Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Karen Greenberg's "The Least Worst Place"

Karen J. Greenberg is Executive Director of the Center on Law and Security, New York University School of Law. She is the editor of numerous books, including The Torture Papers: The Road to Abu Ghraib and the well known Terrorist Trial Report Card which has tracked all US terrorism cases to go through the US courts since 9/11.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, The Least Worst Place: Guantanamo’s First 100 Days, and reported the following:
When the first military unit at Guantanamo– Joint Task Force 160 - received the detainees, they looked over their captives, and soon realized that they knew next to nothing about the “worst of the worst” that they had been expecting. US authorities didn’t know the prisoners’ names or much else about them. Many had been handed over for bounty to US forces. Accordingly, the detainees arrived without “pocket litter” or papers. Translators prepared in Arabic turned out to be useless for the majority who spoke Pashto and Urdu. The detainees arrived with diseases, dietary requirements, and religious sensibilities unknown to the command staff on the ground at Guantanamo. Yet when the JTF asked that the International Committee of the Red Cross - the international organization best prepared to give professional advice on medical and other issues - be allowed to join them as required under international law for prisoners from a war zone, their request was denied by “higher-ups” in Washington. Finally, the uniformed military directly involved with Guantanamo bypassed Washington’s impasse and called in the ICRC. Only then did the 160 begin to know who they had in their midst and how best to interact with them. Only then could the 160 begin fully to understand how to legally and humanely go about attending to the detainees – goals which this first team considered themselves sworn as military men and women to uphold.

From Page 99:

The first thing the ICRC wanted to do was to interview each detainee. Setting up an open-air table within sight of the cages, the representatives began their questioning. If the ICRC representatives had had their way the detainees being interviewed would not have been shackled at all. But the JTF command structure was not about to allow anything that would expose the ICRC men to serious harm. A compromise was reached. Each detainee was seated in a chair facing a table at which the interviewers sat, asking their questions and taking notes. This afforded the shackled detainees a modicum of dignity.
Learn more about The Least Worst Place at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue