A major new piece from Scott Horton at Harper’s about the alleged suicide of three detainees at Guantanamo Bay in September 2006. After obtaining a long-secret investigation from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, Horton notices the official explanation for the deaths is absurd.
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.
An autopsy performed at Guantanamo on at least one of the men is similarly incredible, explaining away in an improbable manner the determination that a bone in one of them was broken in a manner that typically suggests manual strangulation.
Four former GTMO guards spoke out to Horton about what they believe was a black site — an undisclosed detention facility — at the base they termed ”Camp No.” It’s long been believed, and even loosely reported, that the CIA operated a short-lived separate prison at GTMO. Unsure whether Camp No was that facility, but the guards who spoke with Horton say that “one theory” amongst the guards is that its wardens were CIA.
There’s so much in this piece. You really have to read it. But this account of an apparent cover-up by the contemporaneous commander of Joint Task Force Guantanamo, Col. Mike Bumgarner, is really something else. After the “suicides,” Harper reports, Bumgarner assembles his guards at the open-air theater in Camp America (the larger camp surrounding Camp Delta), a place that I’ve visited, to tell them this:
Bumgarner told his audience that “you all know” three prisoners in the Alpha Block at Camp 1 committed suicide during the night by swallowing rags, causing them to choke to death. This was a surprise to no one—even servicemen who had not worked the night before had heard about the rags. But then Bumgarner told those assembled that the media would report something different. It would report that the three prisoners had committed suicide by hanging themselves in their cells. It was important, he said, that servicemen make no comments or suggestions that in any way undermined the official report. He reminded the soldiers and sailors that their phone and email communications were being monitored. The meeting lasted no more than twenty minutes. (Bumgarner has not responded to requests for comment.)
I met Bumgarner briefly during my reporting trip to Guantanamo in July 2005 and thought him to be eye-rollingly corny, insisting his soldiers return his “Honor Bound” salute by saying “To Defend Freedom.”
Oh, and the Holder Justice Department has apparently decided to close an investigation into these deaths.