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Klippenstein writes: "RSN interviewed Joseph Hickman, a former Guantanamo staff sergeant and author of the recently published book, 'Murder at Camp Delta: A Staff Sergeant's Pursuit of the Truth About Guantanamo Bay.'"

Joseph Hickman was a guard at Camp Delta. (image: Ziv Koren/Polaris/Joseph Hickman/Newsweek/RSN)
Joseph Hickman was a guard at Camp Delta. (image: Ziv Koren/Polaris/Joseph Hickman/Newsweek/RSN)

Guantanamo Whistleblower: Guards Rehearsed for Reporter Visits Weeks in Advance

By Ken Klippenstein, Reader Supported News

16 February 15


SN interviewed Joseph Hickman, a former Guantanamo staff sergeant and author of the recently published book, “Murder at Camp Delta: A Staff Sergeant’s Pursuit of the Truth About Guantanamo Bay.” In the book, Hickman alleges that three Guantanamo detainees were murdered at a CIA black site, and that this was later covered up, the deaths portrayed as suicides.

[The transcript below has been lightly edited for readability.]

Ken Klippenstein: What effect do you think Guantanamo has had on the United States’ national security?

Joseph Hickman: Guantanamo breeds terrorism. A lot [of detainees] were not terrorists, but when they leave, they (and their families) are going to hate America. It gives extremist groups a recruiting tool, which they can use to show how bad America is to Muslims.

KK: What did blowing the whistle mean for your career?

JH: It certainly didn’t help. It was a hard thing to do. But I’ve never considered myself a whistleblower; I don’t consider myself in the same league as people like Thomas Drake or John Kiriakou. I was just a soldier trying to report a war crime. Those guys [Kiriakou and Drake] really paid a big price.

KK: Your thoughts on the John Kiriakou case?

JH: I’m outraged by the fact that he went to jail. He was the first one to reveal waterboarding. He did it in such a way that it raised public debate over the fact that we were waterboarding. He automatically became a target for the government; he didn’t get a fair trial at all. They took away any means he had to defend himself. It was horrible what happened to him.

When Kiriakou tells Snowden not to come to the U.S. because he won’t get a fair trial, I think Snowden should listen.

KK: Do whistleblowers in defense agencies ever get fair trials?

JH: It’s really hard for a whistleblower to get a fair trial. It’s almost like committing character suicide to come forward with something you see that’s wrong. They’re going to destroy you – or at least try to – instead of fixing the problem at hand. They never want to admit they’re wrong. It’s a very brave and courageous thing to do to become a whistleblower, but it’s almost like you have to be a little crazy to do it, too.

KK: The Obama administration says the government has all these whistleblower protections, and that Snowden would’ve been safe if he had simply informed his superiors. Do people in the military take for granted that these protections aren’t very serious?

JH: Oh, you know in the military they’re not serious. You know if you go against your command, you’re going to pay a price. You know the chain of command is going to come down on you hard.

When Barack Obama said that Snowden should come back and stand trial, that was a ridiculous thing for him to say. Snowden would go to jail for at least a year and a half before he even saw a courtroom. I got frustrated when I heard [Obama] say that.

KK: Comment on the effects of so-called “no touch torture” [e.g. stress positions, sensory deprivation, etc.].

JH: I’m not an expert, but I can tell you that when you bring a body to complete muscle failure over and over again, it’s got to have an effect. What those torture methods are meant to do is exhaust you to the limit to where your body fails.

KK: Many criticize torture for failing to produce actionable intelligence. Do you agree?

JH: I do. I don’t think torture produces actionable intelligence, but I don’t think that should be the question we raise. The question should be, should torture be permissible even if it does produce actionable intelligence? Should we stoop that low?

KK: Is the point of torture perhaps not to produce intelligence, but just to extract false confessions?

JH: I don’t think so. I think at first that they want actionable intelligence, but once they realize they don’t have who they thought they have, then they’re looking for what you’re saying – to save face. That was the case with Abu Zubaydah.

KK: How serious is press scrutiny in Guantanamo?

JH: They try, but it’s a joke. When a reporter goes to Guantanamo, that whole visit is completely rehearsed weeks in advance. I’ve watched several times, from the tower, the escort group practice days prior for the reporters.

Escorts even try to sound spontaneous: “Why don’t we go over here, see what’s happening here?” It’s all rehearsed – every bit of it.

KK: I assume the reporters eat it up?

JH: They do. They eat it up.

The only time I’ve ever seen the command shaking in their boots was the time Ted Koppel was coming down. They were scared to death of Ted Koppel for some reason. I don’t know if [Koppel] had information or sources, but they practiced two weeks in advance. The whole place was cleaned up. They were scared to death of him.

KK: When the three detainees died, they just kicked out the entire press corps?

JH: They threw them off the island right away. They didn’t want the wrong soldier saying the wrong thing to them. It was pretty obvious.

KK: What else can you tell us about how Guantanamo guards would rehearse for journalist visits?

JH: When Ted Koppel came, they cleaned every inch of Camp Delta. They practiced “spontaneity.”

KK: Were there any journalists in particular who leadership thought, “Well we don’t have to worry about this guy”?

JH: Bill O’Reilly. The night he came, the command was actually having a party at the admiral’s house because they knew they were going to get such good press coverage from O’Reilly.

KK: You mentioned that your superiors would reference the NSA’s spying capabilities as a threat to prevent guards from talking to journalists. How often would that happen?

JH: They told us that throughout the year. They told us that the NSA has a facility in Guantanamo.

KK: Did that make guards nervous?

JH: You get desensitized to it, you get used to it. At first it’s very uncomfortable.

KK: When your superiors gave you a direct order not to speak about the three detainee deaths, what are the consequences if you disobey that?

JH: You could be fined, put in prison; it’s very serious.

KK: Did you find that all the whistleblower prosecutions under the Obama administration inspired you or intimidated you?

JH: Thomas Drake inspired me.

KK: So the whistleblower prosecutions can have the opposite effect of what the government intends, by inspiring people instead of suppressing them?

JH: Yeah.

KK: What were some differences between your preconceptions about Guantanamo, before you saw it for yourself, and the reality of it?

JH: The first difference was the standard of living for the detainees. It was far worse than I could’ve ever imagined. When you watch them in their cells, just pacing back and forth, you’re reminded of animals in a zoo.

Ken Klippenstein is a staff journalist at Reader Supported News. He can be reached on Twitter @kenklippenstein or email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News. your social media marketing partner


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+22 # ritawalpoleague 2015-02-16 14:39
It was absolutely not accidental that so honored whistleblower, Daniel Ellsberg, joined with other greater than great plaintiffs in the 'trial of the century, Hedges, et. al. v. Obama, et. al.. Plaintiffs include Pulitzer Prize winning journalists, and active and courage plus peace and justice activists (now labeled 'terrorists' in this Bushwhacked and Oh Bomb Ah'd, so broken down anything but a democracy POLICE STATE AIN'T GREAT).

Lots and lots more whistleblowers, truth telling and outing journalists, and courage plus activists we need these so dreadful days. Loads and loads of courage and determination it's gonna take to reinstate constitutional rights, and...OCCUPY LIBERTY AND JUSTICE FOR ALL.
+31 # tm7devils39 2015-02-16 14:41
Don't pay any attention to the guy behind the curtain...
The Lie Curtain is more insidious and ruinous than the Iron Curtain was.
+24 # PABLO DIABLO 2015-02-16 14:47
+36 # Anonymot 2015-02-16 14:59
Thank you, Mr. Hickman. I regret that our country put you to such a test, that our leaders elected, appointed or employed have failed us, have failed Democracy, and have created a pre-state of democratic fascism.

IF it's not too late to stop them, it will be because more people from the inside, like you, come forth.
+39 # Radscal 2015-02-16 15:02
Joseph Hickman is another Hero, along with his role model, Thomas Drake and John Kiriakou, Sibel Edmonds, Karen Kwiatowski, Coleen Rowley, Willima Binney, Mark Klein, Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden.

Their brave exposures of National Security State malfeasance gives me hope.
+17 # dickbd 2015-02-16 15:50
Don't forget Ralph McGehee, who wrote DEADLY DECEITS: MY 25 YEARS IN THE CIA. He followed all of the rules and let the CIA go over his manuscript, but in an appendix he explains what that entailed, and he gives references to the information blocked out that can be found in other places.

This is a great book for those who hate the CIA, and I, for one, would like to see the organization disbanded as counterproducti ve (along with the DEA).

But my point is that McGehee was an All American football player and a Rhodes scholar, and he joined the CIA out of patriotism in 1952, so he is hard to impeach. And it is worth acknowledging what he did. Anyway, I heartily recommend his book.
+14 # Merlin 2015-02-16 17:33
He speaks to 3 things that really need more exposure in my view.

1. The idea that We The People can trust the press reports of the reporters that went to GITMO and “witnessed” the camp in its “normal” every day functioning. As he reports, they were set up and duped by the High Command to see “Hollywood in action.” The roles assigned were practiced much like any Hollywood script. They saw a movie, not reality. So even those that would report accurately, (Perhaps like Koppel,) will be reporting “accurately" on a fantasy. They become no more than movie reviewers by another name.

It is fascinating that the High Command was scared to death of Koppel, while O’Liely was partied over! That point also goes to the destruction of faux noise as any kind of real news. We know that faux is the rethug trumpet, but real proof is hard to come by. Here is proof of it, from someone who witnessed the whole farce first hand from the inside. It is hard to argue with this! 

2. He points out the reality of the extreme difficulty of speaking the truth. Never mind speaking it to power! People like sHillary, and obummer, who spout crap about “going through the system" or the normal chain of command, and being safe, are shown again, (as if we needed more proof,) to actually be worse than liars! They set tricks and traps to ensnare the budding whistleblower to “do it the right way.” Patriotism, guilt and shame, along with fear, are the tools.

+16 # Merlin 2015-02-16 17:34

“Come into my parlor, said the spider to the fly!"

Bastards, all of them! Flying under the colors of phony patriotism!!! And then they run for POTUS.

3. He addresses the common misunderstandin g that the “no touch torture”  metho ds are harmless. As he puts it:

"What those torture methods are meant to do is exhaust you to the limit to where your body fails.”

"The body fails!”… These torture techniques are devastating to the body and more importantly, to the mind. Even if the body fully recovers, the mind retains the effects. PTSD is what they call it these days. The public is fed the bullshit from people like Limpballs, that the torture being given is not bad at all! It is no more than college hazing! He actually said that! To me that is criminal and although no actual prosecution of Limpballs can take place, he should be “prosecuted” in the “court” of world opinion for the horrible psychopath that he is.
+14 # Kamaki 2015-02-16 20:08
Great work....Just PLEASE add-frequently- the cost to us of this shit. You may not be a humanitarian, but you're probably a taxpayer...& it's $1.26 MILLION/year for EACH prisoner!!!
-2 # Firebird 2015-02-19 15:24
How much did we spend to fly Obama around the country fund raising. I would rather spend it on Gitmo, then Obama making his everyday trips. Does he ever worry about the traffic mess he creates whenever he visits a large city. I don't think he cares. Would someone please show him his office. He knows where the golf course is.
0 # ThorunnPS 2015-02-23 08:41
Not relevant, even if true. Just shows the arrogance that the wielding of power creates in all but very exceptional people.
+6 # dquandle 2015-02-18 04:49
The point of torture is torture.
-4 # Firebird 2015-02-19 15:21
Bunch of baloney. Waterboarding is not torture, when completed you have no effects. It is not fun, but a long way from torture. My opinion, leave them locked up till hell freezes over and then send them there.
0 # ThorunnPS 2015-02-23 08:39
And you know this how? Unless you have personal experience which you are willing to give convincing proof of, you are just one more deluded, desensitized pawn of the Powers That Be.
0 # bloodypitchfork 2015-02-26 07:19
Says another Milpropaganda shill...

now slither on back to that cesspool you crawled out of.. but clean up your slime trail first, schmuck.

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