The following report represents an effort both to document and to describe in as much detail as the public record will permit the current detainee population in American military custody at the Guantánamo Bay Naval Station in Cuba. Since the military brought the first detainees to Guantánamo in January 2002, the Pentagon has consistently refused to comprehensively identify those it holds. While it has, at various times, released information about individuals who have been detained at Guantánamo, it has always maintained ambiguity about the population of the facility at any given moment, declining even to specify precisely the number of detainees held at the base. In its most recent statements, for example, the military refers to the Guantánamo population as numbering “approximately 250.”[i] When the government repatriates detainees, it generally identifies the number of detainees transferred, but not their names.[ii]
The result is that despite a debate that has raged over American detention policy almost since the outset of the war on terrorism, the actual detainee population which the debate concerns remains strangely obscure. The current population numbers less than a third of the total number of detainees who have passed through the facility since 2002. And the composition of the population has changed markedly as it has declined. Yet precisely how it has changed remains fuzzy. Which detainees are still there and which have been sent home? What allegations does the military make against the residual population and how serious are they? How have the detainees responded to these allegations? Are they, as the Bush administration has described the Guantánamo population, the “worst of the worst”?[iii] Or are they composed, as the New York Times once put it, of “hundreds of innocent men . . . jailed at Guantánamo without charges or rudimentary rights”?[iv] Or do they, perhaps, vary? Much commentary on the merits of the American detention policy relates to a detainee population composed chiefly of people no longer at the base, as do a number of frequently-cited academic studies.[v]
Though one of the present authors has written broadly on detainee policy, our purpose in these pages is not to advocate any particular policy with respect to habeas corpus, closing Guantánamo, or detainee affairs more generally. Nor is it to take a position regarding whether the government is properly holding the Guantánamo detainees as enemy combatants—either individually or as a group. It is, rather, to identify and describe empirically who is at Guantánamo today, what the government alleges about them, and what they claim about their own affiliations and conduct.
The report proceeds as follows: In the following section, we briefly recount the history of the government’s document releases concerning the detainee population at Guantánamo. We then offer an overview of the demographics of the current population, based on our examination of these releases, and describe and analyze government allegations against the detainees who remain at Guantánamo. In the next section, we report and categorize the statements by the detainees themselves in the review procedures the military set up to evaluate their cases. In the penultimate section, we offer some concluding observations. Finally, we describe the sources and methods we used to identify the current population of the facility, and those transferred or released.
Former Iraq interrogator “Mathew Alexander” takes on torture [or, rather, "not torture" torture] defender David Rivkin on the Riz Khan show [AlJazeera]. I follow the interview with comments from Scott Horton:
We’ve seen this scenario played out several times in the last week, as broadcasters and newspapers around the country see the Levin-McCain Report as an opportunity to debate torture, despite the logical fallacy of this approach. (Perhaps for Christmas proper we’ll be treated to arguments for and against genocide, and on the fourth day of Christmas we’ll read the arguments for and against the practice of infanticide.) We’ve been treated to Christopher Hitchens against Michael Smerconish, Duncan Hunter against Jim Moran, and now the Alexander versus Rivkin encounter.
There are some similarities: Torture works, the defenders of the Bush Administration say. Torture saves lives. The safety of our country depends on torture. But it didn’t depend on torture before George W. Bush. In fact, as the World War II era poster found in post offices around the country taught my parents’ generation, “Torture is the tool of the enemy.” It’s also the tool of Dick Cheney–go figure. And “Vice” himself has been heard this week. Torture is good for you, he told us. Torture is the moral thing to do. Duncan Hunter offered us the most surreal, inane defense of this thesis and David Rivkin the most nuanced.
Hunter started out by insisting that the Levin-McCain Report contradicts the “thousands of pages” of prior reports, that, he argued, vindicate Donald Rumsfeld and his team. There is no evidence, he claimed, linking Rumsfeld or the White House to the abuse at Abu Ghraib, so the Levin-McCain Report is simply wrong.
But Hunter was a poor student of those thousands of pages if he even read them at all; one wonders if he even bothered to read the executive summaries. Hunter has no explanation for the fact that twelve of twelve Republicans on the committee endorsed the report, led by the party’s leader, John McCain. And the arguments he offers are laughably ignorant. First, the “thousands of pages” of Defense Department reports are indeed filled with evidence of Rumsfeld’s guilt—starting with the December 2002 order that Rumsfeld signed opening the door to precisely the abuses that occurred at Abu Ghraib; they also reflect that Rumsfeld’s own general counsel, Jim Haynes, gave a copy of the torture memo to an officer on the Baghdad staff and passed down the message that torture was just fine; it was a part of the new regime. “Gentlemen, the gloves are coming off,” reads an instructive memorandum to interrogators during this period.
In the testimony of General Janis Karpinsky, another Rumsfeld order authorizing abuse of detainees is described as being publicly posted at Abu Ghraib for all to see. Hunter is right that the Defense Department reports make no accusations against Rumsfeld. Isn’t it worth asking why? Rumsfeld was the boss of the authors of the reports; he commissioned them and carefully set the guidelines within which the generals who wrote the reports could operate. They were not permitted to comment upon the conduct of any officials up the chain of command. However, Major General Antonio Taguba, who authored the principal report, left no question about his conclusions. “Serious war crimes were committed with the approval of senior Bush Administration officials,” he said to an audience at New York University two weeks ago (I was on the panel with him), “there is no question about that. The only question is whether there will be accountability for the political figures who are responsible.”
Hunter demonstrates another failing. He supposes in the absence of a “smoking gun” linking Donald Rumsfeld directly to the abuses at Abu Ghraib, Rumsfeld is in the clear. Of course, that smoking gun exists in the form of the Rumsfeld memos, but it is not necessary. Under the doctrine of command responsibility, Rumsfeld faces per se liability for the abuses at Abu Ghraib assuming he knew or had reason to know of the abuses and failed to take steps to stop them (now well established, as the Levin-McCain Report notes).
Rivkin is too sophisticated to make these mistakes. He focuses instead on two arguments. Like a good criminal defense lawyer, he plays a game of semantics. The Bush Administration’s torture techniques can’t be torture, he says, because we use them on pilots being prepared to resist torture by our adversaries as a part of the SERE training program. That argument lies at the core of the dubious Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel opinions which Justice even now refuses to show to President-elect Obama’s transition team—such is their confidence in their analysis. These arguments are pure sophistry, with all the persuasive force of Richard Nixon’s famous answer in his Frost interviews. When the president does it that means that it is not illegal. The doctrine of presidential infallibility, or at least impunity, lies at the heart of current Bush doctrine; it is a sledgehammer used to demolish the Constitution. Rivkin knows how to wield it.
But Rivkin offers another argument: Torture works. He repeats this in the face of Major Alexander, an interrogator trusted with the toughest cases on the battlefield in Iraq, who made the most significant intelligence breakthrough in the Iraq conflict and got the Bronze Star for his efforts. Alexander offers us specific documented evidence that torture doesn’t work and neither do highly coercive techniques. In one case, the Bush techniques were applied for twenty days on a detainee. It got nowhere. Then relationship building was used for just six hours: at the end, the interrogator left the room with the keys to finding al Zarqawi.
What’s Rivkin’s evidence to the contrary? “I have interviewed a dozen interrogators who tell me so,” he claims. I have interviewed dozens of interrogators (Alexander is one) and I have never heard one present evidence or even express faith in the utility of torture, or what Rivkin would call “highly coercive techniques.” Torture does get people to talk, no doubt about that. But does it get what the experts call “actionable intelligence”? No. FBI Director Robert Mueller just confirmed that fact. The Bush Administration’s claims of success in using torture techniques like waterboarding have been thoroughly and repeatedly debunked, most recently by David Rose in Vanity Fair.
What drives the torture enablers like Rivkin and Hunter? The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page considers the torture debate to be a left-right struggle; torture is the cause of the right and the critics are on the left. But anyone who has studied the debate knows this is absurd, for there are as many convinced conservatives in the ranks opposing torture as liberals. Andrew Sullivan offers this week a series of posts that make this point. He looks at Glenn Reynolds and Jonah Goldberg, two powerful voices on the political right, both staunch defenders of Bush policy. How did they react when the first photographs of Abu Ghraib surfaced? Both were quick to condemn the images as grotesque, sickening, and criminal. Both called immediately for prosecutions to restore the nation’s honor. And how do Reynolds and Goldberg react when the Bush Administration is revealed as the author of that abhorrent conduct? We see a complete about-face. Suddenly what was once morally reprehensible, is a necessary tool in a just cause. Indeed, it makes us safer they suggest against overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Is their agenda to support and justify the conduct of their political leader, no matter how depraved or unlawful that conduct is? The threshold from principled analysis to partisan propaganda has been crossed.
And in the case of Rivkin, who is generally more cautious and circumspect, we see the same process. Rivkin tells us that we must close our eyes to what happened. He opposes even an inquiry into the genesis of the torture program, saying we know everything from the voluntary disclosures of the Bush Administration. But of course even the Levin-McCain Report tells us that we know very little. That report fails to unearth what went on in Jerry Boykin’s and Stephen Cambone’s Special Operations Command, where by consensus the most serious abuses involving the military occurred, starting with Cambone’s authorization of torture in rules of engagement issued shortly after 9/11. And the Levin-McCain Report notes that the role of torture remains unknown inside of the CIA, though we have two directors who have offered up a series of public whoppers in their efforts to get the dogs off the scent.
But Rivkin’s history is much like that of Reynolds and Goldberg. Back when the Democrats were in power, in 2000, he offered this: “As an alternative to expansive universal jurisdiction and the International Criminal Court, the United States should promote a renewed commitment to the prosecution of ‘international’ crimes in national judicial systems.” (”The Rocky Shoals of International Law,” National Interest, Winter 2000, co-authored with Lee Casey). I happen to agree with this perspective. That is, the International Criminal Court cannot be a forum for the enforcement of the laws of war against the great powers; if that happens, the support upon which it depends for its credibility will collapse. The great powers, and particularly the world’s paramount power, the United States, must enforce the laws itself. And this is precisely why the weaseling of the torture enablers presents such a threat to America’s security. It robs us of moral stature just as it robs American service personnel of the protections that Americans labored for two centuries years to create. It marks the ultimate triumph of petty partisanship over principle. And that is the essence of the torture debate.
New research finds that pain is perceived as far more severe when it is inflicted intentionally, as with torture, or domestic violence. Thus, pain inflicted by SERE as a protective measure will likely be perceived as nowhere near as painful as pain inflicted upon a detainee. I suspect that yet another factor affecting pain intensity is whether one has the ability to leave the situation, as in SERE:
Pain: ‘Tis Better to Receive–Accidentally
By Sara Coelho, ScienceNOW Daily News
When a teammate crashes into you playing soccer, you’re likely to experience some pain. But if an opposing player hits you with the same amount of force, you’ll hurt a lot more. That’s the conclusion of a new study that finds that pain caused intentionally feels much worse than pain perceived as accidental.
While thinking about the debate over the torture of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, psychologist Kurt Gray of Harvard University wondered whether the intent to deliver pain mattered. “Perhaps without this malicious intention, torture would not hurt as much,” he says.
Gray and Harvard colleague Daniel Wegner tested the hypothesis on 43 student volunteers, most of them female. Each volunteer was paired with a partner, who, unbeknownst to the volunteer, was a part of the research team. The volunteers were asked to perform several tasks chosen by the partner from a pair of options. One of the choices was between gauging the pain of electric shocks delivered by a stimulator tied to the volunteer’s wrist (on a scale of 1 to 7) and evaluating the relative pitch of different sounds. In one set of experiments, the partner selected the painful task whenever the shock or pitch choice came up; as a result, the volunteers felt that the partner was intentionally harming them. In the other set of experiments, the volunteers still received electric shocks, but they were told that the partner was not responsible.
As Gray suspected, intention mattered. Even though the intensity of the electric shock was the same throughout the experiment, the volunteers reported more pain (on average 5.64 out of 7) when they thought the partner was making them endure it on purpose than when the shock was not given knowingly (average 2.17). Moreover, when the volunteers felt that the shocks were unintentional, they got used to them, reporting less pain as time went on. Every “intentional” shock hurt as much as the first, however, because the malice of the intention kept it stinging, the authors reported 15 December in Psychological Science. These results, the team suggests, might help explain why torture is so difficult to endure–knowing that harm is intentional makes it even more painful.
Christopher Brown, a neuroscientist at Manchester University in the United Kingdom, calls the study a welcome step toward further understanding social effects on pain. He says he’s curious about what effect these sorts of experiments have on the partner–versus on the volunteer. “I’d be excited to see future work looking at whether a person who is intentionally harming another experiences some kind of pain relief.”