Newly declassified documents reveal the defiance Gitmo detainees showed their U.S. captors
Some 278 pages of declassified documents from the Guantanamo Bay prison
shows the degree of defiance by the detained prisoners towards their U.S. captors.
Though in the past the U.S. authorities did admit to their being defiance from
the prisoners and that they were disciplined, the released documents show the
full extent of what exactly occurred.
The prisoners banged on their cells to protest the heat, they doused guards
with whatever liquid was handy - from spit to urine. Sometimes they struck their
jailers, one swinging a steel chair at a military police officer.
The American MPs at times retaliated with force - punches, pepper spray and
a splash of cleaning fluid in the face, according to the newly released documents
that detail military investigations and eyewitness accounts of alleged abuse.
Some of the prisoners at the U.S. base went on the attack, as in April 2003
when a detainee got out of his cell during a search for contraband food and
knocked out a guard's tooth with a punch to the mouth and bit him before he
was subdued by MPs. One soldier delivered two blows to the inmate's head with
a handheld radio, the documents show.
``Several guards were trying to hold down the detainee who was putting up heavy
resistance,'' recounted a translator who saw the incident. ``The detainee was
covered in blood as were some of the guards.''
The documents, obtained under a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by
the Associated Press, are far from a comprehensive look at Guantanamo and do
not provide full details about each incident.
Names and some other identifying details have been blacked out by military
censors. Handwriting at times isn't legible and pages appear to be missing or
out of sequence. In some cases, it is not possible to decipher who did what
to whom. Disciplinary measures against the troops were either relatively minor
or unclear in some reports.
The internal investigative reports do, however, provide a snapshot of life
at Guantanamo, depicting a tense, hostile and in many instances a chaotic place.
In one of the more serious incidents described in the documents, detainees
told guards that an MP threw the cleaning liquid Pine-Sol in the eyes of a prisoner
in the middle of one night in January 2004. In a written statement, another
soldier said he came in immediately afterward to find what smelled like cleaning
liquid dripping from the cell.
``The detainee could be seen rubbing his eyes intensely and moaning in pain,''
Documents show that the guard, from the 661st Military Police Company, did
not admit throwing the cleaning fluid when questioned about it that night but
did say the detainee had spit on him, and may have thrown urine.
A medic on the cell block flushed the detainee's eyes with water, a witness
A Department of Defense investigative memo written six months later concluded
the soldier had mistreated detainees twice - the second offense involved cursing
at inmates - and that his superiors failed to report either episode.
Investigators recommended disciplinary action against the soldier and a probe
into why the incident wasn't reported up the chain of command, but the outcome
is unclear from the papers.
But tensions between prisoners and guards have always remained high ever since
the first suspects arrived in early 2002, hooded and shackled.
The detainees' defiance discussed in the documents ranged from mild - prisoners
getting matching haircuts in a show of solidarity or refusing orders to stop
practicing martial arts in the exercise yard - to hostile acts like spitting
or throwing unknown liquids at the MPs.
One soldier used pepper spray on prisoners because, he said in a report to superiors,
he feared that the unknown liquids hurled could pose a health danger.
While another soldier told military investigators he punched a detainee's face
because the man spit at him and hit him as he tried to put him in restraints
at the prison hospital in October 2004.
``My instincts took over after the hitting and spitting,'' said the soldier.
Documents show authorities recommended that the punishment include reduction
in rank to E-4, loss of a month's pay and extra duty for 45 days, though the
outcome is unclear.
In the prison camp's early days, inmates showed their anger over the heat and
the practice of leaving lights on in their cells at night by banging on the
bars throughout one guard shift in September 2002, the documents say. One detainee
who was believed to be leading the protest threw what an MP said smelled like
water from the toilet on him. The MP tried to spray water from a hose in response,
but the detainee blocked it with a mat.
The guard who tried to spray the detainee was charged with assault, given a
reduction in rank to private first class, which was suspended, and reassigned
to other duties at Guantanamo.
Military officials at Guantanamo did not respond this week to questions about
relations between guards and detainees at the camp, which in the past had held
some 700 prisoners from 45 countries since it opened.