An article posted Friday on the website for The Times of London points out that Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, former Chief of Staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell, has submitted a sworn statement confirming that President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld all knew that innocent civilians were detained at Guantanamo:

George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld covered up that hundreds of innocent men were sent to the Guantánamo Bay prison camp because they feared that releasing them would harm the push for war in Iraq and the broader War on Terror, according to a new document obtained by The Times.

The accusations were made by Lawrence Wilkerson, a top aide to Colin Powell, the former Republican Secretary of State, in a signed declaration to support a lawsuit filed by a Guantánamo detainee. It is the first time that such allegations have been made by a senior member of the Bush Administration.

Colonel Wilkerson, who was General Powell’s chief of staff when he ran the State Department, was most critical of Mr Cheney and Mr Rumsfeld. He claimed that the former Vice-President and Defence Secretary knew that the majority of the initial 742 detainees sent to Guantánamo in 2002 were innocent but believed that it was “politically impossible to release them”.

While doing background research and reading that was inspired by this post and the ensuing comment thread at Emptywheel, I ran across a document that I believe outlines the Joint Chiefs policy that was cobbled together to justify the long term detention and interrogation of innocent civilians that was described in the Times article.

The publication, which is a 298 page pdf file, can be found here. The document is titled "Joint and National Intelligence Support to Military Operations". I have not read the entire document, but my attention was directed to Appendix G through my initial Google internet search on the term "mobile detainee review and screening teams". Appendix G is titled "Joint Exploitation Centers" and has this graphic at the beginning:

joint exploitation centers

Moving down to section 4 of this appendix, titled "Joint Interrogation and Debriefing Center" we find the description of the responsibilities of the centers:

b. Responsibilities. Service component interrogators collect tactical intelligence from EPWs and ECs based on joint force J-2 criteria. EPWs (i.e., senior level EPWs) and ECs are screened by the components; those of further intelligence potential are identified and processed for follow-on interrogation and debriefing by the JIDC to satisfy theater strategic and operational requirements. In addition to EPW and ECs, the JIDC may also interrogate civilian detainees, and debrief refugees as well as other nonprisoner sources for operational and strategic information. The JIDC may identify individuals as possessing intelligence of national strategic significance; these persons may be relocated to a strategic exploitation center for longer-term interrogation.

Acronyms present here: EPW = enemy prisoner of war; EC = enemy combatant; J-2 = intelligence directorate of a joint staff; JIDC = joint interrogation and debriefing center.

There is a lot packed into this small paragraph. We start with normal interrogation and debriefing of enemy prisoners of war and enemy combatants, but somehow these same joint interrogation and debriefing centers are supplied with civilian detainees and even refugees [don’t refugees have special, protected status under the Geneva Conventions?] to interview, and then, somehow, from among these various groups interviewed, the JIDC "may identify individuals" who are sent for longer term interrogation (i.e. to Guantanamo) if the JIDC decides that they posses "intelligence of national strategic significance". There seems to be no restriction that the long-term detainees only come from the EPW or EC groups, so innocent civilians could end up in Guantanamo under this policy, just as Wilkerson has documented.

The policy outlined in the document is official, as we see in the preface that "The guidance in this publication is authoritative". The preface also notes that the document is a revision of 1996 and 1998 documents, so it appears that this policy document is another example of Bush-era "after the fact" justification/documentation providing official policy to authorize crimes already committed.

Jim White

Jim White

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