For those lucky enough to have been released, it would seem that there is little recognition for what they have endured, nor much possibility of compensation. “Some of them have actions pending in the American courts – Rose explains – The ‘Tipton three’ started this off, Asif Iqbal, Shafiq Rasul and Rhuhel Ahmed. They were the first that I interviewed in March of 2004. They are trying to sue the US government in the US civil courts. I believe that some of the others may join this case, or see what happens with it first. I have to say, a lot of independent legal experts that I’ve spoken to in the States don’t hold out much hope that these actions will get anywhere. It may be that they’re left with no redress at all, but it’s too early to say at this point.”
“The most important argument is not legal or moral but pragmatic. Is Guantánamo, with its vast costs – in treasure, in effort, and human resources, and to America’s standing in the wider world – a justifiable means to the end of defeating Islamist terror? My answer, bleakly, is no” – David Rose, Guantánamo [Pg11]
When Alberto Gonzales privately suggested to George W. Bush, in January 2002, that some of the provisions of the Geneva Convention were rendered quaint by the nature of America’s enemy and this new war, the war on terror, he wasn’t necessarily out of step with public or professional opinion. Many thought, and still do, that to provide security for the citizens of the United States, and allies, that regrettable but necessary measures must be taken.
Proposing a legally sanctioned torture for cases where an imminent threat may exist, Australian academic Mirko Bargaric, said: “If that unfortunately resulted in an innocent person being killed, in those circumstances that would be justified. I think as a society we would accept that one person being killed to save thousands is legitimate.” Bargaric’s arguments caused outrage to some, but to others were a legitimate extension of the argument initiated by the Bush administration.
Interviewing Joint Task Force commandant, Major-General Geoffrey D. Miller, Rose asked him about the value of information being gathered from Guantánamo detainees. “We are developing information of enormous value to the nation, enormously valuable intelligence”, was the response. These were claims mirrored by Donald Rumsfeld, who, when speaking to the Miami Chamber of Commerce in 2004 said that “detaining enemy combatants also serves another purpose. It provides us with intelligence that can help us prevent future acts of terrorism. It can save lives” [emphasis added].
A crucial question then is how much intelligence gathered in Guantánamo has been useful, let alone vital? ” I think the answer is very little, if any”, responds Rose. “One of the people that I interviewed for the book was Lieutenant-Colonel Anthony Christino III, a twenty year military intelligence officer, recently retired. He spent most of 2003 working at the heart of the Pentagon’s war on terror, as a Senior Watch Officer for the unit known as Joint Intelligence Task Force – Combatting Terrorism, which dealt directly with the product from Guantánamo. And, without betraying any classified information, he’s told me the claims that Rumsfeld made, that enormously valuable intelligence information was gathered there, are simply untrue. In fact, he said, the information has been extremely unspecific, and hasn’t led to any massive round ups of terrorist supsects, and importantly it has tended to be massively inflated. Of course the system that’s been used there, this combination of carrot and stick, torture, coercion and deprivation for those who don’t co-operate, and all kinds of duty rewards for those who do, including those who make false allegations against other prisoners is calculated to produce misleading testimony.”
Detainees in Guantánamo have been subjected to physical violence, sleep deprivation, and various different humiliations, supposedly in the name of intelligence gathering. In Rose’s book Guantánamo, one of the ‘Tipton Three’, Shafiq Rasul, describes, from experience, how the intelligence gathering system in Guantánamo operated. It’s worth quoting at length:
“His interrogators told him American Intelligence had acquired a video of a meeting in 2000 between Osama bin Laden and Mohamed Atta, the leader of the 9/11 hijackers. Behind bin Laden were three unidentified menm and someone alleged they were none other than Iqbal, Rasul and Ahmed.
All three were moved to solitary confinement for three months in Camp Delta’s isolation block, where the cell walls are made of solid metal instead of mesh, and the only human contact detainees have is with their interrogators. They were to endure this for the next three months, while their interviewers turned on them with a new found aggression. […]
‘ [Rasul] There was no ventilation; it was roasting in there. One interrogator told me that anyone who was in Afghanistan was guilty of the murders of 9/11 – even the women and children killed by American bombing. But they said my position was much worse, because the meeting in this video was to plan 9/11, and loads of people had told them that this guy in a beard standing behind bin Laden was me. I told them that in 2000, I didn’t leave the country, that I was working at the Wednesbury branch of Currys who would have my employment records, and attending the University of Central England. They told me I could have falsified those records – that I could have had someone working with me at Currys who could have altered the data the company held, and travelled on a false passport.’
Finally, as his isolation continued and the interrogators deployed their full range of techniques [described at length elsewhere in Rose’s book], Rasul said he cracked. […] ‘I’d got to the point where I just couldn’t take any more. ‘Do what you have to do,’ I told them. I’d been sitting there for three months in isolation so I says, ‘Yes it’s me. Go ahead and put me on trial.'” [Guantánamo – Pg 118-119]
Luckily for the ‘Tipton three’ British Military Intelligence later intervened with documentary evidence that the three couldn’t have been involved in the video after all.