Rumsfeld complained of 'low level' GTMO prisoners, memo reveals
A newly found 2003 memo by former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld appears to directly contradict claims that Guantanamo held only the “worst of the worst” suspected terrorists.
“We need to stop populating Guantanamo Bay (GTMO) with low-level enemy combatants,” Rumsfeld says in the memo, addressed to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
“GTMO needs to serve as an [redacted] not a prison for Afghanistan,” Rumsfeld adds in the memo, which was discovered by a Seton Hall law school research team and provided to The Post.
“Therefore, effective June 16, the January 7, 2002 Screening Criteria are amended to authorize you to transfer to Guantanamo only those detainees who meet the criteria and are of [redacted several words] value.”
Rumsfeld’s memo “explicitly contradicts his continued public statements that Guantanamo Bay was reserved for the ‘worst of the worst,’" Seton Hall Law School's Center for Policy and Research said in a statement.
"The Secretary of Defense’s Memorandum is at variance with what he told Congress at the time and what he is representing to the American public in his new memoir,” added Prof. Mark Denbeaux, director of the Center. “First they lied about who was in Guantanamo, now they lie about those who left. It’s like that old gospel song, ‘Sign of Judgment’-- they told one lie to fool us all, then two to make it true.”
Asked for comment, Rumsfeld spokesman Keith Urbahn said the former defense secretary never used “the worst of the worst” to describe the Guantanamo prisoners.
“It is wrongly attributed to him,” Urbahn said, and a Lexis-Nexis search appears to back him up.
On the other hand, other top Pentagon officials close to Rumsfeld used the phrase and didn't object when reporters attributed it to him in their questions.
For example, during a Jan. 28, 2002 Pentagon briefing, Rumsfeld’s spokesman Adm. John S. Stufflebeem said of the prisoners, “These are the worst of the worst. And if let out on the street, they will go back to the proclivity of trying to kill Americans and others. So that is well-established.”
The memo was included in Seton Hall’s report, “Rumsfeld Knew: DoD's 'Worst of the Worst' and Recidivism Claims Refuted by Recently Declassified Memo,” to be published Friday.
On Tuesday Rumsfeld’s memoir, “Known and Unknown,” came under withering scrutiny by The Post’s Bob Woodward, author of several books on the Bush administration, who called it “a travesty” and “a brazen effort to shift blame to others ”
“It now appears that the same thing is true of Guantanamo and this time the proof is in Secretary Rumsfeld’s own words,” said Sean Camoni, a fellow at the Seton Hall Law School Center for Policy and Research and a co-author of the report.
Peter Finn and Julie Tate contributed to this report.
| March 3, 2011; 7:30 PM ET
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