Times Uses Wikileaks to Discredit Guantanamo Bay

Classified dossiers of detainees at Guantanamo Bay prison released by Wikileaks were naturally splashed on the front of Monday's Times, which had editorialized in strong terms for the closing of the Cuba prison. Reporters Charlie Savage, William Glaberson, and Andrew Lehren filed "Details of Lives in an American Limbo."

(In February 2009, Glaberson let two hard-left groups he called "human rights groups" ridicule a Pentagon report saying there was no mistreatment at Guantanamo Bay.)

From Monday's lead story:

A trove of more than 700 classified military documents provides new and detailed accounts of the men who have done time at the Guantánamo Bay prison in Cuba, and offers new insight into the evidence against the 172 men still locked up there.

Military intelligence officials, in assessments of detainees written between February 2002 and January 2009, evaluated their histories and provided glimpses of the tensions between captors and captives. What began as a jury-rigged experiment after the 2001 terrorist attacks now seems like an enduring American institution, and the leaked files show why, by laying bare the patchwork and contradictory evidence that in many cases would never have stood up in criminal court or a military tribunal.

James Taranto at Opinion Journal on Tuesday remembered how the paper swallowed terrorist propaganda on suicides by inmates at Guantanamo Bay. But as Charlie Savage reported in a separate story on Monday on A13, the suicide attempts were just another ideological tactic by inmates to "open the eyes of the world and result in the closure of the base."

Under his special "Two Papers in One!" heading, Taranto put these conflicting Times quotes on detainee suicides back to back:

"The news that three inmates at Guantánamo Bay hanged themselves should not have surprised anyone who has paid the slightest attention to the twisted history of the camp that President Bush built....It was the inevitable result of creating a netherworld of despair beyond the laws of civilized nations....Admiral Harris's response was as appalling as the suicides. 'I believe this was not an act of desperation, but an act of asymmetrical warfare waged against us,' he said. The inmates, he said, 'have no regard for life, neither ours nor their own.' These comments reveal a profound disassociation from humanity." - editorial, New York Times, June 12, 2006.

"A collection of secret detainee assessment files obtained by The New York Times reveal that the threat of suicide has created a chronic tension at the prison-a tactic frequently discussed by the captives and a constant fear for their captors....One prisoner told others in February 2006 that a detainee's death would 'open the eyes of the world and result in the closure of the base.' " - news story, New York Times, April 25, 2011.

On Wednesday, reporters William Glaberson and Charlie Savage sympathetically examined the case of Mohammed el-Gharani in "Built on Murky Intelligence, Secret Case Against a Detainee Crumbles."

But there was more to the story, as there so often is at the Guantánamo Bay prison in Cuba. Eight months after that newly disclosed assessment of Mr. Gharani was written by military intelligence officials, a federal judge examined the secret evidence. Saying that it was "plagued with internal inconsistencies" and largely based on the word of two other Guantánamo detainees whose reliability was in question, he ruled in January 2009 that Mr. Gharani should be released. The Obama administration sent him to Chad about five months later.

The secret assessment of Mr. Gharani, like many of the detainee dossiers made available to The New York Times and other news organizations, reflected few doubts about the peril he might have posed. He was rated "high risk," and military officials recommended that he not be freed. But now, a comparison of the assessment's conclusions with other information provides a case study in the ambiguities that surround many of the men who have passed through the prison at Guantánamo Bay.

The murkiness of the secret intelligence - and the fact that interrogators gathered much of their information from the Guantánamo equivalent of jailhouse informers - has been highlighted in news reports and has drawn criticism from human rights groups in recent days. But some commentators who say the government faced difficulties sorting intelligence in a time of war have noted that such reports were often uncertain, based on bits of information, educated guesses and accounts of witnesses with their own agendas.

The Times gave Gharani every benefit of the doubt:

But there is once again another side to the story. Mr. Gharani is desperate to get out of Chad - not for any nefarious reason, his lawyers insist, but because his family lives in Saudi Arabia, where he grew up. He is struggling to earn an income and is suffering from an undiagnosed illness and wants to seek medical treatment outside of Chad.