Guantánamo: The Definitive Prisoner List – OpEd


Since I began my quest to discover the stories of the Guantánamo prisoners, and to bring those stories to the world, which I first embarked upon over five years ago, I have endeavoured to make that information as accessible as possible. A major step in achieving this took place in March 2009, when I first produced my four-part Definitive Guantánamo Prisoner List, providing the names and nationalities of all 779 prisoners, and, in over 90 percent of those cases, links to my own articles about Guantánamo (around 300 at that point), providing more information about them, or references for where their stories appear in my book The Guantánamo Files or in 12 additional online chapters.

I updated the list in January and July 2010, and have now updated it again. See Part One, Part Two, Part Three and Part Four.

This latest update not only provides links to the 300 or so articles I have written in the last year, but also, crucially, includes information from the latest documents to be released by WikiLeaks, the classified military files, known as Detainee Assessment Briefs (DABs), which were released at the end of April. I worked as a media partner with WikiLeaks, and as a result I’m pleased to include information about 86 prisoners that was not previously known (from an ongoing five-part series of articles, entitled, WikiLeaks: The Unknown Prisoners of Guantánamo), and also to include dozens of previously unseen photos. I’ll be conducting further analysis of the WikiLeaks documents over the next few months, and will add further links as this work progresses.

As a result, when this five -part series is complete and the relevant links have been added to this list, it will provide, for the first time, references (mostly in the form of links) to the stories of all of the 779 prisoners held in Guantánamo (with the exception of three missing stories).

This is not, of course, the only online database that is publicly available. The New York Times, for example, has made all the publicly available information about the prisoners, from the Bush-era Combatant Status Review Tribunals (CSRTs) and annual Administrative Review Boards (ARBs), available on its Guantánamo Docket (and the original source material remains available on the US Department of Defense’s website), although these only cover the stories of around three-quarters of the 779 prisoners held in total. In addition, there is now WikiLeaks’ trove of Detainee Assessment Briefs (DABs), supplementing these documents with crucial insights into how the authorities reached the often mistaken conclusions highlighted in the earlier documents.

However, with the exception of two articles that I wrote for WikiLeaks, introducing the Detainee Assessment Briefs (WikiLeaks Reveals Secret Guantánamo Files, Exposes Detention Policy as a Construct of Lies and How to Read WikiLeaks’ Guantánamo Files), my list provides the only contextual analysis of the stories of all the prisoners held at Guantánamo throughout its long and dark history.

As a result, as I explained when I first published the list:

It is my hope that this project will provide an invaluable research tool for those seeking to understand how it came to pass that the government of the United States turned its back on domestic and international law, establishing torture as official US policy, and holding men without charge or trial neither as prisoners of war, protected by the Geneva Conventions, nor as criminal suspects to be put forward for trial in a federal court, but as “illegal enemy combatants” [or “unlawful enemy combatants,” or, as they now are under President Obama, “alien unprivileged enemy belligerents”].

I also hope that it provides a compelling explanation of how that same government, under the leadership of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, established a prison in which the overwhelming majority of those held — at least 93 percent of the 779 men and boys imprisoned in total — were either completely innocent people, seized as a result of dubious intelligence or sold for bounty payments, or Taliban foot soldiers, recruited to fight an inter-Muslim civil war that began long before the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and that had nothing to do with al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden or international terrorism.

In conclusion, I would like to reiterate how fundamental the problem is of confusing soldiers with terrorists, and how it is a problem enshrined in the founding legislation of the “War on Terror,” the Authorization for Use of Military Force, which President Obama relies upon to justify the detention of prisoners at Guantánamo, and which lawmakers in the House of Representatives recently voted to expand.

I would also like to add that Guantánamo’s problems are not all in the past. Although 600 of the 779 prisoners held throughout the prison’s nine-year history have been released, 171 remain, and the last two prisoners to leave the prison (in February, and last month) left in coffins. The stories of these men, which I wrote about in my articles, Guantánamo Prisoner Dies After Being Held for Nine Years Without Charge or Trial, The Only Way Out of Guantánamo Is In a Coffin and Guantánamo Suicide Was Severely Mentally Ill, And Was A Case of Mistaken Identity, provide a somber epitaph for President Obama’s hopes of closing the prison, based on the bold promise to do so that he made on his second day in office, and then failed to fulfill.

It is not entirely his own fault, as there are dark forces at work — in the D.C. Circuit Court, where deeply Conservative judges are undermining the prisoners’ habeas corpus rights, granted by a Supreme Court that no longer seems to care, and in Congress, where the most cynical, negative, fearmongering Republican party of all time, with the help of cowardly Democrats, has been working overtime to try and ensure that Guantánamo remains open forever.

Nevertheless, Barack Obama is the President, and the Commander-in-Chief, and he has failed to adequately challenge his critics, or to stand up for the principles which so many of his supporters at the time of his election had been led to believe would result in a thorough repudiation of the Bush administration’s hideous novelties in its brutal and ill-conceived “War on Terror.” Instead, we have the return of kangaroo courts and indefinite detention without charge or trial, as we had under Bush, no release for prisoners cleared for release by Obama’s own Guantánamo Review Task Force, no prosecutions for torturers, and no end in sight to the endless war that the Bush administration started, and which Obama has ramped up with drone strikes and assassinations.

In many ways, therefore, this updated list provides crucial, relevant information — “actionable intelligence,” even — that is actively useful for those still seeking to close Guantánamo, and to bring to an end this bleak chapter in American history.

And believe me, a concerted effort is required if those of us who regard Guantánamo as an abomination and a vile aberration from internationally acceptable standards of detention and the humane treatment of prisoners are ever to see it close.

As ever, I thank you for your support, and if you’re able to make a donation to help me to continue my work, then I will be very grateful. Please click on the “Donate” button above to make a payment via PayPal. All contributions are welcome, whether it’s $25, $100 or $500.

For anyone interested in anniversaries, it is exactly four years since I began writing about Guantánamo as a full-time freelance investigative journalist (following the 14 months that I spent researching and writing The Guantánamo Files), and this is also my 1300th blog post.


Technical note: If you have problems with text overlaying any of the photos in the list, please click “refresh,” and the problem should be resolved.

Andy Worthington

Andy Worthington is an investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers). Worthington is the author of "The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison"

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