Tuesday 31 May 2005
San Juan, Puerto Rico — They fed them well. The Pakistani tribesmen slaughtered a sheep in honor of their guests, Arabs and Chinese Muslims famished from fleeing U.S. bombing in the Afghan mountains. But their hosts had ulterior motives: to sell them to the Americans, said the men who are now prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.
Bounties ranged from $3,000 to $25,000, the detainees testified during military tribunals, according to transcripts the U.S. government gave The Associated Press to comply with a Freedom of Information lawsuit.
A former CIA intelligence officer who helped lead the search for Osama bin Laden told AP the accounts sounded legitimate because U.S. allies regularly got money to help catch Taliban and al-Qaida fighters. Gary Schroen said he took a suitcase of $3 million in cash into Afghanistan himself to help supply and win over warlords to fight for U.S. Special Forces.
“It wouldn’t surprise me if we paid rewards,” said Schroen, who retired after 32 years in the CIA soon after the fall of Kabul in late 2001. He recently published the book “First In: An Insider’s Account of How the CIA Spearheaded the War on Terror in Afghanistan.”
Schroen said Afghan warlords like Gen. Rashid Dostum were among those who received bundles of notes. “It may be that we were giving rewards to people like Dostum because his guys were capturing a lot of Taliban and al-Qaida,” he said.
Pakistan has handed hundreds of suspects to the Americans, but Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed told the AP, “No one has taken any money.”
The U.S. departments of Defense, Justice and State and the Central Intelligence Agency also said they were unaware of bounty payments being made for random prisoners.
The U.S. Rewards for Justice program pays only for information that leads to the capture of suspected terrorists identified by name, said Steve Pike, a State Department spokesman. Some $57 million has been paid under the program, according to its Web site.
It offers rewards up to $25 million for information leading to the capture of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
But a wide variety of detainees at the U.S. lockup at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, alleged they were sold into capture. Their names and other identifying information were blacked out in the transcripts from the tribunals, which were held to determine whether prisoners were correctly classified as enemy combatants.
One detainee who said he was an Afghan refugee in Pakistan accused the country’s intelligence service of trumping up evidence against him to get bounty money from the U.S.
“When I was in jail, they said I needed to pay them money and if I didn’t pay them, they’d make up wrong accusations about me and sell me to the Americans and I’d definitely go to Cuba,” he told the tribunal. “After that I was held for two months and 20 days in their detention, so they could make wrong accusations about me and my (censored), so they could sell us to you.”