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January 18, 2010 6:42 AM   Subscribe

The Guantánamo “Suicides”: A Camp Delta sergeant blows the whistle. Harper's have made the full text of Scott Horton's investigation, which appears in this week's issue, available online. It alleges that the three 'suicides' were killed during interrogation at a secret facility, and the suicides faked to cover it up. Some comment here, but the article speaks for itself.
posted by unSane (91 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite

 
[slight correction: the article is an advance version of an article which will appear in the March 10 issue of Harper's which will hit the stands on Feb 15]
posted by unSane at 6:45 AM on January 18, 2010


Thanks for posting this. It's been my understanding, though I am no EMT or medical professional, so correct me if I'm wrong, but most people who hang themselves don't first stuff a rag down their own throats. Disgusting shit.

Dear world, we're sorry.

Sincerely, most of America.
posted by billysumday at 6:52 AM on January 18, 2010


Gasp of shock and surprise.
posted by Aversion Therapy at 6:55 AM on January 18, 2010


The "Stuffing rags down throats" thing has been out there for a while, Andrew Sullivan commented on it.

Oh well, maybe some low level flunkies will get charged with something this time. Although I doubt it.
posted by delmoi at 6:57 AM on January 18, 2010


You know what? Even if they were suicides, it shouldn't be any better that a prison regime is so intolerable that killing oneself is preferable to living.

Sad as these deaths are, when you read what conditions are like in, say, Supermax prisons it makes you realize it isn't an inherent failure at Guantanamo - the failures are more systematic and more pervasive.
posted by MuffinMan at 6:58 AM on January 18, 2010 [9 favorites]


In the past, the Bush-Cheney administration could cover up their total control of the torture program and their direct authorization of the techniques used at Abu Ghraib by several distancing moves: "we are shocked that this happened"; it was the work of a "few bad apples"; the techniques we use are "relatively benign"; waterboarding is only torture if the Communists do it, and so on.

Just to be clear who we're linking to, when we're reading about torture and murder coverups that his party and his voting behavior was primarily responsible for, this is the same Andrew Sullivan that voted for Bush twice and has been a Republican stooge for the last twenty-odd years, that, among other things, helped his political paymasters derail attempts to reform our broken healthcare system, yes?

One day we may get real journalism from real journalists who have the courage not to wash their hands of their guilt for these kinds of events.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:10 AM on January 18, 2010


Sully hasn't been a republican stooge for several years now. He was linked to as a commentator not a journo. The main link is to Scott Horton, who is about as real a journalist as you can get.
posted by unSane at 7:18 AM on January 18, 2010


I wish I had something witty and clever to say. I wish I could get to outrage, and once again rail against Bush and Cheney, and the crap job our "free press" did for so many years.

But all I'm feeling is depressed. My country did this. A government duly elected by (roughly) half of my fellow citizens tortured and killed people. We committed evil.

This sucks.
posted by FfejL at 7:26 AM on January 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


bla bla this is the same Andrew Sullivan that voted for Bush twice bla bla

He endorsed Kerry in 2004. Are you gonna do this every time there's a link to him?
posted by Combustible Edison Lighthouse at 7:28 AM on January 18, 2010 [13 favorites]


Obama promised to close Guantanamo by Jan. 22, 2010. Tonight on CBC there's a piece about why that's going to be a tough promise to keep.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 7:33 AM on January 18, 2010


For once, let's not make this about Andrew Sullivan, eh? There's more interesting stuff going on here.

Glad for the men who came forward on this. Glad and - slightly - worried for them.
posted by AdamCSnider at 7:36 AM on January 18, 2010


First thing I thought as I was reading this was that they were actual suicides, and how sad it was that people would rather kill themselves than continue to live under such conditions, and how outrageous that this happens under the auspices of my own government. Then I got to the third sentence.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:36 AM on January 18, 2010


Fuzzy Monster: "Obama promised to close Guantanamo by Jan. 22, 2010. "

If it makes you feel any better, there was never anything more than symbolism at stake.

Bagram is "the forgotten second Guantanamo," says American military law expert Eugene Fidell, a professor at Yale Law School. "But apparently there is a continuing need for this sort of place even under the Obama administration."... "In my view, having visited Guantanamo several times, the Bagram facility made Guantanamo look like a nice hotel," says military prosecutor Stuart Couch, who was given access to the interior of both facilities. "The men did not appear to be allowed to move around at will, they mostly sat in rows on the floor. It smelled like the "monkey house" at the zoo."
posted by Joe Beese at 7:42 AM on January 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Are you gonna do this every time there's a link to him?

His political affiliation should make one question whether he is a credible voice in the media about the subject of war crimes. If he's going to be cited, that's fair comment.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:46 AM on January 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


Blazecock Pileon: His political affiliation should make one question whether he is a credible voice in the media about the subject of war crimes.

No, it shouldn't. Stop being part of the problem.
posted by mkultra at 7:48 AM on January 18, 2010 [22 favorites]


I think, for me, the worst part, the most disheartening part, is that my reaction isn't surprise but rather the sense of acknowledgment you get when something you've suspected for a long time turns out to be true.

My nation has fallen so far that I'm no longer even surprised when it turns out that we torture people to death.

I've always been aware that the USA has a very bad habit of befriending and supporting evil dictatorships, usually in the name of fighting Communism, though more recently in the name of opposing terrorism.

When the revelations of secret CIA prisons/torture centers, and Abu Gharib, and "extraordinary rendition", and all the others came to light I was, despite knowing our national history of supporting evil elsewhere, surprised that my nation would do such things directly.

But now even that has vanished, and all I'm left with is a growing sense of despair.

The ugly history of torture under Bush's orders has not, and will never be, investigated. Worse, the man we elected to clean things up, the man who promised to clean things up, is an active participant in continuing Bush's torture, spying, and detention regime. No one in Congress cares.

The worst part, the very worst part, is that this is what my fellow citizens want. They want a nation where trials, even charges, are viewed as nothing more than a mildly inconvenient, but easily gotten around, speed bump to the goal of putting people in prison forever and torturing them.

The problem isn't limited to what we see here, rather this is part of a pervasive anti-justice attitude in the majority of Americans. Reagan's Attorney General, Ed Meese, expressed the attitude very clearly: "You don't have many suspects who are innocent of a crime. That's contradictory. If a person is innocent of a crime, then he is not a suspect." -- U.S. News and World Report, 10/14/85 Suspect == criminal, no need for trials, juries, judges, or any of that nonsense.

I worry that we have passed a tipping point, and that there really is no way out of this mess until the whole system collapses. I'm giving serious thought to leaving the country, not from cowardice, but simply from fear that the fight is already over and the people on the side of justice lost a long time ago and we simply haven't noticed yet.
posted by sotonohito at 7:54 AM on January 18, 2010 [42 favorites]


What makes this even more troubling, to me, is that this cannot be the first time the US military has engaged in this kind of conduct. Of this is what we're hearing about, I shudder to think about all the stuff we don't hear about, and likely never will.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 7:55 AM on January 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


Al-Zahrani, according to the report, was discovered first, at 12:39 a.m., and taken by several Alpha Block guards to the camp’s detention medical clinic. No doctors could be found there, nor the phone number for one, so a clinic staffer dialed 911

Who does 911 reach at a secure US military detention center on Cuba? WTF?
posted by fourcheesemac at 7:55 AM on January 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


You're absolutely right about Bagram, Joe. Here's another article about Bagram.

The ugly history of torture under Bush's orders has not, and will never be, investigated. Worse, the man we elected to clean things up, the man who promised to clean things up, is an active participant in continuing Bush's torture, spying, and detention regime. No one in Congress cares.

Exactly.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 7:57 AM on January 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Stop being part of the problem.

It's unfortunate that it is a "problem" to question Sullivan's indignation over acts of torture and murder sanctioned by the political party he was an active proponent of for so many years.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:01 AM on January 18, 2010


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.
May 20, 2009

At a news conference on Capitol Hill Wednesday, Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., argued the 240 detainees being held at a U.S. military detention center in Guantanamo Bay are being treated well.

"Anyone, any detainee over 55 has an opportunity to have a colonoscopy," Inhofe told reporters, "Now none of them take 'em up on it because once they explain what it is none of them want to do it. but nonetheless its an opportunity that they have."

Inhofe has long argued detainees at Guantanamo Bay are treated well, filming this YouTube video while leading a congressional delegation to the detention facility in February.

"It just blows your mind when you stop and think about the way that they are, are treat people down here, much better than our national, our federal prison system," Inhofe said in the video.

Inhofe is far from the first lawmaker to argue the detainees -- held at the detention facility without trial -- are being treated well.

"I was actually very surprised at the level of really good treatment that all of those detainees are receiving," Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., told ABC News'Rick Klein on "Top Line" Monday.

"There's 240 of them there. They get Al Jazeera television, they get USA Today, they have books, a library, teachers, books of Sudoku puzzles to work on. I was fascinated at the level even of medical care. I saw the hospital there. My background is in medicine. I'm an orthopedic surgeon. They have one health care worker for every two detainees, an incredible hospital with an operating room with a quality of care that is better than many people get in the United States," Barrasso said.

Senate Republican Policy Committee Chairman Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., recently painted an idyllic picture of the detention facility.

"It is a first-class, first-rate facility that meets any kind of international standard that you could think of," Ensign said of Guantanamo Bay, arguing prisoners exercise regularly, have access to Arabic and U.S. newspapers, are given medical treatment from the American Red Cross and can watch movies.

Ensign also said the food served at to detainees is better than what was served to him and fellow senators.

His comments were reminscent of Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., who singled out the lemon-baked fish and orange-glazed chicken served to detainees on what he said was a typical Sunday night dinner during a news conference in 2005. After passing out menus to reporters, Hunter called the food "gourmet fare."

"We treat them very well," Hunter said. "They have never eaten better."
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 8:11 AM on January 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


mkultra I'm afraid I don't understand your point. A person's history is relevant to their credibility, as are their various affiliations.

I wouldn't take a Klansman as a "credible" source on just about anything related to black people, for example.

An avid Bush supporter is, quite simply, less credible on the topic of torture than someone who was not an avid Bush supporter.

We choose our affiliations, they aren't inflicted on us from the outside. Sullivan chose to throw his lot in with the party of never ending war, torture, and the erosion of human rights, that marks his commentary on any of those topics as suspect.

The fact that he has, sort of but not really, left that party is nice and I'm more than willing to take his vote and other support, but that doesn't magically give him back his credibility. The linked commentary is a nice gesture towards reality, but I view it as make up work from a very bad person trying to work his way up to merely "kind of bad", it certainly doesn't give him credibility on the topic. The man he fought for in 2000 is the man responsible for this, the man he called "sexy" [1] in his endorsement of the Bush/Cheney is responsible for this. He, Andrew Sullivan, is partially responsible for this.

There's one other factor, and that's the fact that he's gay and fought so hard to get Bush in the White House. I think that speaks volumes about his character, or rather lack thereof. I flat out can not, ever, trust a gay Republican. Any person who endorses a political party that seeks to criminalize their own sexuality is a person who will betray anyone and anything at the drop of a hat.

[1] Dick Cheney.
posted by sotonohito at 8:15 AM on January 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


What's your point, BP?
posted by unSane at 8:15 AM on January 18, 2010


Why don't we put little chips in them with some sort of GPS device and set most or all of them free? Then we could just watch where they go and perhaps be led to bigger fish. That sort of technology exists, right?
posted by flarbuse at 8:15 AM on January 18, 2010


Sully has been out in front on the torture issue for years now. How is his opinion less credible because he once supported Bush? I sincerely don't get it. Is no-one who once supported Bush allowed to object to torture? What is that about?
posted by unSane at 8:19 AM on January 18, 2010


I'll evaluate Sullivan's credibility based on, you know, what he says and how it corresponds to the facts I've learned elsewhere, instead of his previous political affiliations. But then I'm old fashioned like that.
posted by AdamCSnider at 8:26 AM on January 18, 2010 [13 favorites]


I'm alright with people changing their minds on what party they support, especially when they do so publicly, as opposed to sticking to a ridiculous position for the sake of consistency. Also, I think we're by now all aware of how he voted some 10 years ago, and this story is more important than he'll ever be. My vote's with "enough already".
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 8:34 AM on January 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Err, when did changing your opinions based on facts and reporting become a bad thing? I welcome it and wish there was more of it.
posted by dig_duggler at 8:36 AM on January 18, 2010 [18 favorites]


To me the most interesting and depressing part of this whole saga is how support for torture has become an article of faith for about 50% of America. I would be surprised if these had been a war where this sort of shit didn’t happen, but there has always been a willful denial of that on behalf of a majority the political class and the populace. Now it is very hard to find a Republican candidate willing to say this is a disgrace to the country. It would be like trying to run as a pro-choice Republican; so far outside the beliefs of the tribe as to make them pariah. Democrats have similar unfortunate shibboleths but none so vile.
posted by Fiery Jack at 8:38 AM on January 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


With people like Cheney's protege Bergner in charge of Army communications, it cannot be a surprise that everything the military says on any topic of controversy from paid Pentagon media shills to Lynch to Tillman to torture to murder is an outright lie. Nevertheless, the generals must be immune from any criticism.

The abiding mysteries to me are the degree to which so many people are willing to be complicit in torture, murder and coverups; and the continuing apathy of the country as a whole in response.
posted by minimii at 8:38 AM on January 18, 2010


Blazecock Pileon: It's unfortunate that it is a "problem" to question Sullivan's indignation over acts of torture and murder sanctioned by the political party he was an active proponent of for so many years.

sotonohito: A person's history is relevant to their credibility, as are their various affiliations.

Come on, support of the GOP from 2000-2008 does not automatically make you an apologist for torture. You're smarter than that kind of reductionist thinking.
posted by mkultra at 8:39 AM on January 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


What's your point, BP?

His actions make him a non-credible media commentator, and linking to him lends him and his views undeserved legitimacy.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:39 AM on January 18, 2010


It's a mark of how far gone our country was, in 2006, that we bought this story. Three prisoners (supposedly) committed suicide on the same night and the official response was “I believe this was not an act of desperation but an act of asymmetrical warfare waged against us.”

And the newspapers reported that shit with a straight face. And America smiled, and nodded, and went back to watching baseball. Here's the MeFi thread from then, full of our impotent outrage sandwiched between a lolxians post and a post about a meteorite in Norway. We are a nation of torturers and murderers and even now, without the corrupt Bush administration, we still don't want to know the truth.

(Could we please stop derailing about Andrew Sullivan? Thanks!)
posted by Nelson at 8:41 AM on January 18, 2010 [4 favorites]


I'm split two ways on Sully.

On the one hand, he is a good political writer. He writes well. He manages to write emotively without being shrill. It's good he saw a bit of sense.

On the other, he bought the whole wingnut schtick for so long, the whole schoolyard demonization of anyone who didn't support Bush and/or the war or tourists that it's hard not to conclude he's a bit of a media whore who was marginally smarter than the others to realize that bit earlier that underneath the facade of brash, stupid, homophobic war mongers many GOP supporters and their political masters were nothing more than arrogant, historyphobic big government spenders.

And perhaps more importantly, who might just as well switch sides to some other idiotic bunch when the winds changed again. He's arguably not really got any more balanced. He's just moved the seesaw a little.
posted by MuffinMan at 8:50 AM on January 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


Nelson: We are a nation of torturers and murderers and even now, without the corrupt Bush administration, we still don't want to know the truth.

As long as planes aren't flying into buildings, I think the average American doesn't care how the result is achieved.
posted by dr_dank at 8:59 AM on January 18, 2010


Just to be clear who we're linking to, when we're reading about torture and murder coverups that his party and his voting behavior was primarily responsible for, this is the same Andrew Sullivan that voted for Bush twice and has been a Republican stooge for the last twenty-odd years, that, among other things, helped his political paymasters derail attempts to reform our broken healthcare system, yes?

One day we may get real journalism from real journalists who have the courage not to wash their hands of their guilt for these kinds of events.


This is boring and not true and you do this every time he comes up, please stop with the ad hominem bullshit.
posted by empath at 9:01 AM on January 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


As long as planes aren't flying into buildings, I think the average American doesn't care how the result is achieved.

Stuff like this doesn't decrease the likelihood of planes flying into buildings. It may well do the opposite.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 9:04 AM on January 18, 2010 [7 favorites]


Mark Harmon never covers up murders on NCIS.
posted by kirkaracha at 9:06 AM on January 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


I mean, it's worth noting that Sully has been a bad actor in the past, but that's really got no relevance to the strength of his arguments today.
posted by empath at 9:09 AM on January 18, 2010


There are two topics under discussion: (i) Agents of the US government have allegedly tortured people to death, (ii) Andrew Sullivan may or may not have useful opinions on the topic. Perhaps consider their relative importance before commenting?
posted by Fiery Jack at 9:19 AM on January 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


would you stop arguing about adnrew sullivan and get to the end of the article:
Sergeant Joe Hickman’s tour of duty, which ended in March 2007, was distinguished: he was selected as Guantánamo’s “NCO of the Quarter” and was given a commendation medal. When he returned to the United States, he was promoted to staff sergeant and worked in Maryland as an Army recruiter before settling eventually in Wisconsin. But he could not forget what he had seen at Guantánamo. When Barack Obama became president, Hickman decided to act. “I thought that with a new administration and new ideas I could actually come forward, ” he said. “It was haunting me.”

/snip

The Justice Department also faces questions about its larger role in creating the circumstances that lead to the use of so-called enhanced interrogation and restraint techniques at Guantánamo and elsewhere. In 2006, the use of a gagging restraint had already been connected to the death on January 9, 2004, of an Iraqi prisoner, Lieutenant Colonel Abdul Jameel, in the custody of the Army Special Forces. And the bodies of the three men who died at Guantánamo showed signs of torture, including hemorrhages, needle marks, and significant bruising. The removal of their throats made it difficult to determine whether they were already dead when their bodies were suspended by a noose. The Justice Department itself had been deeply involved in the process of approving and setting the conditions for the use of torture techniques, issuing a long series of memoranda that CIA agents and others could use to defend themselves against any subsequent criminal prosecution.

Teresa McHenry, the investigator charged with accounting for the deaths of the three men at Guantánamo, has firsthand knowledge of the Justice Department’s role in auditing such techniques, having served at the Justice Department under Bush and having participated in the preparation of at least one of those memos. As a former war-crimes prosecutor, McHenry knows full well that government officials who attempt to cover up crimes perpetrated against prisoners in wartime face prosecution under the doctrine of command responsibility. (McHenry declined to clarify the role she played in drafting the memos.)

As retired Rear Admiral John Hutson, the former judge advocate general of the Navy, told me, “Filing false reports and making false statements is bad enough, but if a homicide occurs and officials up the chain of command attempt to cover it up, they face serious criminal liability. They may even be viewed as accessories after the fact in the original crime.” With command authority comes command responsibility, he said. “If the heart of the military is obeying orders down the chain of command, then its soul is accountability up the chain. You can’t demand the former without the latter.”

The Justice Department thus faced a dilemma; it could do the politically convenient thing, which was to find no justification for a thorough investigation, leave the NCIS conclusions in place, and hope that the public and the news media would obey the Obama Administration’s dictum to “look forward, not backward”; or it could pursue a course of action that would implicate the Bush Justice Department in a cover-up of possible homicides.
posted by ennui.bz at 9:20 AM on January 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Hey guys, this dude cheerfully spun the facts for years in the service of an agenda of murder, hate, and torture, but now that he's saying things I want to hear, questioning whether he's trustworthy or worth listening to is OUT OF THE QUESTION okay?
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:26 AM on January 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Nobody involved has the stomach for truth, not even Obama. Truth is painful. America can't handle the truth.
posted by caddis at 9:33 AM on January 18, 2010


MeTa.

I don't think one pundit's comments on the story should be the story, so here you go.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 9:35 AM on January 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Fair criticism is fair, but I don't see any in this thread.
posted by mek at 9:37 AM on January 18, 2010


This turned into the script for every sexploitation prison movie ever made when they introduced the windowless van with the dog cage in the back.
posted by localroger at 9:42 AM on January 18, 2010


This turned into the script for every sexploitation prison movie ever made when they introduced the windowless van with the dog cage in the back.

or how about where they returned to their families the bodies with necks removed.... remember the official cause of death is strangulation by hanging.
posted by ennui.bz at 9:46 AM on January 18, 2010




Stuff like this doesn't decrease the likelihood of planes flying into buildings. It may well do the opposite.

Yup.

And:

Nonetheless, the recent revelation that a Guantanamo "graduate" became a chief of Al Qaeda in Yemen, appearing in a defiant video, reverberated in law enforcement circles. Guantanamo's harsh conditions and sense of hopelessness have generated rage and radicalization, anti-terrorism officials said.

"During my first visit, the prisoners I dealt with spoke with an individual voice," a European anti-terrorism official recalled. "But on the second visit, they were already speaking with a collective voice. You could see the dominance of the hard-core ideologues take effect. It's a classic process of group psychology in places like that."

posted by availablelight at 9:58 AM on January 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


So, something I don't understand from the article... This "Camp No" place... is it actually in Cuba? Or is Gitmo actually larger than that satellite photo/map depicts, so we're only seeing a fraction of the US holdings on that island?

I wish I could say that I'm shocked about all this, but really it's mostly that I'm NOT shocked that is shocking to me. The details are horrid and gruesome, and shame on any who perpetrated this coverup. I hope heads roll, but somehow I doubt that will happen. Which disappoints and shocks me, that I feel that way.

*sigh*
posted by hippybear at 10:06 AM on January 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Obviously these throats have been redacted in the interests of national security.
posted by Flashman at 10:09 AM on January 18, 2010


Army Colonel Michael Bumgarner, the Camp America commander... was known as an eccentric commander. Hickman marveled, for instance, at the colonel’s insistence that his staff line up and salute him, to music selections that included Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony and the reggae hit “Bad Boys,” as he entered the command center.

Bumgarner soon left Guantánamo for a new post in Missouri. He now serves as an ROTC instructor at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg.

Cover up three murders, then go teach kids. This guy should be in jail, not training the next generation.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 10:18 AM on January 18, 2010


I'm not as world-weary and cynical as some of you, and the details of these deaths shocked me.

I try, in my mind, to remember that not only are these prisoners human beings, but so are their jailers. I try to balance the hardship of imprisonment, day after day, with very little chance of imminent trial, let alone release, with the duty of caring for people whose fundamental beliefs we don't understand in the slightest. I can understand the frustration with religious fanatic suicide bombers who could be men, women or even children--how do you look at anyone without suspicion when you are mired in that world? Hard to hold on to your humanity, whether you are jailer or jailed.

But when people are obviously murdered on our watch, in our facilities, and the NCIS, an outside entity which is supposed to ensure that justice is served, completely ignores tied hands, rags stuffed down throats and the rest and says, "Yep. Suicides!"

Well, that frickin' disgusts me.
posted by misha at 10:46 AM on January 18, 2010 [4 favorites]


Response from the then Commander of Gitmo, who according to the article ordered the cover up:
On Monday, in response to the article, Army Col. Michael Bumgarner said in an email that "this blatant misrepresentation of the truth infuriates me."

Bumgarner said that Hickman "is only trying to be a spotlight ranger; he knows nothing about what transpired in Camp 1 or our medical facility. I do, I was there." Camp 1 is the facility where the three detainees were ordinarily held."

Bumgarner added that he would have to get clearance before he can talk to the news media, "but rest assured, I do want to talk to you very badly and set the record straight."
Via. Via.
posted by unSane at 10:50 AM on January 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


hippybear, I wondered about the size of the naval station, too. this map makes it clear, it's a pretty big place. Camp Delta isn't depicted, but it's just above the "a" in the caption "Caribbean Sea". Camp No is just next door, deep inside the naval station. You can see it pretty clearly in Google Earth, there's a visible fence and/or road all around the border.
posted by Nelson at 10:52 AM on January 18, 2010


If you read the article (hint hint), it has helpful pictures which show the entire geography.
posted by unSane at 11:02 AM on January 18, 2010


I try, in my mind, to remember that not only are these prisoners human beings, but so are their jailers.

What also springs to mind is what short memories we human beings have. I mean, it's not like you need to know what the Inquisition, the Salem witch trials or World War 2 were to know that a) torturing POWs does not produce any valuable information and b) once released, ordinary people who underwent this horror are probably quite likely to turn to radicalism to fight back.

I don't think getting information was ever the point. Maybe it's been all about revenge - venting on someone, anyone, who might conceivably resemble The Enemy. Make them hurt, send the message that you don't mess with us or some such macho bullshit. Or maybe these people honestly believe that they're using some new and improved form of torture that magically works and has none of the consequences that centuries of history have taught us will arise.

Either way, this is our legacy, and I reckon we'll be living with the consequences for decades to come.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:03 AM on January 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


In my view, the point of the torture was (and always is) not to produce intelligence, but to produce the right kind of intelligence, namely that which allows you to construct the most politically useful bogeyman possible.
posted by unSane at 11:08 AM on January 18, 2010


unSaane Basically, yeah.

Like Orwell said: The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power.
posted by sotonohito at 11:32 AM on January 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


Nelson: It's a mark of how far gone our country was, in 2006, that we bought this story.

Speak for yourself. I do recognise the significance of it being openly called murder as opposed to being an open-secret stage whisper wink-wink-nudge-nudge kind of thing, and I'm not trying to be That Guy. That said, I really don't see this as anything I didn't already know.
posted by paisley henosis at 11:47 AM on January 18, 2010


unSane: In my view, the point of the torture was (and always is) not to produce intelligence, but to produce the right kind of intelligence, namely that which allows you to construct the most politically useful bogeyman possible.
I don't disagree.

But here's something I don't understand: Torture, as we Americans practice it, requires a huge, complex, expensive infrastructure of lies, law-breaking, cover-ups, secret bases, extraordinary rendition, black ops, and other skulduggery.

Wouldn't it be a lot easier and more efficient to just make up "the right kind of intelligence" outright, and skip the slow, messy, repugnant business of the actual torture entirely? That worked fairly well (i.e., it served the perpetrators' goals) for the invasion of Iraq. Why did we abandon that practice?
posted by Western Infidels at 11:52 AM on January 18, 2010


mkultra: Come on, support of the GOP from 2000-2008 does not automatically make you an apologist for torture. You're smarter than that kind of reductionist thinking.

Supporting the GOP while they were telling us that they were 'going to the dark side,' and while European nations were complaining about their citizens being kidnapped and dragged off to secret prisons in Libya to be tortured…supporting people who were actively and fairly openly committing torture isn't necessarily being an apologist for torture?

Sorry, but I don't buy a word of that.

Not that every person who voted for Bush either or both times has blood on his or her hands, but the media voices who chose to defend wretchedness and inhumanity were party to that wretchedness and inhumanity.
posted by paisley henosis at 11:56 AM on January 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


…not to say that people can't recognize their mistakes and change their ways; they certainly can. I don't have a dog in the fight over this Andrew Sullivan, and I'm sorry for contributing to the derailing.
posted by paisley henosis at 12:02 PM on January 18, 2010


Army Colonel Michael Bumgarner, the Camp America commander... was known as an eccentric commander.

it's interesting to note how all of these base commanders have been small fry... the other one mentioned in the article was a family court judge. The guy who brought in the SERE techniques was a total nobody. All of these people had no institutional presence in the military. I don't think this was an accident.
posted by ennui.bz at 12:23 PM on January 18, 2010


these throats have been redacted in the interests of national security

That's no doubt why her gloves were glued to her hands, too.

National Security:™ It's the quicker coverer-upper.
posted by minimii at 12:53 PM on January 18, 2010


If you read the article (hint hint), it has helpful pictures which show the entire geography.

Um... no it doesn't. It has a sat photo which has some things marked on it but which does NOT give anything like a full geographical notion of exactly how the area pictures sits in the larger US-claimed section of land on the island of Cuba. I did read the article. You didn't understand my question and what it was asking was based on the picture that I saw which left me confused.
posted by hippybear at 1:06 PM on January 18, 2010


Western Infidels wrote That worked fairly well (i.e., it served the perpetrators' goals) for the invasion of Iraq. Why did we abandon that practice?

Honestly, I suspect it has to do at least partially with sheer wishful thinking.

They scraped up anyone they could to fill Guantanamo, and tried to tell us that they were all desperate, ravening, terrorists, "the worst of the worst". I think that on some level they fell prey to their own propaganda.

I think that, at least in part, Bush et al wanted to be reassured that they were right, that the people there really were "the worst of the worst", that they really did have vital information, and that the git tuff, ignore the law, dark superhero playacting they were indulging in really was reality.

In my darker times I wonder if maybe one component of it was deliberately to change the parameters of conversation and law, to move the Overton window closer to their ideal, to change the USA so we accepted torture (at least of foreign brown people), so as to make it easier for us to accept torture of normal American prisoners when that gets rolled out.

And, of course, we can't dismiss sheer mindless vengeance as a motive. Never mind that the people at Guantanamo weren't responsible for 9/11, they were Muslim and foreign, and that's close enough for government torture.

Ever hear that awful Country song "Have You Forgotten?" I have, far too often, and there's a bit where Worley sings:

"Some say this country's just out looking for a fight /
After 9/11 man I'd have to say that's right".


I think that sums up a lot of what caused this. I think a lot of people, including a lot of top people, were just plain looking to hurt someone, anyone, to make them feel better. I quoted Orwell earlier, and I'll quote him again: "The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power."

It wasn't about gathering, or even faking, intelligence, as you point out they can do that anytime with no effort or getting their hands dirty. This was about changing the way America as a whole thinks of itself, it was about torture for its own sake, it was about some really messed up psychology, and I swear it was at least partially about making torture acceptable.
posted by sotonohito at 1:28 PM on January 18, 2010 [7 favorites]


This is horrifying and the conclusion that Obama isn't doing a whole lot about it (or about future events like it) is possibly the worst of it.

What I don't understand -- and I don't expect anyone here can explain it, since I suspect there is no rational explanation -- is why these three people were murdered in the first place. The article points out that they were about to be released anyway. A last-ditch effort to squeeze some nonexistent info out of them? Anger that they were being let go? Was the disruption of the attorneys' jobs the final goal and these three selected because killing them didn't lose anything "valuable"?
posted by Legomancer at 1:49 PM on January 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


paisley henosis, when I say It's a mark of how far gone our country was, in 2006, that we bought this story I meant "we", in the collective sense. I didn't buy the story then either, although I admit the big lie misdirection of "suicide as asymmetrical warfare" made me overlook the implausability of it being "suicide" at all. But whatever I thought or you thought isn't the point. I meant, we, Americans, the collective, we as a nation bought the explanation. We are morally culpable for our policies of torture and murder. (If you're not from the US, then my apologies, you're not included in our collective guilt.)

why these three people were murdered in the first place

I'm more puzzled about why they'd all be murdered on the same night. There's really no way that fits in with some meticulously planned diabolic plot. It's hard to even understand it as an accident. Still, I could think of a million explanations more plausible than the official suicide-psychological-warfare nonsense that's the official story.
posted by Nelson at 2:06 PM on January 18, 2010


From the second link: They were part of an ongoing torture program whose methods were so extreme that the Pentagon has already conceded that over a dozen prisoners had been tortured to death and up to a hundred US authorized deaths-by-torture are alleged by many human rights groups.

Wait a minute, what? I've never heard that the Pentagon conceded that the U.S. tortured a dozen prisoners to death. What's Sullivan talking about? Is anyone else familiar with this?
posted by Dasein at 2:54 PM on January 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


This all makes me so depressed that I can barely respond to the article itself. These articles tend to sort of fly under most people's radars it seems, there are all these examples of great reporting in the New Yorker, The Atlantic and Harper's, but for all the effect it has it's like no one but us reads those things. It is excessively maddening.

So I'll just stick with my fury over the John Woo interview on Daily Show last week, in which Woo, who is a lawyer for crying out loud and should not be playing fast and loose with concepts like "war," did not look askance on Bush's essential declaration of a state of permanent war at all against such a nebulous concept as "terror," and then used it to justify the grant of full-on powers for the executive branch basically in perpetuity, and Stewart didn't call him on it.

Then the whole Miranda rights thing where Woo talks about how we don't want to read terrorists their rights. Well putting aside the question of whether rights should be read to someone who isn't a U.S. citizen, why the hell not? Being a terrorist doesn't make one a magic demon creature who must be banished through the use of magic formulae, it's just a crime, it's an unusually hateful crime sure, but nonetheless. Badmouthing the very processes that, in our country, attempt to safeguard the rights of the accused is not a healthy attitude for someone who is a constitutional lawyer to take.

In Stewart's defense there were lots of things to be called out and he did the best he could, and it was another of those things where they had to edit the interview down for time so they posted the whole thing on the web and I've not seen that. But still, it all just makes me sick. I so hated that smirking, even-toned asshole, almost as much as Cheney now.

The most depressing thing is the growing perception that America, when it falls (due more to economic problems, growing dependence on a communist regime, and the foreign policy holes we've dug for ourselves for decades than stupid little terrorists), is going to fall hard, and that much of the world isn't going to particularly mourn our passing, and maybe for good reason.
posted by JHarris at 2:58 PM on January 18, 2010 [5 favorites]


He may be referring to the autopsy reports obtained by the ACLU of prisoners known to have died in US custody which concluded that 21 were homicides.

There are more links in a Kos diary here:
http://www.dailykos.com/story/2009/6/30/747973/-Torture-Autopsy-Reveals-Death-by-Enhanced-Interrogation

And more information at firedoglake here:
http://emptywheel.firedoglake.com/2009/05/19/if-the-detainee-dies-doing-sleep-deprivation-is-wrong/
posted by unSane at 3:04 PM on January 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Nelson : I'm more puzzled about why they'd all be murdered on the same night.

How sure are we that they were? Is it possible that that they died over the course of a couple of days or more and the suicides were faked at the same time to cover up deaths while being tortured?

That's the problem with a conspiracy (both the theories and the real kind) is that when you have access to only a small slice of the facts, but can clearly see that stuff doesn't add up, you try to fill in the gaps with plausibilities.

And we've already got enough hard facts on how these prisoners have been treated over the years to suspect that anything from actual suicide, to covering up an accidental death, to intentional parallel murder is on the table of things that could have happened.

The best way to figure out what happened is investigations and criminal proceedings where appropriate. Sunlight, disinfectant, etc.
posted by quin at 3:16 PM on January 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


I feel completely paralyzed over this issue; as an American, I feel some sense of owning a piece of the blame, but have literally no idea what concrete measures I can take to help reverse it. It is so sickening how few of these people have been (or will ever be) brought to justice, and made all the more sickening by the fact that it is still marginalizes one to say that even some aspects of American actions are unambigiously evil (to whatever real meaning that word can actually have). I used to hope Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice-- the whole lot of them-- would eventually be justly punished for what they've done, but at this point I would be content even to see some of the guilty parties lower on the totem pole take the fall, if only to symbolically show that our nation hates what we've done. But you know what? In general, we don't.
posted by threeants at 3:50 PM on January 18, 2010


ennui.bz: "it's interesting to note how all of these base commanders have been small fry... the other one mentioned in the article was a family court judge. The guy who brought in the SERE techniques was a total nobody. All of these people had no institutional presence in the military. I don't think this was an accident."

Wasn't that what Arendt was describing when she coined the phrase "the banality of evil"?

JHarris: John Woo
Yoo.
posted by Challahtronix at 5:14 PM on January 18, 2010


Scott Horton is on COUNTDOWN right now. Apparently Hickman contacted him after his last appearance. Fascinating stuff.
posted by unSane at 5:26 PM on January 18, 2010


Ack, sorry, Yoo.
posted by JHarris at 6:30 PM on January 18, 2010


Western Infidels: “Wouldn't it be a lot easier and more efficient to just make up "the right kind of intelligence" outright, and skip the slow, messy, repugnant business of the actual torture entirely? That worked fairly well (i.e., it served the perpetrators' goals) for the invasion of Iraq. Why did we abandon that practice?

This strikes me as a very interesting question. It undermines, at least to me, the claim that the torture was simply about attempting to produce politically-convenient "intelligence." It's much more complicated than that.

There were definitely people, throughout the chain of command, who really bought into the idea that torture would produce objectively correct, actionable intelligence. It's easy to say that "duh, torture never works!" but there clearly were people who thought, for some reason, that it did or would. They had been told to get intelligence and then, either because they weren't getting what they perceived their bosses wanted or maybe out of impatience at conventional methods or some other reasons, turned to torture.

It's worth noting that most of the torture methods used were things that US personnel were familiar with due to SERE training. Waterboarding was used in SERE; you saw a lot of waterboarding happening to detainees. Same with sleep deprivation. Although I suspect that the methods used in SERE are chosen more because of their relative safety (they're not going to put a soldier in training on the rack, obviously) than for any sort of objective 'effectiveness,' they're the methods that people who had gone through SERE came back to when interrogating detainees themselves.

If you had a crystal ball, the incident to go back to would be when the first detainee in US custody was tortured, because once it became known that it was acceptable to do that, I'm sure the bar went down significantly. Then it became an everything-looks-like-a-nail situation. But the decision to do it that first time ... I don't think that "torture doesn't work" was part of the equation.
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:33 PM on January 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, due to the layered nature of command, I don't think it's either/or.

The interrogators at the sharp end will continue to interrogate using whatever procedures are authorized and (perhaps on occasion) a few that aren't until they produce intelligence which satisfies their superiors (say, CIA)

The command layer above (say, CIA) them will ask them to continue this process until they produce intelligence which satisfies their superiors (say, effectively, office of the Vice President).

OVP will continue to authorise increasingly harsh tactics until they are satisfied with the 'intelligence' being produced. Assuming that the OVP has a firmly held belief that A, they will authorise continued interrogation until they hear that A.

CIA do as they are told and continue interrogation, perhaps directed towards obtaining A, but perhaps not. It doesn't realy matter. In either case, the interrogators continue interrogate until the interrogations produce evidence of A, or the detainees die, whichever comes first.

This is why tortue doesn't/does work: if done properly it will always produce 'evidence' which confirms the preconceptions of the highest entity in the command chain. This is not a conspiracy theory... it's just how the process works.

Torture works. You just have to be clear about what you expect it to do.
posted by unSane at 7:45 PM on January 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'd say that OVP may not even have a firmly held belief that A, they simply wish others to believe that A.

Sociopaths all the way down.
posted by zoinks at 11:02 PM on January 18, 2010


This is not the type of torture which seeks information (a fictional "interrogation" by any means); this is flat out "I'm going in there to kill this non-human because I'm an asshole and I can get away with it".

We are giving people excellent reasons to be rightfully angry with our government.

If we, as Citizenry, don't take this opportunity to ensure that justice is properly served...the angered will serve their own judgment based on revenge, hatred, and ill-conceived and cherry-picked moral concepts.

We don't want that.

Lets privatize Gitmo, put the torturing assholes into the cells that they used to guard, and let PrisonCorp outsource prison jobs to Iraq and Afghanistan...I bet even China or India couldn't win the lowball labor bidding award for that gig.

Everybody wins. Oh...except for the torturers.
posted by hal_c_on at 2:25 AM on January 19, 2010


Dasein:Wait a minute, what? I've never heard that the Pentagon conceded that the U.S. tortured a dozen prisoners to death. What's Sullivan talking about? Is anyone else familiar with this?

I think this is what's being referred to, and the actual quote from Barry McCaffrey is here. McCaffrey is retired so it isn't "the Pentagon".
posted by Challahtronix at 9:34 AM on January 19, 2010


via he who must not be named or linked to, the Obama Justice Department responds:
"The Department took this matter very seriously. A number of Department attorneys and agents extensively and thoroughly reviewed the allegations and found no evidence of wrongdoing."
So we're all good.
posted by unSane at 3:27 PM on January 19, 2010


Scott Horton: The Official Response Begins
posted by adamvasco at 4:28 AM on January 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


adamvasco failed to write that in his link Scott Horton details the multiple lies in the responses from Bumgarner and others. I highly recommend the link.
posted by caddis at 6:51 AM on January 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


You weren't kidding, caddis. To wit:
The second statement [that Bumgarner doesn't know who Hickman is] is an attempt to frame the conflict in terms of a controversy between Sergeant Hickman and himself, which he leads into by saying he doesn’t even know who Hickman is. That statement is demonstrably false. As we confirmed with Defense Department records, Bumgarner recommended Hickman for a medal (shown below) based on his cool-headed approach to defusing a prison riot on May 18, 2006. Moreover, Hickman was selected as NCO of the Quarter at Guantánamo, a fact the camp commander would certainly have known at the time. In any case, the key points in which Bumgarner figures do not rest on Hickman’s accounts alone—they are corroborated by a series of additional witnesses, as well as by published accounts in which Bumgarner himself is extensively quoted.
This is follow by this image.

OOPS!
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 9:36 AM on January 20, 2010


Based on Horton's evisceration of Bumgarner's statement I'm guessing that the DoD won't give Bumgarner clearance to speak.
posted by Challahtronix at 9:49 AM on January 20, 2010


Slate's Dahlia Lithwick asks, "Why aren't we talking about the new accusations of murder at Gitmo?" Her article mentions the blog coverage above, as well as that in various British the papers and a barebones AP article, but at the end of the week, hers is the lengthiest analysis of the story in anything approaching mainstream media. (Even this MeFi thread seems burnt out.)

Her conclusion is dispiriting to say the least: "The fact that three Guantanamo prisoners—none of whom had any links to terrorism and two of whom had already been cleared for release—may have been killed there and the deaths covered up, should be front-page news. That brand-new evidence of this possible atrocity from military guards was given only the most cursory investigation by the Obama administration should warrant some kind of blowback. But changing what we allow ourselves to believe about torture would change the way we have reconciled ourselves to torture. Nobody in this country is prepared to do that. So we have opted to ignore it."
posted by Doktor Zed at 3:09 PM on January 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


(Maybe I'm just the one who's feeling burnt out, but I'd like to see this thread surpass the triple-digit one touched off when the Gitmo commander first tried to pass these off as suicides in "an act of asymetrical warfare" mentioned earlier.)
posted by Doktor Zed at 3:20 PM on January 21, 2010


Detainees Will Still Be Held, but Not Tried, Official Says
posted by homunculus at 8:52 PM on January 22, 2010


In other news: CIA Man Retracts Claim on Waterboarding
posted by homunculus at 9:00 AM on January 27, 2010


Why The Heart And The Kidneys?
posted by homunculus at 9:38 AM on January 27, 2010


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