July 17, 2019

US thought David Hicks was “combat-hardened terrorist”

The US authorities seem to have difficulty admitting that some of the people they detained were innocent.

WikiLeaks has published secret US military documents that show Australian Guantanamo inmate David Hicks was assessed by US interrogators as a ”highly trained, experienced and combat-hardened” terrorist with the potential to become a “senior leader of extremist organisations” if released from custody.

A 2004 memo on Hicks from Guantanamo Bay Prison commander, Brigadier-General Jay Hood, told of Hick’s involvement with the Kosovo Liberation Army, the Pakistani terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba and al-Qaeda.

It said Mr Hicks completed basic military training, city/urban tactics, mountain tactics and intelligence/target gathering with al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and met Mohammed Atef, the terrorist group’s third-most senior leader.

It said he had been deceptive to his captors but was ”highly influential” among fellow detainees, leading them in prayer, giving speeches and organising disturbances, and possessed leadership qualities.

”[This makes] him a highly skilled and advanced combatant, as well as a valuable asset and possible leader for extremist organisations,” says the memo, marked ”secret” and ”noforn”, meaning not to be shared with foreign governments.

The file on Hick’s was one of 759 classified files on individuals detained at Guantanamo Bay that WikiLeaks published, saying most of the documents ”reveal accounts of incompetence familiar to those who have studied Guantanamo closely, with innocent men detained by mistake”.

There were also documents relating to the other Australian Guantanamo detainee, Mamdouh Habib.

A 2004 memo by General Hood admits that Mr Habib was tortured when held in Egypt before being sent to Guantanamo Bay.

”While in the custody of the Egyptian government, under extreme duress, the detainee alleged that he made the following admissions of guilt, which he now denies: he trained six of the 9/11 hijackers in the use of martial arts; he also taught them how to use a knife disguised as a cigarette lighter; he was en route to hijack a Qantas flight.”

The memo concludes that ”there are serious intelligence gaps” regarding Mr Habib with questions unanswered, including ”Was any of the information that he provided to the Egyptians valid?”

Both David Hicks and Mamdouh Habib were assessed as high-risk prisoners who posed significant threats and could yield valuable intelligence.

In total the documents revealed that about 220 of those detained at Quantanamo Bay were classed by US military officers as ”high risk”, 380 were deemed low-ranking and 150 were assessed as innocent people swept up during the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan.

The two Australians were Mr Hicks’s father said yesterday US officials should disclose their methods of obtaining information.

”We know that people were harshly dealt with at Guantanamo. Not only David but others,” Terry Hicks said. ”It doesn’t matter if it’s right or wrong. They just want the information.”

David Hicks was released from Guantanamo Bay Prison in 2007 and served nine months in jail in Adelaide after pleading guilty to a charge of providing material support to terrorism.

Mr Habib was released without charge in early 2005. Last year the Australian Federal Government agreed to pay him an undisclosed amount in compensation.