;s sometimes easy to forget …

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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