The U.S. government released
the first list of detainees held at the Guantanamo Bay prison on Wednesday, the
most extensive accounting yet of the hundreds of people held there, nearly all
of them labeled enemy combatants.
In all, 558 people were named in the list provided by the Pentagon in
response to a Freedom of Information lawsuit by The Associated Press. They were
among the first swept up in the U.S. global war on terrorism for suspected links
to al-Qaida or the Taliban.
The list is the first official roster of Guantanamo detainees who passed
through the Combatant Status Review Tribunal process in 2004 and 2005 to
determine whether they should be deemed "enemy combatants."
Those named are from Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and 39 other countries. Many
have been held at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay for more than four years.
Only a handful have faced formal charges.
Some names are familiar, such as David Hicks, a Muslim from Australia charged
with fighting U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan. He is one of nine
detainees selected to be tried by a military tribunal, on charges of attempted
murder, aiding the enemy and conspiracy to commit terrorism.
Hicks allegedly fought for the Taliban, and Australian news media have said
British authorities contend he admitted undergoing training with British Islamic
extremists, including Richard Reid, who was convicted of trying to blow up a
trans-Atlantic airliner with a shoe bomb.
Lesser-known detainees on the list include Muhammed al-Qahtani, a Saudi who
reportedly was supposed to be the 20th hijacker in the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
Although his presence at Guantanamo had been reported, the military had
previously declined to confirm it.
U.S. authorities denied al-Qahtani entry at Orlando, Fla., before the suicide
hijackings. But testimony of the trial Zacarias Moussaoui quoted an al-Qaida
leader as describing al-Qahtani as the last hijacker for the mission who would
"complete the group."
Others on the list, such as an Afghan identified only as "Commander Chaman,"
In all, the detainees on the list came from 41 countries. The largest number
¡ª 132 ¡ª came from Saudi Arabia. Afghanistan followed with 125, then Yemen with
Partial, unofficial lists of Guantanamo Bay detainees have been compiled in
the past by news organizations, lawyers and human rights groups. The U.S. had
previously declined to release any list of names except the 10 who have been
Even with the latest release, the Pentagon has not provided a full list of
all the more than 750 prisoners that the military says have passed through
The release of the list on Wednesday, ordered by a federal judge, came amid
wide criticism of the almost total secrecy surrounding the Guantanamo Bay
detention center, where the United States now holds about 490 detainees.
"This is information that should have been released a long time ago, and it's
a scandal that it hasn't been," said Bill Goodman, legal director of the New
York-based Center for Constitutional Rights, which has helped coordinate legal
efforts on behalf of Guantanamo detainees.
The combatant status hearings at Guantanamo Bay were held from July 2004 to
January 2005 after the Supreme Court ruled that the detainees had the right to
contest their status before a judge or other neutral decision-maker.
All detainees at the prison during that period had such a hearing. Of the 558
detainees who received one, the panels classified 38 as "no longer enemy
combatants" and the military later approved the transfer of 28 of those
detainees from Guantanamo. A military spokesman said he had no information about
the other 10.
The names of many Guantanamo Bay detainees were disclosed publicly for the
first time on March 3, when the Pentagon released some 5,000 pages of
transcripts to the AP.
More names came in subsequent releases of documents ¡ª but always buried
within the text of transcripts that often contained only partial information
about the detainees.
With the list released Wednesday, which was accompanied by some 500 more
pages of transcripts that the Pentagon said it inadvertently omitted from
earlier releases, the Pentagon went further than ever in identifying who has
been held at the high-security detention center on a U.S. Navy base at the
southeastern edge of Cuba.
The new information will help lawyers for detainees and human rights groups
who have tried to monitor Guantanamo Bay, said Mark Denbeaux, a law professor at
Seton Hall University in New Jersey who has analyzed previous Guantanamo Bay
documents released by the Pentagon.
"Lawyers have been asking for this stuff for 2 1/2 years," he said.