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Viewing cable 09PARIS264, S/WCI AMBASSADOR WILLIAMSON DISCUSSES GUANTANAMO

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09PARIS264 2009-02-20 16:04 2010-11-30 16:04 SECRET//NOFORN Embassy Paris
VZCZCXYZ0009
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHFR #0264/01 0511653
ZNY SSSSS ZZH (CCY AD3230EB MSI1033-695)
O 201653Z FEB 09
FM AMEMBASSY PARIS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5580
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
S E C R E T PARIS 000264 

NOFORN 
SIPDIS 

C O R R E C T E D COPY CAPTION 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/19/2019 
TAGS: PGOV PREL MOPS PTER PHUM KAWK KISL KPAO FR
SUBJECT: S/WCI AMBASSADOR WILLIAMSON DISCUSSES GUANTANAMO 
BAY DETAINEES WITH FRENCH OFFICIALS 

REF: A. SECSTATE 6516 
B. PARIS 00119 
C. PARIS 02016 
D. VILNIUS 88 

Classified By: POL MC Kathleen H. Allegrone for reasons 1.4 (B & D). 

1. (S/NF) SUMMARY: S/WCI Ambassador Williamson met with 
French MFA officials on February 16 to discuss detainee 
issues, France's role in the EU process and possible 
resettlement of Guantanamo Bay detainees in France. 
Williamson noted that France has a unique role to play in 
formulating a process within the European Union (EU) to 
accept detainees and helping assuage the concerns of member 
states that might stymie EU consensus on the issue. Foreign 
Ministry Director of Communications and spokesman Eric 
Chevallier reiterated France's willingness to assist the U.S. 
on this issue (ref b and c), but noted that the GOF position 
was "very clear": detainees would be reviewed on a 
case-by-case basis; the detainee had to specifically request 
resettlement in France; and France would need full 
information on interested detainees to review any security 
and judicial implications. Chevallier said the GOF supports 
an open EU process that would allow decisions to be made on a 
national basis, similar to what current EU president the 
Czech Republic has proposed. The most important issue, he 
said, would be addressing concerns among Schengen countries. 
Williamson said the U.S. is aware of the complexities of the 
Schengen issue and pledges to work with EU partners as they 
address these concerns. Chevallier said the GOF was also 
concerned about recent USG talks with Lithuania on detainees 
(ref d). France, he cautioned, was standing firm on the 
necessity of an EU process before implementation of bilateral 
agreements between the USG and EU member states on the 
matter. Williamson noted that recent public pledges by 
Lithuania to accept Guantanamo detainees were the result of 
almost two years of talks, and that Lithuania has been firm 
that implementation of an agreement to accept detainees would 
occur only after agreement of a common EU position. 

2. (S/NF) SUMMARY CONTINUED: Chevallier noted French concern 
that former detainees, after being released from Guantanamo, 
could return to or become involved in terrorist activities. 
Williamson noted that of the approximately 60 detainees for 
whom the U.S. was seeking resettlement all had been 
previously approved for transfer. Chevallier asked if there 
were any USG plans to transfer detainees to other parts of 
the U.S. without the promise of a swift trial and if the U.S. 
was going to accept some of these low-risk detainees. 
Chevallier claimed that the more information France had 
regarding these issues the better able it would be to 
persuade the French public and other EU member states by 
highlighting U.S. efforts to resettle the detainees. 
Williamson replied that the interagency review process headed 
by the Attorney General would try to answer these and other 
questions regarding the detainees. Chevallier gave his 
support to help with future meetings on this issue with the 
French ministries of justice and the interior. END SUMMARY. 

3. (SBU) S/WCI Ambassador Clint Williamson met on February 16 
with French MFA advisors to the foreign minister Eric 
Chevallier and Sylvie Pantz, as well as with MFA Desk Officer 
for Strategic Affairs Camille Petit. Charg Mark Pekala, 
Embassy poloff and Shaun Coughlin (S/WCI) also participated. 


Detainees: French Open to Helping U.S. 
-------------------------------------- 

4. (S/NF) In response to President Obama's January 22 
Executive Order to close detention facilities at Guantanamo 
Bay Naval Base (ref a), French FM Kouchner publicly gave his 
support to review the idea of accepting detainees deemed not 
to be a security risk (ref b). S/WCI Ambassador Williamson 
followed up with advisors to the French foreign minister on 
February 16 to seek GOF cooperation on the resettlement of 
Guantanamo detainees. Williamson noted that President Obama 
and Secretary Clinton strongly believe closing the detention 
center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba is a critical foreign policy 
issue facing the USG. Secretary Clinton asked Williamson to 
meet with European partners to explain the USG position on 
this matter since the change of administration. Williamson 
thanked France for its help on this issue, noting that France 
has a unique role to play in formulating a process within the 
European Union (EU) to accept detainees and helping assuage 
the concerns of member states that might stymie EU consensus 
on the issue. 

5. (S/NF) Foreign Ministry spokesman Eric Chevallier 
reiterated France's willingness to assist the U.S. on this 
issue (ref b and c), but clarified the GOF position: 
detainees would be reviewed on a case-by-case basis; the 

detainee had to specifically request resettlement in France; 
and France would need full information on interested 
detainees in order to review any security and judicial 
implications. Chevallier said the GOF was "happy, in 
principal" that the prison would be closed, but noted that 
any agreement by France to accept detainees could not be 
centered on discussions of "numbers" (i.e., France, and other 
EU members, cannot be told they have to accept a specific 
number of detainees). 


French Stress Importance of Common EU Position 
--------------------------------------------- - 

6. (S/NF) Chevallier said the GOF supports an open EU process 
that would allow decisions to be made on a national basis, 
similar to what the Czech Republic has been proposing. The 
most important issue, he said, would be addressing concerns 
among Schengen countries. Williamson said the U.S. was aware 
of the complexities of the Schengen issue and pledged to work 
with EU partners as they address these concerns. Williamson 
said the USG was concerned about the potential for any EU 
process to drag out, especially by EU member states that did 
not want to accept detainees. The USG hopes that France 
could play an important role to assuage these concerns. 
Chevallier noted that while there would not be complete 
consensus within the EU on whether to accept detainees the 
GOF would push other EU member states to be more open. There 
was room for EU evolution in a common position, he said. 
Williamson also noted that EU members Ireland and Portugal 
were wary of an EU process that did not allow for 
flexibility, as what happened when both of these countries 
were directed by the EU to take Palestinian militants 
involved in the 2002 siege of the Church of the Nativity in 
Bethlehem. Chevallier said that Church of the Nativity 
scenario was unlikely to happen again. Rather, a solution 
such as what the Czechs were now proposing seemed more likely 
as it hinged on flexibility. 

7. (S/NF) Chevallier said the GOF was also concerned about 
recent USG talks with Lithuania on the matter (ref d); he 
hoped Williamson could provide him with more details on those 
discussions. Regarding Lithuania, Williamson noted that 
recent public statements by that government to accept 
Guantanamo detainees were the result of almost two years of 
talks. He said that Lithuania was interested in accepting 
some of the Uzbek detainees because these detainees -- as was 
deemed by the GOL -- could best fit into Lithuanian society 
due to a common language and the presence of a large Uzbek 
population in the country. Williamson clarified that the GOL 
intended to implement a decision to accept these detainees 
only once an EU framework had been agreed on. Williamson 
also explained that the U.S. would continue to pursue 
bilateral discussions with interested states as the EU 
process progressed. He said that it would create inordinate 
delays if bilateral discussions had to be put on hold until 
the EU process was completed, and stressed that this was 
entirely consistent with the preferred Czech approach of 
creating a "permissive EU environment in which member states 
could decide to accept detainees." Chevallier agreed that 
this was a logical way forward. 


Detainees: French Concerns about Security 
----------------------------------------- 

8. (S/NF) Sylvie Pantz said the GOF was concerned about the 
reliability of information now available on detainees. She 
said that the GOF would need as much case information as 
possible in order to make a proper assessment. Pantz noted 
that recent requests by the NGO community -- Reprieve and 
Human Rights Watch -- to the GOF to accept detainees lacked 
details, which made it difficult to verify claims of abuse 
and assess security concerns. She was hoping the U.S. could 
help fill these gaps. Williamson noted that a major change 
within the Obama administration's approach was moving lead 
responsibility for detainee status reviews from the 
Department of Defense to the Department of Justice. The 
Attorney General would now lead the interagency process. 
Williamson said the process would ensure that all information 
pertaining to a detainee was compiled in one place, that 
fresh reviews of the material would take place in order to 
determine prosecutability and that renewed threat assessments 
would be undertaken. He said the USG was happy to facilitate 
visits to Guantanamo to interview detainees who might be 
resettled, as well as share medical and case records. So 
far, he noted, there were 60 low-risk detainees who had been 
previously approved for transfer and it was unlikely the 
security assessment for these individuals would be raised, 
although it was possible. 

9. (S/NF) Pantz and Chevallier asked about recent reports of 

detainees who, after being released, return to or become 
involved in terrorist activities. Chevallier said there were 
concerns in France that detainees determined to be low-risk 
before entering Guantanamo could, depending on their 
experiences in the detention center, pose serious risks to 
security once released. Williamson said that out of the 525 
detainees already released, over 500 returned to their home 
countries. Forty to 60 of these individuals were thought to 
have engaged in some sort of terrorist actions, ranging from 
minor to larger acts, such as reports of detainees returning 
to the battlefield in Iraq or Afghanistan. However, he 
noted, all of these cases had been previously assessed as 
higher risk, which was very different from the detainees for 
whom the U.S. was now seeking to resettle. Williamson said 
threat level assessments were based on the present state of 
the detainee, taking into account interviews, psychiatric 
evaluations and other reviews. He indicated that the one 
other case of low-threat detainee resettlements, to Albania, 
had gone well and that the eight former detainees had 
assimilated to varying degrees into life there. Further, 
France could be assured that the U.S. would share any 
security concerns regarding the detainees with its friends 
and allies. 


French Questions about U.S. Plans to Resettle Detainees 
--------------------------------------------- ---------- 

10. (S/NF) Chevallier asked if there were any USG plans to 
transfer high-risk detainees to the U.S. without the promise 
of a swift trial. He also asked if the U.S. was going to 
accept some of the low-risk detainees. Chevallier noted that 
more information France had regarding these issues the better 
able it would be to persuade the French public and other EU 
member states by highlighting U.S. efforts to find a solution 
to the detainee issue. Williamson replied that the 
interagency review process would try to answer these and 
other questions regarding the detainees. That aside, he said 
the Obama administration realizes it would be a bad idea to 
simply move detainees from one place to another as it would 
not adequately address the problem. Pantz asked whether 
detainees who could not return home but were seeking to be 
resettled would simply receive a wish list of potential 
accepting countries. Williamson said the U.S. was looking 
into options to establish links with potential accepting 
nations and the detainee, such as what was recently done with 
the Uzbeks and Lithuania, but clarified that the USG was 
reluctant to simply ask detainees where they would like to go 
as it could complicate the resettlement process. 


Future Talks: Offer to Help 
--------------------------- 

11. (S/NF) Chevallier suggested that for future visits 
Williamson should also speak to representatives from the 
French ministries of justice and the interior. He said the 
MFA would take the lead on setting up these meetings for 
Williamson,s next visit to France. 

12. (U) SWCI Williamson has cleared this message. 
PEKALA