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Innocent prisoners being held at Guantanamo: ex-Powell aide

[JURIST] Chief of staff to former US secretary of state Colin Powell [JURIST news archive] Lawrence Wilkerson criticized US terrorism detention practices Thursday, saying that authorities were holding innocent civilians as terror suspects at the Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detention center. Wilkerson's comments echoed earlier statements he made on the blog Washington Notes, entitled "Some Truths About Guantanamo Bay" [Washington Notes blog post], published online Tuesday. In the post, Wilkerson outlined a number of issues with the way in which prisoners sent to Guantanamo were detained, including the inability of US forces to distinguish between terrorism suspects and civilians, the use of bounty hunters to gather detainees, and the lack of judicial oversight of the detention process. Wilkerson faulted the administration of former president George W. Bush [JURIST news archive] for failing to acknowledge or quickly ameliorate the practices, attributing the failure to a desire to preserve the president's legacy and reputation. In an interview with the Associated Press, Wilkerson said that many of the detainees were victims of unfortunate circumstances [AP report] and were handed over to US forces in exchange for money.

Wilkerson's criticism of US terrorism policies comes as part of an increasing consensus concerning the perceived inadequacy and uselessness of the Guantanamo detention facility. In June, an investigative report [text; JURIST report] by McClatchy Newspapers revealed that many Guantanamo detainees have no links to terrorism. The McClatchy report echoed comments [JURIST report] made in February 2006 by lawyers for two detainees who alleged that more than half of detainees held at Guantanamo have not committed terrorist acts or are not members of terrorist organizations. In November 2006, Seton Hall law professor Mark Denbeaux [faculty profile] reported that US military Combatant Status Review Tribunals [DOD materials] do not offer Guantanamo detainees an adequate opportunity to contest the accusations against them [JURIST report] or to object to their status as enemy combatants.

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