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Many detainees locked up at Guantanamo were innocent men swept up by U.S. forces unable to distinguish enemies from noncombatants, a former Bush administration official said Thursday. "There are still innocent people there," Lawrence B. Wilkerson, a Republican who was chief of staff to then-Secretary of State Colin Powell, told The Associated Press. "Some have been there six or seven years."
Wilkerson, who first made the assertions in an Internet posting on Tuesday, told the AP he learned from briefings and by communicating with military commanders that the U.S. soon realized many Guantanamo detainees were innocent but nevertheless held them in hopes they could provide information for a "mosaic" of intelligence.
"It did not matter if a detainee were innocent. Indeed, because he lived in Afghanistan and was captured on or near the battle area, he must know something of importance," Wilkerson wrote in the blog. He said intelligence analysts hoped to gather "sufficient information about a village, a region, or a group of individuals, that dots could be connected and terrorists or their plots could be identified."
Wilkerson, a retired Army colonel, said vetting on the battlefield during the early stages of U.S. military operations in Afghanistan was incompetent with no meaningful attempt to discriminate "who we were transporting to Cuba for detention and interrogation."
In his posting for The Washington Note blog, Wilkerson wrote that "U.S. leadership became aware of this lack of proper vetting very early on and, thus, of the reality that many of the detainees were innocent of any substantial wrongdoing, had little intelligence value, and should be immediately released."
Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney fought efforts to address the situation, Wilkerson said, because "to have admitted this reality would have been a black mark on their leadership."
Wilkerson told the AP in a telephone interview that many detainees "clearly had no connection to al-Qaida and the Taliban and were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Pakistanis turned many over for $5,000 a head."
Wilkerson, who flew combat missions as a helicopter pilot in Vietnam and left the government in January 2005, said he did not speak out while in government because some of the information was classified.
Originally posted by deltaboy
This is a lie. I believe all are innocent, not many or few as this aide says.
Often, a claim of national security secrecy ends any public inquiry into allegations of misconduct and selective release of national security information allows the government to control public opinion and avoid embarrassment.
Classification of national security information under Executive Order 12958, as amended, is a critical tool at the disposal of the government to protect our nation, but rampant overclassification undermines the integrity of the very system we depend upon to ensure our safety and security. Security classification has surged dramatically since September 11, 2001, reaching an all-time high of 23 million classification decisions in 2007, nearly triple the number in 2001. The cost to protect classified information has skyrocketed from $4.7 billion in 2001 to $8.65 billion in 2007. Officials from throughout the military and intelligence sectors have admitted that 50 percent or more of classification decisions are unnecessary or improper.