Thursday, Jan 21, 2010, 1:46 pm
Harper’s New Must-Read Article Allleging Gitmo Torture-Homicides, Cover-Up
Harper's actually published the online piece, titled "The Guantánamo “Suicides”: A Camp Delta sergeant blows the whistle," a full month before it will appear in print, presumably because a printing schedule shouldn't delay what obviously ought to happen immediately: Congress should launch an official inquiry to examine the events surrounding the deaths of Salah Ahmed Al-Salami, Mani Shaman Al-Utaybi and Yasser Talal Al-Zahrani, none of whom were ever charged with a crime.
If for some reason you're still reading this and not the actual article, perhaps these three paragraphs (which don't even touch on "Camp No" and shocking/shockingly confusing autopsy details) will persuade you to:
According to the [U.S. Naval Criminal Investigative Service], 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.
The fact that at least two of the prisoners also had cloth masks affixed to their faces, presumably to prevent the expulsion of the rags from their mouths, went unremarked by the NCIS, as did the fact that standard operating procedure at Camp Delta required the Navy guards on duty after midnight to “conduct a visual search” of each cell and detainee every ten minutes. The report claimed that the prisoners had hung sheets or blankets to hide their activities and shaped more sheets and pillows to look like bodies sleeping in their beds, but it did not explain where they were able to acquire so much fabric beyond their tightly controlled allotment, or why the Navy guards would allow such an obvious and immediately observable deviation from permitted behavior. Nor did the report explain how the dead men managed to hang undetected for more than two hours or why the Navy guards on duty, having for whatever reason so grievously failed in their duties, were never disciplined.
[Guantánamo guard Christopher] Penvose, from his position at Tower 1, had an unobstructed view of the walkway between Camp 1 and the medical clinic—the path by which any prisoners who died at Camp 1 would be delivered to the clinic. Penvose told Hickman, and later confirmed to me, that he saw no prisoners being moved from Camp 1 to the clinic. In Tower 4..., another Army specialist, David Caroll, was forty-five yards from Alpha Block, the cell block within Camp 1 that had housed the three dead men. He also had an unobstructed view of the alleyway that connected the cell block itself to the clinic. He likewise reported to Hickman, and confirmed to me, that he had seen no prisoners transferred to the clinic that night, dead or alive.
If U.S. government officials tortured the three men to death, it would quite easily equal, if not surpass, the Abu Ghraib prison fiasco in terms of human rights abuses and government power run roughshod over America's foundational moral and legal principles. And if the elaborate, high-level cover-up the article alleges is also true, this story would rank as the most disgusting act of government corruption during the Bush administration. Unless, I suppose, you count misleading the country into Iraq.
Jeremy Gantz was the Web/Associate Editor of In These Times from 2008 to 2012. His January 2011 cover story for the magazine, "Terrorist by Association," was selected as a finalist for the Molly National Journalism Award 2012. He is now a contributing editor to the magazine, focusing on labor issues.