Times of London: Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld ‘knew Guantanamo prisoners were innocent’
From online reports
According to an April 9 report in The Times of London, former President George W. Bush, former Vice President Dick Cheney and former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld concealed the innocence of hundreds of men detained at the Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, prison camp for fear releasing the prisoners might hurt the War on Terror.
Lawrence Wilkerson, top aide to former Secretary of State Colin Powell, made the accusations about the alleged cover-up in a signed declaration to support a lawsuit by a Guantánamo detainee, The Times reported.
“A spokesman for Mr. Bush said of Colonel Wilkerson’s allegations: ‘We are not going to have any comment on that,’” The Times reported. “A former associate to Mr. Rumsfeld said that Mr. Wilkerson’s assertions were completely untrue.
“The associate said the former Defense Secretary had worked harder than anyone to get detainees released and worked assiduously to keep the prison population as small as possible. Mr. Cheney’s office did not respond,” The Times added.
About 180 detainees remain at the Guantánamo Bay facility. President Barack Obama has vowed to close Guantánamo. Dec. 15, 2009, Obama issued an executive order that would move fewer than 100 Guantánamo detainees to the maximum-security Thomson Correctional Center, 150 miles west of Chicago in Carroll County on the Illinois-Iowa border.
According to The Times report, Wilkerson claimed Cheney and Rumsfeld “knew that the majority of the initial 742 detainees sent to Guantanamo in 2002 were innocent but believed that it was ‘politically impossible to release them.’”
The Times reported that Powell, who left the Bush administration in 2005 after being frustrated about the misinformation he shared with the world when he made the case to the United Nations for the invasion of Iraq, “is understood to have backed Wilkerson’s declaration.”
The Times reported: “Wilkerson, a long-time critic of the Bush administration’s approach to counter-terrorism and the war in Iraq, claimed that the majority of detainees — children as young as 12 and men as old as 93, he said — never saw a U.S. soldier when they were captured. He said that many were turned over by Afghans and Pakistanis for up to $5,000. Little or no evidence was produced as to why they had been taken.
“He also claimed that one reason Mr. Cheney and Mr. Rumsfeld did not want the innocent detainees released was because ‘the detention efforts would be revealed as the incredibly confused operation that they were.’ This was ‘not acceptable to the administration and would have been severely detrimental to the leadership at DoD [Rumsfeld at the Defense Department].’”
The Times report continued: “Referring to Mr. Cheney, Colonel Wilkerson, who served 31 years in the U.S. Army, asserted: ‘He had absolutely no concern that the vast majority of Guantánamo detainees were innocent. … If hundreds of innocent individuals had to suffer in order to detain a handful of hardcore terrorists, so be it.’
“He alleged that for Mr. Cheney and Mr. Rumsfeld, ‘innocent people languishing in Guantánamo for years was justified by the broader War on Terror and the small number of terrorists who were responsible for the September 11 attacks.’
“He added: ‘I discussed the issue of the Guantánamo detainees with Secretary Powell. I learnt that it was his view that it was not just Vice President Cheney and Secretary Rumsfeld, but also President Bush who was involved in all of the Guantánamo decision making.’”
The Times report added: “Mr. Cheney and Mr. Rumsfeld, Colonel Wilkerson said, deemed the incarceration of innocent men acceptable if some genuine militants were captured, leading to a better intelligence picture of Iraq at a time when the Bush Administration was desperate to find a link between Saddam Hussein and 9/11, ‘thus justifying the Administration’s plans for war with that country.’
“He signed the declaration in support of Adel Hassan Hamad, a Sudanese man who was held at Guantánamo Bay from March 2003 until December 2007. Mr. Hamad claims that he was tortured by U.S. agents while in custody and yesterday filed a damages action against a list of American officials.
“Defenders of Guantánamo said that detainees began to be released as early as September 2002, nine months after the first prisoners were sent to the jail at the U.S. naval base in Cuba. By the time Mr. Bush left office, more than 530 detainees had been freed.”
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