The 2006 deaths of three detainees at Guantanamo Bay, initially described as suicides, may actually have been murders at the hands of their guards, according to Scott Horton's new cover story in Harper's magazine. Horton reports at length and in harrowing detail at the brutal treatment of the three men, the extremely bizarre circumstances of their deaths, and why suicide was so unlikely. Supported by extensive research and unsolicited statements from several Gitmo officials, Horton describes an alleged military cover-up. Here is an excerpt:

According to the NCIS, each prisoner had fashioned a noose from torn sheets and T-shirts and tied it to the top of his cell's eight-foot-high steel-mesh wall. Each prisoner was able somehow to bind his own hands, and, in at least one case, his own feet, then stuff more rags deep down into his own throat. We are then asked to believe that each prisoner, even as he was choking on those rags, climbed up on his washbasin, slipped his head through the noose, tightened it, and leapt from the washbasin to hang until he asphyxiated. The NCIS report also proposes that the three prisoners, who were held in non-adjoining cells, carried out each of these actions almost simultaneously. [...]

Additionally, the autopsy of Al-Salami states that his hyoid bone was broken, a phenomenon usually associated with manual strangulation, not hanging. The report asserts that the hyoid was broken "during the removal of the neck organs." An odd admission, given that these are the very body parts--the larynx, the hyoid bone, and the thyroid cartilage--that would have been essential to determining whether death occurred from hanging, from strangulation, or from choking. These parts remained missing when the men's families finally received their bodies.
The story includes many revelations. Read the whole thing here or read key excerpts here, here, here, here and here. Reactions are sure to come at a slow boil for some days, but these are the first.
  • Who They Were Matthew Yglesias surveys the three detainees. "These were the kind of detainees who'd been in prison for years, but none of them had been charged with any crimes. Instead, they all found themselves in 'alpha block' because they weren't model detainees--they'd engaged in hunger strikes and other acts of protests. Their deaths were ruled suicides, and Rear Admiral Harry Harris proclaimed the suicides acts not of desperation but part of 'asymmetrical warfare waged against us.'" But if Horton's report is correct, they weren't suicides at all.
  • Secret CIA Black Site? Spencer Ackerman thinks this could be the long-rumored site. "Four former GTMO guards spoke out to Horton about what they believe was a black site -- an undisclosed detention facility -- at the base they termed 'Camp No.' It's long been believed, and even loosely reported, that the CIA operated a short-lived separate prison at GTMO. Unsure whether Camp No was that facility, but the guards who spoke with Horton say that "one theory" amongst the guards is that its wardens were CIA."
  • Full Investigation Into Bush Admin Must Be Opened The Atlantic's Andrew Sullivan calls this just the latest addition to "some of the worst crimes committed by a president and vice-president of the United States in history." He laments "the criminal cover-up under the Bush administration and the enraging refusal of the Obama administration to do the right thing and open all of it to sunlight." He writes, "This deserves to be the biggest story on the torture issue since Abu Ghraib - because it threatens to tear down the wall of lies and denial that have protected Americans from facing what the last administration actually did. [...] This case deserves a thorough and complete and exhaustive inquiry and investigation," including Bush and Cheney.