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WikiLeaks releases documents detailing U.S. detention policies

  • FILES - A picture dated August 19, 2012 shows Wikileaks founder Julian Assange addressing the press and his supporters from the balcony of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. (AFP PHOTO /CARL COURT)

LONDON: The WikiLeaks website began publishing Thursday what it said were more than 100 U.S. Defense Department files detailing military detention policies in camps in Iraq and at Guantanamo Bay following the Sept. 11 attacks on U.S. targets.

In a statement, WikiLeaks criticized regulations it said had led to abuse and impunity and urged human rights activists to use the documents, to be released over the next month, to research what it called “policies of unaccountability.”

The statement quoted WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange as saying: “The ‘Detainee Policies’ show the anatomy of the beast that is post-9/11 detention, the carving out of a dark space where law and rights do not apply, where persons can be detained without a trace at the convenience of the U.S. Department of Defense.”

“It shows the excesses of the early days of war against an unknown ‘enemy’ and how these policies matured and evolved,” it said, and led to “the permanent state of exception that the United States now finds itself in, a decade later.”

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy in London said it had no immediate comment.

In January, U.N. human rights chief Navi Pillay said the United States was still flouting international law at Guantanamo Bay by arbitrarily and indefinitely detaining individuals.

Almost 3,000 people were killed in 2001 when militants from Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda flew hijacked airliners into the World Trade Center towers in New York, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania.

Then President George W. Bush set up a detention camp at a U.S. naval base at Guantanamo in Cuba after U.S.-led forces invaded Afghanistan to expel Al-Qaeda following the Sept. 11 raids.

Of the 779 men held there, 167 remained as of mid-September 2012.

WikiLeaks said a number of documents it was releasing related to interrogation of detainees, and these showed direct physical violence was prohibited.

But it added that the documents showed “a formal policy of terrorizing detainees during interrogations, combined with a policy of destroying interrogation recordings, has led to abuse and impunity.”

A number of what can only be described as “policies of unaccountability” would also be released, the WikiLeaks statement read.

One such document was a 2005 document “Policy on Assigning Detainee Internment Serial Numbers,” it said.

“This document is concerned with discreetly ‘disappearing’ detainees into the custody of other U.S. government agencies while keeping their names out of U.S. military central records – by systematically holding off from assigning a prisoner record number,” the WikiLeaks statement said.

WikiLeaks did not elaborate. But human rights activists say that after the Sept. 11 attacks, the Central Intelligence Agency used “black sites” in friendly countries in order to interrogate and sometimes torture suspected militants beyond the reach of normal legal protections.

While Bush acknowledged the existence of a CIA program for detaining and questioning militants outside of the United States in speech in September 2006, the government has never publicly confirmed the location of the sites.

Some of the policies applied to other countries’ personnel, WikiLeaks added, citing what it said was a 13-page interrogation policy document from 2005 for U.S.-led multinational forces in Iraq.

It said the document detailed techniques such as the “Emotional Love Approach: Playing on the love a detained person has for family, homeland or comrades.”

In contrast, in the “Fear Up (Harsh)” approach, WikiLeaks said “the interrogator behaves in an overpowering manner with a loud and threatening voice in order to convince the source he does indeed have something to fear; that he has no option but to co-operate.”

The documents released Thursday date from 2001-04.

Assange, whose website previously angered the United States by releasing thousands of U.S. diplomatic cables, has been holed up inside Ecuador’s embassy in central London since June to avoid extradition to Sweden to face rape and sexual assault allegations. He denies wrongdoing.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on October 26, 2012, on page 10.
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