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Climate of distrust at Guantanamo revealed

A U.S. inquiry into alleged abuse at Guantanamo uncovered a climate of deep distrust between military police and interrogators, who were accused of giving terror suspects personal information about their guards.
/ Source: The Associated Press

A U.S. inquiry into alleged abuse at Guantanamo uncovered a climate of deep distrust between military police and interrogators, who were accused during the probe of giving terror suspects personal information about their guards.

The MPs suspected interrogators gave their names and Social Security identification numbers to prisoners in exchange for intelligence, according to the investigation, which recommended that a senior interrogator be relieved of duty for "failure to know his enemy."

The interrogator "sees himself as a hero for the detainees, and against the MPs, on a crusade in the battle of the MPs against the detainees," one investigator wrote in the report on the inquiry that The Associated Press obtained under a Freedom of Information lawsuit.

The report recommended military authorities look further into the disclosure of MP information to detainees. Guantanamo officials didn't respond to repeated questions about the investigation, including whether the interrogator — a military officer — was relieved of duty or whether the prison camp instituted any reforms in response to the findings.

The investigation began in March 2004, when the same interrogator claimed military police had abused detainees at the high-security camp in eastern Cuba, where the United States holds about 500 men captured in its war on terror.

Suspected al-Qaida member allegedly mistreated
The interrogator claimed that guards mistreated a suspected al-Qaida member by not allowing him to use the bathroom immediately after a five-hour interrogation and that at other times withheld food and turned the temperature down on a cell to 52 degrees as punishment.

An investigating officer, however, found no evidence of abuse by the guards.

The investigator faulted the interrogator instead — recommending he be relieved of his duties for reasons that included a "failure to know his enemy," the "unfounded" allegations against the guards and "the noted possibility that he suffers from Reverse Stockholm Syndrome."

Stockholm Syndrome is a psychological phenomenon in which hostages develop a bond with their captors. The most often-cited example is the heiress Patty Hearst, who helped rob banks with the radicals who kidnapped her in 1974.

The MPs said in sworn statements that they suspected interrogators may have been trading the names and Social Security numbers of guards to get intelligence in return.

"I believe that some of the interrogators would do whatever it takes to gather that, including giving out some MP's personal information," said a guard from the 258th Military Police company who said he was concerned because some detainees had a "deep hatred" for him.

The investigator, after talking to guards, said: "All expressed concerns for the secrecy of their personal information and the safety of their families."

Personal information no longer personal
The situation was so bad that an investigator said two guards were "petrified" of disclosing their name, rank and Social Security numbers on Privacy Act statements during the probe.

"They both pushed away from the table with a look of horror on their faces and told the investigating officers that this information was provided to the detainees by the interrogators," the military investigator wrote.

The MPs said personal property of detainees that had been confiscated was sometimes returned to prisoners with the Privacy Act statements of guards who handled the belongings. The detainees told the guards that it was interrogators who gave them the documents.

Nearly 100 detainees have been released since the investigation, but it's unknown if any of those who have been freed had received information about the guards.

At Guantanamo, allegations of inappropriate ties between the largely Muslim detainees and their military and civilian handlers have surfaced before.

Previous suspicions at Guantanamo
Troops had alleged that Ahmad I. al-Halabi, an Arabic translator for the Air Force who was convicted last year of mishandling documents at the base, and Army Capt. James Yee, a Muslim chaplain who was cleared of espionage charges, had also sympathized with detainees.

Suspicion of Muslim personnel by non-Muslims wasn't uncommon, said Donald Rehkopf Jr., the lawyer for al-Halabi, who had more serious espionage charges dropped in a plea deal.

"There was a lot of conflict between the Muslim linguists and the cadre of MPs down there," he told the AP. "It was a total lack of cultural awareness."

It isn't known whether the March 2004 probe involved a Muslim interrogator. Military censors blacked out names and other identifying details in the report. He was described as a regional team chief in charge of interrogators handling detainees from an undisclosed part of the world.

In his sworn statement, the interrogator alleged that it was the guards who allowed detainees to overhear sensitive information. He also said he was told MPs had conducted an "unauthorized cell search" at midnight and "openly talk" about harassing detainees.

"The majority of the ... personnel, especially the reservists, are consummate professionals," the interrogator said. "Those few that dispense information (even inadvertently), who harass detainees, and act in an altogether unprofessional manner, undermine the mission ... and do a disservice to those who work hard to do a good job."

The investigator, though, sided with the MPs and developed a harsh opinion of the interrogator, calling him immature and "driven by ego," according to the report.