Guantánamo: The Definitive Prisoner List Updated on 1st Anniversary of Release of WikiLeaks’ Guantánamo Files
Exactly a year ago, I worked with WikiLeaks as a media partner on the release of “The Guantánamo Files,” classified military files relating to almost all of the 779 prisoners who have been held at Guantánamo since that monstrous aberration of justice opened for its sordid business in January 2002. We had the eyes of the world on us for just a week until — whether by coincidence or design — US Special Forces assassinated Osama bin Laden, and Guantánamo disappeared from the headlines once more, leaving advocates of torture and arbitrary detention free to resume their cynical maneuvering with renewed lies about the efficacy of torture and the necessity for Guantánamo to continue to exist.
However, in the last year I have begun an unprecedented project, “The Complete Guantánamo Files,” a projected 70-part, million-word series, in which I am forensically analysing the information in the WikiLeaks files, adding it to what was already known about the prisoners, to create what I believe will be a lasting indictment of the lies and distortions used by the Bush administration to justify holding the men and boys imprisoned at Guantánamo. For the most part, despite the hyperbole about the prisoners being “the worst of the worst,” the captives were people that the US had largely bought from its Afghan and Pakistani allies, or had rounded up randomly, and had then tortured or otherwise coerced — or in some cases bribed — into telling lies about themselves and their fellow prisoners to create a giant house of cards built largely on violence and involving very little actual intelligence.
The release of the WikiLeaks files was, in many ways, the culmination of a project that began over six years ago, in March 2006, when I started researching and writing about Guantánamo, first producing a book, The Guantánamo Files, that told the stories of around 450 of the 779 prisoners held at Guantánamo, and establishing a context for their capture that helped to make sense of why so many of them were not terrorists bent on the destruction of the United States. Since May 2007, I have been writing about Guantánamo and related issues — on an almost daily basis — as a full-time freelance investigative journalist.
Throughout this time, I have tried to make my work as accessible as possible, and a major step in achieving this took place in March 2009, when I first produced my four-part Definitive Guantánamo Prisoner List, providing the names and nationalities of all 779 prisoners, and links to my own original articles about them (over 300 in total at that point), and references for where their stories appear in my book or in 12 additional online chapters I wrote between 2007 and 2009.
Now drawing on at least 1,000 original articles about Guantánamo (out of 1,600 blog posts in total), this latest update also, crucially, includes information from WikiLeaks’ release of the classified military files used to assess the prisoners’ supposed intelligence value, and the security threat they posed — or still allegedly pose — with links to 411 profiles in the first 33 articles in my 70-part series, “The Complete Guantánamo Files,” which I hope to complete when I can secure further funding. With information now available on 86 of the 89 prisoners whose stories were previously unknown, this list now, for the very first time, provides online information in one place about almost all the prisoners who have been held at Guantánamo (with the exception of just three missing stories).
This is not, of course, the only online database that is publicly available. The New York Times, for example, has made all the publicly available information about the prisoners, from the Bush-era Combatant Status Review Tribunals (CSRTs) and annual Administrative Review Boards (ARBs), available on its Guantánamo Docket (and the original source material remains available on the US Department of Defense’s website), although these only cover the stories of around three-quarters of the 779 prisoners held in total.
In addition, there are now the files released by WikiLeaks, but although I wrote two original articles for WikiLeaks, introducing the files (WikiLeaks Reveals Secret Guantánamo Files, Exposes Detention Policy as a Construct of Lies and How to Read WikiLeaks’ Guantánamo Files), my four-part prisoner list is essentially the only resource that provides contextual analysis of the stories of 776 of the 779 prisoners held at Guantánamo throughout its long and dark history.
As a result, as I explained when I first published the list:
It is my hope that this project will provide an invaluable research tool for those seeking to understand how it came to pass that the government of the United States turned its back on domestic and international law, establishing torture as official US policy, and holding men without charge or trial neither as prisoners of war, protected by the Geneva Conventions, nor as criminal suspects to be put forward for trial in a federal court, but as “illegal enemy combatants” [or "unlawful enemy combatants," or, as they now are under President Obama, "alien unprivileged enemy belligerents"].
I also hope that it provides a compelling explanation of how that same government, under the leadership of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, established a prison in which the overwhelming majority of those held — at least 93 percent of the 779 men and boys imprisoned in total — were either completely innocent people, seized as a result of dubious intelligence or sold for bounty payments, or Taliban foot soldiers, recruited to fight an inter-Muslim civil war that began long before the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and that had nothing to do with al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden or international terrorism.
In conclusion, I would like to reiterate how fundamental the problem is of confusing soldiers with terrorists, and how it is a problem enshrined in the founding legislation of the “war on terror,” the Authorization for Use of Military Force, which President Obama relies upon to justify the detention of prisoners at Guantánamo, and which Congress has shown no desire to repeal.
I would also like to add that Guantánamo’s problems are not all in the past. Although 602 of the 779 prisoners held throughout the prison’s ten-year history have been released, 169 remain, and the last two prisoners to leave the prison (two Uighurs who were resettled in El Salvador last week) were the first prisoners to leave since January 2011, primarily because of Congressional obstruction.
As I explained a year ago, this is not entirely President Obama’s fault, as there are dark forces at work — in the D.C. Circuit Court, where deeply Conservative judges are undermining the prisoners’ habeas corpus rights, granted by a Supreme Court that no longer seems to care, and in Congress, where the most cynical, negative, fearmongering Republican party of all time, with the help of cowardly Democrats, has been working overtime to try and ensure that Guantánamo remains open forever, and where, last year, lawmakers responded to a threat of their own making by passing legislation, as part of the National Defense Authorization Act, which made it mandatory to hold terror suspects in military custody, without charge or trial — a horrendous echo of Bush-era lawlessness, or idiocy, or both, which not only threatens Americans, but is also drawn wholesale from the example provided by Guantánamo.
Despite these obstacles, Barack Obama is the President, and the Commander-in-Chief, and he has failed to adequately challenge his critics, or to stand up for the principles which so many of his supporters at the time of his election had been led to believe would result in a thorough repudiation of the Bush administration’s hideous novelties in its brutal and ill-conceived “war on terror.” Instead, we have the return of kangaroo courts and indefinite detention without charge or trial, as we had under Bush, no release for prisoners cleared for release by Obama’s own Guantánamo Review Task Force, no prosecutions for torturers, and no end in sight to the endless war that the Bush administration started, and which Obama has ramped up with drone strikes and assassinations.
In many ways, therefore, this updated four-part list provides crucial, relevant information that is actively useful for those still seeking to close Guantánamo, and to bring to an end this bleak chapter in American history.
As ever, I thank you for your support, and if you’re able to make a donation to help me to continue my work, then I will be very grateful. Please click on the “Donate” button above to make a payment via PayPal. All contributions are welcome, whether it’s $25, $100 or $500.
Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison. This article originally appeared on Andy Worthington's website on April 25, 2012.