Gitmo detainee classifications remain detached from identities

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When the Guantanamo Review Task Force summary report was released in June — more than five months after its completion — it marked the latest step in President Barack Obama’s plan to close the detainee prison in Guantanamo Bay.

Without identifying them by name, the report split the 240 detainees in four groups: approved for transfer; subject of active cases or investigations; too dangerous to transfer but not feasible for prosecution; and Yemenis designated for “conditional” detention.

Andrea Prasow, senior counsel for the terrorism program at Human Rights Watch, says the report is not transparent enough because it fails to specify which detainees belong to which categories. “People have a right to know how it came to that determination, why it came to that determination, and what its plans were for the future,” Prasow said, referring to the task force’s classifications.

Prasow also expressed concern that while 36 of the detainees fall into the “subject of active cases or investigations” category, 24 do not know what kind of trial or charges await them. The report notes that “no final determination has yet been made as to whether or in what forum these 24 detainees will be charged.” There is little reason for this information to be kept secret, she said, noting that even the Senate Intelligence Committee was briefed about the detainee identities.

Dean Boyd, a spokesman in the national security division of the Department of Justice, defended the report. “The report is not designed to be a recitation of all the government’s information on each detainee, which … would run hundreds, if not thousands, of pages,” Boyd said. “This is an effort to summarize the work of the task force.”

While Boyd acknowledged that the status of each detainee is relevant to the task force, he said this information is classified. “This report was not an attempt to cover anything up,” he said. “It was an attempt to summarize the findings of the task force and look at the population down there.”

The task force was established in February 2009 after Obama signed an executive order mandating the closure of the Guantanamo camp. Made up of representatives from the Justice Department, the Pentagon, the State Department, the Homeland Security Department, the Director of National Intelligence and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the task force completed its report in January and released it last month.

Prasow said she remained hopeful that more detainee identification information would emerge. “I’m optimistic that the president truly believes that closing Guantanamo is essential to U.S. national security,” she said. “But I think the administration needs to be more assertive about its intentions with regards to the detainees.”

ABOUT THE DATA:

What: Classifications of the 240 Guantanamo Bay detainees

Where: Guantanamo Review Task Force summary report

Availability: Online but fails to specify which detainees are in each category

Format: PDF

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