WASHINGTON — As the U.S. was accused of human rights abuses, a State Department official advised the military to delay sending Guantanamo Bay prisoners home in order to avoid more bad publicity.
"We need to definitely think about checking … to see if we can hold off on return flights for 45 days or so until things die down," according to the 2006 e-mail. "Otherwise we are likely to have hero's welcomes awaiting the detainees when they arrive."
The e-mail was one in a series released Thursday by Amnesty International USA, the Center for Constitutional Rights and the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice. The name of the official who sent the message was blacked out.
The e-mails were written the day after a U.N. report concluded that the prison in Cuba should be closed and that some treatment of suspected terrorists there amounted to torture.
The e-mail asking about delaying flights was sent Feb. 17, 2006, by a State Department official to the head of the U.S. Transportation Command, Gen. Norton Schwartz, who is now the Air Force chief of staff. He responded simply: "Got it … Thank you."
No new flights were made transferring prisoners from Guantanamo for the following three months, Pentagon records show.