Asymmetric Warfare

Asymmetric Warfare

By, Scott Buerkle

When three men escaped from Alcatraz in 1962 they constructed life-like heads out of soap and paper complete with flesh colored paint, human hair, and painted lips.  These decoys were placed in the prisoners’ cell to convince the prison guards that they were still in their bunks.  Forty-four years later the three Guantanamo detainees used a similar ruse to fool the highly-trained United States military guards at Camp Delta.  These detainees also constructed decoys, but the level of detail was far less convincing. The most elaborate decoy consisted of two water bottles, some clothing and a roll of toilet paper.  Another decoy used slightly less material and the third consisted of “almost nothing.”

In addition to the noticeably fake bodies on the bunks, the cells at Camp Delta are made of metal mesh and are designed to be easily transparent from the monitored corridor.  The bunks in the cells are just inches from the cell wall shared by the corridor, therefore the guards walking the cell block were only inches from the sleeping inmates or the decoys made of toilet paper or “nothing.”

Over the two-hour period that the detainees were hanging in their cells, numerous guards repeatedly walked up and down that corridor.  These guards were charged with the responsibility of knowing what each detainee was doing at all times.  Camp Delta Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) explicitly provide that guards walking the block must find movement or see skin of the detainees.  However, the guards did not find movement or see skin, instead the highly-trained guards, responsible for the whereabouts and safety of the detainees, were fooled for hours by paltry decoys placed only inches from their view.  In addition, each one of the three detainees’ cells had blankets hanging in a fashion that was specifically barred by the camp SOP.  This practice is barred for the exact reason for which the detainees used it, yet their presence did not inspire closer inspection by the guards.

The Camp Delta guards on Alpha Block that night performed their duties negligently by any standard.  The government failed to ask how the U.S.’s finest could be fooled by such a childish deception. Stranger yet, no soldier was held accountable for their failures that night.  An entire guard staff failed to follow orders and note movement or see skin in cells where blankets were obstructing the view of the corner of the cell.  As a result, three detainees hung lifeless for over two hours.  The United States Government determined that this failing was not worthy of any disciplinary action or even a specific inquiry as to how these guards were duped.

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