I’ve written several times about Scott Horton’s award-winning Harper’s magazine article declaring that it’s “most likely” that the three Guantanamo detainees who hanged themselves in June 2006 actually died at an interrogation site.  To believe Horton’s thesis, one would have to believe that at least three dozen members of the U.S. military — including medical professionals — made false official statements, that two U.S. Administrations — Republican and Democratic — conspired to cover up the actual cause of death, and that the conspiracy extended to both detainees in Guantanamo at the time of the suicides and a released Guantanamo detainee living in Afghanistan in 2008.  Occam’s razor would suggest that a better explanation of why two U.S. administrations, at least 36 U.S. military personnel, and a released Guantanamo detainee would indicate that the deaths were caused by suicide is because they were caused by suicide.

After the American Society of Magazine Editors recently decided to bestow its prestigious National Magazine Award for Reporting on Horton’s piece, Adweek ran this critique by Alex Koppleman.  In the wake of Koppelman’s piece, several other commentators — including both my CAAFlog colleague Cully Stimson and me — also criticized (or, in my case, recriticized) Horton’s article. 

Now, in one piece published Wednesday on Truthout.org and another on Firedoglake.com, Dr. Jeffrey Kaye has criticized Horton’s critics, including me.  That led to an email exchange between Dr. Kaye and me on Thursday.  I found the exchange to be informative, professional, and worthwhile.  But I disagree with Dr. Kaye on several important matters, which I’ll discuss below.

First, Dr. Kaye criticizes Koppelman’s discussion of Swiss pathologist Patrice Mangin’s autopsy report concerning one of the dead detainees.  The autopsy report is available, in French, here.   It ends with a “Conclusions” section, which includes the following:  “2)  La cause du décès est selon toute vraisemblance la conséquence d’une asphyxie mécanique par une violence exercée contre le cou dans le cadre d’une pendaison, sans pouvoir exclure formellement un autre mécanisme.”  I believe a fair translation is:  “2) The cause of death is in all likelihood the result of mechanical asphyxiation by violence against the neck as part of a hanging, without formally excluding another mechanism.”

Here’s what Koppelman wrote:

Horton also spends a paragraph detailing the concerns that Swiss pathologist Patrice Mangin, who led the team that conducted the independent autopsy on Salami, had after concluding his report: injuries in the “oral region” that were too severe to be caused by resuscitation efforts and marks on the prisoner’s neck that were not related to hanging.

Yet Horton left out a key conclusion of Mangin’s report. “The cause of death is most likely the consequence of mechanical asphyxia by violence exercised against the neck as part of a hanging, without being able to formally exclude a different mechanism,” said the report, which was written in French. Mangin reiterated this point in a press conference.

That strikes me as an accurate report. Koppelman’s article then gives Horton’s explanation for not quoting that portion of Mangin’s report.   Here’s how Dr. Kaye deals with that portion of Koppelman’s article in his Truthout piece:

Koppelman’s fudging of the facts regarding Mangin’s autopsy is egregious. In fact, the autopsy report says that the cause of death is mechanical asphyxiation consistent with a hanging, but also “sans pouvoir exclure formellement un autre mécanisme,” that is, unable to formally exclude another mechanism or cause.

Right, just as Koppelman noted in his article when he reported that Mangin’s report said the cause of death was most likely the consequence of a hanging “without being able to formally exclude a different mechanism.”  Koppelman’s article includes the very language that gives rise to Dr. Kaye’s charge of egregious fudging. 

Dr. Kaye renews his attack by asserting that at his press conference, “Mangin did not definitively rule the cause of death as suicide by hanging . . . as maintained by Koppelman.”  But as we’ve seen Koppelman didn’t state or even suggest that Mangin “definitively” ruled “the cause of death as suicide by hanging.”  Rather, Koppelman reported that Mangin concluded that the “most likely” cause of death arose from hanging but that he couldn’t rule out other means.

Then Dr. Kaye’s Truthout critique turns to me.  I’ve repeatedly raised the point that Horton’s article draws inferences from the proposition that a road in Guantanamo leads to only two destinations when that road is actually the main drag between the Naval Station side of the base and the detention camps.  Dr. Kaye argues that “the objections Sullivan raises do not pass the logic test” because a different road purportedly leads to only two destinations.  Let me explain.

According to Horton’s article, SGT Joe Hickman grew suspicious about a van’s destination because of a particular left turn that it frequently made:   

The paddy wagon was used to transport prisoners to medical facilities and to meetings with their lawyers. But as Hickman monitored the paddy wagon’s movements from the guard tower at Camp Delta, he frequently saw it follow an unexpected route. When the van reached the first intersection to the east, instead of heading right—toward the other camps or toward one of the buildings where prisoners could meet with their lawyers—it made a left. In that direction, past the perimeter checkpoint known as ACP Roosevelt, there were only two destinations. One was a beach where soldiers went to swim. The other was Camp No.

So according to Horton, it was suspicious that the van made a left at that particular intersection because “[i]n that direction, past the perimeter checkpoint known as ACP Roosevelt, there were only two destinations.”  That’s false and I firmly believe that anyone who has ever been to the detention camps would know that it’s false.  Because each of those individuals has almost surely passed though ACP Roosevelt while neither going to or from a beach or what SGT Hickman dubbed “Camp No.”  A vehicle going from the camps to almost anywhere else on the base would have made that turn.  And beyond ACP Roosevelt lies every destination on the Naval Station side of the base.  It’s not just that one could get to those destinations by going from the camps through ACP Roosevelt, that’s how people actually did reach those destinations. So, in fact, SGT Hickman wouldn’t have seen a van making that turn and thought to himself, “Gee, that van must either be going to the beach or to that strange building I saw.”  Rather, he would know that the van might be going to the military commission complex, the base hospital, the Subway sandwich shop, the base gym, the golf course, the ferry to the airport, or hundreds of other potential destinations.  If SGT Hickman told Horton that he saw the van make that left turn and concluded it could only be going to the beach or the building Hickman dubbed “Camp No,” then Hickman’s account wasn’t credible.  Had Horton done the slightest amount of fact checking with anyone who has ever been to the camps, he would have learned this.  If, on the other hand, SGT Hickman didn’t tell Horton that his suspicions were aroused for this fictitious reason, then why is the claim in Horton’s article?

Here’s what Dr. Kaye has to say about Hickman’s suspicions being aroused by a van driving down a road that purportedly leads to only two destinations but that actually leads to hundreds:

Horton’ s own reply to Koppelman appears to answer the charge, explaining. “It’s true, of course, that when you drive out and you get on roads, you could take roads almost anywhere, there were connections that went on, but everyone I spoke with said ‘No, you would not have driven to that part of the base using that road, there were other roads that would have taken you there much more directly.'”

A look at the map of Guantanamo provided with the original Harper’s article shows Camp No to be quite isolated along a road running north of the main prison camp. There is nothing else along that road, and certainly nothing like a McDonalds, or any housing areas. The areas to the east of Camp No, which include some of the areas to which Sullivan alludes, including the camp headquarters, the chapel, the post office, and other buildings from the camp, are eminently reachable and in a much more direct fashion from Camp Delta from a road running west by northwest out of the camp area. (See also this map from The Guantanamo Testimonials Project.) It is difficult to imagine that multiple paddy wagon trips took a long way around to get to other parts of the camp, along a long empty road passing the Camp No area each time. In short, the objections Sullivan raises do not pass the logic test.

Regarding Horton’s response, if that’s what his sources told him, then they’re deceiving him.  I assume that Horton has never been the detention camps, if he’s ever been to Guantanamo Bay at all.  The road that went through ACP Roosevelt was the main drag between the Naval Station side of the base and the camps.  If his sources told him that one would never go from the camps to the Naval Station side of the base through ACP Roosevelt, then they are lying to him.  And, again, the slightest bit of fact checking with anyone else who has even been to the camps would have revealed that lie.

Dr. Kaye misunderstands Guantanamo’s geography.  There was no more direct route between the Naval Station headquarters (which is what he obviously meant when he wrote “camp headquarters”), the Naval Station chapel, or the Naval Station post office and the camps than the road passing through ACP Roosevelt.  Dr. Kaye appears to have looked at an aerial photo and assumed that any visible roads were passable.  But, in reality, many of the roads on Guantanamo are blocked and completely impassable.  Presumably unlike Dr. Kaye and Horton, I’ve actually driven between locations in the camps and the Naval Station side of the base.  I’ve ridden in vehicles driven by others traveling between the camps and the Naval Station side of the base.  Every single time, we went both ways on the road that goes through ACP Roosevelt.  And I’ve confirmed with others stationed at Guantanamo — including in the Joint Task Force — that they did the same.  The whole point of operating an access control point is to control access.  And Guantanamo was designed to funnel traffic between the Naval Station side of base and the detention camps through ACP Roosevelt.

Dr. Kaye also argues that there’s nothing else on the road on which “Camp No” sits.  But that’s not the road that led to SGT Hickman’s alleged suspicions.  Remember, according to Horton, Hickman became suspicious when the van turned left because in “that direction, past the perimeter checkpoint known as ACP Roosevelt, there were only two destinations.”  That left wasn’t onto the road the leads to what SGT Hickman dubbed “Camp No.”  Rather, that left was onto the road that passes through ACP Roosevelt.  And, from his post at Camp Delta, SGT Hickman couldn’t have seen where the van went after it passed through ACP Roosevelt.   Had SGT Hickman said that he originally became suspicious because he saw the van go through ACP Roosevelt and then make a left onto the road where what he dubbed “Camp No” was located, then Dr. Kaye would have a point (assuming that SGT Hickman could credibly claim he was in a position from which he could see that road).  But that’s not what the article reports.  According to Horton’s article, SGT Hickman did later say that he saw the van turn left onto that road.  But he says he was in a position to see that only because he was already suspicious because of the left-hand turn the van made onto the road that leads through ACP Roosevelt.  If the purported basis for his suspicions was false, then I give no credibility to his account of what he saw next.

Next is the issue of  Abdul Zuhoor.  As I’ve previously noted, on 17 June 2008, McClatchy Newspapers quoted from an interview conducted in Afghanistan with former Guantanamo detainee Abdul Zuhoor:

In June 2006, Zuhoor said, a Taliban member at Guantanamo bragged to him that there soon would be three “martyrs.”

“The Arabs and some Taliban sat together and issued a verdict,” Zuhoor said. “Three of the men volunteered to kill themselves to get more freedom for the other detainees.”

The next morning, Zuhoor said, the news spread across Guantanamo:  Three Arabs had committed suicide.

This article is devastating to Horton’s thesis.  Why would a released Guantanamo detainee make that claim if the three detainees were actually killed during an interrogation?  In response, Dr. Kaye attacks me because “Sullivan never mentions that the McClatchy reporter cautioned Zuhoor’s story ‘must be taken with some skepticism’ as Zuhoor ‘admitted lying to the tribunal at Guantanamo about a host of things.'”  Two days before McClatchy ran the article from which I quote above, it ran this article about its interview with Zuhoor that included the following caution:  “Zuhoor’s story illuminates the workings of these leadership meetings, though it must be taken with some skepticism. He admitted lying to the tribunal at Guantanamo about a host of things.”  Dr. Kaye faults me for not mentioning that cautionary note.  Fair enough.  I wasn’t aware of the article containing that caution when I posted my previous pieces.  Dr. Kaye writes that because I didn’t find that article, my “follow-through in terms of researching this point remains problematic,” which is a fair criticism.  But, as my wife is fond of telling me in a variety of contexts, this isn’t about me.  The point remains that Scott Horton told his readers nothing of Abdul Zuhoor’s allegation, which would have severely undercut his thesis.

Let’s examine this point further by considering what Zuhoor admitted to lying about.  Here’s what McClatchy wrote in the 15 June 2008 article:

He is also a man who admits to lying.

For one, he told the military judges there that he didn’t lead any groups of armed men. The truth, he said in an interview with McClatchy, is that he led some 350 men. He also told the judges that he was a farmer. He wasn’t.

“I denied everything they said,” Zuhoor said.

Not that it makes it right — and not that it shouldn’t be considered in evaluating Zoohar’s credibility — but I can understand why a Guantanamo detainee would  lie to a Combatant Status Review Tribunal concerning his leadership role in a militia.  But what would explain him lying to a reporter, after being released from Guantanamo and returned to Afghanistan, concerning the cause of the three detainees’ deaths in June 2006?  And while Dr. Kaye quite rightly criticizes me for not finding and mentioning the 15 June 2008 article raising concerns about Zuhoor’s credibility, why is he willing to give Horton a pass for not telling his readers anything about Zuhoor’s statements?  If my “follow-through in terms of researching this point” for a blog posting is “problematic,” what does that say about Horton’s failure to either find or reveal Zuhoor’s statement in the course of writing a 7,900-word magazine article?

Dr. Kaye also touts two Seton Hall Law School reports concerning the investigation into the suicides, which he contends “have not been the subject of detailed critique by these same critics.”  Actually, First Thing’s Joe Carter — who Dr. Kaye mentions in his article — did.  In the comments following this post by Conor Friedersdorf, Carter discusses the Seton Hall study at length and explains why it doesn’t support Horton’s conclusions that the June 2006 deaths were most likely the result of interrogations and not suicides.

Dr. Kaye’s Firedoglake post ends with this:  “Wittes, Koppelman and a host of others, have chosen to do the bidding of the Department of Defense for reasons of their own. Truth is the victim, and truth-seekers are vilified. That’s the way it is in 21st Century Obama’s America.”

Truth has been victimized, but not in the way that Dr. Kaye suggests.  Horton’s article is not truth.  It includes demonstrable falsehoods.  Most of its text is presented as supposition, not fact.  The article ignores contrary evidence, such as Abdul Zuhoor’s statement.  And it vilifies dozens of DOD personnel, including medical professionals, as well as DOJ personnel working under Attorney Generals from two different political parties.  Horton and Dr. Kaye may believe in a grand conspiracy encompassing two presidential administrations and reaching across the globe.  But, hey, isn’t belief in grand conspiracies the way it is in 21st Century Obama’s America?

29 Responses to “Truthout publishes defense of Scott Horton’s guano-crazy Guantanamo suicide article”

  1. Jeffrey Kaye says:

    I was saddened reading your piece, because I do not believe you are an unbiased observer, and you find it difficult to put aside these biases to look at facts. Your statements about conspiracies and Horton and myself impugning the good name of U.S. officers are libelous.. have you not read the Senate Armed Services Committee Report on Detainee Abuse, sir? I’m sure you have. Did you not see that a conspiracy to both teach and implement torture at Guantanamo took place, that this was covered up, and the SASC report aside, we still do not know the full parameters of that conspiracy, nor has anyone been punished for this grave transgression of U.S. law and practice. Additionally, such abuse still continues in the form of Appendix M and other policies embedded in the Army Field Manual on interrogations, and the use of isolation on prisoners remains a serious human rights abuse.

    Your statements still backing up the Zuhoor story are incredible to me. If anything is “guano-crazy” it’s that.

    Did you read the statement from DoD’s own detainee assessment on him: “Detainee has multiple psychiatric diagnoses and is very manipulative.” If not that, than consider that he was already an admitted informant to U.S. forces in Afghanistan. He is, IMO, the kind of witness you would not have on the stand for your case.

    But then in your strange reporting on this topic, you do not point out that other detainees state different stories to CITF investigators about the deaths, including one detainee who said Americans killed the detainees! (A former detainee is reported in the Washington Post as saying about one of the supposed suicides, Yasser al-Zahraini, “”The Americans killed him and said he hanged himself.” See http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/05/07/AR2008050703456.html?hpid=moreheadlines

    Is that devastating to your case, the government’s case (as you claim Zuhoor’s statement was to Horton’s)?… I wouldn’t go that far because I wouldn’t take such hearsay from a dubious witness as evidence of powerful refutation, as you do. But then, I’m not an attorney. (And once upon a time you made a strong argument against blanket use of hearsay at the MCs, though I’d note you were a follower of Sen. Graham’s wish to allow “exceptions for the needs of the war on terror.”)

    And you did your own independent review of the investigation materials, right?

    Of course, your defense of Koppelman’s spin on the autopsy is absurd, and your saying that the Seton Hall material was debunked in some “comments” on someone else’s blog… Man, do you actually believe what you write? That’s the refutation? You must like insulting law school students, because they worked very hard on that report. To say a comment on a blog stands as an answer to their work is an insult to these fine legal researchers and up-and-coming lawyers.

  2. Dwight Sullivan says:

    Dr. Kaye, I didn’t say that Joe Carter refuted the Seton Hall report. I said that Joe Carter “discusses the Seton Hall study at length and explains why it doesn’t support Horton’s conclusions that the June 2006 deaths were most likely the result of interrogations and not suicides.” Carter points out, among other things, that the Seton Hall study was poking holes in the investigations of the deaths, but didn’t investigate the cause of death themselves. I don’t understand why it would matter whether Joe Carter’s extensive comments appeared in a comment to someone else’s blog post or in his own blog post. And it wasn’t “a comment on a blog,” as you suggest. It was a series of extensive comments. Your characterization of them makes me wonder whether you read them before posting your comment above. By the way, do you think that your comment above should be ignored because it’s a mere comment on a blog? If not, why should your comments be treated differently than those of Joe Carter?

    I’m still at a loss to understand what you think “Koppelman’s spin” of the autopsy reports is. Koppelman accurately points to the language of Conclusion 2 of the autopsy report and faults Horton for not pointing out that Mangin concluded that the cause of death was in all likelihood a result of hanging. Do you think Horton should or should not have included that conclusion in his article? Koppelman thought he should have revealed it. I agree. I don’t understand how that’s “spin.”

    Regarding Zuhoor, you made an important point about him in your Truthout piece, just as you make an important point about Yasser al-Zahraini above. I agree that one should consider the information you raise about Zuhoor in addition to the information that I previously cited. But you seem to suggest above that one should pay no attention to Zuhoor at all. Why not? Do you think that Zuhoor is part of a massive conspiracy to cover what you view as the truth concerning the June 2010 deaths in Guantanamo? If so, isn’t that important information? Do you think Horton should or should not have discovered Zuhoor’s statement? If he did, do you think he should or should not have revealed it to his readers?

  3. Jeffrey Kaye says:

    Readers, at this point, can read your article and mine and make up their minds.

    It was never Seton Hall’s job to investigate the deaths. It was to investigate the investigation, which them amply poked holes in, and to call for a real and full new (and non-DoD) investigation.

    And yes, there is a difference between comments and a full article. Even ours here. The former presents a discussion, the latter a more fully formed statement. Readers know the difference, and I do not need to spell it out more.

    As for Koppelman and the autopsy report, one last time… Koppelman said the report “ended with the conclusion that hanging was, in fact, the most likely cause of death.” Period. The. most. likely. cause. of. death.

    When Koppelman later quotes from the report, including the quote you mention, he does not draw the conclusion from it that the finding was conditional, and that nothing definitive can be said. He leaves his editorial remark three paragraphs earlier standing. I truly don’t think either you or Koppelman understand what you’re reading. You also continue to leave out, as did Koppelman, the many other statements of conditional findings in the report, including the possibility of strangulation. Readers can look at my FDL article you kindly linked to in your article.

    Speaking of what got left out, neither you nor Koppelman speak to other aspects of the report, e.g., the fresh needle marks that were made prior to death. How did this happen? Did the detainee also shoot himself up before killing himself?

    Almost all witnesses reported states of rigor mortis when the bodies were found, their bodies were “blue”, etc. Yet medical personnel even used special instruments to break apart jaws frozen in rigor mortis… to resuscitate? No human being has ever been resuscitated from a state of rigor mortis in all of human history. In the process, they destroyed possible evidence needed forensically to determine the full cause of death.

    You also never, never say that Mangin himself has said that he cannot rule suicide in this case. I quote it in my Truthout article, in public statements Mangin made to the press.

    I am truly depressed having to watch the spectacle of watching people I thought have integrity either fail to report the truth, or be so blinded by patriotic fervor, or the need to defend the military that they cannot see what is right in front of them.

    Hey, I’ll make a deal with you. I’ll not Zuhoor’s statement in what I write on this in the future, if you will note Abdallah Salih al-Ajmi statement, reported by the Washington Post, that the American killed Yasser al-Zahrani and then “said he hanged himself.” Is Zuhoor somehow more credible than al-Ajmi? Is this any less important to report?

  4. publius says:

    “Is Zuhoor somehow more credible than al-Ajmi? Is this any less important to report?”

    This is Col Sullivan’s fight, but if I may: yes, Zuhoor is more credible than Ajmi. After Ajmi was released and repatriated to Kuwait from Guantanamo, he went to Iraq and blew himself up. That hurts his credibility, I think.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/02/21/AR2009022101234.html?hpid=topnews

  5. William says:

    Col. Sullivan, While I agree with you on the conspiracy issue of Scott Horton Story, Sir I must disagree with you on your directions. I was with the 525th MP Bn, at GTMO for a year and a half and Sgt Hickman is correct in the Harpers piece. If you make a turn about a 100 yards past ACP Roosevelt (there is only a left turn to be made), That road only goes to the beach and nowhere else. If there is another Camp back there I never saw it.

  6. Dew_Process says:

    For those interested in the “geography” of this event, which does not support Horton’s article, check out:
    http://www.satellite-sightseer.com/id/1274

  7. Stewie says:

    I’m truly asking this question out of ignorance so everyone please forgive me. So the allegation is that these three suspects were taken to an interrogation center away from the main detention camp, tortured, and then killed (ostensibly through torture).

    So my questions are (and they are primarily to Mr. Kaye):

    1. One assume interrogations are generally not group done, i.e. one accused per interrogator(s) so how would Ajmi know these guys were killed during interrogation? Ostensibly he didn’t see it, so at best one would say he could say he didn’t see them kill themselves. Why doesn’t his later activity as a human bomb render his statements both uninformed and not credible?

    2. Zuhoor says there will be three martyrs (told to him by the Taliban) and then a day later there are three suicides. He says this as an ex-detainee to reporter in Afghanistan. What’s his motive to lie in favor of the Americans at that point? What’s his motive to lie against the Taliban while he’s in Afghanistan?

    I get his motive to lie in favor of the Americans and against the Taliban while he is being interrogated by Americans at GITMO. I’d probably say anything to get out of there too.

    3. If a road has A-Z as possible destinations one can reach along it, why would one postulate that A is any more likely than B-Z as a likely destination without any other evidence?

    4. Why these three? Certainly one can believe there was some “enhanced interrogations” going on at some point at GITMO, some call it torture, others call it legal, I happen to fall in the former camp. But there was nothing that I recall that would ordinarily lead to death. You don’t ordinarily intend to kill the person from whom you are trying to get information from even if you are torturing them. And all three? What they tortured one, ooops we killed him, oops we did it again, oops we did it again?

    At the end of the day, as lefty as I’d like to think I am, it’s still an extraordinary claim requiring a lot more evidence than I’ve seen thus far.

  8. Dwight Sullivan says:

    William,

    Thank you for your post. I agree with you concerning the road off to the left 100 yards past ACP Roosevelt. But look at Horton’s piece again. He says that the road ACP Roosevelt was on goes to only two places — the beach and “Camp No.” Here’s what he writes:

    “When the van reached the first intersection to the east, instead of heading right—toward the other camps or toward one of the buildings where prisoners could meet with their lawyers—it made a left. In that direction, past the perimeter checkpoint known as ACP Roosevelt, there were only two destinations. One was a beach where soldiers went to swim. The other was Camp No.”

    He’s talking about the intersection where the stop sign is, where one turns left to get on the road that goes through ACP Roosevelt. Note what he says: “past the perimeter checkpoint known as ACP Roosevelt, there were only two destinations.” Actually, past the perimeter checkpoint is the entire Naval Station. As I wrote in my piece, had Horton said that on the road off to the left 100 yards past ACP Roosevelt, there were only two destinations, I wouldn’t have had a problem with that. But that’s not the claim he made.

    William, I would be interested in your thoughts if you wouldn’t mind looking at Horton’s claim again.

  9. William says:

    For those interested in the “geography” of this event, which does not support Horton’s article, check out:
    http://www.satellite-sightseer.com/id/1274

    I agree, but Col. Sullivan talks so much about “one of his biggest problems with the story” is the directions. Col. Sullivan is wrong on the directions, and one of his argument should not be based on that.

  10. Ama Goste says:

    How big is this conspiracy? Why, I believe I detect several government apologists in defense counsel/liberal disguises right in the comments here. Please forgive me as I remove my tongue from that sensitive spot just to the left of my teeth.

  11. William says:

    While I think it could have been worded better I got his point when I read it. It later says in the Harpers story where Sgt. Hickman said he saw the van turn. That clearly makes it going in the direction away from were you claim;

    “Hickman, his curiosity piqued by the unusual flurry of activity and guessing that the guards might make another excursion, left Tower 1 and drove the three quarters of a mile to ACP Roosevelt to see exactly where the paddy wagon was headed. Shortly thereafter, the van passed through the checkpoint for the third time and then went another hundred yards, whereupon it turned toward Camp No, eliminating any question in Hickman’s mind about where it was going.”

    Sir you have a great argument on the story, don’t get caught up on this issue. I feel with my experience living there for a year and a half that part of the story is accurate.

  12. Dwight Sullivan says:

    William – again I agree with you that SGT Hickman later says that he went to ACP Roosevelt and says he saw the van turn down the road 100 yards past ACP Roosevelt. But note that he claims he went to ACP Roosevelt because his suspicions had already been aroused because after leaving Camp Delta, at the “the first intersection to the east, instead of heading right — toward the other camps or toward one of the buildings where prisoners could meet with their lawyers —”the van ” made a left. In that direction, past the perimeter checkpoint known as ACP Roosevelt, there were only two destinations. One was a beach where soldiers went to swim. The other was Camp No.”

    William, would you agree with me that if you turned left at the first intersection east of Camp Delta, you would be on the road that runs through ACP Roosevelt? Would you also agree with me that vehicles often — in fact, usually — traveled through ACP Roosevelt for a purpose other than going to the beach or to a building off the road to the left 100 yards north of ACP Roosevelt?

  13. William says:

    William – again I agree with you that SGT Hickman later says that he went to ACP Roosevelt and says he saw the van turn down the road 100 yards past ACP Roosevelt.But note that he claims he went to ACP Roosevelt because his suspicions had already been aroused because after leaving Camp Delta, at the “the first intersection to the east, instead of heading right — toward the other camps or toward one of the buildings where prisoners could meet with their lawyers —”the van ” made a left. In that direction, past the perimeter checkpoint known as ACP Roosevelt, there were only two destinations. One was a beach where soldiers went to swim. The other was Camp No.”

    William, would you agree with me that if you turned left at the first intersection east of Camp Delta, you would be on the road that runs through ACP Roosevelt?Would you also agree with me that vehicles often — in fact, usually — traveled through ACP Roosevelt for a purpose other than going to the beach or to a building off the road to the left 100 yards north of ACP Roosevelt?

    Hortons actual quote is;

    “But when the van reached the first intersection, instead of making a right, toward the other camps, it made the left, toward ACP Roosevelt and Camp No.”

    Yes I agree that when you make that turn it goes toward roosevelt. and at that point there is a hundred places you can go. However while most vehicles traveling through Roosevelt would usually be going somewhere other than the beach, If a van had detainees in it, it would be unusual for it to go towards Roosevelt. There is know place to take detainees past Roosevelt except for commissions that I know of. Sgt Hickman said he saw this after 1800. Commissions don’t go that late, especially on a Friday night. Again a few sentences past that first quote I put of Hortons, it says;

    “Hickman, his curiosity piqued by the unusual flurry of activity and guessing that the guards might make another excursion, left Tower 1 and drove the three quarters of a mile to ACP Roosevelt to see exactly where the paddy wagon was headed. Shortly thereafter, the van passed through the checkpoint for the third time and then went another hundred yards, whereupon it turned toward Camp No, eliminating any question in Hickman’s mind about where it was going.”

    This clarifies everything.

    Would you agree that if you saw a van with a detainee in it heading towards Roosevelt at 6pm on a Friday night that, that is not unusual? There is simply no place to take a detainee outside of Roosevelt at that time. Not even the hospital. They would use the detainee hospital and if it was a medical emergency, they would use a ambulance for the post hospital.

    I think Sgt Hickman saw something that confused him. The place is stressful and you work crazy hours and you are constantly watched. I think he got confused with what he thought he saw and I think he is wrong.

  14. Dew_Process says:

    William – when you come out of Sally Port # 1, and turn left, instead of right and then a left to go to ACP Roosevelt, if you keep driving left, that would be the shortest / quickest route to the compound where they say “Camp No” was/is — or did they block that road somewhere along the way? If you look at the link I posted earlier, if you zoom all the way in, there’s clearly a compound of some sorts where Horton claims Camp No is – now what it is/was, I have no idea, but it’s definitely tucked away in the boonies.

  15. Mike "No Man" Navarre says:

    The experts can debate the factual accuracy of the article, but this strikes me about an award piece of JOURNALISM:

    Should it take a long winded factual inference intertwined description from a person who lived on a base for 18 months to figure out what thw aythor of an award winning piece of journalism was trying to say abouit that base? Particularly when the description of the base is central to the article?

    Just a thought aout awarf winning journalism.

  16. William says:

    William – when you come out of Sally Port # 1, and turn left, instead of right and then a left to go to ACP Roosevelt, if you keep driving left, that would be the shortest / quickest route to the compound where they say “Camp No” was/is — or did they block that road somewhere along the way?If you look at the link I posted earlier, if you zoom all the way in, there’s clearly a compound of some sorts where Horton claims Camp No is – now what it is/was, I have no idea, but it’s definitely tucked away in the boonies.

    Yes that is correct. If you make a left out of Sally Port #1, there is another ACP by Camp Iguana, I think it had much stricter access in and out though I am not sure. It did lead right to the beach. To play devils advocate though, if I was doing something wrong I would not drive a van with a detainee in it around the beach on a friday night at GTMO it was crowded every weekend.

  17. Mike "No Man" Navarre says:

    Pardon the typos, typing on BBerry. You get the point I hope.

  18. Stewie says:

    I get your point, you don’t think this journalism deserved an awarf!

    (I kid)

  19. Mike "No Man" Navarre says:

    Exactly Stewie!

  20. Jeffrey Kaye says:

    To Stewie:

    I never said anyone was killed as part of an interrogation. Neither did Scott Horton. All we’ve said, and others, is that the deaths were suspicious and the DoD story doesn’t hold up.

    I can’t know what was in Zuhoor’s mind, nor what his motivations could be, or for that matter if he even said what he said. A possible motivation could be, if I wished to speculate, to stay in the good graces of the Americans, who have detainees sign papers when they leave that they will never say anything bad or what happened to them at Gitmo, and that they could be brought back to Gitmo or otherwise arrested again.

    Finally, I can’t say if use of “enhanced interrogation” torture killed anyone or not. I do know that detainees have died in U.S. custody, and some have been attributed, even officially, to US abuse.

    Guantanamo is a brutal and ugly place, where 100s of innocent men were kept in solitary and subjected to torture or cruel, inhumane treatment, disallowed a just hearing. Just ask Mr. Sullivan what he thought of the adjudication processes at Guantanamo, assuming he still holds those opinions.

    And to publius, the fact that al-Ajmi purportedly blew himself up as a suicide bomber doesn’t prove anything. Other detainees, in the CITF investigation said the same thing at the time the event happened.

    If you read the Washington Post article, you’ll see it was his experience at Gitmo that turned al-Ajmi into an extremist. Many have made the point that Guantanamo creates extremism. If I were imprisoned falsely for years, tortured and held indefinitely, treated like a dog, had myself and my loved ones threatened, forced to squat in stress positions, made to endure that harsh treatment, months or years of sleep deprivation, dosing with drugs, I can’t say that I wouldn’t have been radicalized after such an experience, and wanted revenge on those who did that to me.

    I’m not advocating such revenge (in fact, I think it’s counter-productive), but I could certainly find it understandable.

  21. publius says:

    I read the Washington Post article, and I saw that the author of the article speculated that it might have been Ajmi’s experience at Gtmo that turned him into a suicide bomber. In fact, that’s precisely why I posted it. It bends over backwards to give Ajmi a motive for suicide bombing besides dedicated, violent jihadism. But either way, it doesn’t really help his credibility. Either he lied about the suicides and blew himself up because he hated infidels and no tactic is forbidden against infidels; or he was mentally troubled enough to blow himself up, and therefore any statement he made about anything in that time period should be taken with a large grain of salt. Either way, a bad witness. Zuhoor’s testimony may have problems too, but beyond your speculations, I haven’t seen them.

    Your attempt to rationalize Ajmi’s actions with your own exquisitely calibrated revenge fantasy doesn’t do Ajmi, or your overall argument, any favors. Especially when “counter-productive” is the best adjective you can come up with to condemn suicide bombing.

  22. Stewie says:

    Mr. Kaye, I guess I’m confused then, because the article says:

    “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.”

    This is later followed by:

    “One part of the compound, he said, had the same appearance as the interrogation centers at other prison camps.”

    I mean it’s seems really likely that the author of the article wants to leave the reader with the impression that these three men were taken away to an interrogation center where they died/were killed.

    As for Zuhoor, well gosh we can’t know what’s in anyone’s mind, but good grief, your supposition as to why he would lie is really weak. You really think he’s more afraid of speaking out against the Taliban or in favor of America. If he were scared of saying something to anger us, he’d have simply said nothing.

    I certainly think the early iterations of GITMO were bad, but not torture bad so much as justice/rights bad, but bad nonetheless.

    That does not though mean that the baseline is that, well, they must have been killed. Deaths didn’t exactly happen all the time at GITMO, so an accusation such as this requires evidence.

    There are two options, Ajimi was a terrorist who was caught, released and then did what they do, or he was innocent and we turned him into a terrorist. I don’t have any idea which is true, don’t know the guy, but at the end of the day, yes terrorist lose credibility in my mind. You go blow yourself and other people and I kinda need more evidence then your word.

  23. William says:

    To Stewie:

    I never said anyone was killed as part of an interrogation. Neither did Scott Horton. All we’ve said, and others, is that the deaths were suspicious and the DoD story doesn’t hold up.

    I can’t know what was in Zuhoor’s mind, nor what his motivations could be, or for that matter if he even said what he said. A possible motivation could be, if I wished to speculate, to stay in the good graces of the Americans, who have detainees sign papers when they leave that they will never say anything bad or what happened to them at Gitmo, and that they could be brought back to Gitmo or otherwise arrested again.

    Finally, I can’t say if use of “enhanced interrogation” torture killed anyone or not. I do know that detainees have died in U.S. custody, and some have been attributed, even officially, to US abuse.

    Guantanamo is a brutal and ugly place, where 100s of innocent men were kept in solitary and subjected to torture or cruel, inhumane treatment, disallowed a just hearing. Just ask Mr. Sullivan what he thought of the adjudication processes at Guantanamo, assuming he still holds those opinions.

    And to publius, the fact that al-Ajmi purportedly blew himself up as a suicide bomber doesn’t prove anything. Other detainees, in the CITF investigation said the same thing at the time the event happened.

    If you read the Washington Post article, you’ll see it was his experience at Gitmo that turned al-Ajmi into an extremist. Many have made the point that Guantanamo creates extremism. If I were imprisoned falsely for years, tortured and held indefinitely, treated like a dog, had myself and my loved ones threatened, forced to squat in stress positions, made to endure that harsh treatment, months or years of sleep deprivation, dosing with drugs, I can’t say that I wouldn’t have been radicalized after such an experience, and wanted revenge on those who did that to me.

    I’m not advocating such revenge (in fact, I think it’s counter-productive), but I could certainly find it understandable.

    Dr. Kaye I just wanted to take a moment to say even though I side with COL Sullivan on the issues about the investigation of the suicides. I appreciated reading your articles on truthout and FDL in response to the Koppleman article. It is important in a free society to question things like this, and give opinions and debate these issues. I also have enjoyed some of your previous articles on FDL (especially “Disgust on the Lonesome Rhode Trial to Tortureville comes to mind). I certainly don’t want to debate you on the Horton Story. You are very well read in this investigation. To be honest I was stationed in GTMO and my opinion on the suicides is completely bias. Being down there and knowing the atmosphere that I can not put into words. I just can’t see how it could have happened the way Horton insinuates. I was wondering though Mr. Kaye is it anywhere in the investigation where Sgt Hickman tried to report what he saw that night to NCIS? Don’t quote me but I don’t think he reported it to higher authority when it happened. I was wondering your thoughts on that, it is a stumbling block for me.

  24. James Harker says:

    “To believe Horton’s thesis, one would have to believe that at least three dozen members of the U.S. military — including medical professionals — made false official statements, that two U.S. Administrations — Republican and Democratic — conspired to cover up the actual cause of death…” Of course the U.S. military and government would never be involved in covering up killings of prisoners by military personnel as they did in the case of Patrick Daniel Tillman Jr.

  25. Morris Davis says:

    This is something I did not say often (if at all) when I was chief prosecutor for the military commissions, but Dwight Sullivan is, in my view, right. There are four additional factors I would add. First, the three detainees died three weeks before the Supreme Court’s decision in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld. Many thought the government would prevail at the Supreme Court and the military commissions were ready to spring back to life full bore after several rocky years. Doing anything that would draw attention to Guantanamo during a period where everybody was holding their breath awaiting the Court’s decision was not desirable. Second, the high value detainees held in CIA black sites at the time were about to be transported to Guantanamo and preparations were underway to make that happen. The highest levels of multiple government agencies were involved in that delicate process. Again, anything that would draw attention to Guantanamo and detainee treatment was definitely undesirable just before the President was going to announce that DoD was taking custody of the HVDs from the CIA. Third, all three were held in the wire mesh cells in view of other detainees. If a murder plot was in place, it would make sense to move them first to single concrete cells to make getting them out and putting the bodies back much less visible. Finally, when I heard that three detainees died (I was at Guantanamo at the time) several names came to mind. When I learned the identities I was not familiar with any of them. They were not men that played roles in any of the cases we were preparing for trial (in other words, they were not significant figures) and to my knowledge they had not been persistent troublemakers. Why choose these three and murder them all one evening? Given the major events that were in play, I am unable to see a rationale for an alleged conspiracy involving dozens of people to murder three insignificant detainees and jeopardize the military commissions and the HVD transfer. I have enjoyed many of Scott Horton’s articles, but I believe he got this one wrong.

  26. Dwight Sullivan says:

    I like your intro, Mo. :-) Welcome to our little gabfest.

  27. Mark Erickson says:

    Col. Morris, first, thank you for your service, especially because you had the courage not to follow orders. I have the utmost respect for you. But I know your comments are off the mark. Horton did not allege a pre-meditated murder. He didn’t even allege a murder. He showed that there are many large holes in the official DoD story, and that they deserve an independent investigation. Do you disagree with this?

  28. bmaz says:

    Don’t have much to add here, I think both sides are fleshed out superbly. It is an excellent and valuable discussion, and I salute one an all for keeping it respectful and professional.

  29. Mark Erickson says:

    It has been respectful, except for the title. Calling an article bat-shit-crazy doesn’t exactly exude respect. I mean, I get the pun, but come on.

    And to Stewies’ “You go blow yourself and other people and I kinda need more evidence then your word.” In fact, someone who carries out a suicide mission has demonstrated that they can keep their word more than anyone alive. Not that that makes any previous statement true, but it doesn’t help to take cheap swipes at suicide bombers. Actually understanding them is vitally important.