Monday, January 2, 2017

New DoD Document Claims Implausible Suicide Pact in Deaths of Gitmo Detainees Adnan Latif & Mohammad Al Hanashi

On November 21, 2016, the U.S. military's Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) released a "Force Protection Report" and two high priority emails sent to Guantanamo's guard force commander, Colonel John V. Bogdan, concerning the suicide threat of Adnan Farhan Abd Latif, who died in the early morning hours the day following the report and the emails.

Bogdan was in charge of JTF-GTMO's Joint Detention Group and was the Guantanamo official who recommended Latif be sent to a punishment cell in the island prison's Camp Delta, where he purportedly died of an overdose the next day. Latif also was suffering from pneumonia, according to the official Army Regulation 15-6 investigation into the “facts and circumstances” surrounding the September 8, 2012 death of Latif, a young brain-damaged detainee from Yemen, so it's strange that Bogdan got a medical release to send Latif to the punishment cell from the Behavioral Health Unit where he'd been held for severe mental illness and suicidal thoughts and behaviors.

The small release of FOIA documents was in response to a request I made a little over three years ago. The full set of documents are posted at (or alternatively, here).

Intelligence Units Informed About Detainee's Suicidality

While still heavily redacted, the FOIA release shows that information about what was thought at the time as a possibly imminent suicide attempt by Latif was shared with Guantanamo's intelligence unit at the "WFC" (Warning and Fusion Cell) and the "HOC" (HUMINT Operations Cell), which provided technical support to intelligence operations at the camp.

Ever since the early days at Guantanamo, intelligence and guard units worked in close collaboration together, but what intelligence value Latif supposedly held is unknown. So far as I know, this new information is the first instance of Guantanamo's WFC and HOC units being reported as associated at all with Guantanamo's internal response to suicidal prisoners.

Even more intriguing, the Force Protection report included a "Collectors Comment" that claimed Latif "was tasked to commit suicide with YSM-078 in June 2009." YSM-078 was Mohammed Al Hanashi, who the "collector" dryly notes "did commit suicide." The supposed suicides of Al Hanashi and Latif, and also the 2007 death of Abdul Rahman Al Amri in a high-security cell, are examined in detail, based on the FOIA release of numerous NCIS and military documents in my book, Cover-up at Guantanamo.

Despite the claim Latif was "tasked" to kill himself, there is no indication in any other record released thus far, or anywhere in DoD's declassified AR 15-6 report on his death, that Latif was supposed to commit suicide with Al Hanashi in 2009, or told to die with the latter, who also was from Yemen. As the NCIS FOIA documents on Al Hanashi's death are quite extensive, it is clear that Al Hanashi did not die according to any plan on a particular date, but had been severely depressed and suicidal for months, if not years. In my reading of the documents, his final act of suicide was either facilitated by Guantanamo personnel, or he was killed and it was made to look like suicide, with the reason for such killing unknown.

A Suicide "Conspiracy"?

It is worth noting that Behavioral Health Unit personnel were evidently told "through various JTF meetings" that Al Hanashi himself was on a "directed suicide list." According to testimony from camp health personnel, Al Hanashi thought he was supposed to die with the three detainees who all supposedly committed suicide (or were killed) in 2006, but this was understood as something he felt guilty about.

Camp authorities back in 2006 characterized the three deaths at that time as a joint suicide, an act of "asymmetric warfare," or alternately as "a 'mystical' belief at Guantánamo that three detainees must die at the camp for all the detainees to be released." (On the latter theory, see also here.)

The testimony of one Guantanamo guard, Joseph Hickman, present in 2006 (who later went on to research what took place), and the work of a raft of researchers, including Scott Horton at Harper's magazine, and Seton Hall Law School professor Mark Denbeaux and a number of his students, have poked significant holes in the Pentagon's story.

A University of California at Davis professor, Almerindo Ojeda, found the deaths were suspiciously similar to the torture of another U.S. prisoner who had endured something called "dryboarding." Even more, an alternative narrative emerged wherein the detainees were subjected to experiments, probably on interrogation or torture, possibly on the use of mefloquine as a torture agent, and died with the deaths then staged to look as suicides.

The work of Horton, Denbeaux, Hickman, et al., was met by a firestorm of criticism calling the charges baseless "conspiracy." Hence, it is no small irony to consider that internally, camp officials told those responsible for the care of suicidal prisoners that there was a conspiracy about to have detainees kill themselves upon the "tasking" of someone or some entity.

Was there really a "directed suicide list"? Were the three "suicides" from 2006 and the deaths of Al Hanashi in 2009 and Latif in 2012 all linked? That appears to be what Guantanamo personnel were told inside the camp. But there's no backup documentation, and the existing evidence for the deaths of all of these prisoners shows no coordination or adherence to any suicide pact. So why would anyone be told otherwise? Also, while DoD officials said the 2006 suicides were part of some pact, they have not publicly said the same about Al Hanashi or Latif.

As could be expected, these new revelations leave us with plenty of questions. What was the role of intelligence in the deaths of these individuals? What was the purpose of contending internally there was a "directed suicide list" but not publicly refer to this in the deaths of two detainees?

All of this leads to the overarching question: what really happened inside Guantanamo? It is sad testimony that when it comes to deaths at that facility, we still don't know the full truth.

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