Remember that Pentagon program, revealed last month, that fed talking points to supposedly objective military analysts to push the Bush administration's line on Iraq? The Department of Defense just released thousands of documents from the program, so we asked Government Executive correspondent and TNR contributor Alyssa Rosenberg to sift through the documents and see what she can find:
Two products of the War on Terror are a large number of prisoners, and a series of iconic--but depersonalized--images of those detainees. It's been incredibly difficult to get information about who America's prisoners are, what they're charged with, or where they're being held. So I was interested to read the personal details about the Guantanamo detainees the Defense Department included in two batches of documents about the military analysts' trips to Guantanamo.
Most of those details are included to demonstrate how dangerous and committed to destroying the United States the prisoners are. The memos present a number of quotations attributed to the detainees expressing their desire to continue killing Americans, their opinion that killing Jews is not sinful, and their belief that terrorism will defeat the United States government. (I say "attributed" only because the detainees are not precisely in a position to complain if they were misquoted.)
The briefings tout the inmates' high level of education--ticking off a list of degrees in aviation fields, computer mechanics, and even petroleum engineering--to suggest that the prisoners are prepared to sabotage planes, shoot jihadist video, and blow up pipelines. But if only 10 percent of the detainees have degrees (as the memos claim), they don't exactly sound like a group of scheming criminal masterminds holed up in Cuba for our own safety. It's hard to imagine that the prisoner who "studied English at the University of Texas in Austin" used his degree to "threaten guards" or is the reason that he "[enjoys] terrorizing Americans." I guess we should also be afraid that "Agatha Christie and Harry Potter books in Arabic are very popular" among the inmates (though, don't worry, the Gitmo librarians apparently put stickers over Christie's picture to avoid offending the prisoners).
Included in the document dump are the schedules of these military analyst fieldtrips. We don't get any details about what happened on the excursions, but you can see how rigidly structured the briefing program was, with both the trips and the meetings timed, in some cases, down to the minute. Presentations were short: 15 minutes on "Iraq's Transition to Sovereignty" in March 2004, half an hour on "Military Commissions Procedures." Time for substantive Q&A did not seem to be a priority.