April 25, 2011— -- WikiLeaks' latest release of more than 700 secret U.S. government documents unveils previously unknown details on the hundreds of detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, since the Bush administration opened the military detention facility there nearly a decade ago.
The so-called Detainee Assessment Briefs, written by the Department of Defense between 2002 and early 2009, were released to the New York Times, Washington Post, NPR and the Guardian and published late Sunday.
The thousands of pages of documents reveal why each of 776 detainees was apprehended, what intelligence they might have been able to provide and why each should remain in custody or be turned free. Many include photos of the men seen publicly for the first time.
One hundred seventy-two detainees remain in U.S. military custody; most are designated "high risk" for posing a threat to the United States if they were to be released, according to the Times.
The information in the dossiers was largely gleaned from years of interrogations and evaluations by military intelligence analysts, but is impossible to independently verify.
The document dump sheds light on cases of accidental detentions of innocent or seemingly harmless men, including an Afghan shepherd who spent three years at Gitmo after being arrested near the scene of a roadside explosion, according to the Times.
The files show that some of the earliest prisoners included an 89-year-old man, whom U.S. military doctors described as suffering from "major depressive disorder, senile dementia and osteoarthritis," and a 70-year-old man who arrived in Gitmo to have authorities later conclude "there is no reason on the record for detainee being transferred to Guantanamo Bay detention facility." Both were released after several months, the Guardian found.
Some of the captives have also included children as young as 14, the files show. Naqib Ullah, 14, spent one year at Gitmo before military investigators concluded he was telling the truth about being kidnapped by the Taliban and returned to Afghanistan to "afford him an opportunity to 'grow out' of the radical extremism he has been subject to," the Guardian reported from his file.
The findings also include new details on alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed, who is believed to have ordered a Baltimore, Md., resident to carry out a suicide-assassination attempt against Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf, the documents show. The plot turned out to be a test of the man's "willingness to die for the cause."
Mohammed also reportedly told investigators that he intended to "somehow try to attack the White House again one day" since it was not hit on 9/11, and that al Qaeda was determined to create a "'nuclear hell storm' in America."
Al Qaeda explosives trainer Tariq Mahjmud Ahmad al-Sawah told interrogators he designed the prototype for the shoe bomb used by Richard Reid in a failed attempt to take down a U.S. plane mid-flight in late 2001.
The detainee charged with orchestrating the USS Cole bombing in 2000, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, told investigators he was "so dedicated to jihad that he reportedly received injections to promote impotence and recommended the injections to others so more time could be spent on the jihad [rather than being distracted by women]," his file shows.
The Pentagon has called the release "unfortunate" and cautioned that the files did not necessarily provide a complete or current view of the detainees. The Guantanamo Review Task Force conducted a fresh review of all detainees in 2009 that provided an assessment for their release, prosecution or indefinite detention. Those findings have not been obtained by WikiLeaks or made public.
"Both the previous and the current administrations have made every effort to act with the utmost care and diligence in transferring detainees from Guantanamo," the Pentagon said in a statement. "The previous administration transferred 537 detainees; to date, the current Administration has transferred 67.
"Both administrations have made the protection of American citizens the top priority and we are concerned that the disclosure of these documents could be damaging to those efforts."
The Obama administration announced earlier this month that it would try Mohammed and four other alleged 9/11 co-conspirators before military commissions at Guantanamo Bay.
That decision, coupled with Congress' legislative effort to block the transfer of any detainees to U.S. soil, has been widely viewed as a sign the detention facility there will likely not be closed any time soon, despite President Obama's pledge to shutter it during his first year in office.