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Context of 'October 28, 2002: First Detainees Released From Guantanamo Bay'

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Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld makes a public announcement that he is planning to move Taliban and al-Qaeda suspects to the Guantanamo Bay Naval Station. The number of people in US custody and destined for Guantanamo is allegedly small. According to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, they number eight individuals aboard the USS Peleliu and 37 at a US base near Kandahar airport. [Dawn (Karachi), 12/28/2001] Troops, earlier stationed at nearby Camp Rhino, where John Walker Lindh was detained, are being transferred to Guantanamo. [GlobalSecurity (.org), 1/15/2005] The reason for choosing Guantanamo for detaining suspected al-Qaeda and Taliban members is unclear. Rumsfeld says: “I would characterize Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as the least worst place we could have selected. Its disadvantages seem to be modest relative to the alternatives.” [Dawn (Karachi), 12/28/2001] Rumsfeld does not inform reporters of the legal opinion about to be released by the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) that he feels makes Guantanamo uniquely qualified to serve as a prisoner for terror suspects (see December 28, 2001). According to the OLC opinion, Guantanamo is outside the US itself, so US courts have no jurisdiction to oversee conditions or activities there. It is also not on soil controlled by any other court system. And, unlike other facilities considered for housing terror suspects (see January 11, 2002), Guantanamo is not on the soil of a friendly government with which the US has lease and status of force agreements, but rather on the soil of a hostile Communist government whose predecessor had signed a perpetual lease with the US. The base, therefore, is, according to the OLC, under the sole jurisdiction of the US military and its commander in chief, and not subject to any judicial or legislative review. In 2007, author and reporter Charlie Savage will write, “Guantanamo was chosen because it was the best place to set up a law-free zone.” [Savage, 2007, pp. 145]

Entity Tags: Al-Qaeda, US Department of Defense, Charlie Savage, Richard B. Myers, Taliban, Donald Rumsfeld

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives, War in Afghanistan

Camp X-Ray prisoners. They wear sensory deprivation masks.
Camp X-Ray prisoners. They wear sensory deprivation masks. [Source: US Navy]Four detainees are freed from Guantanamo Bay, the first of the 600 or so detainees there to be released. The four, mostly elderly Afghan men, are released because they were determined not to be involved in al-Qaeda and posed no security threat. [BBC, 10/29/2002] 19 more will be released in March 2003. [BBC, 3/24/2003] The detainees are supposedly being kept there to be interrogated about what they know of al-Qaeda and the Taliban. But it is reported that virtually none of the prisoners in Guantanamo have any useful information. One US official says, “[Guantanamo] is a dead end” for fresh intelligence information. According to the Washington Post, “Officials realize many of them had little intelligence value to begin with.” [Washington Post, 10/29/2002] US officials privately concede that “perhaps as many as 100 other captives” are innocent of any connections to al-Qaeda or the Taliban, but most of these still have not been released. Furthermore, not a single detainee has been brought before a US military tribunal. Apparently this is to hide “a sorry fact: the US mostly netted Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters of only low to middling importance, bagging few of the real bad guys.” [Time, 10/27/2002] At least 59 were deemed to have no intelligence even before being sent to Cuba, but were nonetheless sent there, apparently because of bureaucratic inertia. [Los Angeles Times, 12/22/2002]

Entity Tags: Taliban, Al-Qaeda, Guantanamo Bay Naval Base

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives, Civil Liberties

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