WASHINGTON -- Interrogations of inmates at Guantanamo Bay have yielded "valuable insights" into the al Qaeda network, including its quest for powerful weapons, a Pentagon document stated, but rights activists on Monday called the document self-serving and untrustworthy.
The Pentagon released an unclassified summary of more than 4,000 interrogation reports from the prison for foreign terrorism suspects at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Detainees have given information to interrogators on people involved in al Qaeda's pursuit of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, it stated, but provided scant detail.
Al Qaeda, the radical Islamic network headed by Osama bin Laden, masterminded the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on America.
The document contained what it said were comments by detainees revealing "the mind-set of these terrorists."
It said a prisoner with ties to bin Laden, the Taliban and Chechen extremists told another detainee about Americans: "Their day is coming. One day I will enjoy sucking their blood, although their blood is bitter, undrinkable."
Amnesty International official Jumana Musa noted the document does not specify whether U.S. jailers used coercive interrogation techniques to extract information.
Noting some former detainees have said they were tortured at Guantanamo, Musa said even the U.S. Army doctrine states the use of force in interrogations yields unreliable answers, with a detainee motivated to say whatever he thinks the interrogator wants to hear.
'HARD TO TRUST'
"It's so hard to trust the validity of this," Musa said.
Musa said even if everything gained from the interrogations proved true, that did not legitimize the U.S. policy of indefinite detention of Guantanamo prisoners, many held more than three years without charges or legal representation.
The United States holds roughly 540 detainees at Guantanamo, most caught in Afghanistan, and has classified them as "enemy combatants" not entitled to rights accorded to prisoners of war under the Geneva Conventions.
"Many detainees have admitted close relationships or other access to senior al Qaeda leadership. They provide valuable insights into the structure of that organization and associated terrorist groups," the six-page document stated.
"The information includes their leadership structures, recruiting practices, funding mechanisms, relationships, and the cooperation between terrorist groups, as well as training programs, and plans for attacking the United States and other countries," it added.
The document said among the prisoners at Guantanamo were "the probable 20th 9/11 hijacker," a "spiritual adviser" to bin Laden, along with doctors, pilots, engineers and lawyers. More than 10 percent of the detainees had college or other higher education, including many educated in America, it said.
"This is a document that we formulated and released to provide more context and understanding about the importance of the detention interrogation mission at Guantanamo," said Maj. Michael Shavers, a Pentagon spokesman. Shavers said the information was "gleaned through standard interrogation practices."
Human Rights Watch military affairs researcher John Sifton disagreed, saying, "Its entire essence is self-serving. That's what the document seems to be at its core."
Sifton said he suspects any useful intelligence was collected long ago, adding, "It's a kind of obvious point, but intelligence gets stale quickly, and the idea that somebody's who's been in detention for three years still has fresh, useful intelligence is far-fetched."
© Reuters 2005