No Comment — October 2, 2009, 1:55 pm

The Worst of the Worst?

For seven years, the Bush Administration told us that the prisoners held at Guantánamo were the “worst of the worst.” These are the kind of people who would chew through the hydraulic cables of a jet to try to bring it down, a breathless General Richard Myers once noted at a 2002 press conference. No one ever disputed that there were some dangerous figures at Guantánamo, particularly after President Bush decided on the eve of the 2006 midterm elections to move those held in CIA black sites to the naval station in Cuba. But was this true of the majority of the prisoners?

There was an odd discord between the rhetoric of the Bush Administration and their conduct. They continued to talk about the “worst of the worst,” and they relaunched it as a talking point almost from the start of the Obama Administration. But they also worked hard to release and repatriate a large number of detainees—it looks like roughly two thirds of the total—down to the end of their term. Seton Hall Law School students and faculty issued a series of impressive reports surveying the available evidence, and they suggested that perhaps as many as 80% of the total inmate population of Gitmo were innocent people, swept up as a result of generous bounty payments the United States offered to Afghan warlords and Pakistani security officials.

Now, as habeas corpus cases are processed, we finally have a basis to judge the Bush-Cheney claims about the Gitmo prisoners. The “judging” is being done by federal judges in Washington, nearly all of them conservative Republicans and quite a few appointed by George W. Bush himself. The results? The process is still ongoing. But at this moment, decisions have been rendered in 38 cases. The government was found to have had a tenable basis to hold eight Gitmo prisoners, and to have no basis in 30 cases. So far at least, the court judgments are remarkable in their coincidence with the numbers from the Seton Hall study. The judicial reviews—which have gotten far less press coverage than the scatter-shot attacks of Dick Cheney and his daughter–can be summarized this way: “Worst of the worst? Not so much.”

Here’s the roll call, with the status, the prisoner involved, the judge who ruled, and the prisoner’s nationality:

Freedom granted – 30 (20 of whom are still in custody)
17 Uighurs – Urbina (4 released to Bermuda)
5 Bosnian-Algerians – Leon – (4 released – 3 to Bosnia and 1 (Lakhdar Boumediene) to France)
Mohammed el Gharani (Chadian) – Leon (released to Chad)
Yasim Muhammed Basardah – Huvelle (Yemeni)
Alla Ali Bin Ali Ahmed – Kessler (Yemeni)
Abd al Rahim Abdul Rassak Janko – Leon (Syrian)
Khalid Abdullah Mishal Thamer Al Mutairi – Kollar-Kotelly (Kuwaiti)
Mohammed Jawad – Huvelle (Afghan; released to Afghanistan)
Mohammed Al-Adahi– Kessler (Yemeni)
Fouad Al Rabiah – Kollar-Kotelly (Kuwaiti).

Freedom denied – 8
Belkacem Bensayah (Bosnian) – Leon
Hisham Sliti (Tunisian) – Leon
Muaz Al Alawi (Yemeni) – Leon
Ghaleb Nassar Al Bihani (Yemeni) – Leon
Hammamy (Tunisian) – Leon
Waqas Mohammed Ali Awad (Yemeni) – Robertson
Fawzi Al Odah (Kuwaiti) – Kollar-Kotelly
Sufyian Barhoumi (Algerian) – Collyer

h/t to Shane Kadidal for the tally.

Share
Single Page

More from Scott Horton:

Context, No Comment August 28, 2015, 12:16 pm

Beltway Secrecy

In five easy lessons

From the April 2015 issue

Company Men

Torture, treachery, and the CIA

Six Questions October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm

The APA Grapples with Its Torture Demons: Six Questions for Nathaniel Raymond

Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.

Get access to 165 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

September 2015

A Goose in a Dress

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Genealogy of Orals

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Neoliberal Arts

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Gangs of Karachi

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
Romancing Kano·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:

The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.

leadership
service
integrity
creativity

Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.

Article
The Prisoner of Sex·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“It is disappointing that parts of Purity read as though Franzen urgently wanted to telegraph a message to anyone who would defend his fiction from charges of chauvinism: ‘No, you’ve got me wrong. I really am sexist.’”
Illustration by Shonagh Rae
Article
Gangs of Karachi·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“In Karachi, sometimes only the thinnest of polite fictions separates the politicians from the men who kill and extort on their behalf.”
Photograph © Asim Rafiqui/NOOR Images
Article
Weed Whackers·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Defining 'native' and 'invasive' in an ever-shifting natural world poses some problems. The camel, after all, is native to North America, though it went extinct here 8,000 years ago, while the sacrosanct redwood tree is invasive, having snuck in at some point in the past 65 million years.”
Photograph by Chad Ress
Article
The Neoliberal Arts·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“College is seldom about thinking or learning anymore. Everyone is running around trying to figure out what it is about. So far, they have come up with buzzwords, mainly those three.”
Artwork by Julie Cockburn

Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:

65

An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.

A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Subways Are for Sleeping

By

“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”

Subscribe Today