More than 750 documents about Guantanamo were released recently by WikiLeaks to several news organizations. Meanwhile, an unknown leaker out-leaked WikiLeaks and shared the files with The New York Times and NPR. The Miami Herald's Carol Rosenberg, who has covered Guantanamo for years, describes what she learned from the documents and shares her concerns about the leak.
Cult of the Peacock Angel
Artist: by William Tyler
BOB GARFIELD: This week in WikiLeaks, more than 750 previously classified documents about Guantanamo. These were mainly risk assessment dossiers on individual prisoners, which WikiLeaks had offered to seven news organizations under an embargo. That means those organizations had to agree not to report on the material until a time and date set by WikiLeaks. But then, an unknown leaker outleaked WikiLeaks, passing the files onto a newspaper WikiLeaks deems unfriendly, The New York Times. The Times went to press with the documents early this week, leaving the original leakees scrambling to get their stories out, one such, McClatchy’s Miami Herald, where reporter Carol Rosenberg has covered Guantanamo for years. She has misgivings about the files, which she believes create a skewed version of Gitmo reality, especially when viewed out of context of a decade of judicial and intelligence false starts. But even Rosenberg, the most inveterate Guantanamo reporter, gleaned some new insights. Carol, welcome back to the show.
CAROL ROSENBERG: Thanks for inviting me, Bob.
BOB GARFIELD: There must have been stuff that you saw that you [LAUGHS] would have died to get ahold of at any point during your reporting down there. To your way of thinking, what were the big keepers, the disclosures that made you gasp?
CAROL ROSENBERG: We had photos. And you have to remember that reporters down there are working under limitations that do not let you take pictures of detainees that make them identifiable. And suddenly, we have what looked like mug shots, booking photos, one after another. As one of my colleagues said, we could make a Facebook. We could go down there and we could know who’s who, just like on a college campus. The photos were a very dramatic first thing I spotted about these.
BOB GARFIELD: Was there anything in the files that you saw that caught the Pentagon in a lie that was directly in conflict with what had been told you officially by sources at Guantanamo or at DOD?
CAROL ROSENBERG: Well, one thing jumped off the page, and it was a notation in one of the prisoner’s charts, as it were, that back in February 2004 he had refused to go to his “reservation” and so they had to extract him from his cell twice. Well, for years they had been telling us that “reservations,” as they called interrogations, were voluntary.
BOB GARFIELD: That’s a pretty good Pentagon euphemism right there.
BOB GARFIELD: The documents are loaded with those kinds of euphemisms. They talk about people on “voluntary total fasts.” You know what that is. It’s a hunger strike. So this entry was a surprise because it had been part of the presentation at Guantanamo, the weekly tour, that interrogations were voluntary and that detainees wanted to go to interrogation because it was a time to get away from the other guys and hang out and offer opinions or engage a interrogator, something different than the mundane routine of the camp. But here is the note on this man’s record that he'd been extracted from his cell twice in February of 2004, for refusing to go to a “reservation.” It just jumped off the page.
BOB GARFIELD: I want to ask you a little bit about reporter psychology. When you get your hands on an official document, especially in a vacuum of any kind of real documentary material for, you know, a decade, I guess there’s a tendency to overvalue it. Do you think that’s what’s happened here?
CAROL ROSENBERG: I do think that’s happened, to a certain degree. I mean, I've been building files on these guys so I take this document and I compare it to what’s gone on in federal court, what’s gone on in the military commissions, what’s gone on in other hearings, what else I know about these men. And this document is just a part of a picture. It’s a snapshot in time. It’s an argument made by the prison camps that they got the right people, based on a mosaic of information that they have patched together to make their best case. We know that since Obama took over, they've updated these documents and they've changed. So this is a snapshot of a moment in time that in some instances is seven or eight years ago. So while it looks like the only thing that we know about these men down there, it’s not. It’s, as they say at Guantanamo, part of the mosaic.
BOB GARFIELD: All right, Carol. Thank you very much.
CAROL ROSENBERG: Thank you.
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BOB GARFIELD: Carol Rosenberg reports on Guantanamo for The Miami Herald.