When I was a little girl, my parents thought I needed a wristwatch, but didn’t think a rough-and-tumble tomboy could handle a fine time-keeping device. And so, like a lot of other young children, I rocked a cheap, plastic digital Casio. I remember it perfectly — it was blue and had a plastic strap that rubbed my tender little wrist raw.

Now imagine my surprise to find out that wearing a Casio wristwatch is considered an indication of terrorist involvement.

According to the UK’s The Guardian, interrogators at Guantánamo Bay viewed prisoner possession of the Casio F-91W model timepiece as a tell-tale sign of al-Qaida training — specifically bomb-making courses, during which the watches were distributed. Ownership of one of them would be among the factors weighed in prisoner detention at the outpost.

In the end, the Casios were involved in 50+ detainee cases, with 32 of the reports referencing the black F-91W model and another 20 referring to the silver A-159W model.

It seems we have an interesting set of circumstances that co-exist here: Casio watches are cheap, often available for under $10, and rather ubiquitous — they’re available at numerous retail locations throughout the United States (usually right next to the gold-plated necklaces and rhinestone earrings). Meanwhile, according to a leaked document used to train interrogators in identifying al-Qaida and Taliban agents, about one-third of the Guantánamo detainees apprehended with these watches had known connections to explosives, “either having attended explosives training, having association with a facility where IEDs were made or where explosives training was given, or having association with a person identified as an explosives expert.”

When it comes to civil liberties, anti-terrorism operations and national security, there are no easy answers. It’s hard to fathom that the mere ownership of an extremely available gadget can be factored into the imprisonment of human beings. After all, if a third of the detainees who owned these Casios had suspicious backgrounds, then it naturally follows that two-thirds didn’t. There is, however, a counterpoint to that: When you’re talking about minimizing the risk of mass destruction, is there anything that is off limits? In other words, do the ends justify the means?

Where do you stand on this? Let us know whether you think this is an unfortunate, but necessary approach to heading off disaster and loss of American lives, or if it’s an illogical, unjust tactic that has/will ensnare numerous innocent people.

[via The Guardian]