But just as effective as the vigor and anger with which the Guardian once again presents its WikiLeaks reporting are the angles and the focuses of its reporting. Particularly striking is James Ball’s use of the files to flesh out previous reporting on the mental health statuses of many of Gitmo’s detainees. From his his report, “Grim toll on mental health of prisoners”:
A 2004 assessment of Algerian Abdul Raham Houari noted that owing to “significant penetrating head trauma in 2001” he had frontal brain damage causing psychosis, slowed motor functions and difficulty with speech and understanding.
The assessment said he would need some form of custodial long-term care. Houari was held in Guantánamo for a further four years, during which time he made at least four suicide attempts, according to press reports.
None of the five detainees believed to have killed themselves at Guantánamo Bay have any mental health issues noted within the files. However, all have a record of alleged disruptive behaviour and non-compliance. Most are among the 25 detainees who the files say went on hunger strikes.
Yasser Talal Zahrani, one of three prisoners who killed themselves on 10 June 2006, was noted to be of low intelligence value with “unremarkable” exposure to jihadist elements.
The Guardian’s Chris Fenn, Simon Jeffery, Ami Sedghi, and Sean Clarke also offer a typically impressive interactive that features clickable images (some are blacked out silhouettes) of all 779 detainees that have been captured and transferred to Gitmo. When you click a picture, you discover the detainee’s name, ID number, nationality, date of arrival at Guantánamo, the circumstances of his capture, and reason for transfer. The information is derived from the newly leaked files.
Interestingly, McClatchy’s reporting on the WikiLeaks Guantánamo files is Guardian-esque in its strong wording and tough take on what it views as incompetence at the prison. McClatchy’s story is a catalog of blunders, from “intelligence analysts” who are “at odds” over who to trust, to the repatriation of valuable sources. Carol Rosenberg and Tom Lasseter write: “Viewed as a whole, the secret intelligence summaries help explain why in May 2009 President Barack Obama, after ordering his own review of wartime intelligence, called America’s experiment at Guantanamo ‘quite simply a mess.’”
Elsewhere, the more right-of-center Telegraph, a newcomer to the WikiLeaks fold, has a single report that, while noting the dubious nature of some detainees’ imprisonments and the controversial techniques used to obtain information, focuses more than any other English-language report on the kinds of frightening terrorist plots that the files contain. From the report by Christopher Hope, Robert Winnett, Holly Watt, and Heidi Blake:
*A senior Al-Qaeda commander claimed that the terrorist group has hidden a nuclear bomb in Europe which will be detonated if Bin-Laden is ever caught or assassinated. The US authorities uncovered numerous attempts by Al-Qaeda to obtain nuclear materials and fear that terrorists have already bought uranium. Sheikh Mohammed told interrogators that Al-Qaeda would unleash a “nuclear hellstorm”.
*The 20th 9/11 hijacker, who did not ultimately travel to America and take part in the atrocity, has revealed that Al-Qaeda was seeking to recruit ground-staff at Heathrow amid several plots targeting the world’s busiest airport. Terrorists also plotted major chemical and biological attacks against this country.
NPR similarly sounds the alarms, though not by detailing terror plots that never were. Instead, NPR offers a detailed piece on detainees that were transferred despite being labeled “high risk,” and also provides an interactive of detainees who had reengaged with terrorism.
A quick and early assessment seems to suggest that the newer English-language WikiLeaks partners, with the exception of McClatchy, have taken a less critical view of the U.S. than the Times and the Guardian have. It is those two papers, now out in the cold, whose views appear to be more in sync with some of the pronouncements of the WikiLeaks front man who put them there. It will be interesting to see how new partners’ coverage will take shape as more of their reporting is published.