Lies, Damn Lies, and Misreporting about Gitmo Detainees – by Stephen Lendman
Post-9/11, The New York Times became the lead misreporting source about Guantanamo detainees, largely characterizing them as dangerous terrorists threatening US security.
For example, on July 25, 2007, (like its many other reports) William Glaberson headlined, “New US study calls Guantanamo captives dangerous,” saying:
A new Pentagon study “argues that large numbers of detainees were a direct threat to United States forces, including Al Qaeda fighters, terrorism-training camp veterans and men who had experience with explosives, sniper rifles and rocket-propelled grenades.”
“It paints a chilling portrait of the Guantanamo detainees, (saying) 95 percent were at the least a ‘potential threat,’ including detainees who had played a supporting role in terrorist groups or had expressed a commitment to pursuing violent jihadist goals.”
More on The Times’ reassessment below.
Under Professor Mark Denbeaux’s direction, Seton Hall University School of Law’s Center for Policy & Research (CP&R) published 17 “GTMO Reports,” including profiles of detainees held, allegations against them, and discrepancies in government (and media) accounts, characterizing innocent men as dangerous.
An earlier report analyzed unclassified government data (obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests) based on evidentiary summaries of 2004 military hearings on whether 517 detainees held at the time were “enemy combatants.”
Most were non-belligerents. In fact, a shocking 95% were seized randomly by bounty hunters, then sold to US forces for $5,000 per claimed Taliban and $25,000 for supposed Al Qaeda members. At least 20 were children, some as young as 13.
In his first February 2006 report, profiling 517 detainees through analysis of Defense Department (DOD) data, Denbeaux found:
— only 8% “were characterized as al Qaeda fighters;”
— 55% committed no hostile act against US or coalition forces; and
— of the remaining 37%, most had no connection to either Al Qaeda or Taliban forces, based on the Pentagon’s assessment.
In his latest March 2011 report, Denbeaux headlined, “Rumsfeld Knew: DoD’s ‘Worst of the Worst’ and Recidivism Claims Refuted by Recently Declassified Memo,” explaining that:
Rumsfeld’s memo showed he lied, calling into question whether anything he, or other Pentagon officials, said was true. In fact, Denbeaux’s reports refute virtually everything from official and major media sources, exposing their deception in detail. They show the vast majority (perhaps all) Guantanamo prisoners were and still are innocent or “low-value” detainees, posing no terrorist threat to America or other nations.
In other words, even the DOD knew they incarcerated innocent men and children, America’s media going along with the ruse, notably The New York Times, the lead source of US propaganda.
On April 24, New York writers Charlie Savage, William Glaberson and Andrew Lehren headlined, “Classified Files Offer New Insights Into Detainees,” saying:
Released files on about 750 detainees, including 172 still held, “lay(s) bare the patchwork and contradictory evidence that in many cases would never have stood up in criminal court or a military tribunal.”
However, continuing their willful deception, the writers added:
“(M)ost of the 172 remaining prisoners have been rated as a ‘high risk’ of posing a threat to the United States and its allies if released without adequate rehabilitation and supervision, (besides) about a third of the 600 already transferred to other countries….also designated ‘high risk’ before they were freed or passed to the custody of other governments.”
A same day editorial headlined, “The Guantanamo Papers,” saying:
Despite documents revealing administration “chaos, lawlessness and incompetence….(t)here are seriously dangerous prisoners at Guantanamo who cannot be released,” despite no corroborating evidence proving it.
Moreover, falsely claiming torture and abuse have stopped, it continued saying the “trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and five other alleged Sept. 11 plotters should be pursued,” even though no incriminating evidence proves culpability, except from perhaps torture-extracted confessions The Times apparently believes are credible, despite international law and two Supreme Court decisions calling them inadmissible in criminal proceedings (Fisher v. State, November 1926 and Brown v. Mississippi, February 1936).
The Center for Constitutional Rights’ (CCR) Assessment/Critique
Since Guantanamo detentions began in 2002, CCR has done heroic work representing unlawfully held detainees. It enlisted hundreds of pro bono attorneys on their behalf to provide what Bush and Obama administration officials denied, a detainee’s Sixth Amendment right to counsel of his or her choice.
Earlier, CCR said:
“The government has illegally detained thousands of people, the most notorious example being the men at Guantanamo.” Its attorneys filed many cases on their behalf, as well as others falsely accused in the “war on terror.” In fact, for years, their lawyers “challenged immigration sweeps, ghost detentions, extraordinary renditions, and every other illegal program the government devised to lock people up and thrown away the key.”
On April 25, CCR headlined, “Rights Group Critical of Poor Reporting by New York Times,” saying:
Executive Director Vince Warren said the following in response to The Times and other news stories on released documents for around 750 Guantanamo detainees, saying:
They “shed light” on “innocent men….many of whom remained and remain there long after the government knew they were innocent.” Of course, it was known all along. Still, however, misinformation is being reported about alleged detainees still held, notably from The New York Times.
It keeps recycling “unfiltered….out of date and long-discredited DOD claims and its sensationalizing of inflated risk assessments over revelations of abuses committed by the US. For example, (it calls) five Russian men….recidivists, contradicting DOD’s characterization.
CCR client Abu Sufian Ibrahim Ahmed Hamuda bin Qumu is also falsely called a recidivist, “when in fact he was jailed on his return to Libya and is now fighting with the US-supported rebels….”
Other examples also show irresponsible misreporting, including “scare stories that abet those forces seeking to legitimate the continued existence of Guantanamo and the scheme of detention without charge that the place was created to facilitate.”
Moreover, besides scandalous ongoing levels of torture and abuse, Times reports refused even to mention, let alone explain, their lawlessness and effect on innocent victims. In addition, Times, Washington Post, and other major media coverage ignore the fact that most of the remaining 172 detainees, “had been cleared for release by the Interagency Task Force set up in 2009.” Instead, as quoted above, The Times called at least most of them “high risk….posing a threat to the United States and its allies.”
In fact, their risk assessments “are based on patently unreliable information, much of it the product of other interrogations at Guantanamo,” producing torture-extracted confessions or other bogus information. In addition, the files “are years out of date and repeat inaccurate Bush administration allegations long since put to rest.”
Yet innocent men will be held indefinitely, either uncharged or tried illegally in military commissions using spurious “evidence” to convict them, including the 9/11 suspects. In fact, their alleged guilt is very much open to question, including the so-called mastermind, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM), brutally tortured for months in several locations before sent to Guananamo for even more.
Overall, the released documents reveal a sordid story of “government attempting to justify its mistakes and detaining, interrogating and abusing men – as well as teenage boys and men old enough to be suffering from dementia – for years based on bad (or bogus) evidence, hearsay (or) sheer incompetence.”
They disclose a scandalous lack of accountability, transparency and respect for international and US law. They also reveal that Washington withheld “information the public sorely needs in order to be able to make informed decisions about vital government policies. In addition, they show that the” media, including The New York Times repeatedly, disgraced themselves by misreporting.
Unlike official Washington and America’s media, CCR (for almost 15 years) has advanced and protected constitutionally guaranteed rights and those stipulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – the same ones Seton Hall’s Mark Denbeaux and his dedicated team respect, teach and support.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.