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Preventing another 'Gitmo' must be a priority

Posted: April 30, 2011 - 8:32pm

The following editorial appeared in the Kansas City Star:

There are two ways to react to 759 leaked files from the Guantanamo Bay detention camp. The first is to recoil. The information included in these documents is lurid, heartbreaking and an additional blot on the Guantanamo experience.

For instance, some detainees were arrested and held for years in part because they wore a cheap brand of digital watch, the Casio F-91W. The watches were thought to have been a reward for completing al-Qaida bomb-making training. Yet they are affordable and easily found globally.

But the more necessary approach has to be a serious study and commitment on how to ensure such mistakes aren’t repeated in the future.

The files, obtained by several major news organizations, take a look at the cases against most of the 779 inmates who have been in the camp, including almost all of the 606 detainees who were determined to pose no security threat to the United States and offered no intelligence value. These individuals have been released.

While there is no doubt that the U.S. experience at the prison camp has been riddled with mistakes and has turned into a worldwide public relations nightmare, there is also no doubt that the United States has a legitimate need to gather intelligence on international terrorism.

What we still lack after so many years is a fully developed legal framework to handle the arrest, detention and trial of terror suspects. It goes without saying that torture is never an acceptable means of extracting information. Beyond the fact that it diminishes those administering it, the information it gleans does not prove trustworthy.

The leaked documents reinforce one of the tragedies of Guantanamo: Once U.S. officials had determined detainees were of no interest, had not taken up arms against the United States and posed no threat to national security, they didn’t know what to do with them.

That continues to be the case with some of those in the camp. It is in our best national interests to make sure that we are more prepared in the future.

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