Inside Story Americas
A decade of Guantanamo
Few places have done more to conjure up anti-American sentiments, but has Guantanamo aided intelligence gathering?
Last Modified: 11 Jan 2012 12:38

It has been 10 years since the first detainees were brought to Guantanamo Bay, the US military base in Cuba.

"Guantanamo's single most important distinguishing feature is indefinite military imprisonment without fair process, which remains as true today as it was in 2002. It was set up as a legal blackhole. The majority of the nearly 800 early detainees were never captured anywhere near a battlefield, they were sold for a bounty from places like Pakistan."

- Ramzi Kassem, a lawyer representing several current Guantanamo detainees

Despite repeated calls for its closure, it has become a permanent fixture, at least for the foreseeable future, of US national security policy.

Few places do more to conjure up anti-American sentiments than the Guantanamo Bay detention centre, chosen by George Bush, the former US president, as a place to detain and interrogate those the US accuses of terrorism following the attacks of September 11, 2001.

The 10th anniversary will be marked by demonstrations in London and Washington, while some of the 171 prisoners still in detention there plan to mark the day with sit-ins, banners and a hunger strike.

The centre is controversial because most of the detainees have been held without charge indefinitely.

Out of 779 detainees, only six have been convicted. Most have been released after years in detention.

"There is a significant difference between the conduct of operations at Guantanamo and the larger debate about how the US has conducted the war on terror ... it's very common to [talk] about detention facilities and [discuss] renditions, what the CIA did and the different kinds of policies. Guantanamo is a detention facility run by the Pentagon and is not outside the rule of law."

- James Carafano from the Heritage Foundation

And there have been allegations of the torture and inhumane treatment of some of the detainees.

But while the US is at war with al-Qaeda, a majority of Americans think Guantanamo is necessary to imprison those picked up on the battlefield.

Although Barack Obama, the US president, pledged to close the prison the deadline for that came and went two years ago.

And, as of two weeks ago, indefinite military detention is enshrined in US law.

So, has Guantanamo led to successful intelligence gathering? And should it be kept open?

Inside Story Americas, with presenter Anand Naidoo, discusses with guests: Morris Davis, the former chief prosecutor for Guantanamo; James Carafano from the Heritage Foundation; and Ramzi Kassem, a lawyer who represents several current Guantanamo detainees.

"My policy for two years [was] that we [would] not use any of that information [obtained through torture]. Unfortunately people above me retired and left, and [new] people came in and said 'If President Bush says we don't torture them who are you to say we do. We've got all this information we collected that's useful and we need to get them in and use it' … and that's when I resigned."

Morris Davis, the former chief prosecutor for Guantanamo

And, below is what the Bush administration said back in 2002 in defending the treatment of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay.

"And let there be no doubt the treatment of the detainees in Guantanamo Bay is proper, it's humane, it's appropriate, and it is fully consistent with international conventions. No detainee has been harmed. No detainee has been mistreated in any way." - Donald Rumsfeld, the former US secretary of defence

"There may be an allegation, but there's no evidence that we're treating them outside the spirit of the Geneva Convention. And for those who say we are, they just don't know what they're talking about." - George Bush, the former US president

Guantanamo facts

  • A total of 779 prisoners have been held in Guantanamo since January 11, 2002
  • About 600 have been released without charges, many after being detained for years
  • Six detainees have been convicted by military commission
  • Only one has been prosecuted in a US civilian court
  • 171 detainees remain at Guantanamo
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