Pentagon Hands Over Full List Of Detainees at Guantanamo
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – The Pentagon handed over yesterday the first list of everyone who has been held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba – more than four years after America began using it as a detention center in its war on terror.
None of the most notorious terrorist suspects was included in the list delivered by the Pentagon to The Associated Press, raising questions about where America’s most dangerous prisoners are being held.
The names of some 200 former prisoners have never been disclosed. Officials say 759 detainees have been held at the center since it opened. Of the total listed, more than a quarter – 218 – were Afghans. A total of 131 Saudis also passed through the prison gates at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, perched on an arid slope above the Caribbean.
More than half the detainees were 25-34 years old, while three were 18 or younger and at least nine were over 61.
The handover marks the first time that everyone who has been held by the Defense Department at Guantanamo has been identified, according to Navy Lieutenant Commander Chito Peppler, a Pentagon spokesman.
The names of all detainees held there were previously kept classified because of “the security operation as well as the intelligence operation that takes place down there,” said Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman.
In a briefing in Washington, he did not explain why – if there was such a security risk – the Pentagon did not contest the AP’s request for the release of the names, as it did with previous Freedom of Information Act requests for prisoner information. Just last month, the Pentagon released 558 names of current and former detainees to AP.
“This list takes us one step closer to our goal of fully reporting who has been swept into U.S military custody in Guantanamo, and how they and their cases are being handled,” the AP’s assistant general counsel, David Tomlin, said. He added that the Pentagon did not give all the information the AP sought in a Freedom of Information Act request.
The new list, when compared to the one from April, shows the Pentagon released many Afghans who were swept up early in the war. More than 90 were transferred out of Guantanamo between January 2002 and the summer of 2004.
Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, believes American officials are trying to deflect international criticism of Guantanamo Bay by gradually moving out detainees.
“They are trying to slowly let the air out of the tires as a way to make the problem go away,” Mr. Romero said.
The release of the names will help lawyers and other advocates track who has been held at the base and find former detainees to help investigate allegations of abuse, an attorney for New York-based Human Rights First, Priti Patel, said.
While the release of Guantanamo names is welcome, human rights groups also want to learn the identities of all those held in Iraq, Afghanistan and secret locations, Ms. Patel said.
“There’s still much more in darkness,” she said.
For example, America has not disclosed where it is holding Khalid Shaikh Mohammed or Ramzi Binalshibh, who allegedly plotted the September 11 terrorist attacks, and other captured top Al Qaeda figures. The list released Monday also does not specify what has happened to former Guantanamo Bay detainees.
The fate of some is documented. All British nationals held at Guantanamo Bay, for example, were transferred back to Britain.But what has become of dozens of other detainees was not known.
Some could be free. Others could be in secret American detention centers, or in torture cells of prisons in other countries.
Jumana Musa, an official with Amnesty International’s Washington office, said there were rumors the CIA had a secret prison at Guantanamo Bay, an isolated base which Cuba granted to Washington by treaty a century ago.
Commander Peppler, in an e-mail to the AP, said no such facility exists. Commander Peppler did not address whether there was one in the past.