Claims made by a former detainee at the Guantánamo prison camp alleging GOP presidential candidate and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was present when detainees were tortured are “unfounded,” according to a New York Times investigation.
The Times interviewed more than 40 people who served with DeSantis at the time while looking into the claims and found none of them said they witnessed or heard of any incidents described by Mansoor Adayfi, a former Guantánamo detainee.
Adayfi alleged in an Al-Jazeera op-ed earlier this year that DeSantis was present when he was force-fed during an effort to break a hunger strike at the prison.
The interviews, coupled with an examination of DeSantis’s military records, found the allegations were unlikely to be true because the Florida governor was a junior officer at the time and typically dealt with “scut work,” one of his former colleagues said to the Times.
One Navy lawyer told the newspaper this work included making copies, collating binders and other administrative duties, and there is no reason he would be involved with the force-feeding practices at the prison.
Force-feeding has been declared as a form of torture by numerous international organizations.
Capt. Patrick McCarthy, a retired Navy officer who was a top lawyer at the base during DeSantis’s time at Guantánamo, told the Times that DeSantis would have only interacted with detainees for smaller tasks.
“Ron DeSantis was never in a position to witness the enteral feeding of detainees, or in the position to participate in an enteral feeding,” McCarthy said. “Nor was he in the position to witness or participate in the mistreatment of any detainees.”
In a 2018 interview he gave to a local CBS news station, DeSantis recalled moments when a commanding officer would ask a legal adviser how they could “combat” hunger strikes by detainees.
“Hey, you actually can force-feed,” DeSantis said the legal advisers would respond. “Here’s what you can do. Here’s kind of the rules for that.”
DeSantis was stationed at Guantanamo Bay in 2006 but has repeatedly denied the allegations, saying he “didn’t have authority to authorize anything.” He also said the claims were “totally BS,” questioning why a former detainee would even know him at the time when he was a junior officer.
The Hill has reached out to DeSantis’s campaign for further comment.