Cheney Knew They Were Innocent


The inmates at Gitmo were routinely referred to as "the worst of the worst." Rumsfeld, Bush and Cheney all knowingly pushed this lie. And it was a lie - because they all knew that the chaotic way in which these terror suspects had been captured had left such esoteric questions as innocence or guilt by the wayside.

In a March 24 legal declaration in the Hamdi case, a first-hand eye-witness to the Bush-Cheney administration's contempt for due process and embrace of torture, stated under oath what he saw on the inside. The statement - widely covered across the world - was largely ignored by the US MSM.

But it's devastating to have a former high Bush-Cheney official state under oath that the last administration knew it had countless innocent prisoners, lied about it, and tortured many. Lawrence Wilkerson, former secretary of state Colin Powell's chief of staff, is the man putting the record straight. Money quote:

In fact, by late August 2002, I found that of the initial 742 detainees that had arrived at Guanta?namo, the majority of them had never seen a U.S. soldier in the process of their initial detention and their captivity had not been subjected to any meaningful review. A separate but related problem was that often absolutely no evidence relating to the detainee was turned over, so there was no real method of knowing why the prisoner had been detained in the first place. Secretary Powell was also trying to bring pressure to bear regarding a number of specific detentions because children as young as 12 and 13 and elderly as old as 92 or 93 had been shipped to Guanta?namo...

During the morning briefings, Ambassador at-Large for War Crimes, Pierre Prosper, who was a primary person working on negotiating transfers, would discuss the difficulty he encountered in dealing with the Department of Defense, and specifically Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, who just refused to let detainees go.

I came to understand that there were several different reasons for the refusal to release detainees in Guanta?namo, even those who were likely innocent. These reasons continued to the time of my departure from the Department of State in 2005. At least part of the problem was that it was politically impossible to release them. The concern expressed was that if they were released to another country, even an ally such as the United Kingdom, the leadership of the Defense Department would be left without any plausible explanation to the American people, whether the released detainee was subsequently found to be innocent by the receiving country, or whether the detainee was truly a terrorist and, upon release were it to then occur, would return to the war against the U.S.

Another concern was that the detention efforts at Guanta?namo would be revealed as the incredibly confused operation that they were. Such results were not acceptable to the Administration and would have been severely detrimental to the leadership at DOD.

Another part of the political dilemma originated in the Office of Vice President Richard B. Cheney, whose position could be summed up as “the end justifies the means”, and who had absolutely no concern that the vast majority of Guanta?namo detainees were innocent, or that there was a lack of any useable evidence for the great majority of them. If hundreds of innocent individuals had to suffer in order to detain a handful of hardcore terrorists, so be it. That seemed to be the philosophy that ruled in the Vice President’s Office.

I discussed the issue of the Guanta?namo detainees with Secretary Powell. From these discussions, I learned that it was his view that it was not just Vice President Cheney and Secretary Rumsfeld, but also President Bush who was involved in all of the Guanta?namo decision making. My own view is that it was easy for Vice President Cheney to run circles around President Bush bureaucratically because Cheney had the network within the government to do so. Moreover, by exploiting what Secretary Powell called the President’s “cowboy instincts,” Vice President Cheney could more often than not gain the President’s acquiescence.

Lie after lie after lie. And the illegal imprisonment and torture of individuals often completely unrelated to terrorism at all. And no accountability. This was America for almost eight years. And Obama has perpetuated the avoidance of responsibility with staggering diligence.

(Photo: torture supporters Liz and Dick Cheney, at a party for torture supporter Brit Hume, at a party at the pro-torture Fox News Corporation. By Brendan Hoffman/Getty.)