Murder at Camp Delta


Extracted below are the testimonies of prisoner abuse given in Murder at Camp Delta, a book by Joseph Hickman published in 2015 by Simon Schuster.

p. 22: Our first stop was Checkpoint Houston, the observation post on the western side of Camp America, just above the beach. On the way, we passed Camp Iguana, a small facility that once held a couple dozen minor-aged boys scooped up in the Middle East. Iguana contained a couple of enclosed buildings that looked relatively comfortable, like rustic dorms at a summer camp. The teenaged detaineees had all been repatriated, and the camp was now used to hold adult detainees who'd been cleared for release and were on hold to be sent home.

p. 25: Inside Camp Delta were the detention areas called Camps 1 and 2/3. Each consisted of several open cell blocks-wire-fence walls under tin roofs. Clear Plexiglas covered some of the walls so that the cells weren’t completely exposed to the elements, but I could see right away that the design combined the worst of the two worlds: the cell blocks were partially open to the elements, and they were under tin roofs. In the hot sun, the cells bakes the occupants like bread in an oven. I couldn't believe that a maximum-security prison wasn’t temperature controlled. It was all very strange. My first concerns weren’t even for the detainees. I watched the navy guards who walked the halls between cell blocks and couldn't believe the heat they had to put up with. I never wanted to be in their shoes. On a “cool” spring day like that one, the temperature was 85 or 90 degrees outside, but it must have been at least ten to twenty degrees hotter under those tin roofs.

p. 30: When I first began observing the detainees, I was mostly fascinated by how screwed up everything looked. I’d never seen such constant agitation in a detention facility. I didn't have strong feelings for or against detainees as individuals. I was totally convinced that, as a group, all the detained were absolutely guilty of being radicals who had attacked America or had been caught trying to. I believed they deserved to be there. But the conditions still seemed excessively punishing. Aside from the specifics of the Geneva conventions, our training had always specified that once we captured the enemy, we didn't abuse him. Any form of detention was unpleasant by its very nature, but the line between unpleasantness and abuse was not always clear- particularly at Gitmo.

p. 31: Detainees were allowed only to lie on their cots or pace back and forth. Watching them was like looking at tigers in a zoo. When they prayed, washed, went to the bathroom, or masturbated, they did it all in front of us and the navy guards. There was no rest or privacy at night because lights inside the cell blocks blazed on.

p. 33: Even if the navy guards weren’t being taunted, they would find little ways to harass the detainees and rile them up. One day as a guard walked past an inmate’s cell, I saw the guard lean in close, and the detainee-who’d been resting quietly on his bed-was suddenly on his feet screaming at the guard and practically frothing at the mouth. “What in the world” I thought. When I finally got the right angle, I could see that the guard carried a Star of David. He would flash it as he walked past the cell blocks, and the detainees would just go nuts. I don't know if this guard was actually Jewish or if he just whipped out the Star or David to piss off the Muslims, but for a guard to taunt high-value detainees even once is roughly the same as a soldier accidently firing his weapon. Flashing that Star of David at our Muslim charges was the equivalent of pulling the pin on a hand grenade just for kicks. This type of behavior was petty and stupid, but it was only the tip of the iceberg. The California guard warned us that we’d see a lot of late night activity in the cells. The navy guards had developed a game they called the “Frequent Flier Program.” At about midnight the guards would wake a detainee, flex-cuff him, and shackle his legs, and than run him from one cell block to the next. They’d put him in an empty cell, take off his cuffs, and then start the whole process over again. The guards would run the detainees in patterns, from cell block to cell block, until at the end, the hapless prisoner was returned to his original cell. It was a competition between the guards, and they timed themselves. They would have different teams running different detainees, or they’d take turns with the same guy. Whichever guard, or team of guards, got the fastest time, would win free drinks at the Windjammer the following night.

p. 34: The guard had cuffed the detainee’s hands behind his back and shackled his legs, as was the SOP. But for some reason, the guard started walking him fast, quicker than his leg irons would allow. The detainee kept tripping over himself, which angered the guard and caused him to push even harder. I was about sixty feet away in the tower and could see everything happen clearly as they entered the cell block. As soon as they reached the detainee’s cell, the guard slammed the luckless inmate into the outer wall. An instant later the guard punched him in the face.  The detainee went down, and two other guards who were on duty in the cell block rushed in and started kicking him. After a good minute, there was blood all over the floor. The guards lifted the detainee, took off his leg shackles, and threw him onto his cot. All the detainees in the cell block started screaming. One detainee put his fingers through the mesh wall of his cell to shake it. A navy guard beat the detainee’s fingers with his key ring so hard, a medic had to be brought in to treat him. I guessed that when the navy guards reported on the incident, they’d spin it to say they were trying to put down detainees who were resisting or attempting to escape. This, I learned, was the unofficial SOP of the navy guards. They’d agitate the detainees, and when they resisted or lashed out, the guards would beat the snot out of them.

p. 48: There was an interrogation building inside Camp Delta. As far as we had been briefed- as the world had been told- this was the only interrogation facility on Gitmo.

p. 54: Admiral Harris changed that. Soon after taking over, he instituted the policy of playing the anthem loudly from the speakers inside Camp Delta. The first few days, this was especially chaotic because it cut into the broadcast of their call to prayer by about three minutes. Even after that conflict was straightened out, the anthem still agitated the cell blocks.

p. 56: These cameras, we were told, captured everything the guards did and were monitored by their superiors. As for the frequent flier game, there was no way their commanders didn’t know. [...] One day while the national anthem played, a detainee snapped and started beating his head against the wall. Even though it was made of only mesh and Plexiglas, his injuries grew so threatening that the navy guards had to extract him, flex-cuff him onto the back of a gator ATV, and escort him to the medical clinic.

pp. 59-60: Two detainees tried to commit suicide by overdosing on drugs they’d hidden in their Korans.

pp. 69-70: The navy guards, in teams clustered around the shackled prisoners and took turns punching and beating them. They’d knock the prisoners down and pull them up again. It looked like one of those high school football drills called “the bull ring,” where one player was surrounded by his teammates and subjected to numerous hits. But this was no puppy play on a gridiron; this was closer to a series of Rodney King-style beatings by the Los Angeles police department. The guards were careful not to kick out any teeth or eyes—or kill anyone. They were just beating the prisoners to get their jollies. It was semiorganized. Each group would spend a couple of minutes delivering its harsh punishment and then melt back into a loose formation to give another group a turn. I estimated that if there were two hundred navy guards present outside Camp 4, about a quarter participated in the beatings. At first I couldn't believe that the senior NCOs standing among the navy guards were letting this happen. Then I wondered if they hadn’t orchestrated the mass beating. Even more unbelievable to me, as the shackled and cuffed detainees were getting the crap kicked out of them, Colonel Bumgarner and Captain Drake were walking around as if they didn't see anything. I was astounded to see an army colonel allowing this mass violation of regulations—a possible war crime—take place right in front of him.  I had never seen anything like this occur in my experience as a prison guard or in the United States armed forces.

p. 76: As I walked out of the administration building and into Camp Delta that morning, I was struck by how quiet the cell blocks were. I'd never heard such a peaceful morning. No banging, no screams, no shouts at the navy guards. While walking to the chow hall in Delta, I saw a sergeant form another squad. "Why is it so quiet around here?" I asked him. "The navy guards forced the detainees to take seditives last night," he answered.

pp. 81-82: However It came about, when the navy guards showed up at Camp 4 and tried to confiscate the Korans, the detainees started to resist. Colonel Bumgarner or Admiral Harris—the guards telling us the story weren’t sure—had the interpreter warn the detainees that if they didn't allow their Korans to be inspected, the guards would extract their beloved holy man and put him in isolation. That version of events was only scuttlebutt, but it made sense and explained why the riot started in the holy man’s cell. The detainees were rioting against an ill–conceived order. The guards were doing cell shakedowns more often, but everyone was compliant. The detainees kept quiet. Even the sobbing we normally heard was tamped down.

p. 84: Typically, I might see one or two detainees being transported every of couple of days. By the height of the hunger strike, I was counting twenty or more detainees being moved on Gators every shift.

p. 101: One piece of information I had picked up within forty-eight hours of the deaths was that the three dead men had been the last hunger strikers.

p. 107: Their focus seemed to shift to other matters, including a new secret camp that had been dubbed Strawberry Fields.

p. 109: But on this day, according to PFC Vasquez, Monster was screwing around with a detainee. As Vasquez looked on, Monster stood outside and the detainee’s cell squirting him with water from a plastic water bottle and calling him “sand nigger.” The detainee had been pounding on the wire barrier and shouting, “fuck you!” Vasquez did not know what had started this, but for a good half hour, Monster kept returning to the detainee’s cell and taunting him. Finally, Monster opened the cell door, knocked down the detainee, and kicked him on the ground before letting himself back out of the cell.

p. 110: The incident resolved itself after Monster received a promotion. We reasoned that moving up in rank gave him more to lose if he jumped one of us and got caught committing assault. His promotion also typified how things worked. Not only did Monster’s supervisor discount private Vasquez’s report, but he also promoted the offending guard.
pp. 111: [One of the guards said] "Once we get him out, he’s a lot of fun. We make him put on his prosthetic leg and shackle him, and we make him try to walk. Its fucking hilarious." The other guard said, "well kick his leg out from under him, and he’ll flop all over the ground. All you do is tap it."

p. 126: The narrative provided by the NCIS was not an impossible one—if each of the three men had been veritable Al Qaeda Houdinis able to (1) hoard materials; (2) fabricate them under the noses of guards into dummies and ropes; (3) partially cover their cell in ways that would make their hanging invisible to guards; (4) make dummies that presented the illusion of skin and breathing movements; and (5) like acrobats, climb onto their sinks or cots, shove rags deep into their throats, bind their feet, affix their necks to their nooses, tie masks over their faces, bind their hands, and then jump or fall from their perches—but silently so as not to attract the guards’ attention. The odds against one detainee pulling this off seemed slim. The chances of three simultaneously achieving this goal without detection were exponentially more remote.

p. 168: It was particularly significant that he [Shaker Aamer] described having been choked and having his face obstructed with a mask, as was the case with the other detainees.

p. 187: [The Senior Medical Officer (SMO) stated that] Al-Zahrani had arrived at the hospital with "red marks on his neck from a ligature" but that these "impressions in the neck tissue were not extensive enough to indicate mechanical asphyxiation." The SMO listed the cause of death as asphyxiation caused by blockage of the airway, a result of cloth inserted through al-Zahrani’s oral cavity into the wind-pipe.

p. 195: If that was true, why would the noose have been cut off a second time in the ambulance? The cell block guards lied about finding the detainees hanging in their cells and cutting nooses off their necks because the men hadn’t been in their cells.

p. 227: As per previous agreement with the Red Cross, Gitmo authorities said that they would not conduct interrogations on striking detainees.