Bush Insider Reveals Guantanamo Deception: Hundreds of Innocents Jailed
By Bill Quigley. Bill is Legal Director at the Center for Constitutional Rights and professor of law at Loyola University New Orleans. Bill can be contacted at email@example.com
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.
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