Book Reviews

Murder at Camp Delta

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Murder At Camp Delta: A staff Sergeant's pursuit of the truth about Guantanamo Bay By Joseph Hickman (221 pages)

Sgt Hickman was a career soldier (Marines, National Guard and Army) for many years. He was stationed at Guantanamo Bay's prison complex as a guard at the complex in 2006. His military Bio includes duty at a wide variety of positions across the military spectrum and also extensive non-military prison work.

During his tour in Cuba there were repeated examples of mistreatment of the prisoners. That treatment, coupled with a surprising lack of the use of common SOP's concerning prison protocol, led to his gradual disillusionment with his Guantanamo service. There were lots of open beatings and other mistreatment ignored by the command structure. But the critical factor occurred when three inmates “committed suicide” while in conditions that seemed to him to be impossible. Stories were put out that they stuffed rags down their own throats, tied themselves up and jumped off cots to kill themselves.

Hickman had been Sgt of the Guard when the supposed suicides happened. He and his guards were in position to know that the story put out could not have been true. Hickman had discovered a hidden site he dubbed Camp No as in there was No such place. From his observations he knew that the three prisoners had been taken there for some purpose and were not handled the way the chain of command claimed. Subsequently, he found that the formal investigation was a coverup. He and is guards were not even interviewed for the formal investigation despite them being in position to know lots about what happened.

Sgt Hickman went through channels trying to force a real investigation but was stymied.
As time went on, he discovered a group of college law students and their professor who were independently investigating the deaths. The formal report as received through FOI requests was numbered incorrectly and redacted in key parts. Three pages were randomly filled with pages that were repeats from other places. There is much more to the story but both the Seton Hall group and Hickman concluded after much work that the NCIS (Naval Criminal Investigation Service) report was a coverup of significant portions. It took a long time but Hickman's conclusion about the motive for this coverup was that there was a totally hidden agenda about Gitmo as a whole. That is, Gitmo was not a prison to house the “worst of the worst” but was a vast experiment into how information could be extracted from unwilling prisoners. The president himself was kept in the loop by direct orders requiring weekly reports. Rumsfeld was in close contact too.

All prisoner were given at intake 750mg of mefloquine, a malaria drug with a normal dose rate of not to exceed 250 mg. Another dose of 500 mg was given 12 hrs later. There is no history of malaria in the camp nor in Cuba. Side effects of the drug include anxiety, hallucinations, depression, insomnia, and suicidal thoughts. Studies of the drug show that as many as two thirds of those who took the normal does suffered some negative side effects. There, of course, were many other methods used at the Cuban base.

Hickman's conclusion was that the existence of this vast “Battle Lab” as it was actually called in some of the documents was the reason there was so much effort at keeping what actually happened to these three inmates a dark secret. It is ironic that at least one of them had been cleared for release.

Lastly, The events at Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, and our drone warfare are huge factors in the incredible upward swing of “terrorist” attacks and new groups around the world. There is no better incentive for radicalism than these sorry attempts at solving the problems of “terrorism” with injustice, torture, and violence upon frequently innocent people. The inmates at Gitmo were not, and are not the “worst of the worst” as claimed repeatedly. In 2006, the Seton Hall University Law School Center for Policy and Research released released a study of 517 detainees using DOD data. That study showed that only 5% of the detainees were captured by US forces and only 8% of the detainees were Al Qaeda fighters. Many were swept up in mass detentions and/ or the result of paid bounties. Amazingly???, there were many cases of people being sent to Guantanamo because some person wanted to make a buck or two or to get rid of a thorn in their back. Prisoners in many other situations were the same especially those from Abu Ghraib. This all feeds rage in the Muslim world. Racism and fear underlies our general acceptance of so much of this. Yet we continue actions that will only lead to yet more enemies...

Stephen P. Horn
Feb 5, 2015