By Dan Christensen, FloridaBulldog.org
Before he was governor, before he was a congressman, Ron DeSantis was a Lt. Commander and JAG lawyer in the U.S. Navy, serving at the Guantanamo Bay terrorist detention camp in Cuba and Fallujah during the Iraq War.
Not much is known about DeSantis’s duties at those locations. DeSantis has released only limited highlights of his military career – noting in a speech, for example, that he spent Christmas 2006 in Guantanamo without his family – and has declined repeatedly to be interviewed about it, most recently to Florida Bulldog. His official biography, cited by Wikipedia and other information sources, touts that he “still serves in the U.S. Navy Reserve,” but the Navy says otherwise.
A Navy data sheet about DeSantis provided to Florida Bulldog last week lists his separation date from the Navy as Feb. 14, 2019 – a month after his first inauguration. “He’s not active or reserve. He’s not a member of the Navy anymore,” said U.S. Navy spokeswoman Lt. Alyson Hands.
Forty-two pages of heavily censored U.S. Navy records released to the Florida Phoenix during DeSantis’s 2018 gubernatorial campaign say his naval duties included things like assistant urinalysis coordinator. At Guantanamo, where hundreds of people scooped up in the George W. Bush administration’s post 9/11 War on Terror were held indefinitely without trial and amid multiple allegations of torture by the International Committee of the Red Cross and others, the Phoenix reported the records showed that from March 2006 through early January 2007 “DeSantis’s primary duty was a trial counsel – meaning a prosecutor. The record also showed that DeSantis was described as a ‘JTF-GTMO [Joint Task Force Guantanamo] scheduler/administrative officer.’” No further details were released.
The Tampa Bay Times reported the same year that several retired naval officers who served at the detention camp at the same time as DeSantis, including some who worked with him, said his role with the Judge Advocate General (JAG) corps of military lawyers “was to advocate for the fair and humane treatment of the detainees to ensure the U.S. military complied with the law.”
DESANTIS’S ALLEGEDLY DARK ROLE AT GUANTANAMO
Now, however, an ex-Guantanamo detainee has come forward to allege that DeSantis actually had a much darker role at Gitmo. And his disturbing accusations about DeSantis have yet to be reported by any national or Florida-based news outlet despite the governor’s well-known presidential ambitions.
Mansoor Adayfi, formerly detainee #441 and also known as Abdul Rahman Ahmed, says JAG Officer Ron DeSantis observed, allowed and participated in illegal acts of torture to help put down a hunger strike in 2006 by dozens of detainees protesting their detention. DeSantis also covered up the torture, Adayfi says.
The Yemen-born Adayfi, held for 14 years without charges, was released in 2016 and flown to Serbia to start a new life after a review board determined he was not a threat to the U.S. He made his allegations about DeSantis in a Nov. 18 interview podcast of Eyes Left, hosted by U.S. Army veteran and anti-war activist Michael Prysner, a graduate of Florida Atlantic University.
“I saw a fucking handsome person who was coming. He said, ‘I’m here to ensure that you’re treated humanely.’ And we said, OK, this is our demand, you know. We’re not asking for much,” Adayfi said. He said DeSantis went on, “And if you have any problems, if you have any concerns, if you have…just talk to me.’ And you know we, we, we, we’re drowning in that place. I’m like, ‘Oh, this is cool.’ That person actually writing something. He will raise the concerns, but it was [a] piece of the game. What they were doing, they were, they were looking what’s [going to] hurt you more, to use against you.”
Adayfi, now 44, said DeSantis watched with amusement as he and other detainees were repeatedly force-fed Ensure, a “meal replacement” shake, through a nasal feeding tube pushed down their throats.
‘I THREW UP ON HIS FACE’
“Ron DeSantis was there and watching us. We were crying, screaming. We were tied to the feeding chair and that guy; he was watching that. He was laughing basically when they used to feed us, because…our stomach cannot hold this amount of Ensure. They used to pour Ensure, one can after another, one can after another. So, when he approached me, I said this is the way we are treated. He said, ‘You should start to eat.’ …I threw up on his face. Literally on his face.”
DeSantis’s office did not respond to several requests for comment this week. However, shortly after his election to Congress in 2012 he told PBS NewsHour his time serving in the Navy shaped him as a leader. He told PBS that senior officers are accountable for getting their job done because there are consequences if it’s not done well.
“You need to be accountable, if you need to pass the budget, you got to do it from a military perspective that there are consequences,” said DeSantis.
According to Prysner, Adayfi wouldn’t speak directly to Florida Bulldog because of a prior bad experience with a journalist. But Prysner said Adayfi recognized DeSantis after the governor rose to national prominence amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Adayfi did not previously know DeSantis’s name. DeSantis, like all the other JAG lawyers, don’t use their real names while stationed at Gitmo, according to Seton Hall University law professor Mark Denbeaux, the lead lawyer for “high value” detainee Abu Zubaydah, and Joseph Hickman, a former U.S Army team leader and Sergeant of the Guard at Gitmo.
“Nobody down there does,” said Denbeaux. “They’ll use Greek mythological characters or Indian names or make up names. They don’t want the detainees or anyone else to know who they are. That secrecy is a big problem…I’ve never seen that reported.”
DESANTIS DIDN’T USE HIS NAME IN GUANTANAMO
“DeSantis was using a number,” said Hickman, who recognized DeSantis after he became governor in 2019. “You remember him because he was good looking. He was a nice guy. A jock. I’d see him running on the base…As far as him being involved, I don’t think he was. He was way too young and green in the JAG Corps to be involved in anything.”
According to the Navy, DeSantis was commissioned as an officer on April 26, 2004, a year before he graduated from Harvard Law School. Upon graduation, DeSantis became a student at Officer Training Command in Newport, RI. In December 2005 he was assigned to the Trial Service Office, Southeast Detachment in Mayport, Fl.
DeSantis arrived in Guantanamo three months later. He was 27.
Retired Navy Captain Patrick McCarthy, a staff judge who supervised DeSantis during his time at Guantanamo, told the Tampa Bay Times in 2018, “He was one of the folks I recall vividly, a can-do guy and a young officer I could trust and rely on…He had very good judgment.”
The paper reported that DeSantis “was among the officers who traveled to and from Guantanamo on at least three short, temporary assignments, a few weeks or months in length. As part of the detention center’s legal arm, McCarthy and his team were charged with ensuring the detainees received rights afforded under Department of Defense regulations and policies as well as Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, which provides rules on how to humanely treat detainees like those at Guantanamo Bay.”
That is, suspected al Qaeda members and other “enemy combatants” who were not part of any country’s standing army.
U.S. ASSESSMENT OF ADAYFI CHANGES
The Guantanamo detention camp was established by the Bush Administration four months after 9/11. The New York Times reports the camp held 780 detainees at its height but that today only 35 remain. Of those, 12 have been charged with war crimes. Two have been convicted and 10, including alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, await trial.
After Adayfi’s January 2002 capture, he was labeled a “high risk” threat and thought to be something of a prize. A 2008 Department of Defense Assessment states, “Detainee is an admitted member of al-Qaida who possessed prior knowledge of the 11 September 2001 attacks as well as other planned attacks against US interests. Detainee was identified as a commander of evacuating front line forces assessed to be Usama Bin Laden’s (UBL) 55th Arab Brigade during hostilities against US and Coalition forces, and was indirect communication with UBL.”
The Guantanamo review board’s Oct. 28, 2015 determination that Adayfi, who learned English while a prisoner, should be released “to a country other than Yemen with appropriate security assurances,” included a significantly different assessment: “In making this determination, the Board noted that the detainee was probably a low-level fighter who was aligned with al-Qaida, although it is unclear whether he actually joined that group, and that he has no known ties to extremism.”
Adayfi’s account: He wasn’t captured on the battlefield. He’d traveled to Afghanistan as a teacher’s research assistant and was kidnapped by warlords and held for ransom. After 9/11, at age 23, he was sold to the CIA in exchange for a cash bounty.
A ‘LANDMARK’ MEMOIR
Since his release, Adayfi has kept a high profile. He tweets regularly and in August 2021 published a memoir: Don’t Forget Us Here: Lost and Found at Guantanamo. Pulitzer-Prize winning biographer Ron Chernow has called it a “landmark work.”
“Mansoor Adayfi gives us a guided tour through the nightmarish landscape of Guantánamo. He tells a tale of both casual cruelty and organized sadism that should make every American politician redden with shame,” Chernow wrote.
The book makes no mention of DeSantis. According to Prysner, that’s because it was written before Adayfi made the connection between the “handsome man” he’d vomited on while being force-fed in Guantanamo and the Republican Party’s now rising star.
Prysner said Adayfi is currently writing another book about his experiences that will include DeSantis.
In the Eyes Left podcast, Adayfi went on for several minutes about his recollections of DeSantis.
“The feeding chair was like, you know, like 8 point. They tied our heads, our shoulders, our, our wrists, our thighs and our legs and they came and they would really speak to you…And they kept doing this over and over again. And they put some kind of laxative in the feeding liquid. We’re like shitting ourselves all the time. Then we would be moved to a solitary confinement, really cold cells. If we throw up then, we used to get to like five times a day. This wasn’t feeding it was just, it was torture.”
‘EAT, EAT, EAT’
Guards brought in Ensure by the case, Adayfi said.
“So we couldn’t handle it for five days…They just kept pouring the Ensure and in one week they break all the hunger strikers. In one week, totally. It was a mission and he was there. All of them were/was watching, the colonel, officers, you know, doctors, nurses. And not just that, they used to also beat us and if we scream or pain, bleeding came out from our nose and mouth. They’re like eat. The only word they told you, eat, eat, eat. You know, we were beaten all day long, all day. There’s a team. Whatever you do they just beat you, pepper spray, beating, sleep deprivation. That continued for three months. And he [DeSantis] was there because at the beginning he told us that he was there to ensure we are treated humanely.”
“Ron DeSantis was there all the time because his job [was] to walk around and talk to prisoners in the camp,” Adayfi said. “I’m telling Americans if this guy, if this is humanity. This guy is (a) torturer, is a criminal.”
“They were asking us to eat because they took our hunger strike as if it was a challenge and they want to break it because when he was there, they were looking at us and laughing because also we were shitting on ourselves. And he was laughing because when I was like screaming and yelling because when, when, when your stomach is full of Ensure you couldn’t breathe and you throw up at the same time.”
Adayfi said DeSantis was likewise amused when the Guantanamo team began later to insert thicker plastic tubes with metal ends into his nostril to deliver the Ensure, also causing his nose to bleed. “It hurt like hell and I was screaming,” he said. “I look at him and he was actually smiling like as someone who [was] enjoying it. When he come close, I just throw up in his face because I was throwing up all the way. And I get punished. They took my clothes…This is the memory of this person.’’
Adayfi said that when he showed DeSantis’s photo to other former Guantanamo detainees on a shared social media site, they “started cursing him. He’s one of the worst people.”
“One of the things that hurt us. When someone can tell you that I’m here to help you. I’m here to ensure that you’re treated humanely. And when he turn against us, not against, when he turn his face, his true face, it was a shock to us all. Because he used to talk to the prisoners. He had like a notebook and would ask the prisoners, Do you have any problems? How can I help you? How the guards treating you? And I like, wow, thanks. And everything we told him was turned against us.”
Adayfi cited several examples.
After detainees complained to DeSantis about how the guards had used noisy vacuums, generators and fans to keep them awake at night, he said, “they increased the noise.” When detainees told DeSantis they don’t eat meat, “they used to mix all the food with meat so that you cannot eat.”
And then, he said, there was desecration of the Muslim holy book, the Qur’an. “When I talked to him about it, he said he was looking at the impact on you. What hurts you more.”
Lou / January 26, 2023 9:14 am
A non-story. Terrorists always lie. It is interesting to note that the 180 degree turn on this prisoner came about under Obama, who was trying his best to empty Gitmo.
Tony Montana / January 26, 2023 9:40 am
So you mean to tell me. The only person that the toughest guy at guantanamo is scared to death of is Greg Toney??? I despise Toney, but have to giggle like a chick knowing that Desantis runs like a chicken when Toneys name is mentioned.
Lynne Helm / January 26, 2023 9:44 am
Wow … worthy of further scrutiny for sure. Thank you, Dan, and may you keep digging.
Ann Feltgen / January 26, 2023 9:56 am
Well, here it is!! Let’s hope he’s toast.
Jackson Rip Holmes / January 26, 2023 10:27 am
Ron DeSantis definitely has a cruel streak in him, ala his treatment of immigrants.
Thank you for this important article.
I personally believe Ron DeSantis, like so many, has had an “Awakening”, after 2005, as to what really happened on 9/11.
I would love to know if he doesn’t regret the beliefs he held during his period as a JAG Officer.
cap peterson / January 26, 2023 10:56 am
I heard he was a pushover and treated prisoners like Andy and Barney did with Otis in Mayberry
MR / January 26, 2023 11:20 am
I’m sorry, but there is no way I would base my opinion on what one former prisoner says. Especially after what others of his nationality did and wanted to do to us in 9/11.
SP / January 26, 2023 11:37 am
Sorry. Not buying what you are selling. If this was such a big deal then why was it not reported earlier than now. Hard to believe the story especially when the known participants have an axe to grind. Especially those that are A) A known combatant/enemy B) A known antiwar spokesman C) Third hand hearsay because the main character won’t talk D) Wikipedia is such a reliable source. I could go on. This is nothing more than a lame attempt at a smear. Welcome to modern American politics.
Smitty Wilson / January 26, 2023 11:45 am
Oh please Dan, don’t always wear your DNC lapel on the jacket for us, report some real news and not some discredited weak gossip from a terrorist. Why don’t you do an expose on Frank Biden’s role in a local law firm even though he is not a lawyer. What does he do at the firm? Report on that for something that is both local and newsworthy.
Patti Lynn / January 26, 2023 1:29 pm
Hopefully, there will be more information which will either substantiate, or disprove, the report. Mr. Adayfi is not the only detainee who alleged that there was torture there. We Floridians have seen his cruel streak, but, perhaps it is only aimed at Floridians.
Grim / January 26, 2023 5:25 pm
My roomie said ” he’s dumb” ..
Then came the maga-parents @ schools in FL , threats etc. The Crumblies” ? boy that shot up Oxford HS up north.. they were from FL , had $ but the woman went maga insane; pretty much allowed the boy to spiral into depression / find gun..
THEN or just before that R0n said ” – thwart FBI investigating parents”
!? and yeah that’s post Bvsh crime fam era’ product for you; and his dad is all pro-trvmp etc. (wikipedia the gang) Pro- pvtin and foreign fash like Orban. It’s not hard to see they do not want U.S. to be actually free” .
They just want to sell their wares” and grift.. and control oh I dunno lucrative cannabis etc..
Curaleaf is russian gazprom guy and Pvshaw is crazy antisemite.. what else could go wrong?
Sure been a rash of murder suicides and murder in general on the ‘ anti woke admin watch.
Savdis $ .. Bozonarco from Brazil hiding out in O Town . ODD” .. no good.
Remember when the Savdi shot up the Air Force museum or something.. not a peep.
Nor about MAJOR WAR in Ukraine. Also says alot.. how one could be silent on that.
Tony Montana / January 26, 2023 6:44 pm
I’ll say this to those of you that worship at Desantis’ alter. I voted for him, so I’m not a leftist bed-wetter. But he has gone rogue, and has attacked with reckless abandoned, to wipe out anything he doesn’t like. He is removing people for nothing more than a political hardon. Even those that his beloved floridians have elected multiple times, have gotten the axe. Right now you don’t care about his ruthlessness because you don’t like the people or issues he’s attacked. But he isn’t going to stop here.. And he will soon go after people and positions that YOU elected and feel strongly about. When he violates your will and your votes no longer count, what will you do then? Because it will be too late to put the genie back in the bottle. He is already trying to change the law so he doesnt have to resign to run for president. Doesnt that bother anyone??
Maybe he’d like to be governor AND president. Look at the president of Nicaragua and north Koreas leader. Think it can’t happen here? He has shown he won’t hesitate to manipulate the law, or ignore it all together, to get what he wants. Screw the people, screw their votes, screw their will… screw them all. “Im Desantis and I’m pretty much a God.” Again, you may be in love because you agree with what he’s attacking. But what will you do when you don’t agree with his next target? When he says to hell with the will of the people and hits something near and dear to your heart. Maybe it will be you or your family. Then what will you do? I dont disagree with everything he’s done. But I am very concerned with his crush and destroy attitude especially when it comes to the election process, because that’s really all we have left anymore. We’ve got to stick together guys, because we are being played by both sides.
Montgomery J Granger / January 27, 2023 8:28 am
Unlawful combatant Islamists who want to kill us, held at the US military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, are TRAINED to LIE if captured. Having served there in the early days, as the ranking US Army Medical Department officer with the Joint Detainee Operations Group, I can tell you that all detainees were treated with dignity and respect by military members. Any abuse, however small, was immediately addressed and perpetrators disciplined and sent home. I witnessed the very first intubation (humane feeding) of detainees at Gitmo, and it was done with great humanity and care. Intubation is routinely done for premature infants and those in comas, et. al. There were teams of guards used to control disobediently violent detainees, but all within the rules of war. Each incident was video taped and reviewed for violations and unnecessary brutality.
frank / January 27, 2023 10:36 am
MAGAts are the ones who are trained to lie. They have to uphold the criminals so they lie for them. DeSantis/Pushaw hired 75,000 paid trolls to help whenever there isa article about DeSantis,. They work from a script and you know it right away.
DeSantis changed in 1 year. He went from what In would say was a competent governor to a hard line MAGAt. He will never make it outside of FL. No one was his authoritarianism. He can;’t even come up with his own laws. He copies everything for Authoritarian Hungary leader Vitor Orban. watch Orban site, If he does it, you can be sure DeSantis will do the same.
Orban in interviews said that “you have to give them words.They don’t understand but if you give them a word they keep repeating it.” This describes the red meat BS that Desantis throws for his ignorant MAGAts.
Steve Stephens / January 27, 2023 3:05 pm
It could be a fabrication, but how would we really know? Prisoner’s do lie. But on the other hand, they are all to often treated inhumanly. It happens often, and isn’t always reported. Why? Because there are no “credible “ witnesses. Nobody will believe the inmates. So this type of stuff will continue. I wouldn’t put it past DeSantis doing despicable things, and that he and his fellows got away with it.
George / January 29, 2023 8:41 am
About six years ago I read the bio of desantis. Navy reserve, sent to gitmo to preserve the rights of the detainees. I thought he must be a good “letter of the law” guy.
Somehow that info has been scrubbed from the internet. Now he is a gitmo prosecutor who worked with navy seals in a war zone.
From pencil neck do gooder to Rambo on steroids! Quite a job of rebranding.
Idont Dare / January 29, 2023 11:25 am
Seriously… I have been challenging investigative journalists to dig deep on DeSantis and you are the only one to even try and you already know that he will attempt to destroy you so good luck.
DeSantis has already betrayed himself with his choice of actions. He’s proven himself a bully that wants even more power. Keep digging. The fact that GITMO even EXISTS is shameful. And what did he do at ABU GHRAIB where he ended up next?
He has proven to be a TERRIBLE GOVERNOR. Just look what’s happening in Florida!
Gary McSpadden / January 29, 2023 6:57 pm
This certainly needs more eyewitness accounts from more reliable witnesses. Supporting documentation would be nice. It sounds accurate. Now make it verifiable.
Ivo Skoric / January 29, 2023 9:11 pm
Shows DeSantis is a sadistic jerk. Well, he kind of strikes me that way with his policy anyway. Although forced feeding to prevent prisoners from hurting themselves by hunger striking is not against the Geneva convention and Adayfi made a huge mistake in that he didn’t include DeSantis in his original recently published memoir – because now it sounds less plausible, it is like he just tries to capitalize on Ron’s presidential run,
Alexi / January 29, 2023 11:16 pm
This is fucking disgusting. What a monster.
Brian Jeffery George / February 4, 2023 10:21 am
how many of the actual perpetrators behind 911 ended up at gitmo?
all they did was grab every muslim they could find to keep up appearances.
of course the real culprits just cut a 2 billion dollar check for chump’s son in law.
InRussetShadows / February 21, 2023 12:06 pm
I find the lack of skepticism
In this article a tell-tale sign. There’s also no awareness of the tendency of prisoners to lie. There’s no understanding of how Islam itself teaches deception as a tool of war against the enemy – kitman and taqqiya. How can you write such an article and be wholly ignorant of such necessary background? It makes what you write unbelievable.
TeachNow / February 22, 2023 9:59 am
For all of those commenters saying this guy is lying…he is a free man…what would be the point of lying about it?
Justin / February 23, 2023 11:27 am
I find that some Americans are just biased against the Muslim world and think all people that practice Islam are terrorists. In many cases defendants in Gitmo were just scooped up during Special Forces raids based on speculative evidence at best. There are only 15 people left at Gitmo and the majority of the rest were released “without charge. I believe the guy and further witnesses should be found!
Del Shannon / February 24, 2023 7:33 am
Thank you for reporting about the criminality of DeSatan. I tried and tried to get the so-called liberal Tampa Bay Times to report on this, but they’re too afraid of DeSatan. He’s a fascist, a brutal man, a liar, a danger to America, and he now appears to be on Putin’s side along with all the other MAGA traitors.
Rj / February 26, 2023 11:37 am
A can of Ensure is 350 calories x 5 cans=1750 calories; close to 2000 calorie recommended requirement. 5 cans during 1 intubation vs 1 can over 5 intubations. The choice of 1 intubation seems the least damaging choice.
Spacebeagle / February 27, 2023 4:40 pm
We cannot accept this without strong corroboration, nor reject it wholly when there is a possibility that this man was not a combatant, or ‘trained to lie’ as a soldier, I believe, said in a comment above. Only a raving hypocrite could possibly deny that this requires more investigation than anything Hunter Biden has ever done, seeing as how he ain’t even running for dog catcher, while Mr. DeSantis could ‘well’ be elected president.
And sue me, but the man sure has acted like the man described by this former prisoner. Anything is justifiable in the name of God and Country, and when the soulless little bastard realizes his ambitions, L’etat c’est moi!
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Vince / March 1, 2023 8:25 pm
Um – is no one connecting the dots? He did this and probably more – check out this NY Times story about him bullying high school boys to chug milk…
Stentor / March 7, 2023 6:18 pm
If I was going to troll Ron DeSantis, I’d start bringing cans of Ensure to every event, opening them so the smell would waft over towards him. What people don’t realize is that nobody likes the smell of vomit & the association of any substances vomited onto you is an extremely negative one, visceral & vivid. It would be an effective tactic by his political opponents to bring up that association as much as possible, to the point of bringing it up in conversation by asking him what his favorite flavor is. Maybe drinking cans in front of him & blowing the smell out from your mouth towards him after every swallow.
That’s how you push someone’s buttons, that’s how you knock someone off-kilter.
I’ll bet he remembers it much more than he’s ever let on to anyone.