Doubling Down On Failure At Guantanamo

There are still 172 detainees held at the Guantánamo Bay detention centre © Amnesty International

Released just as President Obama seems to have washed his hands of closing Guantanamo, a new batch of leaked government documents provide fresh insight into just how inadequate, iniquitous and ultimately counterproductive, the US foray into indefinite detention has been.

The new document cache consists of Detainee Assessment Briefs (DABs) – essentially case summaries – produced by intelligence analysts at Guantanamo between 2002 and 2009 that were first leaked to Wikileaks and then by someone in the Wikileaks community to the press.

The picture of Guantanamo that emerges from these new documents is of an arbitrary review process, operating from a presumption of guilt not innocence, thrown together on the fly, and overseen by individuals with so little understanding of cultural nuance that they might as well have been drafted in from Mars.

The New York Times points out that the qualification “possibly” appears 387 times about intelligence used in the files, with the qualifiers “unknown” and “deceptive” appearing 188 times and 85 times respectively. Further proof that the intelligence business is anything but a precise science.


CSRTs Come Back From The Dead

With a stroke of his pen, President Obama today extinguished any last lingering hopes that his administration would eventually do the right thing on Guantanamo and restore due process rights to all the detainees held there.

In an Executive Order and accompanying fact sheet and press release, the White House formally announced the resumption of Military Commission hearings – memorably denounced as “an enormous failure” by candidate Obama – and outlined the new review process that will accompany the indefinite detention of individuals deemed to dangerous to release and to hard to prosecute.

The decision to resume Military Commissions has been a long time coming. Despite the fact that the most recent Commission cases all ended in a series of shady backroom plea deals which have done nothing to improve their reputation, the administration has now all but abandoned its halfhearted attempts to bring Guantanamo cases to federal court despite the inclusion of some lofty (and entirely unpersuasive) rhetoric to the contrary in today’s announcement.

For detainees slated for indefinite detention the administration has to all intents and purposes resurrected the widely discredited Combatant Status Review Tribunals (CSRTs) used at Guantanamo by the Bush administration.