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It’s hard to know where to begin with this profoundly important story by Scott Horton, for next month's Harper’s Magazine (available on the web here), but let's try this: The three "suicides" at Guantánamo in June 2006 were not suicides at all. The men in question were killed during interrogations in a secretive block in Guantánamo, conducted by an unknown agency, and the murders were then disguised to look like suicides. Everyone at Guantánamo knew about it. Everyone covered it up.
Hickman and Davila became fascinated by the compound -- known to the soldiers as "Camp No" (as in, "No, it doesn't exist") -- and Hickman was on duty in a tower on the prison's perimeter on the night the three men died, when he noticed that "a white van, dubbed the 'paddy wagon,' that Navy guards used to transport heavily manacled prisoners, one at a time, into and out of Camp Delta, [which] had no rear windows and contained a dog cage large enough to hold a single prisoner,” had called three times at Camp 1, where the men were held, and had then taken them out to "Camp No." All three were in “Camp No” by 8 pm.
According to independent interviews with soldiers who witnessed the speech, Bumgarner told his audience that "you all know" three prisoners in the Alpha Block at Camp 1 committed suicide during the night by swallowing rags, causing them to choke to death … But then Bumgarner told those assembled that the media would report something different. It would report that the three prisoners had committed suicide by hanging themselves in their cells. It was important, he said, that servicemen make no comments or suggestions that in any way undermined the official report. He reminded the soldiers and sailors that their phone and email communications were being monitored.
Held in solitary confinement after the suppression of a short-lived Prisoners' Council, convened in the summer of 2005, for which he was the Secretary, he was, nevertheless beaten severely for two and a half hours on the evening of June 9, around the same time that the three other men were in "Camp No."
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.
After hearing the whole sordid story, the officials thanked the Denbeauxs for "not speaking to reporters first and for 'doing it the right way,'" and, two days later, Mark Denbeaux was called by Teresa McHenry, the head of the Criminal Division's Domestic Security Section, who told him that she was starting an investigation and wanted to meet directly with Hickman.
Hickman met McHenry, and gave her the names and contact details of corroborating witnesses, but then the trail went cold. In April, "an FBI agent called to say she did not have the list of contacts" and "asked if this document could be provided again," and soon after, Steven Fagell and two FBI agents interviewed Davila, who had left the Army, and asked him if he would travel to Guantánamo to identify the locations of various sites. "It seemed like they were interested,” Davila told Horton. "Then I never heard from them again."
US District Court Judge James Robertson gave the Justice Department a sympathetic hearing, and he ruled in its favor, but he also noted a curious aspect of the government's presentation: its "citations supporting the fact of the suicides" were all drawn from media accounts. Why had the Justice Department lawyers who argued the case gone to such lengths to avoid making any statement under oath about the suicides? Did they do so in order to deceive the court? If so, they could face disciplinary proceedings or disbarment.