Carol Rosenberg / The Miami Herald & Thomas Watkins / Associated Press – 2007-07-02 22:59:40
Navy Still Probing 2006 Guantánamo Deaths
Carol Rosenberg / The Miami Herald
(July 2, 2007) — More than a year after three Arab captives were found dead at Guantánamo — the first detainee deaths at the offshore detention center — the Navy is still investigating the episode that the military described as a group suicide.
Autopsy results and alleged suicide notes are still part of an ongoing investigation and have not been publicly released.
Moreover, the Navy’s investigative unit still won’t say whether agents have decided conclusively that their deaths were caused by suicide.
“At this point it is not a matter of what we know, but what we are willing to publicly discuss,” said Ed Buice, spokesman for the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), in an e-mail. “The top priority is to protect the integrity of the investigative process.”
The military said guards simultaneously discovered the three men — two Saudis and a Yemeni — before dawn on June 10, 2006, hanging in the same cellblock of the prison camps made of open-air steel and metal mesh cells called Camp One.
Then-commander Rear Adm. Harry Harris said the military would record their deaths as “apparent suicides” pending a probe by NCIS. Separately, he ordered a pathologist to determine the cause of deaths and withheld their suicide notes from public release.
In response to a Freedom of Information request filed by The Miami Herald, a Navy attorney in Washington, Navy Lt. Jason Jones, wrote the newspaper on May 16 that the records were part of “law enforcement records” associated with “enforcement proceedings.”
NCIS officials would not elaborate on which proceedings.
As the Navy’s version of the FBI, the NCIS has also been the lead agency in investigating detainee abuse by US personnel at Guantánamo Bay. It has special agents, forensic investigators and analysts.
NCIS headquarters near Washington said in a statement last week that its Mayport, Fla., field office is handling the investigations “into the detainee deaths of June 10, 2006, and May 30, 2007, at Guantánamo,” which “remain open.”
It described its investigations as “quite extensive” and “aimed at investigating all aspects of a death to determine whether there was criminal causality or whether this can be reasonably excluded.”
Yemeni Ali Abdullah Ahmed, 30, and Saudis Mani Shaman al Utaybi, 30, and Yassar Talal Zaharani, 21, were the first detainees to die since the Pentagon set up the offshore detention and interrogation center in January 2002. None had ever seen US attorneys who arrange through family and the courts to meet with captives.
The episode stirred controversy in part because lawyers for other detainees blamed their suicides on despair. A since departed prison camp commander, Col. Michael Bumgarner, said he believed ringleaders in the camps incited the men to commit suicide.
Harris called the triple deaths an act of “asymmetric warfare” by mentally sound, motivated jihadists — and a State Department official described it as an al Qaeda propaganda ploy.
Buice said the Mayport office was separately investigating the circumstances of the death of Abdul Rahman al Amri, 34, of Saudi Arabia, who was found dead May 30 inside the maximum-security, intensively monitored Camp 5.
A spokesman, Navy Cmdr. Rick Haupt, would not say whether Amri was found hanging like the other men or died of “apparent suicide” by another means.
Buice said the results of both probes will go to Rear Adm. Mark “Buzz” Buzby, the current prison camps commander, who took over shortly before Amri died, and to the US Southern Command in Miami, where Buzby’s immediate predecessor, Harris, is now operations chief.
Marines Investigated over 2004 Actions
Thomas Watkins / Associated Press
SAN DIEGO (,July 2, 2007) — The Navy is investigating possible military crimes by Marines in the Iraqi city of Fallujah in fall 2004, officials said Monday.
The Naval Criminal Investigative Service declined to discuss the nature of the investigation, but spokesman Ed Buice said in an e-mail that the agency was pursuing “credible allegations of wrongdoing made against US Marines.”
Fallujah was the scene of two Marine battles in 2004, the first of which was launched after insurgents killed four US contractors there. That battle was aborted in April 2004.
In November, Marines led an offensive against insurgent holdouts in the city, a fight that produced heavy casualties on both sides.
Confirmation of the investigation follows two high-profile criminal cases in military court involving Camp Pendleton-based Marines.
In November 2005, a Marine squad killed 24 Iraqis in Haditha. Three enlisted Marines were charged with murder, and four officers were charged with failing to investigate the deaths. The Marines say they are not guilty because the deaths were the result of a lawful combat operation.
The other case centers on the actions of a different squad, charged with kidnapping and murdering an Iraqi man in Hamdania in April 2006. Five of the eight troops charged pleaded guilty to reduced charges; trials for the remaining three are due to begin next week.
Fallujah, Hamdania and Haditha are all in Al Anbar province, west of Baghdad.
© 2007 The Associated Press
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