Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Gov't Gets Ornery over Gitmo Murder Cover-Up Claims

Keith Olbermann reported tonight that the Department of Justice had contacted him and expressed how unhappy they were with his report on Scott Horton's Harpers Magazine expose of the 2006 killings of three Guantanamo prisoners, and the subsequent government cover-up, extending into the Obama administration.

Now Scott Horton reports in a new column at Harpers on the blowback he's been getting from DoD and DoJ over his reporting:
Last night on MSNBC’s Countdown with Keith Olbermann, I focused on the first responses to “The Guantánamo ‘Suicides.’” Colonel Michael Bumgarner, the former commander at Camp America, had sent an email to the Associated Press, the text of which AP confirmed to me, in which he said he would have to get clearance from the Defense Department to speak, but then stated:

This blatant misrepresentation of the truth infuriates me. I don’t know who Sgt. Hickman is, but he is only trying to be a spotlight ranger. He knows nothing about what transpired in Camp 1, or our medical facility. I do, I was there.

This statement merits closer inspection. The first sentence is a classic nondenial denial. It appears on the surface to deny part of the account, but in fact denies nothing. Bumgarner needs to state specifically what allegations he considers inaccurate. His failure to do so is telling.

The second statement is an attempt to frame the conflict in terms of a controversy between Sergeant Hickman and himself, which he leads into by saying he doesn’t even know who Hickman is. That statement is demonstrably false. As we confirmed with Defense Department records, Bumgarner recommended Hickman for a medal...

The Justice Department had no response to any of these serious allegations. Instead, in a January 18 e-mail, department spokesman Laura Sweeny claimed that two of the witnesses interviewed by the department had misremembered the names of the lawyers present at those meetings. She refused to address any of the other allegations in the article. Instead, she insisted that I note that Justice had “conducted a thorough inquiry into this matter, carefully examined the allegations, found no evidence of wrongdoing and subsequently closed the matter.” And then she said, as she had when I contacted her in reporting the story, that she would not arrange an interview with any of the officials involved in the matter.
Meanwhile, the first in hopefully a cascade of newspaper editorials has the St. Louis Post-Dispatch calling for an investigation into the "three questionable Gitmo suicides":
There’s growing evidence that suggests that three detainees — two from Saudi Arabia and one from Yemen — died from torture-related injuries at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp in 2006. The military cover story strains credulity. A subsequent inquiry by the U.S. Naval Criminal Investigative Service fared worse.

Methodically examined and parsed by a team from Seton Hall Law School in Newark, N.J., the Navy investigation seems to have been pursued with either inexcusable incompetence or using a massive cover-up....

Evasions of this kind hardly are unprecedented. In 2004, U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba revealed abuses and deception up the chain of command in connection with criminal misconduct at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

Ranking officers were found complicit in the sadistic mistreatment of prisoners. It was not the work of only a few bad apples.

Enough is enough. Prisoner abuse and botched investigations undermine national security, handing America’s enemies a devastating recruiting tool.

Mr. Obama should appoint an unrelenting career prosecutor to the case, someone of the caliber of Patrick Fitzgerald, the U.S. attorney in Chicago, to dig deeper. He must follow where the evidence leads.
H/T Stephen Soldz, who is also keeping close watch on these events.

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