SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico,AP -After years of secrecy, the Pentagon has disclosed the names, ages and home countries of everyone held at the isolated Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in southeastern Cuba as a suspect in the U.S.-led war on terror.
None of the most notorious terrorist suspects was included in the list, raising questions about their whereabouts.
The U.S. says it has held 759 males, ranging from teenagers to older than 70, from more than 40 countries, according to the list released late Monday in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by The Associated Press.
The list includes some 200 previously undisclosed names. They are of former Guantanamo detainees who were moved out before the military began hearings in the summer of 2004 to determine whether detainees were properly classified as “enemy combatants.”
While the list includes the 10 detainees who have been charged with crimes, it doesn’t include alleged Sept. 11 plotters Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and Ramzi Binalshibh — whose whereabouts remain secret.
“There’s still much more in darkness,” said Priti Patel, a lawyer with New York-based Human Rights First who has monitored legal proceedings at Guantanamo.
Lawyers and other advocates will be able to use the new list to track who has been held at the base and find former detainees to help investigate allegations of abuse, Patel said.
The Pentagon released the list while denying the AP access to other information about the detainees, most of whom were held on suspicion of links to al-Qaida or the Taliban following the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan.
The handover marks the first time that everyone who has been held by the Defense Department at Guantanamo Bay has been identified, said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Chito Peppler, a Pentagon spokesman.
Last month, the military released the names of 558 detainees, also in response to an AP lawsuit.
The names of all detainees held at Guantanamo Bay were previously kept classified because of “the security operation as well as the intelligence operation that takes place down there,” said Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman.
The new list, when compared to the one from April, shows the Pentagon released many Afghans who were swept up early in the war. More than 90 were transferred out of Guantanamo between January 2002 and the summer of 2004.
Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, believes U.S. officials are trying to deflect international criticism of Guantanamo Bay by gradually moving out detainees.
“They are trying to slowly let the air out of the tires as a way to make the problem go away,” Romero said.
The list released Monday also does not specify what has happened to former Guantanamo Bay detainees.
The fate of some is documented. All British nationals held at Guantanamo Bay, for example, were transferred back to Britain. But what has become of dozens of other detainees was not known.
Some could be free. Others could be in secret U.S. detention centers, or in torture cells of prisons in other countries.
The AP sought the names, photos and other details of current and former Guantanamo Bay detainees through a Freedom of Information Act request on Jan. 18. After the Pentagon didn’t respond, the AP filed a lawsuit in March seeking compliance.
The Pentagon later agreed to turn over much of the information. Motions are pending in court for additional information, including the height and weight of the roughly 480 detainees still at Guantanamo Bay to assist with news coverage of a hunger strike.
The Pentagon refused to release that information, arguing that medical records are private. The military said the hunger strike began in August and has involved a maximum of 131 detainees.
The Pentagon also argued that releasing photos of current detainees would damage U.S. intelligence gathering. Releasing pictures would make it easier for al-Qaida to retaliate against detainees suspected of cooperating with interrogators, said Paul B. Rester, the director of the Joint Intelligence Group at Guantanamo. That would make it harder for the U.S. to collect intelligence, Rester said in a May 10 affidavit filed in response to the AP’s Freedom of Information Act suit.
“No human intelligence sources interested in cooperating with the United States officials under any hope of anonymity will be willing to do so if their photographs and names are publicly released,” he said.
The U.S. military says about 480 detainees are now at Guantanamo Bay. About 275 have been released or transferred.