Today was supposed to be the day.
One year ago, President Obama signed an executive order calling for the closing of the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay in one year.
And while there’s a lot of good reasons for it not to be closed yet: the fact that some of the people released have returned to terrorism, or become more determined after their experiences at Guanantamo; the fact that there’s still really no plan in place on what do with the prisoners who maybe shouldn’t be released yet.
But, perhaps the best reason for not shutting it down completely is because they need to keep everyone on hand and conduct an investigation into the deaths of three inmates on June 10th, 2006.
The Pentagon reported at the time that:
“Three detainees at U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, died of apparent suicides early this morning, military officials reported today.”
The Pentagon asserted that the three had been found “unresponsive and not breathing in their cells and that medical teams responded quickly and all three detainees were provided immediate emergency medical treatment in attempts to revive them.”
It didn’t take long for questions to be asked about the the deaths of the three — later identified as Salah Ahmed al-Salami, 37, a Yemeni, and two Saudis, Talal al-Zahrani, 22, and Mani Shaman al Utaybi, 30.
The Center for Constitutional Rights filed a suit on behalf of the families of two of the men, seeking to hold someone accountable for the “arbitrary detention, torture and ultimate deaths” of the men.
A report by Seton Hall University School of Law’s Center for Policy & Research alleged “dramatic flaws in the government’s investigation” of the deaths.
As I wrote last month, the report points out that, if the government’s probe is to be taken at face value, in order for three — in separate cells — to have committed suicide, they would have had to:
“braid a noose by tearing up their sheets and/or clothing;
“make mannequins of themselves so it would appear to the guards they were asleep in their cells;
“hang sheets to block the view into the cells, in violation of standard operating procedures;
“stuff rags down their own throats;
“tie their own feet together;
“tie their own hands together;
“hang the noose from the metal mesh of the cell wall and/or ceiling;
“climb up on the sink, put the noose around their necks and release their weight, resulting in death by strangulation;
“hang dead for at least two hours completely unnoticed by guards.”
“An investigation was promised,” said Professor Mark Denbeaux, the director of the Center for Policy & Research. “The promised investigation was a cover up. Worse still, given the gross inadequacy of the investigation the more compelling questions are: who knew of the cover up? Who approved the cover up, any why? The government’s investigation is slipshod, and its conclusion leaves the most important questions about this tragedy unanswered.”
The Seton Hall report said the government’s report — a heavily redacted version of which was released in August 2008 — also questions how the three — who had been on the same cell block for less than 72 hours — were able to coordinate what the government called an act of “asymmetrical warfare.”
As if that wasn’t enough to make you shake your head, now comes a report from Harper’s Magazine by Scott Horton that raises serious questions about whether the three men were murdered while being tortured.
It’s a well-reported piece with on the record accounts from guards at the camp.
It strongly suggests that the men died at a previously undisclosed location — Camp No as in “no, it doesn’t exist” — and then moved back to the main base where they were “discovered.”
The questions raised are disturbing at best. Given the fact that a Justice Department task force yesterday recommended that 50 of the 196 detainees still at Guantanamo be held indefinitely, they urgently need to be addressed.
Maybe since legendary Robert Morgenthau doesn’t seem ready to really retire, maybe he can lead the probe into this real life law and order.