New documents: Guantanamo authorities expected detainees to die

Jeffrey Kaye
9 min readJan 15, 2020
Photo of “Islamic Cemetery” at Navbase GTMO, by Jason Leopold, September 24, 2014, used by permission — Link

A newly declassified document, obtained via the Freedom of Information Act, confirms that weeks after Camp X-Ray at Guantanamo started to receive detainees, Department of Defense officials expected some of these prisoners to die. Camp authorities were also informed that burial at the U.S.-run naval base in Cuba was “authorized for detainees.”

According to a February 4, 2002 directive to Camp X-Ray from the Mortuary Affairs division at Guantanamo’s new JTF-160 medical department, “As a consequence of disease, battle injury, and non-battle injury it is assumed that some loss of life may occur among detainees.”

Screenshot of Guantanamo directive from Guantanamo Mortuary Affairs to Joint Task Force 160 , Naval Hospital, and Camp X-Ray officials (FOIA document at

This directive was released in response to a FOIA request I made in 2013, using the Muckrock News website.

“Detainees have died”

This newly released memo lends credence to my December 2010 report on early deaths at Guantanamo. My report described how at a February 19, 2002 meeting of the Armed Forces Epidemiological Board, a key Navy official announced that as regards Guantanamo, “[a] number of the detainees have died of the wounds that they arrived with.”

At this point, there were already 300 detainees held at the primitive cages the Defense Department called Camp X-Ray.

The statement about the deaths were made by Captain Alan “Jeff” Yund, a preventive medicine doctor from the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, and the Navy’s liaison officer to the AFEB, as he discussed “mortuary affairs” at Guantanamo, part of a larger discussion on health issues at the new prison facility.

During the meeting, Captain Yund identified himself as working directly with Admiral Steven Hart, the Director of Navy Medicine Research and Development, as well as “a number of other admirals.”

Screenshot of Feb. 19, 2002 AFEB transcript. The speaker is Navy Captain Alan “Jeff” Yund.

In 2006, the AFEB was dissolved by order of then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and its functions incorporated with other advisory…