WASHINGTON, April 9 (UPI) -- U.S. President George W. Bush and his top aides knew many Guantanamo detainees were innocent, an aide to former Secretary of State Colin Powell says.
Lawrence Wilkerson said in a deposition for a lawsuit by a former detainee that Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld were all aware more than half the detainees first held at Guantanamo were not terrorists, The Times of London reported Friday. Wilkerson, Powell's chief of staff at State, said the administration thought "it would be politically impossible to release them."
Cheney and Rumsfeld did not want to expose the confusion behind the administration's push to round up terrorists, Wilkerson said. He said many of the 742 prisoners first sent to Guantanamo, who included old men and boys, were turned over to U.S. forces in exchange for $5,000 payments, a fortune in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Wilkerson said Cheney and Rumsfeld believed their goals justified large-scale injustice: "Innocent people languishing in Guantanamo for years was justified by the broader War on Terror and the small number of terrorists who were responsible for the Sept. 11 (2001) attacks."
Powell told him in a conversation that he believed Bush also knew how shaky the charges against many detainees were.