Bush Official: We Knew Gitmo Inmates Were Innocent

New document claims releasing them was seen as 'politically impossible'

By Caroline Miller,  Newser Staff

Posted Apr 9, 2010 6:50 AM CDT | Updated Apr 9, 2010 7:31 AM CDT

(Newser) – The Bush White House knew that hundreds of early Gitmo detainees were innocent, but refused to release them because the admission would weaken support for the war in Iraq, according to a new document obtained by the Times of London. The charge, by Lawrence Wilkerson, chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell, was made in a declaration in support of a lawsuit for a Gitmo detainee. Wilkerson claims that Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld knew that the majority of the initial 742 detainees had been picked up, not by the US military, but by Afghans and Pakistanis for a bounty, and there was no evidence against them. But they saw it as "politically impossible to release them."

If innocent detainees were released, he writes, “the detention efforts would be revealed as the incredibly confused operation that they were.” Of Cheney, he writes: “He had absolutely no concern that the vast majority of Guantánamo detainees were innocent. If hundreds of innocent individuals had to suffer in order to detain a handful of hardcore terrorists, so be it.” Wilkerson also says he discussed the issue with Powell, who told him it was not just Cheney and Rumsfeld, "but also President Bush who was involved in all of the Guantánamo decision making.”

In this 2002 file photo, a detainee is escorted to interrogation by U.S. military guards at Camp X-Ray at Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base, Cuba.   (AP Photo/Andres Leighton, File)
In this May 14, 2009, file photo, Guantanamo detainees pray before dawn near a fence of razor-wire, inside Camp 4 detention facility at Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base, Cuba.   (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, File)
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