Times "Ridicules" Pentagon Report Saying No Mistreatment at Gitmo
A Pentagon report found no evidence of violent mistreatment of terrorism suspects at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba. William Glaberson's Tuesday report, "Administration Draws Fire For Report on Guantanamo," relayed the outcry of two hard-left groups Glaberson called "human rights groups" - the Center for Constitutional Rights, founded by left-wing lawyer William Kuntsler, and Amnesty International.
The Pentagon official who inspected the Guantánamo Bay prison at the behest of President Obama and declared its conditions humane described himself Monday as a "fresh set of eyes" who had been given free rein to go about his work.
But detainees' lawyers and human rights groups ridiculed the 85-page report that the official, Adm. Patrick M. Walsh, sent to the White House this weekend. They called it a public relations gesture by the new administration to try to quiet criticism of the prison while officials work to close it within a year.
"There is no basis to believe, other than his say-so, that this was an independent report," said Vincent Warren, executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights.
Coming in the early days of the Obama administration, the exchange was notable for its similarity to the back-and-forth during the Bush years over what the Guantánamo prison is really like.
Admiral Walsh, appointed by Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates to conduct a review of Guantánamo conditions that was ordered by the president, conceded that there had been widespread accusations of violence against detainees, humiliating treatment and other abuses.
But "we found no such evidence," he said at a Pentagon news conference.
But detainees' lawyers issued their own report, and produced letters from some of their clients, describing severe isolation, brutal tactics and detainees so addled by hopelessness that some banged their heads against the concrete walls of their cells. "Just let me die," one detainee was quoted as saying.
Several of the critics focused on the fact that the finding of humane conditions came from a senior official of the very department, the Pentagon, that has been running the Guantánamo prison through years of international criticism. Admiral Walsh is the vice chief of naval operations, and the prison is on a naval base at the southeastern tip of Cuba.
The Times also relayed the concerns of detainee lawyer Sarah Havens. Yet besides author Walsh, Glaberson quoted only one supporter of the report's findings, the Navy's chief of information, who relayed only a by-the-book defense.
Why is the Times taking the trouble to target the Guantanamo report in its news pages? Perhaps because its findings fly in the face of the paper's liberal editorial assumptions. From a January 17 Times' editorial, "Closing Guantanamo" (hat-tip Opinion Journal):
In a long series of valedictory speeches and interviews, President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have been crowing about Guantánamo Bay, secret prisons and abusive interrogations, claiming they met the highest legal standards and that no prisoner had been tortured. Fortunately, the truth broke through the noise, in the words of some of the very people ordered to carry out the policies....
That is the real nature of Mr. Bush's grotesque legacy: abuse and torture at an outlaw prison where hundreds of men - many of whom did nothing - have been held for years without real evidence or charges. And truly dangerous men were treated so badly that it may be impossible to bring them to justice.
Or maybe not, according to the Pentagon report.