July 26, 2007

A "potential threat"

The Pentagon has released a study asserting that many Guantanamo detainees are indeed dangerous individuals--and, more specifically, that 95 percent of them were at least a “potential threat” to U.S. interests. The military spokesperson quoted in the piece more or less admits that the study was intended to rebut the much-quoted analysis of Defense Department documents by the Seton Hall University School of Law, which found that only 8 percent of detainees were accused of fighting for Al Qaeda, and only 55 percent were said to have committed a hostile act against the U.S. (“They had been getting a lot of inquiries related to this previous study,” the spokesman explained. “They had a lot of concerns with the conclusions, but they did not have another study.”)

I haven't had a chance to read the study yet, but in the meantime, it's worth keeping in mind that the Seton Hall scholars are far from the only people to note that many Guantanamo residents aren't as dangerous as we were initially led to believe. For instance:

* In September 2002, a CIA study found that many of the accused terrorists were low-level recruits who went to Afghanistan to support the Taliban or innocent men caught up in the fighting.
* Another U.S. intelligence official who visited the camp said in 2002 that there were "no big fish there" and that "some of these guys literally don't know the world is round."
* Maj. Gen. Michael E. Dunlavey, who initially led the intelligence effort at Guantanamo, discovered after his arrival in February 2002 that up to half of the first group of detainees had little or no intelligence value. These included one mentally impaired detainee with a serious headwound nicknamed "half-head Bob," and another dubbed "Al Qaeda Claus" because he told his interrogators that he was 105 years old. Dunleavey later went to Afghanistan to ask military commanders there to stop sending him so many "Mickey Mouse" detainees, to no avail.
* Or, as Lt. Col. Thomas S. Berg, a member of the original military legal team set up to handle the prosecutions put it: "It became obvious to us as we reviewed the evidence that, in many cases, we had simply gotten the slowest guys on the battlefield... We literally found guys who had been shot in the butt.''