Three Dead in Guantánamo


In June of 2006, three prisoners at Guantánamo Bay died. According to the official story, the trio committed suicide simultaneously in separate cells, an act which the camp's commander infamously declared a form of "asymmetrical warfare waged against us."

Scott Horton at Harper's has a different tale to tell. From the intro to his article:

Now four members of the Military Intelligence unit assigned to guard Camp Delta, including a decorated non-commissioned Army officer who was on duty as sergeant of the guard the night of June 9-10, have furnished an account dramatically at odds with the [Naval Criminal Investigative Service] report–a report for which they were neither interviewed nor approached.

All four soldiers say they were ordered by their commanding officer not to speak out, and all four soldiers provide evidence that authorities initiated a cover-up within hours of the prisoners' deaths. Army Staff Sergeant Joseph Hickman and men under his supervision have disclosed evidence in interviews with Harper's Magazine that strongly suggests that the three prisoners who died on June 9 had been transported to another location prior to their deaths. The guards' accounts also reveal the existence of a previously unreported black site at Guantánamo where the deaths, or at least the events that led directly to the deaths, most likely occurred.

The story that follows involves torture, possible homicides, and a cover-up that didn't end when Barack Obama became president. Horton makes his case here, and he has a follow-up post here.

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  1. All four soldiers say they were ordered by their commanding officer not to speak out, and all four soldiers provide evidence…

    Sounds like someone’s not very good at following orders.

    1. And thank God for those people.

  2. Sickening…

    What these three men appear to have been subjected to should frighten and enrage every remotely intelligent and mentally well individual on this planet.

    Taking the article at face value, this was not justice. This was not vengeance.

    It was murder.

    “According to the NCIS, each prisoner had fashioned a noose from torn sheets and T-shirts and tied it to the top of his cell’s eight-foot-high steel-mesh wall. Each prisoner was able somehow to bind his own hands, and, in at least one case, his own feet, then stuff more rags deep down into his own throat. We are then asked to believe that each prisoner, even as he was choking on those rags, climbed up on his washbasin, slipped his head through the noose, tightened it, and leapt from the washbasin to hang until he asphyxiated. The NCIS report also proposes that the three prisoners, who were held in non-adjoining cells, carried out each of these actions almost simultaneously.”

    A human being is capable of many things. Even what’s listed above. But, reading that, and the entire article, suggests something much different.

    Be wary of Power and Man. No one is safe from them.

    And even if these men were genuine terrorists, they were greatly wronged. For as much apathy and disdain I can muster towards others, being bludgeoned with what may be an incredibly harsh truth such as what may have gone on in this case, makes me sick. And it makes me want justice for these men.

    Damn Walker, you’ve out Balko’d Balko. And on the second post of the morning.

  3. Nothing will happen. The statements of these men will be ignored. No one will investigate whether they were ordered to lie, or question their superior officers in any way.

    1. Fluffy,things will happen when the book is written and the movie is made

      1. Jake Gyllenhaal will finally get that Oscar he’s been after.

  4. When I was a little kid and we used to play war, everybody knew that playing as one of the Americans meant you didn’t torture your prisoners.

    I hope there’s a full investigation.

    1. Well, did you and the other kids believe in the Easter Bunny as well?

  5. We’re America. We do not fucking torture.

    1. just regular torture…hand me that cattle prod will ya…

  6. The sequence of events given are a give away that this article, at least, will be shown to be false. Of course you wouldn’t tie your hands and then cram rags into your mouth and then place the noose around your head.

    Why couldn’t you tie the noose around your neck, place the rags in your mouth and then tie your hands? Because it doesn’t fit the “all those in the military are murders” meme? If someone dies under the care of American soldiers it is obviously murder?

    Oh, Harpers.

    1. +1

    2. It is true the bad guys know what gives America problems, and that’s an expectation of purity. It’s not like they couldn’t stage something to make it look like they were murdered. These are people who might commit suicide anyway.

      The part that makes you think bad things is the soldiers who are coming forward. But the sequence of events alone cannot rule out that they are fucking with us.

  7. Say, speaking of Guantanamo Bay, wasn’t it supposed to officially be closed by now according to one of Obama’s very first “executive orders”?

    1. It is closed. There’s just a Transitional Guantanamo Bay there now.

  8. OK, I’m planning to kill three prisoners by faking suicides.

    Sure, I tie their hands and gag them before I string them up. But then I don’t the gags out and untie their hands? I leave them in a condition that will inspire all kinds of suspicion?

    And I kill all three simultaneously? Maybe, if I expected the first suicide to trigger heightened security. But if I expect that, then I’m not doing this because the chain of command is cool with it, am I?

    Color me dubious.

    1. “Like all the members of the military profession, I never had a thought of my own until I left the service. My mental faculties remained in suspended animation while I obeyed the orders of higherups. This is typical with everyone in the military service.”

      The above are not my words but those of Major General Smedley Butler.

      1. What the fuck? Must be a different generation, or maybe how his parents raised him. Even in combat arms, shit…

        1. His statement is really funny if you consider that Gen. Butler was at the center of the Business Plot of 1934. Basically, he ratted out the whole thing to Congress, instead of obeying the orders of his (social) higher-ups. Interesting bit of US History, and I wonder what really happened?

    2. Who says you’re faking a suicide? Sounds more like a mass lynching.

    3. Two things jumped to my mind after reading the article:

      First, why go to the trouble of setting up a fake suicide? You’ve removed these guys to a black site (allegedly) and killed them through some misadventure; why not just dump the bodies at sea where they’ll never be found?

      Second, the thought I kept having as I read the account in Harper’s was, “this is pretty similar to how My Lai broke.” Somebody tangentially associated with the acts gets a guilty conscience and starts talking until they find someone that’ll listen and do something.

      The sad thing is that, ten years ago, I’d have dismissed this story out of hand as impossibly far-fetched. I can’t do that now.

  9. Coverups in the military are nothing new. Happens every day!


    1. Holy shit, I didn’t know anonymity bot was a veteran. So, let’s see…we know he’s an opium addict and a veteran. What other biographical details can we piece together?

      1. White supremisist, who believe’s Woodrow Wilson’s segergationist policies made him a major cool dude.

  10. They commited suuicide by running onto my knife. 19 times. backwards.

  11. Say, speaking of Guantanamo Bay, wasn’t it supposed to officially be closed by now according to one of Obama’s very first “executive orders”?

    I don’t really care that we are running a prison at Gitmo as such, not do I care if we hold enemies prisoners for the duration of the conflict (which could be a damn long time when the enemy is a dispersed, asymmetric, low intensity organization).

    I do care—very much—about the assumption of unaccountability that has led to the indefinite holding of men we believe didn’t do it; the claims of infinite and unchecked Presidential power; the acceptance of informal mistreatment of prisoners as not merely occasionally unavoidable, but absolutely hunky-dory with us; and the policies of formalized abuse advocated by John Wu and Alberto Gonzalas. If Obama were a man of honor his promise to “close gitmo” would have meant putting an end to those practices and starting down the road towards being a noble and respected nation again.

    Can we, please, go back to being the good guys. Pretty please with sprinkles on top.

    That means acknowledging that there are limits to what Congress my authorize and even tighter limits on what the President can do on his own. It means understanding that we treat people in our custody humanely for our sake and not for theirs. That a nation of free people is stronger and more robust than any collection of disgruntled followers of a tyrannical philosophy, and stronger and more robust than the same nation under the yoke of an oppressive regime more interested in security than liberty.

  12. Was it NCIS, or NCIS Los Angeles? (Because that matters.)

    The Harpers story feels patched together and very awkward, but concurrent suicide still seems the more unlikely explanation, doesn’t it?

    I don’t quite understand the “a murderer would have done a better job faking a suicide” argument. (Is there a name for that argument? I’ve heard it so many times I’d like to call it something.)

      1. Occam tells some people that the Haiti earthquake was caused by a US military secret earthquake weapon. Depends on who you ask.

        1. Yeah, that explanation requires no unnecessary complexity. What are the odds of an earthquake in the Caribbean?

  13. I don’t quite understand the “a murderer would have done a better job faking a suicide” argument. (Is there a name for that argument? I’ve heard it so many times I’d like to call it something.)

    I propose “Bitch set me up!”.

    1. Win.

  14. Knowing the U.S. military, I’ll wait and see more info before I jump to the conclusion that they are murderers. This is the most professional military in history and they deserve that respect from me as an American. It may turn out true, but if not, you who falsely accused will go about your merry way on to the next schoolyard name calling episode. If I’m wrong, I will owe nobody an apology.

    1. Frankly I’d prefer an organization that was dedicated enough to defend the country from foreign invasion, but not “professional” enough to invade and occupy foreign lands and maintain a worldwide network of bases.

    2. Respect must be earned, and once earned, protected.

  15. Assuming for the sake of argument that the 3 died from rags stuffed down their throats by inept torturers/interregators, does anyone think the military would tell the truth about it?

    I don’t know whether the military is lying in this case, but there’s no doubt that they would lie if it suited them.

  16. I’ve never trusted Mark Harmon.

  17. “Military justice is to justice what military music is to music.” – Georges Clemenceau

  18. To say that Harper’s Magazine has the credibility of the National Enquirer would be an insult to the supermarket tabloid. For over a decade, Harper’s has been a second-rate liberal rag that fails to produce quality work. The “investigative” piece they published by Scott Horton, who happens to be a human rights lawyer rather than a journalist, is a prime example of why few people?and no one on the right?takes the magazine seriously anymore.

    The sheer hubris of Horton’s claim is extraordinary. He would have us believe that an unprecedented conspiracy involving Army enlisted and officers, Navy enlisted and officers, the U.S. Naval Criminal Investigative Service, the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, the Justice Department, the State Department, the Pentagon, the Bush administration and the Obama administration was carried out in order to cover up the murder of three low-level prisoners at Guatanomo Bay. This would be enough to give a 9/11 Truther pause, but the editors of Harper’s think it is not only entirely plausible but extremely likely. Obviously, there must be strong evidence to overcome the improbability of this level of collusion, right? Well, no. Here is the gist of Horton’s claim:

    1. People around Gitmo who had no first-hand knowledge of the prisoners deaths heard a rumor that they had committed suicide during the night by swallowing rags, causing them to choke to death.

    2. A former National Guard soldier claims to have seen prisoners loaded into a paddy wagon and driven to what he believed to be a super-secret area of the base. (The guard knows this because he abandoned his watchpost to drive a quarter of a mile down the road to see which way the paddy wagon turned.) The paddy wagon then came back, and “backed the vehicle up to the entrance of the medical clinic, as if to unload something.”

    Did you connect the dots? The prisoners were pulled out of their cells, driven to a super-secret part of the camp where they were allegedly murdered (by shoving rags down their throats) and then driven to the medical facility. They were later moved back to their cells where an elaborate coverup involving dozens of people attempted to make the murders look like suicides.

    Obviously, when you’re attempting to cover up a murder by making it look like suicide you want to make it as complicated as possible. Finding an Arabic linguist to fake three suicide notes and having a corpsman give CPR to a corpse that has been dead for hours may seem like overkill, especially considering that suicide attempts at Gitmo are quite common (at the time 25 detainees had made 41 suicide attempts). But if you’re going to have a conspiracy that involves two presidential administrations and a half dozen federal agencies, you might as well go the extra mile, right?

  19. Joe-

    Please. You have not written anything, of fact, that impairs Horton’s thesis.

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