Hearty congratulations to Nation Institute fellow Scott Horton, who has won a National Magazine Award in the reporting category, which honors reporting excellence as exemplified by one article or a series of articles. The winners were announced last night at an awards ceremony in New York City. Horton won for his Harper's article, "The Guantánamo Suicides: A Camp Delta Sergeant Blows the Whistle."
In the story, Horton uncovers the disturbing cover-up of three violent deaths in 2006 of inmates at Guantánamo as "suicides." Horton writes that "new evidence [is] now emerging may entangle Obama's young administration with crimes that occurred during the George W. Bush presidency, evidence that suggests the current administration failed to investigate seriously — and may even have continued — a cover-up of the possible homicides of three prisoners at Guantánamo in 2006."
Foreign Policy interviewed Horton about his article on their website. In response to a question about the difference between the Bush and Obama administrations, he says:
[The] Bush and Obama Administrations have more or less the same attitude about accountability for the mistreatment of prisoners connected with the "war on terror" — they condemn it officially but believe that those in senior positions must be fully protected from any meaningful review or punishment. "Don't look back" is the Obama motto — which poses a dilemma for law enforcement since, aside from the world of science fiction, all crime occurs in the past. But I have to acknowledge that the Obama Administration overhauled the standards for prisoners in its first six months, and this resulted in a sharp decline in reported incidents of abuse at Guantánamo and in Afghanistan. That being said, there are still some troubled spots — such as the forced-feeding program at Gitmo and the JSOC-run "black prison" at Bagram, where I am skeptical about the extent of changes.
The deaths in detention are particularly worrisome. On one hand, suicides are a problem common to prisons everywhere, and particularly so when the conditions of internment heighten despair (as when there is no prospect of release). On the other hand, prisons around the world routinely press claims of suicide to cover deaths in detention since that may be the least horrible explanation for the deaths. These two considerations have to be held in balance when deaths in detention are studied. I am very concerned about the deaths associated with the forced-feeding program at Guantánamo. It remains enshrouded in unjustifiable secrecy and it merits much closer study. Something is plainly wrong about this program.
Among the winners were New York and Los Angeles magazines, Atul Gawande for his New Yorker article, "Letting Go," and Christopher Hitchens for three columns in Vanity Fair. National Geographic was named magazine of the year.