The U.S. military took more than four years to process a Freedom of Information Act request for a copy of the Guantánamo guidelines for censoring prison library material — and censored the guidelines when it processed the request.
The paperwork the military released appeared to leave out three pages of the prison’s procedure for handling the Quran.
The Miami Herald sought the Nov. 27, 2013, document in a Dec. 10, 2013, FOIA request. The U.S. Southern Command apparently released the document, with redactions, on March 21 but didn’t put it in the mail for five more days. It arrived at the Herald newsroom, which is next door to Southcom, on Tuesday.
Southcom said in its response that the information was blocked because its release “would disclose techniques and procedures for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions, or would disclose guidelines for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions if such disclosure·could reasonably be expected to risk circumvention of the law.”
The Guantánamo prison is a Law of War detention site run by the Pentagon; left unclear was the U.S. military’s law enforcement or prosecution function related to the Detainee Library, which circulates books among 26 of the prison’s 41 detainees. Of those 26, only two have been convicted of war crimes.
Former CIA captives at the clandestine Camp 7 prison, including those accused of plotting the 9/11 attacks, don’t have privileges at the main library but can draw from a different, secret collection.
The document entitled Procedure #40 for Detainee Programs also makes a single reference to the prison’s controversial handling of its most popular program — art class. “’This module is offered an on-going basis. Detainees receive the opportunity to attend basic art instruction,” it says. It does not say who owns a captive’s art, a question that stirred unhappiness on the cellblocks last year when the Pentagon’s Detainee Affairs division decided the art was U.S. government property and the captives could no longer give it away.
In May 2016, a U.S. Army officer in charge of detainee diversionary programs told reporters that “negative screening criteria” included military topics, extreme graphic violence, nudity, sexuality and extremism. The prison, which reports constant circulation in books about Islam, seeks to promote more harmonious themes, the officer said.
That was why, he said, the library had rejected from its collection a copy of the so-called Senate “Torture Report” about the CIA’s Black Site program. Many of the prison’s current detainees were held by the CIA for weeks or years before their transfer to U.S. military custody.
In 2009, the library rejected Noam Chomsky’s “Interventions,” a collection of anti-war essays written after the 9/11 attacks. The prison returned the book to its donor with a rejection slip that did not specifically explain the basis of the book’s rejection but listed categories of restricted literature: Those espousing “Anti-American, Anti-Semitic, Anti-Western’’ ideology, literature on “military topics,’’ and works that portray “excessive graphic violence’’ and “sexual dysfunctions.’’
The list of approved material at the time included poetry, fiction, art, math, history, religion, politics and current events.