- The Washington Times - Friday, March 3, 2006

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba — After four years of secrecy, the Pentagon handed over documents yesterday that contain the names of detainees held at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay.

The release resulted from a Associated Press in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by the Associated Press.

The Bush administration had hidden the identities, home countries and other information about the men, who were accused of having links to the Taliban or al Qaeda. But a federal judge rejected administration arguments that releasing the identities would violate the detainees’ privacy and could endanger them and their families.

The names were scattered throughout more than 5,000 pages of transcripts of hearings at Guantanamo Bay, but no complete list was given and it was not clear how many names the documents contained. In most of the transcripts, the person speaking is identified only as “detainee.” Names appear only when court officials or detainees refer to people by name. In some cases, even having the name did not clarify the identity.

The documents also contain the names of former prisoners, such as Moazzam Begg and Feroz Ali Abbasi, both British citizens. A handwritten note shows Abbasi pleading for prisoner-of-war status.

The status of other named detainees, such as Naibullah Darwaish, was not immediately clear. Darwaish was described as having been the chief of police for the Shinkai district in Zabol province, Afghanistan, when he was captured.

Most of the men were captured during the 2001 U.S.-led war that drove the Taliban from power in Afghanistan and sent Osama bin Laden deeper into hiding.

Documents released last year — also because of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by the AP — had the detainees’ names and nationalities blacked out.

The documents, transcripts from at least 317 hearings at Guantanamo Bay, should shed light on the scope of an insurgency still battling U.S. troops in Afghanistan, in part by detailing how Muslims from many countries wound up fighting alongside the Taliban there.

U.S. District Judge Jed S. Rakoff of New York ruled in favor of the AP last week , a major development in a protracted legal battle.

“This is extremely important information,” said Curt Goering, senior deputy executive director of Amnesty International USA. “We’ve been asking ever since the camp opened for a list of everyone there as one of the most basic first steps for any detaining authority.”

The United States, which opened the prison on its Navy base in eastern Cuba in January 2002, now holds about 490 prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. Only 10 have been charged with crimes.

Neal Sonnett, chairman of the American Bar Association’s task force on enemy combatants, said he hopes the documents will help focus attention on the conditions for the detainees and the way the hearings were handled. The documents that were released yesterday were unedited transcripts of the hearings.

The Pentagon’s secrecy has drawn criticism from human rights groups and lawyers.

“You can’t just draw a veil of secrecy when you are locking people up,” said Jamie Fellner, director of the U.S. program for Human Rights Watch. “You have to do at least the minimum, which is to acknowledge who you are holding.”

The Defense Department had argued that releasing the identities of detainees could subject their families, friends and associates to embarrassment and retaliation. But Judge Rakoff said the relatives and others “never had any reasonable expectation” of anonymity.

Some of the testimony seemed bound to embarrass the military. Abbasi complained in August 2004 that on two occasions, members of the U.S. military police had sex in front of him, others tried to feed him pork — a sin for Muslims — and some misled him into praying north, toward the United States, rather than toward Mecca as Muslims are required to do.

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