Is the Gitmo Murder-Suicide Story Bogus?

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We recently explored the horrified reaction to a blockbuster Harper's cover story on the alleged suicides at the prison at Guantanamo Bay. In the long and meticulously sourced story, author Scott Horton suggests that the detainees died at the hands of their captors. Horton also investigates what he says is a sweeping military cover-up and a nearby CIA "black site" where the incidents took place.

The story has inflamed the liberal blogosphere, with The Atlantic's Andrew Sullivan leading the pack. It has received some coverage elsewhere but not much, considering the article's harrowing revelations. Why? Slate's media critic Jack Shafer thinks it's because the story is bogus. "Horton should be grateful for the relative silence greeting his 8,000-word article. While rich in detail, the piece never comes close to making its case," he writes.

Horton, a lawyer and human-right advocate, lends unwarranted credence to the eyewitness testimony of Guantánamo guards-turned-whistleblowers and conflates hearsay and speculation into "evidence" while blithely ignoring facts and statements collected by the government. [...]

If the government's witnesses are telling the truth, then Horton's great faith in [his sources] is misplaced. If the government's witnesses are lying, then they've established some sort of world record for collusion.

Shafer goes through the piece in great detail, questioning much of Horton's reporting and analysis. Harper's has not posted a response as of this writing. However, foreign affairs and national security blogger Spencer Ackerman has.

I'm not saying the thing happened the way Horton said it did, because I don’t know. I've interviewed guards at Guantanamo and heard their frustrations, to the point where I was kind of shocked there weren't more severe beatings at the hands of 19 year olds who have cocktails of excrement thrown at them. [...]

Shafer’s piece would make a lot more sense if we didn’t go through five years of revelations about torture — but maybe then he wouldn’t have written this in the first place.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.