- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 1, 2006

The prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay during the war on terror have attacked their military guards hundreds of times, turning broken toilet parts, utensils and radios into makeshift weapons, Pentagon reports say.

Incident reports reviewed by the Associated Press indicate Military Police guards are routinely head-butted, spat upon and doused by “cocktails” of feces, urine, vomit and semen collected in meal cups by the prisoners.

The guards have been repeatedly grabbed, punched or assaulted by prisoners who reach through the small “bean holes” used to deliver food and blankets through cell doors, the reports say. Serious assaults requiring medical attention, however, are rare, the reports indicate.

Guards stationed at Guantanamo describe a tense atmosphere in which prisoners often orchestrate violence in hopes of unnerving their captors, especially with attacks using bodily fluids.

“I mean, seeing a human being act that way, it’s terrifying. … You are constantly watching before you take your next step to see if something is about to happen,” Navy Senior Chief Petty Officer Mack D. Keen told AP.

“You see little signs. They kind of show their hand every once in a while. They’ll take their Koran, and they’ll cover it up,” he said. “When you see a group of detainees taking their Koran and putting it away, you know something is about to happen.”

Since its creation in early 2002, the U.S. detention camp on Cuba’s coast has been a controversial symbol of the Bush administration’s war on terror, bringing accusations of prisoner mistreatment, debates on civil rights and a landmark legal battle to win rights for the detainees.

At one point, more than 600 foreign men captured in the war on terror were kept there. Many have been released to their home countries, reducing the population to about 450. Ten detainees have been charged with war crimes, but no one has been tried.

The Supreme Court has ruled that the men are entitled to lawyers and access to the courts and that the administration’s original plan to give them justice through military tribunals was illegal.

Incident reports, released under the Freedom of Information Act and reviewed by AP, provide a rare chronicle of events inside the prison from the guards’ perspective.

Entire wings of prisoners were reported to have become riotous after complaints emerged that guards mishandled a Koran or mistreated prisoners. On two occasions, however, prisoners themselves were reported to have destroyed their Muslim holy books, the reports state.

The reports detail more than 440 incidents between guards and prisoners from December 2002 through summer 2005 that resulted in recommendations of discipline, an average of about three per week. The names of guards and prisoners as well as details of the discipline meted out were blacked out by the Pentagon.

With many nearing five years in U.S. captivity, the prisoners “have a Ph.D. in being a detainee” and “know our procedures, and they try to turn them against us and try to make us question what we are doing,” said Army Lt. Col. Michael J. Nicolucci, the prison’s executive officer.

“They’ll take the smallest things, be it a piece of rust,” he said. “They told us they are going to take that piece of rust and they are going for the jugular, they are going for the eye. They know what our vulnerabilities are, anatomically speaking.”

Meal plates, shower flip-flops, cleaning brushes and other items deemed harmless in civilian life also are commonly turned into weapons, the reports said. Examples included:

• “Detainee in cell (redacted) grabbed the radio from an MP and then threw the radio at the MP. The detainee then threw rocks at the MP,” a Dec. 23, 2003, incident report stated.

• A detainee “reached out of his bean hole and attacked MP (name redacted) with a piece of metal foot pad from toilet striking him on the left hip area,” a July 15, 2005, report said.

• “Detainee broke off the top of his sink, subsequently broke out the window then began throwing the sink and pieces of pipes at the Block Guard,” a March 25, 2005, report said.

One of the most unusual incidents detailed in the four-inch stack of incident reports occurred when a detainee in the prison recreation yard assaulted a guard with a bloody tail torn from a lizard.

The detainee “caught the iguana by the tail at which time the tail detached,” the May 2005 report described. When the guard turned to talk to a commanding officer, “he felt something strike him in the lower right back” and then “saw the tail on the ground at his feet and blood was in the same area of his uniform.”

Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican and a prisoner of war during the Vietnam conflict, said the treatment of the guards has been overshadowed by the legal and political debates concerning the detainees, but he has been impressed with the guards’ professionalism.

“Our personnel there have perhaps the most difficult task you can have in the military outside of being in a combat zone. … These are bad guys and some of the most hardened of hardened criminals. And some, I think, will need to be kept permanently,” he said.

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