This is a fantastic, Peabody-winning episode of the radio program “This American Life”. Both the audio feed and transcript are available…
[quote]PRESIDENT GEORGE BUSH: These are people that got scooped off a battlefield, attempting to kill U.S. troops. And, uh, I want to make sure before they’re released that they don’t come back to kill again.
HITT: The administration has never wavered on this point. Here’s Dick Cheney on Guantanamo:
VICE PRESIDENT DICK CHENEY: The people that are there are people we picked up on a battlefield
primarily in Afghanistan. They’re terrorists. They’re bomb makers, they’re facilitators of terror, they’re members of Al Qaeda, the Taliban.
HITT: We’re told over and over that these prisoners are so terrible, that we need an offshore facility, away from U.S. laws, to hold them. But then there’s Badr, and every day more stories like his are coming out. And they raised the question: Is Guantanamo a campful of terrorists, or a campful of mistakes?
In a new study by Seton Hall’s law school, researchers simply went to the trouble of reading the 517 Guantanamo case files released by the Pentagon. Here’s what they found:
Only 5% of our detainees at Guantanamo were “scooped up” by American troops, on the battlefield or anywhere else. Five percent. The rest? We never saw them fighting. And here’s something else: Only 8% of the detainees in Guantanamo are classified by the Pentagon as Al Qaeda fighters. In fact, Michael Donleavy, head of interrogations at Guantanamo, complained in 2002 that he was receiving too many “Mickey Mouse” prisoners.
In 2004, the New York Times did a huge investigation, interviewing dozens of high level military intelligence and law enforcement officials in the US, Europe and the Middle East. There was a surprising consensus: that out of nearly 600 men at Guantanamo, the number who could give us useful information about Al Qaeda was “only a relative handful.” Some put the number at about a dozen. Others more than two dozen.
The Seton Hall study might help explain that; it revealed that 86% of the detainees were handed over to us by Pakistan or the Northern Alliance. And some were handed over to us by a new method – here’s Badr:
BADR: Actually, in our interrogation, the American interrogators have been telling us they have paid a lot of money to those who handed over us to Americans.
HUTSON: The problem was, we were offering bounties, you know, $5,000 or $10,000 (Al Qaeda brought more than Taliban did) and so “ok, fine, here’s your money” and they take them to Gitmo.
HITT: That’s Rear Admiral John Hutson, the Navy’s top lawyer. He was judge advocate general until 2000. He says, essentially we bought Badr, and a whole lot of other prisoners.[/quote]
This is only a tiny sampling of all the dirt that’s in this program. It’s a real eye-opener…