Late in the evening on June 9, 2006, three prisoners at Guantánamo Bay reportedly committed suicide. A fascinating article written by Scott Horton that will appear in the March 2009 edition of Harper’s Magazine, questions the government’s account of what actually occurred that night, and has the makings of a blockbuster Hollywood movie similar to “A Few Good Men.”

According to Horton, the U.S. Naval Criminal Investigative Service, which has primary investigative jurisdiction within the naval base, issued a report two years after the three deaths claiming that the prisoners made a noose from torn sheets and T-shirts and tied it to the top of his cell’s eight-foot-high wall. Each prisoner then stuffed rags deep into his own throat, tied their own hands, and, in at least one case, his own feet. While bound and choking on the rags, each prisoner climbed up on his washbasin, slipped his head through the noose, tightened it, and leapt from the washbasin. At least two of the prisoners also had cloth masks affixed to their faces, presumably to prevent the expulsion of the rags from their mouths. The NCIS report proposes that the three prisoners, who were held in non-adjoining cells, carried out these actions almost simultaneously.

The NCIS report also claimed that the prisoners hung sheets or blankets to hide their activities and shaped additional sheets and pillows to look like bodies sleeping in their beds. No explanation is given as to where the prisoners acquired the extra fabric, or why the Navy guards allowed this behavior to occur. Nor does the report explain how the dead men managed to hang undetected for more than two hours since standard operating procedure at Camp Delta requires the Navy guards on duty after midnight to “conduct a visual search” of each cell and detainee every ten minutes. No one was ever disciplined for this obvious failure of duty.

Still more troubling is that the three deaths occurred in a secret area called “Camp No” because anyone who asked if it existed was told, “No, it doesn’t.” According to the report, the bodies of the three men showed signs of torture, including hemorrhages, needle marks, and significant bruising. Also, the removal of their throats during the autopsy made it difficult to determine whether they were already dead before they supposedly hung themselves. The existence of “Camp No” appears to confirm that a black site run by the CIA existed at Guantánamo.

Four members of the Military Intelligence unit assigned to guard Camp Delta, including a decorated non-commissioned Army officer who was on duty as sergeant of the guard the night the three men died, have come forward with accounts dramatically different than the NCIS report—a report for which they were neither interviewed nor approached. All four soldiers say they were ordered by their commanding officer not to speak out, and all four soldiers provide evidence that authorities initiated a cover-up within hours of the prisoners’ deaths.

Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of this whole situation is that even with the new Obama administration in office, the Justice Department continues to stand by the NCIS report. Where is Mark Harmon when we need him?

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