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Military: Key al Qaeda data mined at Gitmo

Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON – Three years after it began, the prison experiment known as Camp Delta at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has reached a crossroads in its incarceration of those captured in the war brought on by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Officials have completed hearings for all 558 detainees and compiled their most comprehensive report detailing what they learned about potential terror attacks. But the Bush administration is battling efforts by attorneys for some of the prisoners to have the cases moved to federal courts in Washington.

That could end the military’s long-held goal of keeping those it has identified as “enemy combatants” out of the public spotlight and ensconced in the island prison off the shores of the United States.

The new report appears to buttress the military’s claim that it should be allowed to run Camp Delta without outside intervention because the camp has become “the single best repository of al Qaeda information.”

The declassified summary cites more than 4,000 interrogation reports and says some al Qaeda operatives were pursuing chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.

The summary does not elaborate on what that information is or how close the terrorist organizations might be to getting such weapons.

According to the report, captives described how al Qaeda trained them to spread deadly poisons, and at other times armed them with such things as grenades concealed inside soda cans, bombs hidden in pagers and cell phones, and wristwatches that can trigger remote-control explosions on a 24-hour countdown.

The report also shows that not all being held are suspected of being front-line soldiers and that 1 in 10 are well-educated – often at U.S. colleges.

More than 20 detainees have been identified as Osama bin Laden’s bodyguards and one as his close “spiritual adviser,” according to the report. Another is listed as the “probable 20th 9/11 hijacker.”

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