The new release of Guantánamo documents from Wikileaks is a veritable Sargasso Sea of lies, half-truths, undigested intel, and tortured “evidence.” I do not cheer this particular release, as the energy it will take to set the record straight will be mammoth, and most of the detainees have no one in their corner to rescue the truth from U.S. government lies. One who has been fighting for years to tell the truth about the Guantánamo detainees is Andy Worthington, author of The Guantánamo Files, and I was heartened to see that Wikileaks made him the sole “partner” in their media release of the records.
A former prisoner who has been trying to get his story out is former Guantánamo internee David Hicks. Released as part of deal to plead guilty in the military commissions trials, Hicks has returned to his native Australia to heal from the years of torture he endured at the U.S. Naval Base prison. He has written a book on his experiences, but no publisher has seen fit to release it in the United States. So unless one wishes to purchase and ship it from Australia, you will have to make do with the excellent interview of Hicks by Jason Leopold at Truthout earlier this year.
After the release of Wikileaks Guantánamo Files Detainee Assessment Brief on Hicks, a group that is working to support him and clear his name released a statement last night. In the name of clarifying the lies retailed by JTF Guantánamo personnel, I’m going to post most of their document, as a matter of public record, and to give readers an opportunity to see how poisoned the Guantánamo “record” is on these prisoners.
The Hicks assessment file from Guantánamo is dated September 17, 2004. He was released from Guantanamo in May 2007, having pleaded guilty to the U.S. favorite all-purpose charge of providing “material support for terrorism.” In the Guantánamo document, Hicks is portrayed as having “direct involvement with senior Al-Qaida leadership, including Usama Bin Laden.” He is portrayed as “a highly skilled and advanced combatant, as well as a valuable asset and possible leader for extremist organizations.”
Here is the response from the Hicks camp:
The file released on the Wikileaks website only confirms the inaccuracy of information that has been released by the former U.S. administration to the public in relation to David Hicks. The incompetence of the interrogators to obtain reliable and factual information is clear – they failed get Mr Hicks’ name correct, where he was captured, or the name of their own Navy ship – even when utilising interrogation techniques tantamount to torture. Much of the inaccuracies in the file have been addressed in Mr Hicks’ book, however, following is a list for your convenience.
➢ David Hicks’ middle name is Matthew, not Michael
➢ Jama’at Al Tablighi is a peaceful Islamic organisation – this has long been confirmed
➢ Mr Hicks has at no time flown to East Timor – to engage in hostilities, or otherwise
➢ LeT ["the Pakistan-based Kashmiri separatist group Lashkar-e-Tayyiba"] was not listed as a terrorist organisation until 2002, long after Mr Hicks had been detained. The report confirms that no member of LeT had engaged in a terrorist act- they allege an intention, which there is no evidence of. As Mr Hicks explains in his book, LeT dissolved after 2001. The group that calls themselves LeT now is not the same group as it was over a decade ago as it is made up of different people.
➢ Allegations of meeting senior al-Qaeda leadership – Mr Hicks explains in his book that did not hear the word al-Qaeda until he reached Guantanamo Bay – and this was from the mouth of an interrogator. Mr Hicks has not met any people by the names of Abu-Hufs or Mohammed Atef, and the U.S. has not provided any evidence of this.
➢ Mr Hicks did not go to Bagram at all – Mr Hicks was captured by the Northern Alliance at a Taxi stand in Baglan on his way back to Australia. He was then sold to the U.S. for approximately US$5000.
➢ There is no such ship as the Pettiloo – Mr Hicks was transferred to two U.S. Navy ships, the U.S.S. Bataan and the U.S.S Peleliu- what they failed to mention in this report was the 10 hour beatings inflicted on Mr Hicks and the other detainees, and the photos depicting Hicks naked with a bleeding wound on his head due to having his head rammed into the tarmac several times.
➢ As for the report stating that Mr Hicks ‘admitted’ to being a member of al-Qaeda – Any and all statements were obtained under torture, this is why he was not taken through a regularly constituted court. In the final Military Commissions hearing, David’s legal team submitted what is called the Alford Plea. This is a US based plea in which an accused person can agree to plead guilty whilst maintaining innocence. David has always maintained his innocence and strongly denies that he was involved with any terrorist organisations- he did what he had to do to come home.
➢ The report alleges that Mr Hicks led in prayer and was held in high regard by other Guantanamo detainees – Mr Hicks cannot speak Arabic, and his knowledge of the religion would not qualify him to lead prayer. Some detainees thought that Mr Hicks was a spy, so any allegation that he was a leader is simply outrageous.
➢ Any allegation that Mr Hicks was unruly or created disturbances is simply untrue. Former Guantanamo bay guard, Brandon Neely who was on the ground with Mr Hicks has confirmed this recently (link below).
➢ As documents have revealed, detainees were forced to take medication and David was injected in the spine (see link)
➢ All charges that they quote in the document and the Military Commissions process were ruled as unconstitutional and illegal by the U.S. Supreme Court. Even the final Military Commissions Act of 2006 has been replaced by President Obama due to the unfairness of the system, and the fact that it did not establish a legitimate legal framework.
➢ The report alleges that if Mr Hicks is released, he would be a threat to the U.S. and its allies – Mr Hicks has been a free member of society for over three years, and has proven this to be completely false.
Mr Hicks has never been accused of hurting anyone, participating in, supporting, preparing for or knowing of a terrorist act. The final charge in the Military Commissions hearing was one count under the material support for terrorism charge- which was foreign to Australian and international law- that did not accuse him of personally supporting terrorism, rather, it was alleged that he supported an organisation that supported terrorism. Of note is the fact that it has never been proven that the camps he attended were in fact al-Qaeda. Mr Hicks has never gone through a fair trial process.
This document shows that even back in 2004, Mr Hicks was not suspected and/or accused of hurting any person, or involved in any terrorist acts. The Australian government has always maintained that Mr Hicks has not broken any Australian Law.
One hopes the rest of the Guantánamo detainees get such a chance to respond, and we owe a debt of gratitude to David Hicks’ supporters for showing just how mendacious and unreliable these reports out of Guantánamo are. I’ll note in passing that the Australian group also presents as evidence of forced medication an article by Jason Leopold and I on the administration of treatment doses of the controversial antimalarial drug mefloquine on all incoming detainees at Guantánamo, from January 2002 onward.
The U.S. Government Responds
Former Guantánamo guard Brandon Neely, who knew David Hicks personally, told me today that “If you didn’t know about Gitmo, and looked at these files, you’d think everyone was guilty.” And that is precisely the point about the summaries being released. They are prosecution amalgams of assorted “facts,” many of them obtained under torture, for the purpose of justifying the unjustifiable incarceration of hundreds of innocent men. If there are terrorists or criminals in this bunch, and no doubt there are some, the case against them is irrevocably soiled both for standard judicial proceedings (hence the turn to kangaroo court military commissions), and in the eyes of history.
The Defense Department and State Department have put out a joint press release of their own, stating that the Guantánamo Detainee Assessment Briefs (DABs) were “obtained illegally” by Wikileaks, and that they “were written based on a range of information available” between 2002 and 2009.
The Guantanamo Review Task Force, established in January 2009, considered the DABs during its review of detainee information. In some cases, the Task Force came to the same conclusions as the DABs. In other instances the Review Task Force came to different conclusions, based on updated or other available information. The assessments of the Guantanamo Review Task Force have not been compromised to WikiLeaks. Thus, any given DAB illegally obtained and released by WikiLeaks may or may not represent the current view of a given detainee.
The press release concludes that the U.S. government “will continue to work with allies and partners around the world to mitigate threats to the U.S. and other countries and to work toward the ultimate closure of the Guantanamo detention facility, consistent with good security practices and our values as a nation.”
The mendaciousness of this statement cannot be overemphasized. In fact, the U.S. has given up on its attempts to close Guantánamo, and there is to be no accounting for the torture done in its “work with allies and partners around the world,” nor for the torture and mistreatment meted out by the CIA and Department of Defense. The ACLU has written in a press release today that the Wikileaks document release “underscores the need for independent judicial review of the cases of men being held at Guantánamo.”
Perhaps if nothing else, the Wikileaks release will put the lies and crimes of the U.S. government back into the headlines for a time, and the issue of investigations and prosecutions for crimes of torture and murder will again touch the public mind. If only this time, something at long last would be done to address these crimes.
For more on the Wikileaks release, Marcy Wheeler is dissecting their strange concatenation of lies over at Emptywheel. ProPublica has also posted a review of some other ways in which the public record on Guantánamo and the CIA black sites is being distorted and rewritten.
I’ve written an article now posted at Truthout that looks at an otherwise little commented-upon aspect of the Wikileaks document release: Guantanamo Detainee Reports Hint at Psychological Research, Production of False Intel and Informing as “Areas of Potential Exploitation”.
Update, 5/16/11: The group of Hicks’s supporters campaigning for “an independent investigation into the David Hicks case, with special consideration given to allegations of torture and the political interference associated with his eventual plea deal,” have a website, The Justice Campaign. The group was formed by The Hon John Dowd AO QC, President of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) Australia.