New FOIA Documents Show Guantanamo Suicides Unlikely

Jeffrey Kaye
39 min readOct 12, 2017


Every soul will taste death, and you will only be given your [full] compensation on the Day of Resurrection. So he who is drawn away from the Fire and admitted to Paradise has attained [his desire]. And what is the life of this world except the enjoyment of delusion?

— Koran 3:185[1] (Referenced in final writings of Guantanamo “suicide” Mohammed Al Hanashi)

“Investigators don’t guess, Deputy. They study. They analyze. They make inference based on evidence and facts.”

— CBS TV show NCIS, “Charade,” Season 13, Episode 20[2]

Government photo of Guantanamo’s infamous Camp Delta

In Spring 2017, hundreds of pages of new FOIA materials concerning the deaths of former detainees Mohammed Al Hanashi and Abdul Rahman Al Amri necessitated a revised edition of my book Cover-up at Guantanamo.” In addition, new information from both Guantanamo attorneys and a former Guantanamo guard and project manager of the Detainee Information Management System significantly added to what we know about the deaths of these two men.

This new material amplified the charges of cover-up made in my original book. Together with the work of author Joseph Hickman, who wrote a book on the deaths of three Guantanamo prisoners in 2006, Harper’s Scott Horton, who wrote on the same, and Mark Denbeaux and the research team at Seton Hall University Law School’s Center for Policy and Research, the evidence collected in these pages indicts the U.S. government for numerous crimes, including torture and obstruction of justice, and most likely of murder, too.

These are strong charges, and we must be honest, they not taken seriously by most of the mainstream U.S. press. Like Hickman, Horton, Denbeaux et al. and others, I have gone out of my way to copiously document the charges made herein and the events described. But in the age of Donald Trump, in what are still the early years of the 21st century, the onus falls onto the reader to take action him or herself to help get the truth out and see justice done. Paraphrasing a famous quote, “It is not enough to explain the world, we must act to change it.”

This following article is about facts. This precis of my case concerning the deaths of these detainees, and the botched or compromised official investigation into them, is excerpted from the revised, updated version of Cover-up at Guantanamo: The NCIS Investigation into the ‘Suicides’ of Mohammed Al Hanashi and Abdul Rahman Al Amri, published through Amazon.

All the documents from the FOIAs I filed with NCIS, and which are referenced in the article are available online at Endnotes are included at the close of the article.

There may be a little speculation in what follows, but mostly it is a documented record of an investigation. It is also part of the history of the times in which we live.

* * * *

In April 2017, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) released 585 pages of FOIA material they had previously withheld from me in full or in part from a separate release of documents a year earlier concerning the deaths of the two detainees. The majority of information in this new tranche of documents concerned details surrounding the death of Abdul Rahman Al Amri, who died in May 2007 at Camp 5 at Guantanamo’s Camp Delta. But the new documents also included some previously unknown information concerning the death of another detainee, Mohammed Salih Al Hanashi, who died in 2009 in the prison’s Behavioral Health Unit.

The amount of new information in the 2017 FOIA release forced a substantial revision to the originally published book.

Despite the valuable release of new documents, 92 pages from the NCIS file on Al Amri were withheld without explanation. There were also notable redactions in the released material. In particular, photos from the death scene were blacked out in the documents.

The new material did not significantly change the conclusions drawn from my original analysis. Quite the contrary, it only further substantiated the charge of cover-up, and in the case of Al Amri, provided powerful indications of the likelihood of homicide.

Proof of a cover-up is drawn from clear evidence of missing, suppressed, and mishandled material, and by examining contradictory testimony from witnesses interviewed by the NCIS. There is also, to the trained medical eye, evidence of insufficient or inadequate medical procedures, particularly in the treatment of severe mental illness. The latter situation is all the worse when one considers that the mental illness of detainees was largely caused by the trauma of indefinite incarceration, abusive conditions of confinement, and the use of torture and cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment during both detention and interrogation.

Guantanamo detainees endured, among other things, isolation, forced feedings, sleep deprivation, loud noises, constant surveillance, interminable interrogations, beatings, inappropriate sexual touching or stimuli, water torture, and coerced drugging. All of this was unethical and illegal. As we shall see, detainees may also have been subjected to illegal human experimentation.

In the case of the deaths of the two detainees — Al Amri and Al Hanashi — direct evidence of a crime via witness testimony or other incriminating prima facie evidence is lacking. We must rely as prosecutors often do on circumstantial evidence, which is “evidence that proves a fact or event by inference.”[3]

When there was possible evidence of criminality, as when Al Amri was discovered hanging in his cell with his hands snugly bound behind his back — as if he had been executed — attempts were made to minimize the fact of the hand binding. According to Al Amri’s autopsy report, the bindings were bound “by report… loosely behind him.” But according to the guard who actually cut the bindings when Al Amri’s body was found — testimony newly obtained from the 2017 FOIA release — the bindings “fit snugly around each of the wrists, however they were not overly tight.” Who told the autopsy examiners the bindings were “loosely” attached, and what was their motive?

Subsequently, the existence of the hand bindings themselves was eliminated from the many NCIS executive summaries of the events filed during the investigation of Al Amri’s death. The Department of Defense never told the press about the hand bindings. The material of the bindings themselves was never sent for forensic analysis, while other evidence was evidently thrown away in the trash. I believe that the circumstances around the bindings is as close as circumstantial, inferential evidence can come to proving a crime and a cover-up took place.

As we shall see, there was more to the death of Al Amri that was preposterous, and points away from a verdict of suicide. Among other things, and most intriguingly, we shall see that the documentary record reveals that some camp officials indicated Al Amri was with intelligence officials only minutes before his death.

In the original edition of this book I wrote, “The evidence revealed in the pages that follow demonstrates that NCIS conducted at best a shoddy investigation into the deaths of the two detainees. The inadequacy of the investigations — not to mention the ongoing censorship involved in releasing information about these cases — was likely intended to help hide either criminal activities and/or professional negligence, including criminal negligence, by Guantanamo staff, or possibly by other governmental agencies.”

I believe with the addition of the April 2017 FOIA material, we can say now that, at least in the case of Al Amri, there is no question that the investigation of his death was something more than shoddy, that, as I suspected, it was intended to hide criminal activities. According to a NCIS manual on investigations, regarding procedures for investigating a possible suicide, “Homicide may potentially be masqueraded as a suicide and may only be detected by a complete investigation.” (See, pg. 477.)

In the death of Adnan Latif, which is examined at the close of this book, the U.S. Army investigation into his death determined that Guantanamo staff did not adequately follow camp procedures in matters of detention and safety, including medical procedures, in a way that contributed to Latif’s death by suicide (if he did indeed die by his own hand). New material published in this revised edition throws more light on the circumstances surrounding Latif’s death, including an interview with a detainee witness, and startling revelations about Guantanamo authorities providing dangerous materials themselves to detainees for possible use as suicide instruments.

Latif’s death is examined as it is germane to the overall theme of this book, and we shall see that our examination of events will also include important references, and even new revelations, about the deaths at Guantanamo of three other detainees by purported suicide in 2006. Yet what follows in these pages will primarily concern the deaths of Al Hanashi and Al Amri, and the problematic investigation by NCIS into their deaths. Since NCIS is tasked with the primary investigation into detainee deaths at Guantanamo, it made sense to focus on NCIS’s activities as an exemplar of the secretive U.S. government operations at the Cuba-based island prison.

Tampering With Guantanamo’s Detainee Computer Databases

The compromised nature of the NCIS investigations is also highlighted in the case of Al Hanashi, where NCIS was forced in the middle of its death query to open a subordinate investigation — reported for the first time here — into why the Guantanamo computerized detainee database system was ordered turned off as soon as Al Hanashi’s body was discovered. Even more suspicious, the order to shut off computer entries apparently was given by an unidentified NCIS agent him or herself!

The results of the NCIS investigation into who ordered the shutdown of the computer documentation of events upon discovery of Al Hanashi’s body has never been revealed. In 2016, the NCIS FOIA office insisted they sent me all the materials on the subject they had.

The shutdown of the detainee database — known as the Detainee Information Management System, or DIMS — was no small event. The situation surrounding DIMS was so sensitive that almost no one I approached would speak to me on the record about it. As we shall see, the DIMS shutdown and the subsequent loss of all DIMS records from the time Al Hanashi died (and the day afterward) makes a macabre sort of sense when we realize that evidence from DIMS regarding the previous deaths of three prisoners on June 2006, and then Al Amri in May 2007, contradicted the narrative of official accounts based on guard, interrogator, and medical personnel testimony. That was, one could say, inconvenient for camp authorities, and for NCIS.

There is also the outstanding coincidence that in the case of the 2006 deaths, portions of the DIMS computer logs for the day the three detainees died also went missing, according to researchers at Seton Hall School of Law.

The DIMS database documented the “Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How”[4] of what went on in Guantanamo’s cell blocks and detainee hospital, and could have provided a contemporaneous timeline of events immediately following the discovery of Al Hanashi’s body, free from the vagaries of memory or dissembling.

From FOIA release, 2016, from NCIS to Author

The order to turn off the computer data system was not the end of strange activities surrounding the DIMS. Much later, after the investigation was closed, NCIS revealed that the entire record for the day Al Hanashi died — and the following day — had disappeared entirely, including portions of the DIMS computer logs that NCIS had documented previously existed. Additionally, as revealed in the new FOIA material, the final three entries concerning Al Hanashi that were made that fatal day supposedly were entered anonymously using a supposed default login protocol, contrary to camp SOP, according to the DIMS Administrator for the guard’s command.

From FOIA released to Author on NCIS investigation into death of Mohammed Al Hanashi

But in a special interview for this book, Adam Forman, a non-commissioned officer who became Project Manager for the DIMS system at Guantanamo, told me that there was no “default” login. In fact, he explained, the existence of any such “default” login would go against basic cyber-security protocol. If any other login could have been used, it would have been an Administrator’s login, and very few people would have had knowledge of or access to this.

The only other way another account could have been used was if someone who was “really good with Windows and MySQL could come up with a separate account and use it like a default account.” According to Forman, the probability of any guard doing this was “slim to none.”

In 2002 and 2003, Forman was an MP assigned to Guantanamo’s Detention Operations Center as a shift Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge and a tier NCO. Upon Forman’s recommendation that a better way of tracking detainees be implemented, Major General Geoffrey D. Miller, then Commander at Guantanamo, assigned him the job of developing the DIMS system.

The fact that official notification of the missing computer database logs at Guantanamo came only after I filed a Freedom of Information Act request with NCIS into its investigation of Al Hanashi’s death seems, at least on the surface, suspicious. It suggests that evidence was possibly destroyed after the fact, once deeper journalistic interest in the case was shown.

There are many questions surrounding the death of Al Hanashi. For example, this young prisoner from Yemen, who never met with an attorney, and who was (like Al Amri and Latif) a hunger striker at the U.S. Navy base prison, reportedly strangled himself using an elastic band from his underwear. But the brief-like underwear with elastic bands he supposedly wore was not the type of underwear military authorities had identified earlier as used by detainees. Where did it come from?

In the original version of this book, I believed that neither the autopsy report nor any NCIS “Investigative Action” report mentioned discovery of the altered remnants of the undergarments. That was incorrect. There was mention of torn underwear as evidence seized during the death scene examination. The 2017 release of documents censored a picture of “torn underwear on [Al Hanashi’s] bed.” Meanwhile NCIS agents also supplied the autopsy examiners with a replica of the “white brief” issued to the prisoners. Was it the same kind of underwear, as military authorities concluded? We might suppose so, though pictures of the torn underwear are lacking. Meanwhile, the military lab that processed materials from Al Hanashi’s cell had to rebuke NCIS for not packaging the evidentiary material correctly, damaging confidence in the chain of evidence.

“The evidence was not sealed or packaged IAW [in accordance with] AR [Army Regulation] 195–5 and FM [Field Manual] 319.13,” the U.S. Army Criminal Investigative Laboratory (USACIL) scolded. NCIS apparently used insecure cellophane tape to seal the cardboard packaging to the lab. USACIL furthermore complained that the Lab Request and Evidence Document, which are supposed to be taped to the outside of the evidence packaging, were instead found inside the shipping box. Did someone put the documents accompanying the package back in the wrong place after tampering with the evidence?

USACIL’s Evidence Controller wrote in a memo on June 16, 2009, “Pieces of cellophane tape used to secure three sides allowed access to the inside of the shipping container…. cellophane tape cannot be used for sealing, the seals must encompass all open edges and there must be identifying markings over the seals to detect unauthorized intrusion.” How typical such mistakes are in NCIS cases, I cannot say, but the gaffe marks the investigation as amateurish at best.

This is not the only instance in the investigation of deaths at Guantanamo where issues surrounding the integrity of the chain of evidence arise. In the case of Al Amri, there was a failure to provide evidence to USACIL for examination, including the hand bindings, known to be in NCIS’s possession. Another mysterious piece of Al Amri’s bed sheet simply seems to have disappeared, possibly thrown out with “medical waste.”

The mental health of Al Hanashi in the days and weeks leading up to his death, and the treatment he received in Guantanamo’s Behavioral Health Unit (BHU) in the detainee hospital, is of clear importance. He made multiple suicide attempts in the weeks prior to his “suicide.” Autopsy examiners found his body was covered with many scars. His forehead was riddled with fresh lesions from head banging and from one particularly gruesome suicidal action, when less than a month before he died he deliberately slammed his head into a steel bolt on a wire fence in the detainee’s small recreation area. As a result of the bolt incident, he had been placed on suicide watch and forced to wear a special suicide smock for his own protection. Despite his persistent suicidal behavior, and even though a nurse had warned authorities that Al Hanashi was suicidal, he was provided both materials and clothing and possibly time alone without observation to kill himself, if that is in fact how he died.

Despite his very recent multiple suicide attempts, according to released documents it is unclear if Al Hanashi was on suicide watch on the evening of June 1, 2009, the day he died in a cell in the BHU. His autopsy report states, “[he] has been on a suicide watch at BHU, where he is seen daily by medical staff.” As revealed by the NCIS interview with the Senior Medical Officer at the BHU, Al Hanashi was supposedly on a “directed suicide list” drawn up by another detainee, yet it seems no extra safety precautions were being taken at the time at the time of his death. For instance, he was not dressed in the suicide prevention clothing typical of someone on suicide watch.

According to interviews with BHU personnel, Al Hanashi had become obsessed with the deaths of three detainees, supposedly by suicide, three years earlier in June 2006. Reportedly, he felt guilty that he did not die then himself. A few weeks before his own death, he had vaguely formulated plans to meet with one of the BHU nurses to discuss something related to the 2006 “suicides”[5] on the upcoming anniversary of those deaths. The nurse, whose surname was inadvertently revealed as beginning with B. in one FOIA-released document, reported this to her supervisors and the camp’s Joint Medical Group psychiatrist, as was her duty. According to testimony from Guantanamo’s Senior Medical Officer V. (another inadvertent slip in FOIA censorship), Nurse B. told her the day Al Hanashi died about his request to meet with her. But within hours Al Hanashi was dead.

In the new FOIA materials that allowed for the expanded and revised version of this book, additional details surrounding Al Hanashi’s death are described. In the pages below, we shall see that there are conflicting accounts of what happened at the moment Al Hanashi’s body was discovered. For instance, it is not clear whether or not Nurse B. tried to discourage guards from disturbing an inert Al Hanashi in his cell, or whether she in fact alerted guards to the fact something was seriously wrong with him. Then again, perhaps she did nothing one way or the other at the moment of discovery of Al Hanashi’s body (as her own statement to NCIS implies).

The day of his death, June 1, 2009, was also notable for marking a change in how disciplinary rules were to be enforced in the psychiatric hospital. A turn to harsher discipline, consistent with the rest of the camp prison facilities, upset Al Hanashi and other detainees in the camp’s psychiatric ward, as one guard told NCIS investigators. Moreover, the rules change was the topic of a final conversation between Al Hanashi and the psychiatric unit Chief on the day he died.

When in that final meeting Al Hanashi told the Chief he thought Guantanamo authorities were torturing him, the Chief by his own admission turned on his heel and walked immediately away from the startled detainee. We know Al Hanashi was astonished by this head doctor’s abrupt departure, as he specifically described his upset over this in what appeared to be if not a suicide note, at least the very last thing he ever wrote the evening he died.

“I have heard from the guards that are going to apply the same rules on us as the other camps,” Al Hanashi wrote the day he died, “but when the highest ranking officer in the camp came and talked to me while I was walking he informed me that this camp will have the same rules as the others, and when I asked the help of the psychologist who was present, he said the rules will apply on everybody then he left without saying anything more. Even the officer who was close to him was surprised by his inappropriate behavior as someone who is supposed to be in a humanitarian position. At that time I knew that the only solution is death before they transgress on our religion the way they do in the other camps.”

The Chief remembered the incident, too.

“I emphasized to him that even at a hospital there had to be some rules in place,” the Chief said in his statement to NCIS. “He then said he felt was [sic] being tortured. This is a normal response to a verbal disagreement between staff and a detainee. In this case, to avoid an argument with [Al Hanashi] I walked away from him without a response. This is what I usually do when a detainee accuses staff of torture.”[6]

From this incident we learn a great deal about the inner workings of Guantanamo — that detainees routinely complained about being tortured, and that their medical providers routinely ignored such complaints, disparaging them as derived from routine disagreements between staff and patients, a type of pervasive detainee hysteria about abuse. But everything we have learned about the regime inside Guantanamo shows that the claims of torture, or at least most of them, were true.

As regards this episode, it is also worth noting that Al Hanashi wrote that he met with the “highest ranking officer in the camp.” That was likely Guantanamo commander Rear Admiral David M. Thomas, Jr. (Thomas was replaced in June 2009 by Admiral Thomas H. Copeman III.) It’s possible, however, that Al Hanashi was referring to the commander of the camp’s Joint Detention Group, Colonel Bruce Vargo. Whoever it was, it was extraordinary that a commanding officer at Guantanamo would have discussed the changes in rules in the Behavioral Health Unit with Al Hanashi. But as we shall see, the oft-suicidal prisoner from Yemen was also considered a leader in the camp.

Al Hanashi entered the BHU from Camp 6 in January 2009 for “suicidal ideations,” around which time he reportedly was caught with a noose he had fashioned. The documents show he was put on suicide watch on at least one occasion. It seems likely he was placed on suicide watch more than that, however. But if on June 1, the day he died, he was on suicide watch, he was not wearing the special suicide smock worn by those typically held in the BHU under special suicide surveillance.

Government photo of Mohammed Al Hanashi

The 31-year-old was discovered on the floor of his cell in a fetal position under a blanket, dressed “in khaki shirt and pants without undergarments.” According to the autopsy report, the clothes were “general issue of the detention center.” Yet, in one guard’s statement to NCIS, he was shocked to see the dead Hanashi wearing a tee shirt, as he “was not authorized to wear a tee-shirt so the white fabric around his neck caught my attention.”[7]

Other particulars of his death are contradictory, such as how the ligature that killed him was placed and secured. The ligature that strangled Al Hanashi is described by autopsy examiners as having been twisted tight on the left side of his neck, but a witness at the scene told investigators it was twisted tight on the right side. The method of securing the ligature also is somewhat obscure.

Then there is the issue of the “constant video surveillance” inside prisoner cells in Guantanamo. Former Guantanamo guard Terry Holdbrooks told attendees at an April 30, 2010 event at the UC Davis Center for the Study of Human Rights in the Americas, “With the monitoring system that was in place just in the poorly constructed camps, let alone Camp 5 and Camp Echo, which are under constant video surveillance, there’s no way that a suicide could take place. There was a number of suicide attempts while I was there, but we always caught them.”[8]

How could a prisoner under “constant video surveillance” find the time to fashion a suicide apparatus and also strangle himself, providing the crucial minutes needed as well for the hypoxia to kill him?

In November 2009, Guantanamo spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Brook DeWalt told me for an article at Truthout[9] that, while he couldn’t comment on whether Al Hanashi had been videotaped in his cell, no Guantanamo detainee goes more than “three minutes” without being checked, one way or another.

The near constant monitoring also tallies with what a prison doctor told journalist Naomi Wolf, who had visited the cells where Al Hanashi had been held on the day or so prior to his death. “They check on prisoners every three minutes,” he told her. In addition, Wolf reported, “According to Cortney Busch of Reprieve, a British organization that represents Guantánamo detainees, there is video running on prisoners in the psychiatric ward at all times, and there is a guard posted there continually, too.”[10]

Two Investigations, One Death

The same questions surrounding surveillance of the detainees also arises for the other prisoner whose death we are closely examining, Abdul Rahman Al Amri — a so-called “high-value” detainee from Saudi Arabia. One wonders how he had the time to construct a rope and noose for himself, secure it to a grating in his cell high up near the ceiling, and tie his hands behind his back and then hang himself in three minutes time, given the amount of surveillance of his person and his cell. The medical authorities I consulted say it takes at least 3–5 minutes to die when strangling oneself by partial hanging, as Al Amri is assumed to have done. (The heart may go on beating itself for some minutes more, which may be why one corpsman found a pulse on Al Amri still when discovered in his cell.)

How did Al Amri find the time to kill himself unless there was a total breakdown in camp standard operating procedures? Or is there a more sinister explanation? Intriguingly, right after Al Amri’s death, Guantanamo authorities seemed to be aware of the surveillance issue, and how it impacted explanations about his purported suicide.

In an interview published on June 9, 2007, Navy Rear Admiral Mark H. Buzby, who took command of detention operations at Guantanamo eight days before Al Amri died, told Associated Press the Saudi prisoner “‘used items that he had at his disposal there in the cell’ to kill himself but declined to give details, citing pending investigations.”

When a Rear Admiral announces the result of an investigation before it is over, and barely a week after a detainee is found dead, is there really an impartial investigation going on? Buzby then surprised everyone.

“‘There are actually two investigations going on right now to determine exactly what the circumstances were for both the guard participation and what the detainee did, to understand how he did what he did within the revisit time,’ Buzby said in the telephone interview from Guantanamo Bay.” [11] Unfortunately, I have not found evidence of an organizationally separate investigation in any of the existing documents, but Buzby’s unusual admission shows that even Guantanamo command had questions about how Al Amri’s death could have occurred.

Buzby also brought up the issue of “guard participation.” This question about what the guards did, and how Al Amri could have killed himself within the time he had outside near-constant surveillance was never broached publicly again. But it would arise again internally, as related in the chapter on Al Amri later in this book. The press, however, never brought up again this mystery surrounding Al Amri’s death.

The case of Al Amri, like Al Hanashi, involves serious problems with the presented evidence. Initially, the FOIA release of investigatory material on the deceased Saudi prisoner was terribly truncated. Only about 11 percent of all documents, or 63 out of a presumed 584 pages, were handed over in the 2016 FOIA release to this author. Much of what was released was horribly redacted. While there is still a good deal of redaction, about 80 percent of those 584 pages were released to this author in April 2017, and this revised, updated version of Cover-up at Guantanamo incorporates that new material. All documents referred to from both FOIA releases on Al Hanashi and Al Amri are available online at In this new revised edition, some links to other material is indicated in the body of the text.

According to released files from the investigation into Al Amri’s death, a piece of cloth fashioned presumably by Al Amri, or somehow used in his death, was thrown out, possibly with medical trash. Was this part of the hand bindings? Or, speculatively, was this missing piece of cloth presumably from the bed sheet in his cell used to gag or suffocate him? This possibility is explored later in the book. One new item that surfaced in the 2017 FOIA release was the fact that “medical waste” was gathered as evidence by NCIS, but they never seemed to do anything with it. It was not sent on for examination by the military forensic laboratory, for instance.

Whatever happened with the missing cloth, NCIS does not seem to have seriously followed it up. Even so, some of the witnesses tentatively speculate the missing evidence was thrown out in the trash. Just as disturbing, NCIS failed to send for forensic examination the strip of cloth used to bind Al Amri’s hands behind him, even though it had been logged into evidence, along with the “medical waste,” but like the latter, it was never sent to the U.S. Army laboratory that was processing the evidence.

In Al Amri’s case, generally speaking, laboratory evidence was not fully exploited and leads were not pursued. Important questions appear not to have been asked, such as why Al Amri died with his hands tied behind his back. Nor did NCIS document how a detainee who was heavily monitored by both guards and video camera was able to find the time to create the rope that killed him. In the new FOIA material, a NCIS investigator’s report explored some possibilities about how Al Amri could have tied a “rope” to a nearly inaccessible air vent. But the investigator had to admit, the evidence either didn’t fit, or it was merely speculative. Yet amazingly this investigator’s unsupported hypotheses became the primary narrative for the government in explaining Al Amri’s hanging.

Photo by Jason Leopold, Sept. 2014, shows air vent with tiny holes, used by permission — Link

In fact, the investigator looking at Al Amri’s death scene found the supposition that the Saudi detainee hanged himself largely implausible. The bottom of the air vent to which the “rope” was attached by at least 10 different strands was, at over 90 inches above the floor, too high up on the wall for the small-statured Al Amri to reach it, even if one takes into account the supposition of the NCIS investigator that the diminutive detainee stood up on his folded mattress to extend his reach. (As we shall see, there was no evidence that he used his mattress in such a fashion.)

Close-up of air vent, from photo above

Moreover, the tiny holes in the grating, with a diameter no larger than a straw, would have taken a great deal of time and dexterity to loop fabric through, much more time than government surveillance would allow. “It was difficult to ascertain how the cloth attachment was facilitated through gross scene examination,” the NCIS agent wrote in his report. NCIS censored photos of the air vent and the sheet-fashioned rope and knots in their FOIA release. A full discussion of the “rope” and the air vent is pursued in the chapter on Al Amri later in this book. Meanwhile, I have appealed to the Pentagon the withholding of the photographic evidence.

Even if there were no problems with how the “rope” was made or where it came from, how did a rope made of material so fragile that tape was needed by investigators to hold it together suffice to carry the weight of a man hanging himself? Or, as Guantanamo researcher Almerindo Ojeda told me, if someone was desperate enough to kill himself, and had access to a razor, why would he engage in an intricate and tricky plot to hang himself and not just take the razor and cut a vital artery?

The autopsy examiners assumed that Al Amri’s altered bed sheets were used for the hanging. But according to a summarized witness statement (pg. 7) by Maj. Gen. (ret.) Mike Dunleavy, who became commander of Guantanamo’s interrogation Task Force 170 in February 2002, the sheets used at Guantanamo were “changed” under his order “to the sheets in the federal prison system so they can’t be torn or tied.”[12]

This fact calls into question the entire narrative on Al Amri’s death, as well as that of the three 2006 Guantanamo “suicides,” who were said to have fashioned nooses, in part, out of torn bed sheets. Indeed, nine former British detainees imprisoned and later freed from Guantanamo questioned the 2006 suicides, in part, because they did not have “bed sheets that could easily be constructed into a noose.”[13]

Dunleavy’s order wasn’t the government’s only change in bed sheet policy. In a September 6, 2006 memo to the Commander of U.S. Southern Command, the portion of the Pentagon that had jurisdiction over Guantanamo, Joint Task Force Guantanamo Commander Rear Admiral Harry B. Harris, Jr. said, “as a result of the [June] 2006 suicides, bed sheets were issued each night at 2200 and collected each morning at 0500.”[14]

Other questions or evidence in the Al Amri case that should have been made available also create doubt about the verdict of suicide. How big were the air vents in the grate to which the rope was allegedly tied? Were they big enough for Al Amri to “snake a torn sheet through it to anchor” the rope?[15] Alas, the pictures taken of the cell and the air vent grating were censored in the latest FOIA release.

Maybe there was no release of any picture of the grating because it would be obvious it would be very difficult to use for the purpose of killing yourself, at least when you had only a few minutes at a time to tie material through its tiny holes, and the whole venting apparatus set over eight feet above the floor of the cell. Australian David Hicks, who spent a good deal of time in Camp 5, and found it a place for which it was impossible to plan a successful suicide, described the grating in his cell as 30 centimeters square. It was made up of “many little holes.”[16]

Even the NCIS investigator at the death scene found the issue of attaching the rope to the vent to be a conundrum, and ordered the vent removed from the cell for further examination. The results of that examination were not released. One wonders if the removal of the vent was to examine it, or destroy it.

Research Subjects and a Special Access Program

These questions of instrumentality are not the end of the mystery. The toxicology report on Al Amri showed he was tested after his death for the presence of two antimalarial drugs, chloroquine and mefloquine. Autopsy doctors uniquely singled out the testing for mefloquine, as if it were something special that needed to be tested. While quite unusual, this was not a unique case, as one of the three 2006 detainee “suicides” was also tested for mefloquine.

This was strange as there was no reason to believe that the drug mefloquine was ever taken by or applied to Al Amri or any other detainee after their initial in-processing at Guantanamo. The fact that standard operating procedures called for initial dosing for all detainees with full treatment doses of mefloquine was controversial enough, as described in the next chapter. But why would a prisoner, held for years at the Cuban base, where no cases of malaria transmission have ever been reported, have to be tested after a supposed suicide for the presence of an antimalarial drug? (And for those who might wonder, no U.S. serviceman was ever found to have contracted malaria at Guantanamo, and were not administered any antimalarial drugs to prevent a malaria outbreak.)

The inference is that some kind of medical experiment on prisoners was being run. We already know, from the U.S. Senate Church Committee investigations of the 1970s that the CIA stockpiled the antimalarial drug cinchonine as an “incapacitating agent.”[17] Were the side effects of mefloquine — a drug chemically similar to cinchonine — or even another antimalarial drug, chloroquine, used to incapacitate or disorient prisoners, or were experiments run on this? Al Amri’s death and the toxicology investigation into whether he had levels of mefloquine in his blood demand some kind of answer.[18] The silence of the medical community involved in malaria research and epidemiology to speak out on this issue is a failure of professional ethics.

Mefloquine side effects can be serious, ranging from anxiety and dizziness, to depression and psychosis. Some people are more susceptible to its effects than others. What better way to determine the differential effects of the drug than to administer to an entire population the medication and see how they react? The mass administration of mefloquine was Standard Operating Procedure for all new detainees at Guantanamo. Were Al Amri and one of the 2006 “suicides,” Ali Abdullah Ahmed, who also was tested after his death for the presence of mefloquine, discovered to be more vulnerable to mefloquine side effects? Was the drug then used in their interrogations, and was that why it was queried in the toxicology studies on only these two detainees and no other deceased detainees? If there were the presence or ongoing threat of malaria in the camps, where’s the evidence for that?

In his book on the NCIS investigation into the 2006 detainee “suicides,” Murder in Camp Delta, former Guantanamo guard Joseph Hickman hypothesized that use of mefloquine was part of a “special access program” (SAP) used to experiment with new interrogation (torture) procedures on prisoners. As such, any use of these procedures, including any deaths resulting from them, would be kept secret at top levels of classification. Hickman thought such secrecy might explain why NCIS ran such tainted investigations into the 2006 Guantanamo “suicides.”[19] Could the same have been true for Al Amri, or any of the other detainees who died ostensibly by their own hand?

Yet the reader may demand, at this point, some proof that the idea of medical experiments being undertaken has any feasible probability. Recently I came across just such circumstantial evidence in a report on alleged collaboration between the American Psychological Association (APA) and the Department of Defense and intelligence agencies with regards to post-9/11 interrogation policies that relied on torture and/or cruel treatment of prisoners. The primary author of the report, paid for by APA, was David Hoffman from the Sidley Austin law firm.[20]

According to the report, in 2003 members of the APA, consulting with an “unclassified advisory group” for the Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Behavioral Research Program, discussed the possibility of using “Guantanamo Bay subjects as data.”

That same year, at a July 18 private meeting at RAND Corporation headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, examining the “Science of Deception,” and organized by the American Psychological Association, the CIA, and RAND, the subject of doing research on detainees at Guantanamo was broached. Under discussion was the possibility of doing neural imaging to detect deception. One of those in attendance was Bruce Jessen, later exposed as a CIA contract interrogator and researcher who was intimately involved in the creation of the CIA’s infamous “enhanced interrogation” program. (His partner, James Mitchell, was also in attendance.)

According to privately circulated notes following the meeting Jessen thought it would be interesting to do research using imaging technology on federal prison guards, who he believed were very well practiced in deception. But another attendee — identified as “Helmes,” presumably Richard “Hollis” Helms, a former chief of the CIA’s European division and an early member of the CIA’s Counter-terrorism Center going back to the 1980s — offered his opinion that it might be possible to get access to Guantanamo detainees for such research. Whether they ever did get used for such research is not known for sure.[21]

Interestingly, a group composed of mostly military psychologists and some former APA officials, have released a series of formerly inaccessible private emails on their website, some of which are germane to the issue of research on detainees. In one of their releases, Centra Technologies, Inc. analyst Michael Kabrin writes to CIA contractor and RAND researcher Scott Gerwehr regarding questions Gerwehr had about “detainees and D&D.”[22] “D&D” stands here, I believe, for “Denial and Deception,” and is a term used in the intelligence community to describe intelligence community techniques in relation to the use of secrecy and deception.[23]

Kabrin wrote to Gerwehr on December 7, 2004 (ellipses in original): “As for your question regarding detainees and D&D… I think the sponsor is leaning more toward the ‘strategic’ D&D operations being carried out. Whatever thoughts and information you have to share would be great. I realize it’s a bit difficult to get data on detainees without being read in, so it might be useful to give your thoughts on tactical techniques as well.”

By “read in,” Kabrin is likely speaking to levels of classified access that allows only those with a “need to know” to be able to get information that is otherwise classified under Special Access Program or other secrecy protocols. Officials at Centra Technologies, for instance, were likely “read in” to the military and CIA’s interrogation research program. A Vice News report by Jason Leopold in July 2015[24] revealed that the CIA paid Centra $40 million dollars to help it with “administrative support and other tasks” related to the Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation into the CIA’s interrogation and rendition program. The 2004 Kabrin email strongly suggests that Kabrin and Centra employees were “read in” to aspects of research upon detainees that were of interest to RAND counterterrorism researcher Gerwehr.

In a 2012 letter written to the FBI by Nathaniel Raymond, the former director of the Campaign Against Torture for Physicians for Human Rights, Gerwehr was said to have been “contracted to work on a CIA grant related to ‘deception detection’… installing cameras at a secret, undisclosed CIA facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.”(This quote comes from a document released by the same group of military psychologists and former APA officials mentioned above. The URL for this document is

Whatever the case with Gerwehr and Centra, this was not the only time researchers discussed the possible research use of detainees who might not have adequate Geneva protections against being used in experiments, like the prisoners at Guantanamo. Participants at a National Research Council meeting in 2008 expressed concern about ethical protections for “war on terror” detainees, who could be used as experimental human subjects without their consent. But they considered a further look into such matters as “beyond the scope” of their inquiry. Interestingly, Hoffman would conclude much the same about possible research on detainees in his own investigation, i.e., such questions went beyond the bounds of his contracted investigation.

We also have the revelations published by the Washington Post in 2017 about how the CIA contract employees Mitchell and Jessen were hired to conduct “applied research” on secretly held detainees. (See footnote 137.) But I believe I’ve made my point here: it is not unreasonable to conclude that experiments were conducted at Guantanamo and other U.S. military or intelligence sites that held detainees, and others have raised the issue as well.[25]

Towards the end of this book there is a chapter on the military’s investigation into the September 2012 death at Guantanamo, also purportedly by suicide, of Yemeni detainee Adnan Farhan Abd Al Latif. This was the Army’s AR 15–6 investigation into Latif’s death, and should not be confused with any investigation conducted by NCIS (although the Army report references the NCIS investigation at times).

From FOIA materials on death of Adnan Latif, obtained by author

Like Al Hanashi, Al Latif had a long history of mental disturbance and suicidal ideation. He was found dead in his cell in Camp 5’s Alpha Block, having been moved the day before from Guantanamo’s psychiatric unit, even though prison authorities had been warned he would commit suicide if sent there. Al Latif was later determined to have died from an antipsychotic medication overdose, complicated by pneumonia.

I never filed a FOIA for the NCIS investigation into Al Latif’s death and my account is based primarily on the military’s AR 15–6 report on his death, a FOIA request for which was filed initially by reporter Jason Leopold. As I’ve already noted above, the circumstances of Al Latif’s death are pertinent to the themes raised in the deaths of the 2006 detainees, Al Amri in 2007, and Al Hanashi in 2009.

There have been other deaths at Guantanamo, as well, one of which was of an Afghan national called Inayatullah, also known as Hajji Nassim, who supposedly killed himself in May 2011. Nassim reportedly also suffered from mental illness and spent time in Guantanamo’s psychiatric ward. In February of the same year, another Afghan, Awal Gul, a purported former Taliban commander, supposedly died of a heart attack. Much earlier, in December 2007, Afghan detainee Abdul Razzak Hekmati reportedly died of colorectal cancer in Guantanamo.[26]

I have not looked at their deaths in any detail, but suffice it to say that given the poor record of providing transparency or truth by Guantanamo officials, or the government agencies investigating them, we must take the official stories about these deaths with a grain of salt.

It’s not impossible there were even more deaths at Guantanamo. At a February 19, 2002 meeting of the Armed Forces Epidemiological Board (AFEB), Captain Alan “Jeff” Yund, a preventive medicine doctor and the Navy’s liaison officer to the AFEB, discussed “mortuary affairs” at Guantanamo, part of a larger discussion on health issues at the new prison facility. He told the assembled medical officials, “[a] number of the detainees have died of the wounds that they arrived with” at Guantanamo.[27]

Photo by Jason Leopold, September 24, 2014, used by permission — Link

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.” Yund told me in December 2010 by email that he could not remember the time or place of the event where he was told of the deaths, but said it was “a detailed and fascinating account” of “events and issues” at Guantanamo. He thought he heard about the deaths from a presentation by Captain Al Shimkus, the commanding officer of the U.S. Naval Hospital in Guantanamo Bay in 2002.

Capt. Shimkus was also — though Capt. Yund evidently did not know this — the man who signed off on the mefloquine protocol as part of the in-processing standard operating procedures for new detainees at Guantanamo. In an interview with me for Truthout, Capt. Shimkus said he was told by unnamed officials back in 2002 not to discuss the mefloquine policy.[28] He also denied that he knew anything about any deaths in Guantanamo as discussed by Captain Yund.

I filed a FOIA request to the Guantanamo Naval Hospital regarding “mortuary affairs” on the issue of detainee deaths in the early weeks and months after Guantanamo was opened to “war on terror” prisoners. While the issue bounced around a lot between different departments, in the end I was told there were no documents responsive to my request. I have not been able, due to time constraints, to follow up more.

* * * *

This book contends there was a cover-up by investigative agencies, primarily the NCIS, in regards to the deaths of the Mohammed Salih Al Hanashi and Abdul Rahman Al Amri. Others have demonstrated that a cover-up around other deaths at Guantanamo, especially the three 2006 suicides, took place. The charge of cover-up seems a plausible conclusion from the facts presented, and moreover, seems to me more reasonable than other possible conclusions. Of course, there are other possible interpretations. The facts presented could represent merely accidental or chance findings, or represent evidence of simple, i.e., not criminal, negligence or ineptitude on the part of authorities. In the end, the reader will have to decide. To guard against charges of bias, I have heavily footnoted my facts and have either linked to or personally published all relevant documents.

Whatever one believes about these deaths, I believe most will find the censorship involved in these cases by the government to be atrocious. As of the date of writing, outstanding FOIA requests for the U.S. Southern Command AR 15–6 investigations into the deaths of Al Hanashi and Al Amri are still awaiting completion. A SOUTHCOM FOIA officer told me in March 2017 that the reports have been sent to the both NCIS and the Office of General Counsel for a “Security Classification Review.” The two AR 15–6 reports are said to total approximately 600 pages, and SOUTHCOM’s FOIA office advises that a release will not happen before September 2017. [As of mid-October 2017, the reports are still not released — Author’s Note] I have determined that the public should have the latest information on the Al Armi and Al Hanashi deaths and not have to wait months or years, which is the norm in investigations on national security matters. Hence I will not wait for the SOUTHCOM release to publish the book you are now reading.

As a matter of convergent validity, my analysis of the investigation into the deaths at Guantanamo are consistent with Joe Hickman’s presentation, mentioned above and at various times in this book, and with the investigation of Seton Hall Law School researchers[29] who found numerous serious issues with the NCIS investigation into the deaths of the 2006 detainees, Yasser Talal Al-Zahrani, Mani Shaman Al-Utaybi, and Ali Abdullah Ahmed (aka Salah Ahmed Al-Salami), in addition to a multitude of document releases and investigatory articles by a number of journalists.

[The rest of the book can be purchased online as either an e-book or in paperback at]

[1] Translation from Koran at Ali ‘Imran (Family of Imran), URL:

[2] See URL: (accessed June 12, 2016)

[3] Ave Mince-Didier, “The Circumstantial Evidence Jury Instruction,” Nolo, URL:

[4] Guantanamo 2004 SOP, Section 6–15 (a), as referenced in Mark Denbeaux et al., Death in Camp Delta, Seton Hall University School of Law, Center for Policy and Research, December 7, 2009, p. 51, URL:

[5] “Suicides” is in quotes because there are some real questions as to whether the deaths of three detainees in June 2006 were indeed by suicide. Their deaths were studied in detail by a former guard present the night the deaths occurred. The guard, Joseph Hickman, wrote up his findings in his 2015 book, Murder in Camp Delta: A Staff Sergeant’s Pursuit of the Truth About Guantanamo Bay, Simon and Schuster. The verdict of suicide in the 2006 deaths was also challenged in an award winning article by Scott Horton at Harper’s, “The Guantánamo ‘Suicides’: A Camp Delta sergeant blows the whistle,” Harper’s Magazine, March 2010, URL:; and in a report by Seton Hall University School of Law, Center for Policy and Research, Death in Camp Delta, December 7, 2009, URL:

[6] June 4, 2009 “Statement” of the Chief of Behavioral Health Services for JTF GTMO. See Al Hanashi documents, Part 8, pp. 16–18, URL:

[7] June 4, 2009, Guard statement. See Al Hanashi documents, Part 9, pg. 12, URL:

[8] “A conversation this side of the wire: Transcription,” UC Davis Center for the Study of Human Rights in the Americas, April 30, 2010, URL:

[9] Jeffrey Kaye, “Murder at Guantanamo?” Truthout, November 20, 2009, URL:

[10] Naomi Wolf, “What Happened to Mohamed al Hanashi?” Project Syndicate, August 31, 2009, URL:

[11] For information on how long it takes to die by hanging, see R. K. Sharma, Concise Textbook of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology, Elsevier India, 2007, p. 55.

The AP article was published as “U.S. Military Probes Guantanamo Suicide,” USA Today, June 12, 2007, URL: (accessed May 31, 2017).

[12] U.S. Army, “Enclosures to Schmidt-Furlow Report: AR 15–6 Investigation into FBI Allegations of Detainee Abuse at Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility,” June 9, 2005, URL:

[13] Feroz Abbassi, Rhuhel Ahmed, Moazzam Begg, Richard Belmar, Tarek Dergoul, Jamal al-Harith, Asif Iqbal, Martin Mubanga and Shafiq Rasul, “Former Guantanamo Britons: Statement on the Deaths in Guantánamo Bay,” Cageprisoners, June 13, 2006, URL:

[14] See, pg. SJA-3. The “SJA” in the link above refers to the Staff Judge Advocate’s office, which conducted its own investigation into the 2006 suicides.

[15] Lt. (ret.) Richard Lichten, “Jail Suicides, Attempted and Completed: Avoiding Allegations of Deliberate Indifference,” Police and Jail Procedures, Inc., undated, URL:,-attempted-and-completed-avoiding-allegations-of-deliberate-indifference.html

[16] David Hicks, Guantanamo, My Journey, Random House, 2012, p. 356.

[17] Jeffrey Kaye, “A Guantanamo Connection? Documents Show CIA Stockpiled Antimalaria Drugs as ‘Incapacitating Agents’”, Truthout, June 6, 2012, URL:

[18] While not referencing any particular detainee on the mefloquine issue, a 2013 report by the Institute on Medicine as a Profession (IMAP) and the Open Society Foundations (OSF) noted the following: “Questions have arisen about the unexplained administration of an antimalaria drug with neuropsychiatric side effects to detainees at Guantánamo, including whether there were intelligence or security reasons rather than medical reasons for doing so. As the conduct of a member of the task Force has been questioned on this subject, the task Force does not address the matter here, but urges that the circumstances of the use of mefloquine, including the reasons for choosing it, be addressed as part of the full investigation of medical practices we recommend.” See Ethics Abandoned: Medical Professionalism and Detainee Abuse in the “War on Terror,” [p. 48], URL:

[19] Joseph Hickman, Chapter 25, “The Mefloquine Motive,” Murder in Camp Delta: A Staff Sergeant’s Pursuit of the Truth About Guantanamo Bay, Simon and Schuster, 2015.

[20] David H. Hoffman, et al., Report to the Special Committee of the Board of Directors of the American Psychological Association: Independent Review Relating to APA Ethics Guidelines, National Security Interrogations, and Torture, Sidley Austin LLP, September 4, 2015, URL:

In my opinion, Hoffman’s report, though containing worthwhile material, is unavoidably compromised by conflicts of interest by both Hoffman himself and by his law firm, Sidley Austin. I explored these issues in two articles online: Jeffrey Kaye, “APA ‘Independent’ Torture Review Led by Attorney Who Worked With CIA’s Tenet,” Shadowproof, December 7, 2014, URL:, and “New Questions About Conflict-of-Interest Throw Doubt on APA’s ‘Independent Review’ of CIA Links,” Shadowproof, June 3, 2015, URL:

[21] Valtin (aka Jeffrey Kaye), “DHS Behavioral Research Group proposed ‘use of Guantanamo Bay subjects as data’”, Invictus, June 22, 2016, URL:

The 2003 CIA/APA/RAND meeting was discussed at Jeffrey Kaye, “Who Will Investigate CIA/RAND/APA Torture ‘Workshop’”? Shadowproof, November 19, 2009, URL: (accessed July 10, 2017) — The material from the meeting was made accessible to this author, but not for official citation. But I do vouch for its authenticity. The attendance of Mitchell and Jessen was made public in the Hoffman Report (see footnote 20 above).

Information about the career of Richard “Hollis” Helms can be referenced at “Bisnow on Business,” November 7, 2005, URL: (accessed July 10, 2017), and Greg Miller, “A Bold Upstart with CIA Roots,” September 17, 2006, URL:

[22] “Kabrin, Mike” to “Scott Gerwehr,” Email dated December 7, 2004, URL: (accessed August 28, 2016)

[23] “Denial and Deception,” Wikipedia, URL:

[24] Jason Leopold, “The CIA Paid This Contractor $40 Million to Review Torture Documents,” Vice News, July 27, 2015, URL: (accessed August 28, 2016)

[25] See, for instance, Scott Allen, Nathaniel Raymond, Experiments in Torture: Evidence of Human Subject Research and Experimentation in the “Enhanced” Interrogation Program, Physicians for Human Rights, June 2010, URL:; and Mark P. Denbeaux, Jonathan Hafetz, Joshua Denbeaux, et al., Guantanamo: America’s Battle Lab, Seton Hall University School of Law, Center for Policy and Research, Jan. 2015, URL:; also Jeffrey Kaye, “US Government Classifies Term ‘America’s Battle Lab’ in War on Terror’ in Pentagon Report,” Shadowproof, March 15, 2015, URL: (accessed June 26 , 2016). Most recently, Physicians for Human Rights issued yet another report about CIA experiments on detainees. See Sarah Dougherty and Scott Allen, Nuremberg Betrayed: Human Experimentation and the CIA Torture Program, Physicians for Human Rights, June 2017, URL: (accessed July 12, 2017).

[26] See Andy Worthington, “The Afghan Hero Who Died in Guantánamo,” Huffington Post, March 8, 2008, URL: (accessed July 17, 2016)

[27] Minutes, Armed Forces Epidemiological Board Meeting, February 19, 2002, URL: (accessed July 4, 2016).

See also: Jeffrey Kaye, “Unreported Detainee Deaths at Guantanamo in Jan-Feb 2002?,” Invictus, December 19, 2010, URL:

[28] Jason Leopold and Jeffrey Kaye, “Ex-Guantanamo Official Was Told Not to Discuss Policy Surrounding Antimalarial Drug Used on Detainees,” Truthout, December 20, 2010, URL: (accessed July 4, 2016)

[29] Mark Denbeaux et al., Death in Camp Delta, Seton Hall University School of Law, Center for Policy and Research, December 7, 2009, URL: