Ever wonder what goes on in the review boards that decide whether a Guantanamo detainee should be released or not? Well, the BBC has finally found out, after one of its journalists was allowed to observe an unclassified portion of the review proceedings. The journalist, Adam Brookes, noted that there wasn’t a lawyer in sight and that the actual sources of the evidence against the detainee were never revealed. The questioning of the detainee was apparently quite short, including such productive exchanges as:
Question: “Who did you fire your rifle at?”
Detainee: “I never fired a rifle.”
Question: “Why were you firing?”
Detainee: “I never fired.”
The disturbing part is that this was the unclassified portion of the review. The BBC correspondent didn’t even get to see the really unsubstantiated evidence. Consider, if you will, the two forms of recourse currently available to detainees: These review boards—which decide if detainees should be released because they no longer pose a threat to the U.S.—or the military commission that tries those detainees whom the U.S. claims to have committed crimes. Both processes presume guilt often based on evidence that is never even shared with the detainees. This presumption of guilt stands in contrast to military claims (PDF) that the majority of the detainees possess no useful intelligence.
So how can the Pentagon release innocent prisoners while still saving face? According to Secretary of the Navy Gordon England, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s appointed civilian official for the Detainee Administrative Review Processes at Guantanamo,
It should be emphasized that a…determination that a detainee no longer meets the criteria for classification as an enemy combatant does not necessarily mean that the prior classification as enemy combatant was wrong.