Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Guantanamo prisoners' papers get closer look

Guantanamo prisoners' papers get closer look
By Jane Sutton

GUANTANAMO BAY U.S. NAVAL BASE (Reuters) - More than four years after the U.S. military began sending captives to the Guantanamo prison camp, intelligence analysts at the base said on Tuesday they are still going through the prisoners' notebooks and papers to figure out exactly who they are.

Some 120,000 items belonging to the detainees are stored in a low, metal building called the evidence locker, stacked in cardboard boxes and green metal lockers on shelves that reach to the ceiling.

The stash includes notebooks, phone records, real and counterfeit currency, clothing, letters, watches, cassette and video recordings, global positioning trackers, and wooden sticks apparently used as toothbrushes.

They were seized when the Guantanamo prisoners, who now number 480, were captured in battles and raids, mostly in Afghanistan and Pakistan after the U.S. invasion to oust al Qaeda from Afghanistan after the September 11 attacks.

The items were stuffed into garbage bags and boxes, cataloged and tagged, and then shipped to Guantanamo with their owners. Last year the general then in charge of the prison camp decided somebody should take another, more thorough look.

"I think there were a lot of things they missed," said a security officer who can be identified only as Lori. "Eight or nine months ago, they really started going back through everything."

Military and civilian intelligence analysts wearing blue latex gloves said they were sifting through the prisoners' belongings "to find out who they are ... what they had on them and what they're doing."

The first prisoners arrived at Guantanamo in January 2002, and the last in October 2004. Military officials at the navy base have repeatedly said the detainees were dangerous men who provided crucial information in the U.S. fight against terrorism.

The intelligence analysts would not say why a thorough and painstaking review of their belongings had not been completed long ago, except that it involved massive amounts of work. Some documents were still being checked by linguists, and the significance of others had not been apparent on first reading, they said.

"Sometimes a name that didn't stick out before suddenly becomes prominent when we find new intelligence," one bearded civilian analyst told visiting journalists who had asked to see the evidence locker.

The analysts said they were still finding information in the prisoners' papers that cast doubt on some of their stories.

"Where there's one guy who says 'I was a cook or a poor goat farmer,' we find records where he's signing it as the chief of intelligence or etcetera," the bearded analyst said.

The belongings included notebooks with drawings the agents said were wiring diagrams, a military map of Cuba, a UNICEF health pamphlet, and several videotapes that the agents said could contain secretly recorded messages. One was labeled "Intercessionary Prayer Video - The Lightning of God."

Asked if any of those contained a hidden message, the analyst replied, "We haven't looked through those."