Whistleblower website Wikileaks obtained files published in US and European newspapers, which are assessments of all 780 prisoners ever held at Guantanamo Bay (photo, from bbcimg.co.uk).
According to these files the US believed that many of the people held at the facility were innocent or only low-level operatives.
While 220 people were classed as dangerous terrorists, 150 were innocent Afghans and Pakistanis.
The Pentagon said anti-terrorism efforts could be damaged by the files’ release.
Although the filed give little information on the allegations of harsh treatment and interrogation techniques at the camp, details of alleged plots, revealed under interrogation, were given by the Detainee Assessment Briefs (DABs).
The plots include unverified claims that al-Qaeda had hidden a nuclear weapon in Europe for detonation in cause Osama Bin Laden were captured, or plans to put cyanide into the air conditioning systems of US public buildings and attempts by al-Qaeda to recruit workers at London’s Heathrow Airport.
The US naval base in Cuba currently holds under 180 detainees, most of whom are believed to pose a high risk threat to the US should they be released without adequate supervision.
Wrong place, wrong time
But according to the files US military analysts considered only 220 of the people ever detained at Guantanamo Bay to be dangerous extremists, 380 detainees were considered as low-ranking guerrillas and at least 150 people were revealed to be innocent Afghans or Pakistanis, such as drivers, farmers and chefs, who were rounded up during intelligence gathering operations in the aftermath of 9/11.
Among those believed to be dangerous extremists are Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attacks on the US, and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, a Saudi accused of planning the 2000 bombing of the destroyer USS Cole in Yemen.
As for the detainees who were not extremists, the memo say that they were held for years, due to mistaken identity or because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.
For example, Sudanese cameraman for al-Jazeera Sami al-Hajj was held for six years, partly so he could be questioned about the Arabic news network. Author Abdul Badr Mannan was considered high risk, even though his files states US officials may have been “misled” by the Pakistani security services.
As for Mukhibullo Abdukarimovich Umarov, a Tajik man who was arrested in Karachi in 2002 and spent almost two years at Guantanamo before being released, his assessment says the reasons for detaining him were “undetermined”.
70-year-old Haji Faiz Mohammed was arrested in Afghanistan. His file says there is “no reason on record” for him to be transferred and he is described as having senile dementia.
As for Naqib Ullah, even though his file states he had been kidnapped by the Taliban and was no threat to the US, he was arrested when he was 14 and spent a year in Guantanamo.
The leak was condemned by the Pentagon who called it “unfortunate”, describing the assessments as snapshots that may now be outdated.
The Pentagon also said that in 2009 reviews of all inmates had in many cases reached different conclusions to those in the DABs.
“Both the previous and the current Administrations have made every effort to act with the utmost care and diligence in transferring detainees from Guantanamo,” said the statement.
“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.”
Last year Wikileaks released tens of thousands of secret US military files, including the files about Guantanamo inmates.
Private Bradley Manning is accused of leaking documents to the website. He was arrested in May last year and is being detained at a military prison pending a martial court.
As for Julian Assange, Wikileaks’ founder, he is currently battling extradition from the UK to Sweden, where he is accused of sexual assault.
The Guantanamo Bay detention facility was set up in 2001 under the Bush administration and as soon as he was elected in 2009, president Obama pledged to close it within a year.
Although the White House says Mr Obama is still committed to closing the prison, last March he announced the end of the two-year freeze on controversial military trials for Guantanamo Bay detainees.