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  Gitmo's Good Work
by Gordon Cucullu 1/19/07

Five years after the establisment of the Guantanamo prison camp, angry protests demand immediate release of the "unfortunate innocents." Are the protestors waving "Bushitler" signs right? Is Gitmo a hotbed of Inquisition-style torture that should be closed, and its detainees freed?

Last month, on my fifth and longest trip to Guantanamo, I toured the newly opened, ultra-modern Camp VI, a maximum-security prison modeled after a Michigan county prison. Combined with the holding capacity of Camp V, also very modern, it can hold just about all of Gitmo's reduced detainee population.

Gordon Cucullu

Former Green Beret lieutenant colonel, Gordon Cucullu is now an editorialist, author and a popular speaker. Born into a military family, he lived and served for more than thirteen years in East Asia, including eight years in Korea. For his Special Forces service in Vietnam he was awarded a Bronze Star, Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, and the Presidential Unit Commendation. After separation from the Army, he worked on Korea and East Asian affairs at both the Pentagon and Department of State as well as an executive for General Electric in Korea. His first major non-fiction work, Separated at Birth: How North Korea became the Evil Twin, is based in large part on his extensive experience in Korea and East Asia as a governmental insider and businessman. [website] [go to Cucullu index]

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Reduced? Yes. Of the slightly fewer than 800 original detainees, most of whom were evacuated from Afghanistan's bloody battlefields in 2002, only about 350 remain. The balance have been transferred to home countries for case disposition or released outright.

Of those last, more than two dozen have resurfaced on the battlefield. A couple were ID'd from their corpses, others from propaganda videos released as terrorist recruiting tools. Of those transferred, some are in local prisons - but many more were released after perfunctory trials in their home countries, or no process at all.

Britain takes pride in having released its transferred Gitmo detainees within 18 hours and with no more judicial process than the time required for a compliant judge to sign some papers. Ironically, the U.K.-passport-holding few left in Guantanamo would happily slit the throats ofthe (mostly non-Muslim) Brits marching for their release. How do I know? Because they tell authorities exactly that.

They tell us during the judicial processes through which each detainee passes. That includes the one-time Combatant Status Review Tribunal that ascertains the martial status of the detainee, and also the Annual Review Board, which asks two questions: Is this man a continued threat? Does he possess valuable intelligence information? Several have told boards of officers, "Do not release me for I am a committed jihadist and will take every opportunity to kill you and your kind."

Some, cooperative with interrogators, tell of a bloody past and brag of their plans if released. They hear from comrades in the struggle (via the 16,000-plus pieces of mail they receive annually) about how well things are going. They lust to fight in Iraq, where they speculate about how many Americans and infidels they will kill.

Interrogators, who have spent months and years building a rapport with the detainees, listen patiently to all of this and more. The detainees sit in upholstered love seats or recliners, usually munching on food brought by the interrogators and paid for out of their own pockets. They gobble up McDonald's and Subway sandwiches; one matronly interrogator is especially popular for the home-baked chocolate chip cookies she brings to the interrogation booth.

What about all this torture and abuse? "We are prohibited from doing anything that stupid," said Paul Rester, head of the Joint Intelligence Group, who reports to Joint Task Force Commander Adm. Harry Harris. "Aside from moral issues that would constrain us, and aside from legal issues that forbid it, the plain truth is that torture is a stupid, brainless thing to do because it doesn't work!"

This is echoed from the top down. The several interrogators I spoke with confirmed the use of approved interrogation techniques that focus mainly on trust-building and mutual respect to persuade detainees to talk.

Nor, by the way, have medical personnel - who spend an inordinate amount of time examining and treating detainees (e.g., elective colonoscopies for detainees age 50 and up) - ever noticed or reported signs of abuse, much less torture.

Why even bother to interrogate these guys? "Because they tell us of things that have enormous strategic value," says Rester. Background on al Qaeda recruiting, training, money-laundering, bogus front charities, bomb-making, sleeper-cell placement, types of operations, organizational long-term goals and objectives, and details of leadership personalities all come from Guantanamo interrogations.

Investigators such as the vaunted 9/11 Commission complain vociferously of a lack of available human-intelligence sources. "Guantanamo is the single largest repository of terrorist, al Qaeda HUMINT on the planet," Rester observed. "And we are still mining it."

In short, Gitmo keeps behind bars bad guys who would inflict terrible pain on America and our friends. From these same men, it gets vital information that has had and continues to have a major positive effect on prosecution of the war - information that has broken up operative cells in America and Europe, stifled recruiting, intercepted money trails and set the terrorists back on their heels.

If that is the sum of five years' work, then well done, Guantanamo, well done indeed. CRO


copyright 2007 Gordon Cucullu




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