Guantanamo filmed search of Qurans for contraband


The U.S. military filmed troops searching captives’ Qurans inside Guantanamo’s prison building for cooperative captives — an episode blamed for sparking the prison’s long-running hunger strike, a Freedom of Information request has revealed.

The prison’s chief of staff, Navy Capt. John A. Schoomer, confirmed that a single video record exists at the remote detention center in southeast Cuba, according to a July 15 response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the Miami Herald last year while more than 100 prisoners were on the hunger strike, 36 of them being force-fed.

At the time, attorneys for some of the detainees claimed that new U.S. Army guards sparked the hunger strike by desecrating Islam’s holy book in a shakedown of the captives’ belongings — a claim the prison repeatedly denied.

The Pentagon’s senior detention official also defended the search as justified because “there have, in the past, been incidents of detainees storing contraband in their Qurans” including “improvised weapons, unauthorized food and medicine” — a claim the detainees’ lawyers denied.

The Herald asked to see any video recordings of the searches to evaluate the claims.

In its refusal, issued July 15, the U.S. Southern Command’s FOIA manager, Marco I. Villalobos, invoked federal law that considered the recording itself classified as well as the identities of any prisoners and prison staff shown on it. Also, he said, the video “depicts processes and search procedures that could harm national security if released.”

The refusal is consistent with Southcom policy since December to disclose very little about the hunger strike at the prison whose motto is “safe, humane, legal, transparent detention.” The military imposed a blackout on detainee hunger strike numbers Dec. 3 after nine months of daily disclosure.

Villalobos said he considered the matter closed but gave the Herald until Sept. 13, 2014, to appeal the decision to the Pentagon.

Southcom closed the Herald’s request, dated May 30, 2013, as 16 media groups argue in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., for public disclosure of other prison video recordings that apparently depict Army troops tackling, shackling and taking a Syrian hunger striker to force-feedings administered by Navy medical staff.

Posted to: Military

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As a former correctional officer

I can say that books are without question one of the most common places to hide contraband. Whether hollowed out sections or spines, or things placed in between pages a lot of contraband can be hidden inside a book and as with any prison facility the most common book is usually a holy book of some kind. I am sorry that the inmates feel violated in their beliefs because the guards searched through their qurans, but when you are a prisoner you have no reasonable right of privacy and certainly no right to have somewhere guards can't check for things.

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