From Fishback To Hickman: The American Soldier Comes Through

GITMOHANGJohnMoore:Getty

The Harpers piece has many eye-opening details. Like so many in the military, FBI and CIA who stood up against the Bush-Cheney torture program, Army Staff Sergeant Joseph Hickman, stationed at Gitmo, is a proud conservative:

Hickman grew up in Baltimore and joined the Marines in 1983, at the age of nineteen. When I interviewed him in January at his home in Wisconsin, he told me he had been inspired to enlist by Ronald Reagan, “the greatest president we’ve ever had.” He worked in a military intelligence unit and was eventually tapped for Reagan’s Presidential Guard detail, an assignment reserved for model soldiers. When his four years were up, Hickman returned home, where he worked a series of security jobs—prison transport, executive protection, and eventually private investigations. After September, he decided to re-enlist, at thirty-seven, this time in the Army National Guard...

Sergeant Joe Hickman’s tour of duty, which ended in March 2007, wasdistinguished: he was selected as Guantánamo’s “NCO of the Quarter”and was given a commendation medal. When he returned to the UnitedStates, he was promoted to staff sergeant and worked in Maryland as anArmy recruiter before settling eventually in Wisconsin. But he couldnot for- get what he had seen at Guantánamo. When Barack Obama becamepresident, Hickman de- cided to act. “I thought that with a new administration and new ideas I could actually come forward, ” he said. “Itwas haunting me.”

This is the character of the witness who has come forward. Hickman got to know the Gitmo compound quite quickly. And he also noticed a separate building where prisoners were sometimes transported in a paddy wagon:

The compound was not visible from the main road, and the access road was chained off. The Guardsman who told Davila about the compound had said, “This place does not exist,” and Hickman, who was frequently put in charge of security for all of Camp America, was not briefed about the site. Nevertheless, Davila said, other soldiers—many of whom were required to patrol the outside perimeter of Camp America—had seen the compound, and many speculated about its purpose. One theory was that it was being used by some of the non-uniformed government personnel who frequently showed up in the camps and were widely thought to be CIA agents.

A friend of Hickman’s had nicknamed the compound “Camp No,” the idea being that anyone who asked if it existed would be told, “No, it doesn’t.” He and Davila made a point of stopping by whenever they had the chance; once, Hickman said, he heard a “series of screams” from within the compound.

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