Within a day, much of the al-Qaeda leadership was on the way back to Afghanistan, planning for a long war.
A cache of classified military documents obtained by the anti-secrecy organization WikiLeaks presents new details of their whereabouts on Sept. 11, 2001, and their movements afterward. The documents also offer some tantalizing glimpses into the whereabouts and operations of Osama bin Laden and his Egyptian deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri.
The documents, provided to European and U.S. news outlets, including The Washington Post, are intelligence assessments of nearly every one of the 779 individuals who have been held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, since 2002. In them, analysts have created detailed portraits of detainees based on raw intelligence, including material gleaned from interrogations.
Detainees are assessed “high,” “medium” or “low” in terms of their intelligence value, the threat they pose while in detention and the continued threat they might pose to the United States if released.
The documents tend to take a bleak view of the detainees, even those who have been ordered released by the federal courts because of a lack of evidence to justify their continued detention. And the assessments are often based, in part, on reporting by informants at the military detention center, sources that some judges have found wanting.
In a statement, the Pentagon, which described the decision to publish some of the material as “unfortunate,” stressed the incomplete and snapshot nature of the assessments, known as Detainee Assessment Briefs, or DABs.
“The Guantanamo Review Task Force, established in January 2009, considered the DABs during its review of detainee information,” said Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell and Ambassador Daniel Fried, the Obama administration’s special envoy on detainee issues. “In some cases, the Task Force came to the same conclusions as the DABs. In other instances the Review Task Force came to different conclusions, based on updated or other available information. Any given DAB illegally obtained and released by Wikileaks may or may not represent the current view of a given detainee.”
Regardless of how detainees are currently assessed, many of the documents shed light on their histories, particularly those of the 14 high-value detainees whose assessments were made available. When pieced together, they capture some of the drama of al-Qaeda’s scattering in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks. They also point to tensions between certain members of the terrorist group.