NEW YORK (Reuters) – Bush administration and U.S. military officials have repeatedly exaggerated the intelligence value of detainees at Guantanamo Bay as well as the danger they pose, The New York Times reported on Monday.
Contrary to the repeated assertions of senior administration officials, none of the detainees at the U.S. naval base in Cuba ranked as leaders or senior operatives of al Qaeda, the newspaper reported, citing interviews with high-level military, intelligence and law-enforcement officials in the United States, Europe and the Middle East.
About 595 foreign nationals, designated “enemy combatants,” are being held at the base. Most were seized during the U.S.-led campaign against the Taliban government in Afghanistan and against Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda network after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
The newspaper said only a relative handful of detainees at Guantanamo were sworn al Qaeda members or other militants able to elucidate the organization’s inner workings.
While some Guantanamo intelligence has aided terrorism investigations, it has not enabled intelligence or law-enforcement services to foil imminent attacks, the newspaper said, citing unnamed officials.
“When you have the overall mosaic of all the intelligence picked up all over the world, Guantanamo provided a very small piece of that mosaic,” the newspaper quoted a senior U.S. official as saying. “It’s been helpful and valuable in certain areas. Was it the mother lode of intelligence? No.”
The paper said other officials, in on-the-record interviews, had defended the intelligence-gathering effort at the base and said it continued to produce useful information.
“Every single day we get some piece of information that’s relevant to now,” Steve Rodriguez, who oversees interrogation teams at the base, was quoted by the newspaper as saying.