DeSantis REJECTS claims that he authorized force-feeding at Guantanamo Bay
- He said claims that he authorized the practice were “untrue.”
- He was a non-commissioned officer with no authority ‘to authorize anything’
- He said in 2018 that military lawyers advised: ‘Hey, you can actually force-feed’
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis denied in an interview that he even authorized force-feeding of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba when he was stationed there — calling the reports false.
DeSantis was asked in an interview about “rumors” that he had authorized the practice, which the Pentagon indeed approved amid hunger strikes for detainees held there for years without trial. It came during a sit-down in which he took aim at rival Donald Trump as he tried to reverse his comments that Russia’s war against Ukraine was a “territorial dispute.”
‘Yes, that’s not true. Yes,” DeSantis replied when asked by interviewer Piers Morgan on FOX Nation if he approved of the practice.
Asked if the claims that he authorized feeding were true, he added, “So I was a, I was a non-commissioned officer.” I had no authority to authorize anything. There may have been a commander who would have provided food if someone died, but that was not something I would even have had the authority to do. During his time with Gitmo in 2006, DeSantis was a Navy lieutenant as part of the Judge Advocate General’s Corps – employed by a military attorney.
“I didn’t have the authority to approve anything,” Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said in an interview when asked about allowing force-feeding of Guantanamo Bay detainees
“So that’s wrong,” he was asked.
“Yes, absolutely,” he replied.
His denial followed one Washington Post report on DeSantis’ time as Gitmo when he was 27 years old, an aspect of his service that he does not highlight in his biography (he was also deployed to Iraq).
“Detainees were tied to a chair and a tube of lubricant was put up their noses for a nurse to pour two cans of protein drink,” the report said. “The detainees’ lawyers tried but failed to stop the painful practice, arguing that it violated international torture conventions.”
The report resurfaced in DeSantis’ own words in a 2018 CBS interview, where he described his role in advising fellow troops on their interactions with detainees.
“They went on hunger strikes and you even had three detainees who committed suicide on hunger strikes. So everything was legal in nature at that time in one way or another. So the commander wants to know, “Well, how can I fight this?” So one of the legal counsel’s duties is something like, “Hey, you can force-feed, here’s what you can do. These are kind of the rules for that.”
DeSantis spent time advising U.S. troops in Guantanamo Bay. “Hey, you can actually force-feed,” he said military lawyers would advise the military commander
DeSantis said military commissions should have been set up sooner to try Guantanamo Bay detainees
He said hunger strikes were common at the time. Members of the military who operated the prison sought advice on what was allowed in the event of a hunger strike
DeSantis, who studied law at Harvard, said he supported US military commissions on detainees taken from the battlefield in Afghanistan, as well as other remote locations. Of the 780 detainees held there, 11 have been charged.
DeSantis served in the Navy’s JAG Corps
“Well, I think there should have been military commissions. I supported that… What I saw was basically a professionally run prison, and there were different types of categories [terror leader] Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, [he] will be in maximum security. Some of these other guys were like open air, playing football all day, who were considered less threatening. But what they’re trying to figure out is, “Okay, if we release this person back to Afghanistan, are they going to commit terrorism again?” he said.
When asked if, as a lawyer, he had a problem with people who were detained there for a long time, he replied: “It’s hard when you have a situation with terrorism and war, because they’re not a nation state and you can’t try them, I think, in a civilian court. So you really need military commissions. I actually thought I was going to be involved in a military commission and they really just stuttered, they didn’t get off the ground. They should have had that in effect and had it in due process, but that’s not what you’d get in a civil trial.’