Friday, March 10, 2006

Gitmo Project, set #20

As I mentioned earlier, I am participating in the Gitmo Project initiated over at Captain’s Quarters. I’ll leave you to read Ed’s post on the project to get the details of what we’re trying to do. My part was to analyze set #20 of the statements given by the detainees brought before the Tribunal at Gitmo. These detainees were all captured as part of operations surrounding the Afghani theatre of the war on terror. These 4 detainees were specifically captured as a result of the battle at Tora Bora.

The instructions given were twofold. First, we were to analyze the testimony given for any significant events or information. Basically we were looking for any “gotchas” that might have surfaced much in the way we did when Hugh Hewitt parcelled out Chief Justice Roberts’ writings prior to his confirmation to the Supreme Court. The second thing was to attempt to determine whether there was sufficient cause for a given detainee to remain detained.

We’ll get to the first part in a moment. The second part requires a caveat up front. The fact of the matter is that the files we are parsing do not contain any of the classified material being used to justify the detention. That information is critical in determining whether continued detention is called for or not. That we can’t access that information makes our decision-making process in this endeavor necessarily flawed. In fact, aside from a listing of the allegations made against the detainees by the military and the government, no information was available in the set I analyzed that provided support for those allegations. The best I can do, then, is to make a very fuzzy judgement on whether the allegations themselves appear to be serious enough or relevant enough to warrant the detention. I can, of course, also make the determination as to whether the detainee, through his answers, raises more questions than he resolves.

The detainees’ statements are identified by an “ISN” number, not by a name. There were instances where, during the questioning, the detainee was called by name, but I can’t see how that information is helpful here. The ISN numbers are significant, I’m sure, in the broad scope but here in this analysis, they’re not of much use, either. So, I’m just going to address these statements one by one as they came to me. There were four detainees detailed in the set I was assigned. So, here we go.

Of all the statements, the first detainee’s was the most intriguing. This man’s story was that he was picked up at a bazaar in Pakistan by Pakistani police. They took him to an undisclosed location and presented him with 3 notebooks containing “extensive” information on weapons systems, counterintelligence tactics and methodology, and - get this - “extensive references to chemistry and explosives.” They then ordered him to hand copy the notebooks. When he refused, they beat him until he complied. When he was finished, he was then taken to a prison called “Khad” where they held him for about a week. They then turned him over to American forces who flew him to Kandahar and then accused him of being a terrorist and producing the 3 notebooks he’d been forced to copy as evidence.

The charges against him are that he participated in military operations against American forces, that he’s a member of a local Islamic terror group (for whom he managed a membership list, complete with weapon serial numbers; he says he was also forced to make that list up), and that he trained rather extensively under the Taliban. The detainee’s only response to all of this is that he’s just a refugee that Pakistani police went to huge efforts to frame. In other words, he says, he was set up. When questioned he came up with a conspiracy theory that the US govenment is paying a bounty on captures turned over to them by the Pakistani police and that the Pakistani are simply doing this for the money. He manages to hit all the hot-button topics - he was tortured, there’s a conspiracy against him, etc. - which has the benefit of being a defense that he doesn’t have to offer any proof for. His answers, frankly, appear to be attempts to misdirect and his explanation of the notebooks found on his person when he was captured is rather flimsy. I have no issue with saying he needs to remain detained.

Detainees 2 and 3, on the other hand, are both Uighurs, an ethnic subset of the Chinese population. Think of native Alaskan Inuit as related to the American population. The Uighurs have a lot of bad feeling toward the Chinese government and there are a number of them who are unhappy enough to both leave the country and seek weapons training for a possible future rebellion. Both of these detainees were captured in Pakistan after feeling Tora Bora when American bombers started putting ordnance on the ground. They both claim that they only worked and trained with other Uighurs there and that, for the most part, they worked on building stuff in the camp, not on weapons training. They were both captured in a larger group of 18 Uighurs who all pretty much have the same story. The charges against them are, basically, that they were at the camp in Tora Bora and that they received training in the use and care of a Kalishnikov (AK-47). I must say that the charges appear pretty weak. They amount to accusing a person of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Unless the classified information about these 2 men contains something far more moving, I would say that they should be released.

Detainee number 4 is also an Uighur and was also captured along with detainees 2 and 3. His story is very similar but his method of imparting that story was far more aggressive. He seemed quite a bit more familiar with the tactics of answering a Tribunal. He even provided a witness, albiet a poor one. While his tone makes me suspect he’s a lot smarter than he wants people to believe, I have to come to the same conclusion as I have for the previous 2. The charges against him just seem so generic that it would take some pretty significant intel that he was up to something to warrant continued detention. Barring that information in the classified documents, I believe he should be released.

That’s my report. Take it for the unclassified, civilian view from several thousand miles away that it is.