Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Guantanamo Deception - US admits Hundreds of Innocents Jailed

April 20, 2010

Wilkerson Discloses Hundreds of Innocents Jailed

The Guantanamo Deception


Colonel Lawrence B. Wilkerson, Chief of Staff to
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, provided
shocking new testimony from inside the Bush
Administration that hundreds of the men jailed at
Guantanamo were innocent, the top people in the
Bush Administration knew full well they were
innocent, and that information was kept from the public.

Wilkerson said President Bush, Vice President
Cheney and Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld
“indefinitely detained the innocent for political
reasons” and many in the administration knew
it. The wrongfully held prisoners were not
released because of political maneuverings aimed
in part to cover up the mistakes of the administration.

Colonel Wilkerson, who served in the U.S. Army
for over thirty years, signed a sworn declaration
for an Oregon federal court case stating that he
found out in August 2002 that the US knew that
many of the prisoners at Guantanamo were not
enemy combatants. Wilkerson also discussed this
in a revealing and critical article on Guantanamo
for the Washington Note.

How did Colonel Wilkerson first learn about the
innocents in Guantanamo? In August 2002,
Wilkerson, who had been working closely with
Colin Powell for years, was appointed Chief of
Staff to the Secretary of State. In that
position, Wilkerson started attending daily
classified briefings involving 50 or more senior
State Department officials where Guantanamo was
often discussed.

It soon became clear to him and other State
Department personnel “that many of the prisoners
detained at Guantanamo had been taken into
custody without regard to whether they were truly
enemy combatants, or in fact whether many of them
were enemies at all.”

How was it possible that hundreds of Guantanamo
prisoners were innocent? Wilkerson said it all
started at the beginning, mostly because U.S.
forces did not capture most of the people who
were sent to Guantanamo. The people who ended up
in Guantanamo, said Wilkerson, were mostly turned
over to the US by Afghan warlords and others who
received bounties of up to $5000 per head for
each person they turned in. The majority of the
742 detainees “had never seen a U.S. soldier in
the process of their initial detention.”

Military officers told Wilkerson that “many
detainees were turned over for the wrong reasons,
particularly for bounties and other
incentives.” The U.S. knew “that the likelihood
was high that some of the Guantanamo detainees
had been turned in to U.S. forces in order to
settle local scores, for tribal reasons, or just
as a method of making money.”

As a consequence, said Wilkerson “there was no
real method of knowing why the prisoner had been
detained in the first place.”

Wilkerson wrote that the American people have no
idea of the “utter incompetence of the
battlefield vetting in Afghanistan during the
initial stages…Simply stated, no meaningful
attempt at discrimination was made in-country by
competent officials, civilian or military, as to
who we were transporting to Cuba for detention
and interrogation.”

Why was there utter incompetence in the
battlefield vetting? “This was a factor of
having too few troops in the combat zone, the
troops and civilians who were there having too
few people trained and skilled in such vetting,
and the incredible pressure coming down from
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and others
to ‘just get the bastards to the interrogators.’”

As a result, Wilkerson’s statement continues,
“there was no meaningful way to determine whether
they were terrorists, Taliban, or simply innocent
civilians picked up on a very confused
battlefield or in the territory of another state
such as Pakistan.”

In addition, the statement points out “a separate
but related problem was that often absolutely no
evidence relating to the detainee was turned
over, so there was no real method of knowing why
the prisoner had been detained in the first place.”

“The initial group of 742 detainees had not been
detained under the processes I was used to as a
military officer,” Wilkerson said. “It was
becoming more and more clear that many of the men
were innocent, or at a minimum their guilt was
impossible to determine let alone prove in any
court of law, civilian or military. If there was
any evidence, the chain of protecting it had been
completely ignored.”

Several in the U.S. leadership became aware of
this early on and knew “of the reality that many
of the detainees were innocent of any substantial
wrongdoing, had little intelligence value, and
should be immediately released,” wrote Wilkerson.

So why did the Bush Administration not release
the men from prison once it was discovered that
they were not guilty? Why continue to keep innocent men in prison?

“To have admitted this reality would have been a
black mark on their leadership from virtually day
one of the so-called War on Terror and these
leaders already had black marks enough: the dead
in a field in Pennsylvania, in the ashes of the
Pentagon, and in the ruins of the World Trade Towers,” wrote Wilkerson.

“They were not about to admit to their further
errors at Guantanamo Bay. Better to claim
everyone there was a hardcore terrorist, was of
enduring intelligence value, and would return to
jihad if released,” according to Wilkerson. “I
am very sorry to say that I believe there were
uniformed military who aided and abetted these
falsehoods, even at the highest levels of our armed forces.”

The refusal to let the detainees go, even those
who were likely innocent, was based on several
political factors. If the US released them to
another country and that country found them
innocent, it would make the US look bad, said
Wilkerson. “Another concern was that the
detention efforts at Guantanamo would be revealed
as the incredibly confused operation that they
were. Such results were not acceptable to the
Administration and would have been severely
detrimental to the leadership at the Department of Defense.”

At the Department of Defense, Secretary Rumsfeld,
“just refused to let detainees go” said Wilkerson.

“Another part of the political dilemma originated
in the Office of Vice President Richard B.
Cheney,” according to Wilkerson, “whose position
could be summed up as ‘the end justifies the
means’, and who had absolutely no concern that
the vast majority of Guantanamo detainees were
innocent, or that there was a lack of useable
evidence for the great majority of them. If
hundreds of innocent individuals had to suffer in
order to detain a handful of hardcore terrorists, so be it.”

President Bush was involved in all of the
decisions about the men in Guantanamo according
to reports from Secretary Powell to
Wilkerson. “My own view,” said Wilkerson “is
that it was easy for Vice President Cheney to run
circles around President Bush bureaucratically
because Cheney had the network within the
government to do so. Moreover, by exploiting
what Secretary Powell called the President’s
‘cowboy instincts,’ Vice President Cheney could
more often than not gain the President’s acquiescence.”

Despite the widespread knowledge inside the Bush
administration that the US continued to
indefinitely detain the innocent at Guantanamo,
for years the US government continued to publicly
say the opposite – that people at Guantanamo were

After these disclosures from deep within the Bush
Administration, the newest issue now before the
people of the U.S. is not just whether the Bush
Administration was wrong about Guantanamo but
whether it was also consistently deceitful in
holding hundreds of innocent men in prison to cover
up their own mistakes.

Why is Colonel Wilkerson disclosing this now? He
provided a sworn statement to assist the
International Human Rights Clinic at Willamette
University College of Law in Oregon and the
Federal Public Defender who are suing US
officials for the wrongful detention and torture
of Adel Hassan Hamad. Hamad was a humanitarian
aid worker from Sudan working in Pakistan when he
was kidnapped from his apartment, tortured and
shipped to Guantanamo where he was held for five
years before being released.

At the end of his nine page sworn statement,
Wilkerson explains his personal reasons for
disclosing this damning information. “I have
made a personal choice to come forward and
discuss the abuses that occurred because
knowledge that I served an Administration that
tortured and abused those it detained at the
facilities at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere and
indefinitely detained the innocent for political
reasons has marked a low point in my professional
career and I wish to make the record clear on
what occurred. I am also extremely concerned
that the Armed Forces of the United States, where
I spent 31 years of my professional life, were
deeply involved in these tragic mistakes.”

Wilkerson concluded his article on Guantanamo by
issuing a challenge. “When – and if – the truths
about the detainees at Guantanamo Bay will be
revealed in the way they should be, or Congress
will step up and shoulder some of the blame, or
the new Obama administration will have the
courage to follow through substantially on its
campaign promises with respect to GITMO, torture
and the like, remains indeed to be seen.”

The U.S. rightly criticizes Iran and China for
wrongfully imprisoning people. So what are we as
a nation going to do now that an insider from the
Bush Administration has courageously revealed the
truth and the cover up about U.S. politicians
wrongfully imprisoning hundreds and not releasing
them even when they knew they were innocent? Our
response will tell much about our national commitment
to justice for all.

Bill Quigley is Legal Director at the Center for
Constitutional Rights and professor of law at
Loyola University New Orleans. He can be
contacted at

1 comment:

Montgomery said...

Col. Lawrence Wilkerson is off base when he says, “Another concern was that the detention efforts at Guantanamo would be revealed as the incredibly confused operation that they were." I served at Gitmo from February to June 2002 as the ranking Army Medical Department officer, and although the mission was new when we arrived, we knew what needed to be done. Any confusion was relatively minor and short-lived, as joint operations usually are. I talk about this and the real story of detention and medical duty with Joint Task Force 160 in my new book, "Saving Grace at Guantanamo Bay: A Memoir of a Citizen Soldier." If you're interested, please go to Thank you! Sincerely, Montgomery J. Granger, Major, Medical Service, USAR (Ret.)