Gitmo: Examine chief’s ‘fitness for command,’ DoD attorneys tell Hagel

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel listens as President Barack Obama speaks to media during a meeting with Hagel, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey, and...
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel listens as President Barack Obama speaks to media during a meeting with Hagel, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey, and...
Jacquelyn Martin/AP Photo

The Defense Department’s own attorneys have asked Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to “examine the fitness of Col. John Bogdan for command.” The DoD’s Office of the Chief Defense Counsel, whose members represent some of the “high value detainees” at Guantanamo Bay prison, submitted the letter on May 20 to address concerns that “relate to the treatment of all prisoners, to include the men whose internment appears to be indefinite.”

Col. John Bogdan assumed command of the Joint Detention Group in June 2012. The letter contends that the change in leadership coincided with “a serious degradation in the quality of life for detainees in Guantanamo Bay over the past year.”

In response to past hunger strikes, the command of the JDG negotiated with prisoners; Bogdan has refused any such action.  A little over two months into the hunger strike, he sent guards in riot gear to storm Camp 6 and force prisoners into solitary confinement. The strike has grown to include 103 prisoners, 30 of whom are being force fed.

The Defense Counsel suggests that Bogdan may have perjured himself under oath. Citing a Seton Hall independent investigation, the letter details Bogdan’s contradictory testimony concerning the listening devices disguised as smoke detectors in attorney-client meeting rooms:

  • No audio monitoring equipment existed.
  • The audio-monitoring equipment existed.
  • The audio-monitoring equipment existed, but an oral instruction prohibited personnel from using it.
  • The audio-monitoring equipment in place was never used.
  • The audio-monitoring equipment was only used for limited purposes.
  • The audio-monitoring equipment was rendered inoperable.
  • The audio-monitoring equipment was discovered to be broken.
  • The audio-monitoring equipment was repaired.
  • The audio-monitoring equipment was upgraded.
  • The person responsible for authorizing the repair and upgrade of the audio-monitoring equipment was unaware that the equipment existed.
  • The audio-monitoring equipment did, in fact, exist and function but the power supplies were removed once the defense attorneys discovered it.

The letter includes nearly 20 uniformed officers and civilian counsel as signatories who make six specific requests. Request #3 echoes the emergency motion filed by prisoners’ civilian counsel on May 22. It contends that the Joint Task Force’s recently adopted procedures “can only be construed to purposely and systematically harass prisoners. These procedures include daily cell shakedowns and tossing’s of prisoner’s cells.  Prisoners are subjected to degrading bodily searches even when no rational basis exists for such procedures.”

The signing parties contend that the evidence of Bogdan’s lying under oath along with his harsh response to the escalating hunger strike and rapidly deteriorating conditions at the prison warrant an examination of his leadership role.