G.I. Attacked During Training

U.S. Soldier Brutally Beaten By Soldiers At Guantanamo

Pictures from Abu Ghraib prison tell a story that has shocked the world.

There are no pictures of what happened in the prison camp at Guantanamo last year. But Correspondent Bob Simon has a shocking story -- and it's not about what Americans did to foreign detainees. It's about what Americans did to a fellow American soldier, Sean Baker.
Sean Baker has seizures an average of four times a week. 60 Minutes Wednesday went to see him a few weeks ago in a New York hospital.

Baker, a National Guardsman, was working last year as a military policeman in the Guantanamo Bay prison when other MPs injured him during a training drill. It was a drill during which Baker was only obeying orders.

"I was assaulted by these individuals," says Baker. "Pure and simple."

It's all the more bizarre because Baker was considered a model soldier and he had served as an MP in Saudi Arabia during the First Gulf War.

Then, minutes after the attack on the Pentagon on Sept. 11, Baker made a phone call from the auto repair shop in Lexington, Ky., where he was working. "I had to get back in the military right then," recalls Baker. "I had to go back then. I had to do something."

And he did. At 35, married and with a child, Baker volunteered to join the 438th Military Police Company in Murray, Ky., because it was about to be deployed overseas.

Ron England was Baker's first sergeant. "He seemed to like being a soldier," says England. "He loved being a soldier. He was always more than willing to give his part and somebody else's, or to pitch in for somebody else."

In November 2002, Baker's unit was sent to Guantanamo Bay, home to what the Pentagon called the most vicious terrorists in the world. Spc. Baker's job was to escort prisoners and walk the causeways of the prison block.

He was the new guy on the block, and he says he got special treatment from the detainees: "They wanna try the new guy. See how much they can push you. You know? How much water they can throw on you. How much urine they can throw on you. How much feces they can dump on you."

His unit was on duty at 2 a.m. on Jan. 24, 2003, when his squad leader got a message. "'Someone needs to go for training,'" says Baker. "And I looked around the room. I couldn't believe that everyone had not stood up, and said, 'I'll go.' But I said, 'Right here, Sarg.'"

Baker was always the first to volunteer. This time, it was to go to the block where the most dangerous detainees were kept in isolated cells. There, Baker was met by Second Lt. Shaw Locke of the 303rd Military Police Company from Michigan. Locke, who was in charge of an IRF (Immediate Reaction Force) team, briefed Baker about the training drill he was planning.

"'We're going to put you in a cell and extract you, have their IRF team come in and extract you. And what I'd like you to do is go ahead and strip your uniform off and put on this orange suit,'" says Baker, who was ordered to wear an orange jumpsuit, just like the ones worn by the detainees at Guantanamo.

"I'd never questioned an order before. But, at first I said, my only remark was, 'Sir?' Just in the form of a question. And he said, 'You'll be fine,'" recalls Baker. "I said, 'Well, you know what's gonna happen when they come in there on me?' And he said, 'Trust me, Spc. Baker. You will be fine.'"

Drills to practice extracting uncooperative prisoners took place every day, with a U.S. soldier playing the role of a detainee, but not in an orange jumpsuit, and not at full force.

"You always train at 70 percent. Never 100 percent," says Michael Riley, who was Baker's platoon sergeant. "Seventy percent means you want to practice and be proficient, but not get anybody hurt."

Baker says his orders that night were to get under a bunk on a steel floor in a dark cell, and wait: "I said, 'Sir, you're going to tell that IRF team that I'm a U.S. soldier?' He said, 'Yes, you'll be fine, Spc. Baker. Trust me.'"

But in fact, Locke later acknowledged in a sworn statement that he did not indicate "whether the scenario was a drill or not a drill to the IRF team." Locke did, however, tell the team the detainee had not responded to pepper spray.

"They wanted to make training a little more realistic," says Baker. "Put this orange suit on."

Locke gave Baker a code word – red - to shout out in case of trouble. From under the bunk, Baker heard the extraction team coming down the causeway. In sworn statements, however, four members of the team said they thought they were going after a real detainee.

"My face was down. And of course, they're pushing it down against the steel floor, you know, my right temple, pushing it down against the floor," recalls Baker. "And someone's holding me by the throat, using a pressure point on me and holding my throat. And I used the word, 'red.' At that point I, you know, I became afraid."

Apparently, no one heard the code word 'red' because Baker says he continued to be manhandled, especially by an MP named Scott Sinclair who was holding onto his head.

"And when I said the word 'Red,' he forced my head down against the steel floor and was sort of just grinding it into the floor. The individual then, when I picked up my head and said, 'Red,' slammed my head down against the floor," says Baker. "I was so afraid, I groaned out, 'I'm a U.S. soldier.' And when I said that, he slammed my head again, one more time against the floor. And I groaned out one more time, I said, 'I'm a U.S. soldier.' And I heard them say, 'Whoa, whoa, whoa,' you know, like he wanted to, he was telling the other guy to stop."

Bloodied and disoriented, Baker somehow made it back to his unit, and his first thought was to get hold of the videotape. "I said, 'Go get the tape,'" recalls Baker. "'They've got a tape. Go get the tape.' My squad leader went to get the tape."

Every extraction drill at Guantanamo was routinely videotaped, and the tape of this drill would show what happened. But Baker says his squad leader came back and said, "There is no tape."

"That was the only time that I heard that a tape had gone missing," says Riley, Baker's platoon sergeant.

"Of all the tapes, this was probably the most important one that we should have kept," adds England.

Baker started having a seizure that morning and was whisked to the Naval Hospital at Guantanamo. "[He looked like] he'd had the crap beat out of him. He had a concussion. I mean, it was textbook," says Riley. "[His face} was blank. You know, a dead stare, like he was seeing you, but really looking through you."

Baker was airlifted to the Portsmouth Naval Medical Center in Virginia, where doctors determined he had suffered an injury to the right side of his brain. He was released after four days, and Baker says he requested to go back to Cuba.

"I wanted to go back and perform my duties," says Baker. "I wanted to be back with my unit."

Baker got back to Guantanamo, and hoped no one would notice he was having seizures, but they got to the point where he says he couldn't hide them: "I was shaking and convulsing around people."

Some days, he says, he was having 10 to 12 seizures per day.

What does he think would have happened if he had been a real detainee? "I think they would have busted him up," says Baker. "I've seen detainees come outta there with blood on 'em. …If there wasn't someone to say, 'I'm a U.S. soldier,' if you were speaking Arabic or Pashto or Urdu or some other language in the camp, we may never know what would have happened to that individual."

Baker was finally taken off Guantanamo and sent to the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where he was put in a psychiatric ward. His diagnosis: traumatic brain injury. After 47 days, he was ordered to report to a medical hold unit at Fort Dix, N.J. But the seizures continued.

"He was shaking all over his whole body. It just looked like he was -- you ever seen 'The Exorcist?' That's what it looked like. It was pretty freaky," says Spc. Sean Bateman, who saw Baker. "He had plenty [of seizures]. I can't count them all is pretty much what I'm saying. He had some so often, it was pretty much expected."

But back at Guantanamo, a promised investigation into what happened to Baker wasn't getting anywhere.

"There was what was called a commander's inquiry. It doesn't really tell me anything," says England. "And after that it more or less seemed like, least said the best said. That was my opinion of it."

Riley says he and England approached Capt. Judith Brown, the commander of the Kentucky National Guard at Guantanamo, and asked her what was going on with that investigation. What did the captain say? "I'll paraphrase. It's something like, it's being looked into, but we really don't wanna get anybody in trouble," says Riley.

Nobody got into trouble because the Army didn't conduct a serious investigation into what happened to Spc. Baker -- not for 17 months. Only then, and only after word of Baker's beating got leaked to the media, did the Pentagon launch a criminal investigation into how he got so badly hurt that January morning in Guantanamo.

The criminal investigation is still going on. 60 Minutes Wednesday wanted to talk to someone at the Pentagon about the Baker case, but was told no one would talk about it.

Despite repeated calls, Capt. Judith Brown refused to speak to 60 Minutes Wednesday. Crews tried to interview Shaw Locke, the man in charge that night, and Scott Sinclair, the man Baker accused of bashing his head, but they wouldn't meet with 60 Minutes Wednesday either. Sinclair did write in a sworn statement after the incident that Baker was resisting and that Sinclair merely placed his head back on the floor of the cell.

Meanwhile, Baker was stuck in bureaucratic limbo at Fort Dix for 10 months, long after Locke, Sinclair and the 303rd returned home to Michigan to a celebration in September 2003.

Baker was left to fight the Pentagon for a disability check, and he says it took four months to get his first check. Meantime, he says drew unemployment insurance, about half of what he was accustomed to making, to get by.

"These are our American veterans," says England. "Sean Baker was one that wasn't taken care of. In my own personal opinion, Sean Baker wasn't taken care of."

When Baker got home to Kentucky, he didn't complain. But he needed help just to get his disability check. Attorney Bruce Simpson agreed to help Baker, pro bono. But Baker is unable to sue because of a 1950 Supreme Court ruling that bars members of the military from suing the government.

"He'll not get a dime from what happened to him through the court system because the doors to the federal courthouse as to Sean Baker are closed," says Simpson, who adds that no one has paid a price for what happened to Baker that night. "He's been destined to a life of walking in a minefield of unexploded seizures. He doesn't know when they're gonna come. And he doesn't know when they are gonna bring him to his knees."

"It's as if they just went on living their lives, as if they've done nothing. Nothing wrong," adds Baker, who now takes nine medications a day, can't get a job, has put on 50 pounds and has constant nightmares.

At the end of September, Baker went to Columbia University Medical Center in New York to consult with Dr. Carl Bazil, a seizure specialist, and one of the top neurologists in the country.

While undergoing testing, Baker suffered a seizure in front of Bazil, who believes Baker has intractable epilepsy – which means his seizures are difficult to control.

Is it an injury Baker could have received as a result of having his head repeatedly knocked against a steel floor? "Oh, absolutely. That is the kind of injury that would be severe enough to result in epilepsy," says Bazil, who believes that with better treatment, Baker's condition could improve. "If he doesn't get better treatment, that will probably continue indefinitely."

"So, if you got your health back, I take it, after your experience with the Army, you'd never serve again," Simon asks Baker.

"I'd be in," says Baker. "Till the day I die."
  • Rebecca Leung

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