Gitmo guards probe for prison plots

This story from the Associated Press Monday makes it sound like Guantanamo Bay is becoming more like any other prison and less a secure facility that exists for the purpose of extracting intelligence. Which may be expected after you have held prisoners for a number of years and have gotten all you can from them.

By MIKE MELIA

Associated Press Writer

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba–Interrogators at Guantanamo Bay are asking detainees primarily about activity inside the U.S. military prison, the mission commander said, revealing a shift in focus from the wider fight against terrorism.

The information gleaned from detainees is most important to preventing them from hurting themselves or attacking guards, said Navy Rear Adm. David Thomas, the top officer at the detention and interrogation center.

“The primary focus is the safety of the detainees as well as the detainee guard force, and that’s why we have this intelligence activity,” Thomas said Saturday.

The shift reflects the diminishing intelligence value of al-Qaida and Taliban suspects who have been held as long as six years at this isolated U.S. Navy base in southeast Cuba.

Critics say the inward focus proves Guantanamo has outlived any purpose.

“Guantanamo has become little more than a holding center for hundreds of men, most of whom will never be charged with a crime and have nothing to offer the U.S. government in the way of actionable intelligence,” said Jennifer Daskal, senior counterterrorism counsel for Human Rights Watch.

Read the rest here.

Meanwhile, the case against Salim Ahmed Hamdan goes to the six-member jury this week.

Here’s a helpful capsule from Tribune News Services about the trial:

THE DEFENDANT

Hamdan, a Yemeni, is accused of transporting weapons for Al Qaeda, swearing an oath of loyalty to bin Laden and helping him escape U.S. retribution following the Sept. 11 attacks by driving him through Afghanistan. Hamdan faces a maximum life sentence.

THE JURY

Six jurors and one alternate—all military officers—were chosen for the case. Among them is a helicopter pilot who was shot at by insurgents in Iraq. The alternate, an Army lieutenant colonel who was excused Friday when the trial concluded, conceded she had “a suspicion” that Hamdan must be guilty of something to have been imprisoned.

BIG OR BIT PLAYER?

Hamdan was captured at a roadblock in southern Afghanistan in November 2001 with two surface-to-air missiles in the car. But defense lawyers say he was a low-level employee paid $200 a month. The alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, said in written testimony Friday that Hamdan was too “primitive” to be involved in terrorist plots.

GOING NOWHERE

The ultimate verdict will make little difference. President George W. Bush has labeled Hamdan an enemy combatant and ordered him held for the duration of the global war on terrorism. Navy Rear Adm. David Thomas said he has been looking for the most appropriate facility to isolate prisoners who have had their day in court.

‘OPEN AND FAIR’

The tribunal’s chief prosecutor, Army Col. Lawrence Morris (right), has called the trial “an open and fair and thorough process” that struck a “balance between security and the right to present a case.”

AN ‘OBSCENITY’

The tribunal’s deputy defense chief, Michael Berrigan, called the two-week trial an “obscenity.” The military attorney noted that “Mr. Hamdan is going to be held until the government wants to release him. [The tribunal] really has no connection to the underlying reality.”

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