A new classified data dump from WikiLeaks shines new light on the evidence, allegedly sometimes lacking, against the people that the U.S. government has held and is holding at the Guantanamo prison in Cuba.
The documents, provided in advance to news outlets including The New York Times, NPR, The Washington Post, and the U.K. Guardian newspaper, are classified at the "secret" level and include dossiers on individual prisoners, including their risk "assessment" by military evaluators. They were written between 2002 and 2008.
As of Sunday night, only a few dozen of the individual files had appeared on the main Wikileaks.ch Web site, although the group is promising that a total of 779 will be released in daily installments "over the coming month." WikiLeaks said the files include details on the first 201 prisoners held and released during the prison's early years that have "never been made public before."
The newest release is the fourth major document dump of confidential U.S. government files since WikiLeaks was launched in early 2007. It follows the July 2010 release of Afghanistan-related military documents, the October 2010 Iraq dispatches, and the more gradual release of State Department cables starting in November 2010--all of which were allegedly provided to WikiLeaks by Army private Bradley Manning.
Supporters of Manning, who his lawyer has said has been mistreated during his pretrial incarceration in Quantico, Va., spent over $76,000 to attend a fundraiser on Friday in San Francisco with President Obama so they could disrupt it. "He broke the law," Obama replied--a statement that has prompted some to question whether Manning can now expect to receive a fair trial.
The Guantanamo document release could increase pressure on U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to file criminal charges against WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange, who is in the U.K. facing possible extradition related to sexual assault allegations in Sweden, or against other principals. Some conservatives have called for cyberattacks on WikiLeaks' servers and a Fox News commentator implied that Assange could be legally assassinated as an "enemy combatant." A grand jury in Virginia has been empaneled as part of a WikiLeaks-related criminal investigation.
The Pentagon said in a statement it is "unfortunate" that news organizations are publishing the Guantanamo documents "obtained illegally" by WikiLeaks. "These documents contain classified information about current and former GTMO detainees, and we strongly condemn the leaking of this sensitive information."
The files reveal that intelligence agencies from China, Russia, and other repressive regimes were invited to interrogate inmates. An Al-Jazeera journalist was held in part to "to provide information on...the al-Jazeera news network's training program, telecommunications equipment, and newsgathering operations." Some detainees reportedly were nabbed because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time, and were as young as 14 and as old as 89.
An essay by the Guardian's Julian Glover accompanying its Guantanamo coverage argues the disclosures of the classified files exposes a "system that tangled up the old and the young, the sick and the innocent. A system in which to say you were not a terrorist might be taken as evidence of your cunning." The Obama administration had planned to close the Guantanamo prison, but eventually abandoned the effort after opposition from Congress and security worries about transferring some of the prisoners to American soil.
It wasn't immediately clear who provided the Guantanamo files to the various news organizations. The Washington Post indicates it obtained them directly from WikiLeaks. But the New York Times disclosed in a "Note to Readers" that it obtained them from "another source," possibly a disgruntled ex-WikiLeaks volunteer or activist.