April 24, 2011
Anna Christopher, NPR
CACHE OF SECRET DOCUMENTS ANALYZED BY NPR AND THE NEW YORK TIMES
REVEALS NEW INFORMATION ABOUT DETAINEES
ONE FORMER DETAINEE, WITH TIES TO AL-QAEDA, NOW TRAINING LIBYAN REBELS
REPORTS AIRING MONDAY ON ALL NPR PROGRAMS, AVAILABLE NOW AT NPR.ORG
NPR is also reporting new insights into the extensive terrorism background of one detainee, released to the Libyan government in 2007 after nearly six years at Guantanamo, who is now training rebel forces there.
The Guantanamo files were part of a massive trove of secret documents leaked last year to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks. They were made available to The Times by another source on condition of anonymity. NPR is producing stories based on these documents.
The first in NPR's series of reports is available now at NPR.org: www.npr.org/2011/04/24/135690218/military-documents-detail-life-at-guantanamo National Security correspondents Tom Gjelten and Dina Temple-Raston, and Margot Williams of NPR's Investigations Unit, will report on NPR's findings on Monday, April 25 on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Talk of the Nation, on NPR's Newscast service and online. Local stations and broadcast times for all programs are available at: www.npr.org/stations
For the first time, the thousands of pages of secret military documents put a name, a history and a face on the hundreds of men held at Guantanamo. Among the findings, the documents provide detail on 158 men about whom no information has been released in the past.
NPR reports that of the 172 detainees now at the prison, 130 were rated "high risk" as of January 2009. A document that provided guidelines for the ratings deemed that no one labeled "high risk" would be recommended for transfer to a third country – a principle which first fell apart during the Bush administration. The Obama administration announced its intention to transfer 89 detainees in the coming months, some of whom were previously assessed as "likely to pose a threat to the US, its interests and allies."
The documents show that Sufyan Qumu, who is thought to be training anti-government forces in Libya and was released after a nearly six year stay at Guantanamo, has much closer ties to al-Qaeda than previously revealed publicly. Temple-Raston reports that the documents suggest that Qumu has a first-class terrorism resume stretching back 20 years. He trained in two al-Qaeda camps, fought with the Taliban against both the Soviets and Northern Alliance, and worked as a truck driver for Osama bin Laden in Sudan. U.S. officials tell NPR that Gadhafi asked for the release of Qumu almost four years ago; the U.S. agreed to hand him over to Libyan authorities in 2007. The Libyan government released Qumu last summer.
Among the other findings in the documents:
· The Department of Defense ranked the detainees according to three criteria. One assessed whether detainees represented a high, medium, or low risk to the U.S. and its allies. Another focused on the threat the prisoners might present to the detention system itself. The third ranked the value of the intelligence the prisoners might possess. That was ranked by high, medium and low based on the positions the detainees held in either al-Qaeda or the Taliban.
· The released detainees range from career jihadists who have risen through the ranks of al-Qaeda to become bomb makers and field commanders, to shopkeepers and farmers mistakenly swept up by U.S. and Pakistani forces in the early days of the Afghan invasion.
· 42 released detainees have reengaged in terrorism or are otherwise associated with al-Qaeda or insurgencies. Of those men, at least 26 were not classified as high risk, which throws into question the process by which the Department of Defense assessed detainees.
· A senior explosives trainer for al-Qaeda, Tareq Mahmud Ahmad – the man who claimed to have designed the prototype for the shoe bomb that was later used in a failed bombing attempt against a U.S. airliner in 2001 – was recommended for release from the prison because of his cooperation with authorities.
· Shaker Aamer, also known as Sawad al-Madani, was known as “the professor” at Guantanamo. Although he has denied having anything to do with al-Qaeda, the military says he was Osama bin Laden’s personal English translator.
· There is new detail on the role and al-Qaeda responsibilities of Abd al-Nashiri, the suspected plotter of the USS Cole attack in Yemen, who is set to go on trial in a military commission.
· Guantanamo officials were aware that they had innocent men in captivity and even put that in writing in their prison files, but it took months to return them to their home countries.
Some of the secret documents on which the reporting for this series was based will be at NPR.org, as well as an interactive graphic summarizing which detainees reengaged in terrorist and insurgent activities after they were released from the prison. There is also a timeline illustrating key moments in the history of the detention center at Guantanamo Bay.
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