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World

Opinion: WikiLeaks skewers US on Guantanamo, and rightly so

WikiLeaks is alive and well, and it’s a good thing too, says Daniel Scheschkewitz. The latest data released on Guantanamo is hair-raising, showing how little evidence was used to imprison people and put them in limbo.

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The latest WikiLeaks revelations confirm what many people familiar with the situation already suspected: In the large majority of the cases, the US terror experts had little or no solid proof to arrest someone and put them in the Guantanamo Bay detention center.

In the years just after the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, even having travelled a certain route though Afghanistan was enough to land someone a permanent residency at the high-security facility. For others, their stay at the US military base in Cuba was a reward for having attended an especially suspicious mosque, or possessing a particular brand of wristwatch.

Sometimes it was farmers, or men out looking for brides, or even children, who had the bad fortune of being caught within a certain distance of an explosion, thus landing them for an indeterminate amount of time in Guantanamo.

Arbitrary system

Some 800 prisoners were detained there overall; 200 of them were proven to have ties to terror networks. But classified intelligence documents that were released by the whistleblowing Internet platform confirm that the US investigators were nearly hysterical, randomly robbing innocent people of years and years of their freedom.

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Daniel Scheschkewitz

Guantanamo was, and continues to be today, an arbitrary system that generally dispenses with constitutionality. In his campaign for office, US President Barack Obama promised to dismantle Guantanamo, but it looks as if his inability to do so could make that his largest broken promise to date.

Yet the documents - which have only been published in part so far - also show something else important. They show that the terrorist threat was, and is, real. The al-Qaeda leaders didn't just get a thrill from their completed terror attacks; they were planning further crimes from London's Heathrow Airport to the Arab world.

Unearthing truths, raising questions

But it seems America didn't know what to do about these dangers. It took a scattershot approach without being familiar enough with the affected regions. The panicked superpower seemed not only to lack basic crime detection skills, but to have failed Forensic Sciences 101 altogether.

Today, the key people who pulled the strings during the September 11 attacks are under lock and key in Guantanamo, except for Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar. But even under President Obama, those who were locked up are unlikely to receive a judicially correct, fair trial.

What's more, the newly unearthed documents raise new questions, such as: What role does the Pakistani intelligence service ISI play in fighting terrorism in the region? Experts have long believed ISI knows where bin Laden is, and is protecting him. Now the documents show the US even considers this supposedly friendly intelligence agency to be a terrorist organization in and of itself. That's a painful revelation - and one that is likely to create a new hurdle to the already strained relations between the US and Pakistan.

Daniel Scheschkewitz comments on world issues from DW's central desk. (jen)
Editor: Rob Mudge

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