A missing document and a new obstruction case - fooling DiFi? More on the Guantanamo "suicides"
Other Scott Horton: ...the command post is calling, asking over and over again, “Is he dead yet?”
...to start with, we’ve got homicides going on, and the homicides are being obscured, so that’s obstruction of justice. Now, the problem we’ve got here is, who’s taking a lead role in the obstruction? The Department of Justice seems to be taking a lead role in the obstruction.
...this is really right in the heart of this dispute between the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the CIA. So, you know, that report is done, it’s awaiting declassification and publication right now, and the disclosures here go to the CIA’s psyops operation at Guantanamo, which we know already from the report surrounding the Senate committee report is one of the areas where the CIA was pushing back most aggressively and refusing to give information to the Senate investigators. So I think one of the questions we’re going to look at right now is, you know, did the Senate investigators ever get any information about this, or were they stonewalled? And I expect to see that the Senate was stonewalled about this, that they did not get information about it. So I think we’re going to see the stage set for a follow-up inquiry.
Continuing on from prior post, "Tweet: New document found about 2006 Guantanamo 'suicides' (updated)." Other Scott Horton, the lawyer and journalist, was interviewed by Scott Horton, the radio host, on May 19. Podcast here, and transcript below.
(In addition, h/t, he was interviewed by Amy Goodman and Nermeen Shaikh on Democracy Now on May 21.)
Scott Horton interviews The Other Scott Horton
The Scott Horton Slow
May 19, 2014
Scott Horton: All right, you guys, welcome back. I’m Scott Horton. This is my show, The Scott Horton Show. And our guest today is The Other Scott Horton, heroic international anti-torture human rights lawyer, a former chair of the New York Bar Association’s Committees on Human Rights and on International Law, a professor of law at Columbia Law School and at Hofstra, and a contributing editor at Harper’s Magazine, the oldest magazine in America. And he’s got a brand new one out, I don’t know if it’s online but it’s in the print issue here, short and sweet, “The Guantanamo ‘Suicides’ Revisited.”
source: Dan Froomkin tweet, May 16, 2014
Welcome back to the show, Scott. How are you?
Other Scott Horton: I’m fine.
Scott Horton: Okay, great. So! Vindication! Sad story, but hey, your journalism, I believe, here proven correct now. I don’t know who could argue with this.
But let’s go back, as you put it here, the night of June 9th, 2006, three detainees died at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, and then you came out with a story back in 2010 saying that the government’s story that these men had all committed suicide in order to make America look bad was not true, that they apparently had been murdered. And then so now you have some new documents. So I guess if you want to go back and fill us in a bit on the story, your witnesses, your journalism, and then catch us up on the new document and what all we learn from it.
Other Scott Horton: Well, originally when this happened on June 9, remember the next morning it was electrifying news all around the world that three people had died at Guantanamo, and Admiral Harris, who’s now the commander of the Pacific Fleet, you know, went before the press and said this was an act of asymmetrical – an asymmetrical attack on the United States, that’s how he described the alleged suicides. He said they –
Scott Horton: That it was a PR stunt, basically.Just try and stuff some cloth down your throat. I mean, you can’t do it. So there’s just no way somebody could have done that as an act of suicide.
Other Scott Horton: Exactly. Designed to attack the U.S. And then there was an NCIS investigation conducted and the government was unbelievably secretive about this, so it wouldn’t let any information out. It was kept tightly locked up for more than three years. Finally it came out through FOIA requests, heavily redacted, so, redacted so heavily it was almost impossible to make any sense of it, but a group of law students, especially a group of students and professors at Seton Hall in New Jersey, went over it, pieced it together bit by bit trying to make sense of it, and they distilled then from the government, the government’s own narrative of how these people had died. And I think all the experts who looked at it read the narrative and said, “Hmm, that’s not possible.” It described the three of them doing a coordinated suicide, each of them in his own cell, at the same time, you know, wrapping cloth around their throats, cloth that actually had not been present in the cells only a few minutes before the suicides occurred, hanging themselves from the top bars in the wall of the cells and wrapping their hands and their feet with cloth, and it said that they each had forced cloth down their throats to muffle their sounds. Of course in all the medical examiners we asked to look at this, who said, nope, not possible, they all focused on the cloth down the throat, saying that, well, actually there’s a gag reflex that occurs. Just try and stuff some cloth down your throat. I mean, you can’t do it. So there’s just no way somebody could have done that as an act of suicide. So it was immediately, you know, flagged by all the medical experts as not plausible.
Scott Horton: I was going to say, that’s some real discipline on their part if they could...
Other Scott Horton: Yeah. I mean, impossible basically. And then we had four NCOs who were on duty that evening, the perimeter guards, come forward, and this was the basis of my story, and they said, you know, the starting point for the [NCIS] narrative is that they committed suicide in their cells, but these guards said, they weren’t in their cells that evening. We know because we watched them being extracted from the Alpha cell block. We saw a vehicle come and go three times, picking up three prisoners from that cell block and taking them to a facility that we call Camp No, which we now know was run by the CIA at this time, and the CIA called it Penny Lane.
And I think from the time my article was run until today we’ve had, you know, two major additional breakthroughs, and then now this is the third.
You know, the first was a study done by the University of California at Davis in which they said, you know, this process of stuffing cloth down mouths is something we find evidence of in other detention facilities about the same time, and it’s a procedure called dryboarding. It’s something like waterboarding, doesn’t involve water, but it involves the same basic technique, which is trying to induce a sensation of asphyxiation.People at the CIA said what we were running there was this massive psyops operation designed to turn prisoners who were scheduled for release from Guantanamo into U.S. assets. And there was a complex psychological preparatory process that went on to induce this state called learned helplessness, and of course waterboarding and these other techniques were used in connection with that.
And then we had a story done by Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman, then at the Associated Press back at the end of last year, right at the end of the year, in which they got a number of corroborated accounts from the CIA, people at the CIA, saying, well, at that facility – the CIA called that facility Penny Lane – what we were running there was this massive psyops operation designed to turn prisoners who were scheduled for release from Guantanamo” – all these three guys were scheduled for release – and we wanted to turn them into U.S. assets. And there was a complex psychological preparatory process that went on to induce this state called learned helplessness, and of course waterboarding and these other techniques were used in connection with that. And now we have this new document which is something from the NCIS report done in the first hours after the NCIS came in and started doing their review –
Scott Horton: Now hold it right there, actually, because there’s going to be so much to go over in the new document here. I want to see if I can follow up on just a couple of things to clarify before we move on, because we’ve got the time here.
Other Scott Horton: Right.SH: First of all, how certain are you that this Camp No and that Penny Lane are the very same thing?
OSH: One hundred percent.
Scott Horton: First of all, how certain are you? Are you completely certain that this Camp No and that Penny Lane are the very same thing?
Other Scott Horton: One hundred percent.
Scott Horton: Okay. And now, I believe that, I don’t know who all is “we,” but didn’t we all know that CIA had a base there all along, and I wonder whether, did you always know that Camp No was the CIA base, or there was a discrepancy, you still weren’t sure whether there was a different base that was the CIA one, or what’s that?
Other Scott Horton: They actually had two bases. They had another one called Strawberry Fields, which is another facility. So, yeah. So one of the – we did not know before Matt and Adam did their article that Camp No and Penny Lane were the same thing and that it was a CIA facility. We had a bunch of sources telling us this was definitely an intelligence facility, but they wouldn’t narrow it down to whether it was CIA or Defense Intelligence or something else.
Scott Horton: And so now we know why they closed it. It was after these suicides, so-called suicides, was why they closed it down back in ’06.
Other Scott Horton: I think that’s a fair premise, because it’s like right after these suicides occurred that the decision is made to shut it down. Not just that, but it’s after these suicides occurred that the National Security Council then takes a decision to shut down the entire black site operation and get the CIA basically out of this special interrogation program, also to change the parameters of the interrogation program, and of course it’s been suggested that there were, quote, “a lot of serious mistakes,” close quote, made by the CIA in connection with the program, and I think now we’re looking at one of them.
Scott Horton: Uh huh. Well, now, the last time we spoke [April 22], just a few weeks ago about the Senate report, you said that you suspected that there were many more than just the two that were already, you know, official deaths in CIA custody in the black site program, and that you suspected there were quite a few more. I wonder now if this is what you were referring to, or you think many more than that, perhaps?
Other Scott Horton: Bingo. No, I think these three definitely can be now very clearly connected directly with the program, and I think one of the questions is, you know, why such extreme efforts to cover it up and to say it’s something other than what it was, and why these extreme efforts involve the Justice Department, people outside of the military –
Scott Horton: Wow, no no no, wait wait wait. We got to get to the new documents and the cover-up in a second. I tell you what, I’ve still got a couple more follow-ups here. There’s a broken neck bone story that you had done as a follow-up too. I just wanted to mention about the discrepancies over the autopsy. I don’t know if you want to get into that or not, but.He said, “Well, wait a minute. This is supposedly a suicide, with sort of differing indications about what happened, but the neck has been removed, making it impossible to tell exactly how death occurred.”
Other Scott Horton: Well, that’s right. Because, you know, the families of the three requested that their bodies be made available for independent autopsy, and one of the bodies was in fact shipped to Switzerland to be reviewed, and when the doctor there, a very famous pathologist in Switzerland, examined the body, he said, “Well, wait a minute. This is supposedly a suicide, with sort of differing indications about what happened, but the neck has been removed, making it impossible to tell exactly how death occurred.” So the death definitely occurred having to do with the windpipe and asphyxiation, but it was not at all clear that the death occurred as a result of a ligature, that is a noose being applied. That was one of the huge questions. And, you know, the doctor –
Scott Horton: Well, and a huge indication of a cover-up there –
Other Scott Horton: Of a cover-up.
Scott Horton: – a whole another crime of obstruction there.The Department of Defense pathologist said, “I’m sorry, I know it’s professionally correct that I cooperate with you, but I have been ordered not to speak to you or to respond to your requests.”
Other Scott Horton: Exactly. And the doctor in Lausanne tried to communicate with the Department of Defense, saying, “Okay, you can remove it, that’s fine, but you should allow me to examine it.” And they refused any communication with him. And in fact I know, and I subsequently saw an e-mail sent by the Department of Defense pathologist who was responsible, saying, “I’m sorry, I know it’s professionally correct that I cooperate with you, but I have been ordered not to speak to you or to respond to your requests.” So there were high-level orders given to block, you know, a meaningful check of the pathologist’s report.
Scott Horton: Mmmhmm. And under the excuse that, well, he’s a foreigner or something, he’s outside of their chain of command, so they don’t have to pay attention.
Other Scott Horton: Well, no, actually it’s a violation of international health and safety rules and a violation of the Geneva Conventions, which actually required them to cooperate.
Scott Horton: Wow.
Other Scott Horton: So it was an illegal move that was done. And it was covered –
Scott Horton: All right, now we’re about to have to go out to break –
Other Scott Horton: Yeah.
Scott Horton: – so let me just ask you real quick, and maybe you won’t have time to answer all the way, but what about, I still don’t understand how it makes sense that they would kill three guys the same way, what, all at the exact same time, or one after the other, on one night?
Other Scott Horton: Yeah, well, I –
Scott Horton: All right, now it’s the damn music playing already. I’m terrible at timing this thing. It’s a hard break, Scott, and we got to take it, but –
Other Scott Horton: (laughs) When we come back.
Scott Horton: It’s The Other Scott Horton, everybody, the heroic anti-torture international human rights lawyer and journalist from harpers.org, and his case is even more proven than ever before about the murders there at Penny Lane in ’06. And we’ll be right back after this.
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Scott Horton: Listen, if the detainee dies, you’re doing it wrong. That was right there in the memos from Guantanamo Bay. Try it different next time. I don’t know.
I’m Scott Horton. I’m talking with the real Scott Horton, the other Scott Horton, the heroic anti-torture international human rights lawyer and former chair of the New York Bar Association’s Committees on Human Rights and International Law, and professor at Hofstra and Columbia, and journalist at Harper’s Magazine, the oldest magazine in America, and he’s written this article, “The Guantanamo ‘Suicides’,” back in 2010, ironic quotes around “suicides,” a couple follow-ups since then, and now including a brand new document. We’re going to get to that and the cover-up in just a second, but first, I’m sorry, I set you up right before the break there, Scott. I still don’t understand how the hell you suffocate three people with dry rags down their throat, all at the same time or all on the same night, and get into such trouble if you’re a CIA guy out at Penny Lane in the summer of 2006. Help me understand.
Other Scott Horton: Well, I think we’ve got to start with the word “murder,” because you used it before. And I would say, at this point we don’t know. We know that there were homicides. We don’t know that they were murders, because we don’t know all the details of exactly what happened. I think it’s clear that these three people were taken to Penny Lane, that they were subjected to some sort of procedure there and that they emerged dead or close to death. But there are issues of intentionality to go here.
And here I think what happened is that a technique was being applied to them and it was misapplied, or not correctly applied, in the way the cloth was probably too large in volume and it was probably put in too far, and so instead of just creating a sensation of asphyxiation, it actually caused them to choke to death. Or at least two of them, because I guess now the news we’ve got with the third one is that he survived for several hours afterwards. I mean, that’s the big information that comes from this new document.
Scott Horton: And with that, I’ll just turn my mike off and let you explain.
source: DOD PDF linked in @TylerBass tweet embedded below; right click, view image to enlarge
Other Scott Horton: The document is interview notes from an NCIS interview conducted with a military policeman, Master at Arms Denny is his name, done right after the NCIS started its investigation, and this guy says that he was called to escort one of the prisoners to the hospital. He got to the detainee clinic. He found the prisoner was already there and said, like, what the hell’s going on? He’s not supposed to come to the clinic except through a medical escort, but this guy didn’t have an escort, so something was strange. And of course the response we’ve got for that, as documented in the previous article, is that they were never in the cell blocks. They were dropped at the clinic from Penny Lane. That’s what the guards appear to have seen. But then he feels the guy’s pulse and realizes he’s alive! He’s not dead! And he says this guy is sitting there choking with the noose around his neck and all these other bandages. No one’s attempting to apply, you know, CPR or trying to revive him, you know, they’re just standing around watching. And so he gets very agitated about that, and he also notices that another guard is there wrapping his hands with these bandages. And he says, you know, it’s the same bandages that the guy’s got around his throat and around his feet.
So, you know, the NCIS report claims these bandages were applied by the prisoners themselves as they attempted to commit suicide. Now we have documentation showing that, no, it’s one of the guards applying them, obviously trying to stage or create the appearance that a suicide had occurred.
He then starts to escort the guy to an ambulance, and then he’s driven over to the hospital, and they apply CPR as he’s being moved. But he still has the ligature, the noose, around his neck, so of course applying CPR while that’s in place choking him doesn’t help him. It probably makes his physical condition actually worse. And they think –
Scott Horton: And this is – I’m sorry, Scott. By this time we’re talking how much later after this guy has found him here and said, “Hey, what’s going on?,” and started working on him?
Other Scott Horton: We’re talking more than an hour later. So this is basically we’re looking at three hours after the time when according to the military reports these people were dead, all dead, in their cells. And the guy is not dead. He’s still alive.At the hospital, they begin some revival efforts, but what’s going on is the command post is calling, asking over and over again, “Is he dead yet?”
At the hospital, he’s taken, they begin some revival efforts, but what’s going on is the command post is calling, asking over and over again, “Is he dead yet?” So, you know, it’s a surreal, really disturbing scenario that’s described here with people standing around waiting for this prisoner, and sort of not happy about the fact that this guy is still alive, standing around waiting for him to expire, and then expressing relief when he does expire, when he does finally die. And through most of the time, no effort is being undertaken. He’s surrounded by medical professionals all around in a clinic and in a hospital, most of the time no effort is being taken to revive him. And then when things are done to revive him, they’re actually harmful to him rather than helpful to him. So it’s a very, very disturbing situation that’s described.The students get this document, they think, “This is Exhibit 25 and someone has doctored it.” They use Adobe Acrobat and they go in and start removing some of the redaction blockage of text and find underneath, indeed, “Exhibit 25,” the mark.
And then this document was to have been an appendix, Exhibit 25, to the NCIS report, and when you look at the NCIS report it says that there is an Exhibit 25 there. When you go back to it and see what they’ve disclosed as Exhibit 25, it’s three pages from two different documents which have nothing to do with the actual Exhibit 25. And this document is then found in a haystack of other papers, and when we get the document and start looking at it— It’s really some very, very good forensic work by some students at Seton Hall Law School. They get this document, they think, “This is Exhibit 25 and someone has doctored it.” They use Adobe Acrobat and they go in and start removing some of the redaction blockage of text and find underneath, indeed, “Exhibit 25,” the mark.
Scott Horton: I love it when that happens, when they do the redactions wrong and people can just go hit Control Z on it (laughs) –
Other Scott Horton: Exactly.
Scott Horton: – and clear everything up.
Other Scott Horton: It’s another great example of how not to do redactions.
Scott Horton: (laughs) Yeah. Well, we don’t want to give them too m— well, I’m sure they took note.
Anyway, yeah, no, so this is incredible. I mean, this, I learned this, I was telling the audience earlier. I was born when Gerald Ford was president, so I’ve just been raised my whole life with this wisdom, this conventional wisdom, this kind of just basic truth about life, that it’s when you lie about it is when you really get in trouble. It’s the cover-up that really gets you in trouble, because now how many different federal prosecutors and U.S. Attorneys have a reason to nail somebody to the wall for obstruction of justice? You just can’t go and remove report contents like this. Isn’t that some kind of fraud in a legal case?The students at Seton Hall document how the Justice Department covered up what went on and tried to throw congressional investigators off the scent by giving them false information.
Other Scott Horton: Well, it defini— I mean, you know, to start with we’ve got homicides going on, and the homicides are being obscured, so that’s obstruction of justice. Now, the problem we’ve got here is, who’s taking a lead role in the obstruction? The Department of Justice seems to be taking a lead role in the obstruction. And that’s something else that’s going to be coming out in the next few days in a major report that’s been done by the students at Seton Hall in which they document how the Justice Department covered up what went on and tried to throw congressional investigators off the scent by giving them false information. There are a series of letters and there are e-mails between people inside the Justice Department trying to coordinate misstatements to members of Congress about what happened.
Scott Horton: Wow. Yeah, you know, I know a guy who used to jokingly say that he thought the entire Monica Lewinsky thing was just a stunt to get rid of the independent prosecutor statute, because boy they hate having those independent prosecutors, you know? And I guess they can still do one in exceptional circumstances. They sort of got to pass an ad hoc thing to do it, rather than having a statute that’s supposed to kick in, right?
Other Scott Horton: Yeah, well, the Attorney General has the discretion to appoint one, if he wants to. You know, what happened though was previously we had a statute that said if Congress demanded it, they had to do it. But, you know, what we have here is a situation where, you know, it’s clear that the Justice Department is a part of the problem, so to speak. They can’t be credibly expected to investigate it. The only way this could be dealt with really would be through the appointment of some sort of independent prosecutor.
Scott Horton: Mmm. Well, and so now, Harper’s Magazine is a pretty big deal. I mean, I don’t think they can just completely ignore this. I know it didn’t get a whole lot of traction back when the story broke before, but this is some really powerful stuff that you’re publishing here in the form of this document in Harper’s Magazine, so I wonder if you think that politics, or do you have any signals yet that politics are changing on this question? Maybe some congressmen are going to take up the issue, or anything like that?So I think one of the questions we’re going to look at right now is, did the Senate investigators ever get any information about this, or were they stonewalled?
Other Scott Horton: Well, this is really right in the heart of this dispute between the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the CIA. So, you know, that report is done, it’s awaiting declassification and publication right now, and the disclosures here go to the CIA’s psyops operation at Guantanamo, which we know already from the report surrounding the Senate committee report is one of the areas where the CIA was pushing back most aggressively and refusing to give information to the Senate investigators. So I think one of the questions we’re going to look at right now is, you know, did the Senate investigators ever get any information about this, or were they stonewalled? And I expect to see that the Senate was stonewalled about this, that they did not get information about it. So I think we’re going to see the stage set for a follow-up inquiry.
Scott Horton: All right, well thank you so much for your time and your great journalism on this, Scott.
Other Scott Horton: Hey, it’s my pleasure. Great to be with you.
Scott Horton: All right, everybody. That’s The Other Scott Horton, heroic anti-torture international human rights lawyer at harpers.org. Check out his blog No Comment, and it’s in the print issue here, follow-up, a missing document and a new obstruction case.
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Source for the document screenshots above, p. 15-17 in linked DOD PDF:
— Tyler Bass (@TylerBass) May 16, 2014
(How'd he know to search on "Dickstein"?)