* By: Jason Leopold, t r u t h o u t *
Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld once declared that individuals captured by the US military in the aftermath of 9/11 and shipped off to the Guantanamo Bay prison facility represented the “worst of the worst.”
“If you think of the people down there, these are people, all of whom were captured on a battlefield,” Rumsfeld said back in 2002, “they’re terrorists, trainers, bomb makers, recruiters, financiers … would-be suicide bombers.”
But Rumsfeld knowingly lied, according to a former top Bush administration official.
And so did then Vice President Dick Cheney when he said, also in 2002 and in dozens of public statements thereafter, that Guantanamo prisoners “are the worst of a very bad lot” and “dangerous” and “devoted to killing millions of Americans, innocent Americans, if they can, and they are perfectly prepared to die in the effort.”
Now, in a sworn declaration obtained exclusively by Truthout, Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, who was chief of staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell during George W. Bush’s first term in office, claims that Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and others knew the “vast majority” of prisoners captured in the so-called War on Terror were innocent and the administration refused to set them free once those facts were established because of the political repercussions that would have ensued.
For Cheney and Rumsfeld, and “others,” Wilkerson said, “the primary issue was to gain more intelligence as quickly as possible, both on Al Qaeda and its current and future plans and operations but increasingly also, in 2002-2003, on contacts between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein’s intelligence and secret police forces in Iraq.”
Wilkerson filed his declaration in support of a lawsuit filed by Adel Hassan Hamad, a 52-year-old former Guantanamo detainee who is suing Defense Secretary Robert Gates, former Joint Chief of Staff Richard Myers, and a slew of other Bush administration officials.
Hamad alleges that he was arrested in his apartment in Pakistan in July 2002, rendered to Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan for three months, where he says he was tortured, and then transferred to Guantanamo, where he allegedly endured further torture at the hands of US military personnel.
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