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March 5, 2006
Gitmo Study Project Under Way

Last night, I issued a call for a blogswarm study of the newly-released documentation on the detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to determine the validity of an analysis done by attorneys representing two of the detainees. So far, we have had a large number of volunteers, and around a third of the documents have been assigned. I'm still getting volunteers, but more are needed, so be sure to send me a note if you're willing to participate. Put "Gitmo project" in the subject line and be sure to include a link to your blog, if you have one.

I've already received one survey back from Slightly Loony at JamulBlog. He included the following note:

After scanning this summary it was obvious that, as I expected, there was not enough information to reach an independent judgment. So I adopted this attitude as I read: I accepted the statements of fact as facts, and I interpreted as best I could any descriptions of what people actually said. I then made my best judgment as to the items you asked us to tabulate, based on the belief I had after reading the whole SOE. Most of these judgments could easily be debated by reasonable people, of course.

I feel like I've just taken a look at an alien (to me) culture from some distance, using a poor telescope. I was struck by the repeated descriptions of "recruitment" into jihad by religious figures. How strange, and frightening, such religious fervor! But these summaries are so shallow (as summaries usually are) that one cannot get any sense of the actual people (the "detainees", I mean) -- though it was easy to see, in some cases, the hostility of the officer writing up the summary, especially in some of the cases where the detainees have exhibited awful behavior in GITMO.

One thing that jumped out at me: the mitigations nearly all fall into one of two categories -- either a simple denial (e.g., "I was not an Al Qaida"), or completely irrelevant (e.g., "If released I will go home to my farm and get married."). The denials are not really informative, as (obviously) either a guilty or an innocent party is likely to deny the crime. To me, this basically complete absence of legitimate mitigating factors is the most compelling argument for bias in the process. If the process was fair, I'd expect to see things like "My good friend Dave is American" or "Here are the other five religious missions I went on before I was accidentally caught up in this mess in Afghanistan". But those are not there at all. Of course, the alternative explanation for the absence of legitimate mitigating factors is that they are genuinely missing -- because the detainees are in fact guilty -- and that the U.S. officers acting on their behalf stretched hard to find the few mitigating factors they did list. I hope like hell its the latter (and the other evidence for guilt inclines me that way), but I don't see a way to prove it from the SOEs...

The point of this exercise is to see just how much subjectivity went into the initial study. If our study supports the conclusions reached by the Denbeauxs, I'll make that very clear. When I reviewed the material myself, however, I had the same reservations that Slightly Looney expresses so well. I was also taken aback by the inclusion of mitigation in the SOEs, a fact not mentioned in the Denbeaux study, and the "reach" that investigators made in including the very entries that SL notes as well.

Let's keep it going. Let me know if you want to participate.

UPDATE: In case anyone wants to see the Excel forms being used, you can see the at these links: SOE tally and CSRT review.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at March 5, 2006 11:56 AM

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» Captain Ed Needs YOU! from Gina Cobb
Captain's Quarters has issued a call for a blogswarm study of the newly-released documentation on the detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to determine the validity of an analysis done by attorneys representing two of the detainees. More hands (and minds... [Read More]

Tracked on March 5, 2006 1:55 PM

» Gitmo Study Blogswarm from Suitably Flip
Captain Ed is organizing a distributed blog-based effort to review recently released Department of Defense data on Guantanamo Bay detainees, in response to a study conducted at the direction of a lawyer representing two of the detainees. The study cla... [Read More]

Tracked on March 5, 2006 3:24 PM


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