Friday, May 07, 2004

Reprinted with Mr. Taylor's permission

Dec 21, 2003
The Washington Times

By Guy Taylor

U.S. NAVAL BASE GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba - More than 600 al Qaeda and Taliban suspects imprisoned here are being interrogated by "Tiger Teams" during sessions that last as long as 16 hours, military officials say.

Forty such four- and five-member teams - consisting of Defense Department
personnel, law-enforcement interrogators, a linguist and an analyst - work
inside Camp Delta.

The barbed-wire-ringed series of cellblocks is home to the detainees, all of
whom are Muslim men, representing 44 countries and speaking 17 languages.
While the identities of the men have been kept secret, military officials
here say all were arrested in Afghanistan.

The 105-year history of this unique base - the only U.S. military
installation in a communist country - has been peppered with such major
events of international consequence as the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban missile

Construction of Camp Delta since September 11 again turned the world's eyes
toward here to watch the development of a new situation, one plagued by
questions about the legal status of those held in the war on terror,
exacerbated by charges of misconduct by officials working with the

But Army Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller, who heads U.S. efforts to obtain
intelligence from the detainees, told The Washington Times that information
being gleaned from them has been "extremely valuable."

He vigorously dismissed the notion that recent charges leveled against some
who worked in or closely with the Tiger Teams suggested the presence of a
"fifth column," or organized group within the prison camp seeking to aid the

"There's absolutely zero possibility ... with the Tiger Teams that there's
any of that," said the general, a native Texan who has been in the military
for more than 25 years.

'Golden threads'

Gen. Miller said that even as the majority of Guantanamo prisoners have been
isolated from the changing world for nearly two years, they continue to be a
treasure trove of intelligence.

"There are three different kinds of intelligence for which we interrogate:
tactical, operational and strategic," he said.

Tactical is the lowest level, used to lay a base from which deeper
interrogation can be built. It consists of outlining when an individual was
captured, what kind of weapon he had, how many people he was working with
and what precisely they were doing.

Tactical intelligence "decays pretty quickly," Gen. Miller said. "It's not
stale, but it's dated." Much of it, he said, already had been pulled from a
batch of roughly 20 prisoners who arrived at Guantanamo at the end of
November. The new prisoners, he said, "already had been held and
interrogated for approximately one to three months" before arriving at

The second level of intelligence is operational, such as how a terrorist
organization is organized and recruited, how it maintains itself and who its
contacts are, Gen. Miller said.

"We look for golden threads," he said. "What's the commonality that goes
through this entire process?"

Military officials have revealed little about the information gathered from
the detainees and Gen. Miller declined to discuss specifics.

However, reporters and photographers at Guantanamo recently were allowed
inside the small wooden huts once used as interrogation chambers on the
grounds of Camp X-Ray, a now-closed compound of barbed-wire and chain-link
fences used to detain the al Qaeda and Taliban suspects before the more
permanent Camp Delta was built.

In one hut, a blue duffel bag full of orange uniforms and leather
restraining belts appeared to have been left behind on a table. Affixed to
the plywood floor below the table was a steel hook.

On the wall of another room were scrawled in black marker such words as
"coward," "proud," and "liar" in English and what appeared to be Arabic. In
one room, reporters saw maps of Saudi Arabia and Germany.

Gen. Miller said that the third type of intelligence drawn from
interrogations is strategic intelligence. Suggesting it is the most relevant
to current interrogations, he called strategic "the final level ... how
terrorists or terrorist organizations fund themselves, how does money move."

All of the information goes into the intelligence community's databases to
facilitate further and more effective interrogations, he said.

"We send information up. They send information down."

With the information being passed along the government's intelligence food
chain, one might be able to draw parallels between the types of details
sought from prisoners here and subsequent arrests made in the war on

Collection of operational intelligence and strategic intelligence, such as
how a terror cell gets money and how that money moves around, could produce
leads for authorities on the trail of suspects in the United States and

Translator and detainee

Military officials at Guantanamo stress repeatedly that no individual,
interrogator, prison guard, translator, Muslim chaplain or otherwise is
allowed one-on-one access to the detainees.

"The security here is very, very tight," Gen. Miller said. "If we produce
enormously valuable information, the enemy would like to get that
information. So we work very hard to reduce the opportunity for the enemy to

The National Guard and Army Reserve units from seven states and the Virgin
Islands that guard Camp Delta live in Camp America, a series of more than 80
wooden and metal structures called "sea huts," clustered just outside the

Translators and others involved in interrogations live in apartments around
the naval base, such as Tierra Kay Housing, a series of town houses on a
road about two miles outside a vehicle-security checkpoint separating the
prison camp from the rest of the base.

Civilian translator Ahmed Fathy Mehalba, one of the four persons charged in
the espionage probe at Guantanamo, lived somewhere on the base beyond the

He was on leave from Guantanamo at the end of September, returning from a
visit with family in his native Egypt, when authorities arrested him in
Boston. Charged with lying to a federal agent, Mr. Mehalba is said to have
had in his possession a list of names mentioned during interrogation

His was the third arrest in a spy probe that began in July with the arrest
of Air Force Senior Airman Ahmad al Halabi, a Syrian native, who also worked
as a translator at Guantanamo. The airman had pleaded not guilty to 20
charges, including four counts of espionage and one of aiding the enemy.

The attorney representing the airman announced yesterday that the Air Force
had dropped three of the spying charges. He still faces 17 other counts,
including spying, disobeying orders, making false official statements and
mishandling classified documents.

Airman al Halabi's case was publicized after the arrest early in September
of Army Capt. James J. Yee, 35, a Chinese-American who had served as an
Islamic chaplain at Guantanamo.

No charge of espionage has been filed against Capt. Yee, a West Point
graduate and convert to Islam. An unusual twist in his case last month,
however, led the Army to charge him with storing pornography on a government
computer and committing adultery. The adultery charge, a rarely pursued
offense of the military code, stems from his relations with a female naval
officer at Guantanamo.

A military source, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Capt. Yee
initially "got in trouble" with base commanders because he was acting too
sympathetically toward the Muslims held at the prison camp rather than
focusing on his duties as a religious adviser to prison guards.

The highest-ranking official charged in the espionage probe is Col. Jack D.
Farr, an Army reservist who was posted to Guantanamo as an intelligence
officer and is charged with wrongfully transporting classified material
without the proper security container.

Camp dynamics

A tour of Camp Delta on a hillside about 150 yards from the shoreline,
revealed four separate detention areas ranging in levels of security from
highest to lowest.

Reporters, strictly warned against interacting with detainees during the
tour, saw two bearded prisoners in orange cloth outfits gently kicking a
soccer ball around a fenced-in cemented yard at the end of one of the
higher-security cellblocks.

The cells in the higher-security areas are 8 feet deep by 7 fee


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