Inside Ron DeSantis’ Hidden Past at Guantanamo Bay

Dylann Hanrahan ’25

Staff Writer

I have often heard vague comments about Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ time in the “service” and how this was one of the few respectable qualities about him; yet, I was always struck by how unclear it was to the public what exactly he did during his time in the military. After some digging, I found that Ron DeSantis was a Lieutenant Commander and a JAG lawyer (Judge Advocate General’s Corps) in the Navy, during which he spent time serving at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp in Cuba as well as Fallujah in the course of the war in Iraq. The Guantanamo Bay detention camp was created during the Bush Administration after 9/11. At its height, Guantanamo Bay held 780 detainees, today 35 remain. Out of the 780 men, only 12 were charged with war crimes; two of the 12 have been convicted while the rest are awaiting trial.

Unsurprisingly, not much is publicly known about DeSantis’ official orders and duties. There is only one speech in which DeSantis directly references his time spent at Guantanamo. Forty-two pages of U.S. Navy records released to the Florida Pheonix in 2018 during DeSantis’ gubernatorial campaign show that he was described as a JTF-GTMO (Joint Task Force Guantanamo) scheduler/administrative officer with all other details heavily censored. This past November, an ex-Guantanamo Bay detainee was interviewed on a podcast alleging that DeSantis allowed, observed, and participated in acts of torture to end a hunger strike in 2006 conducted by detainees who were protesting their sentences. The allegations come from 44-year-old Yemen-born Mansoor Adayfi, who was held in the detention center for 14 years without a single charge. Adayfi was released in 2016 and promptly taken to Serbia to begin anew after a review board concluded he was not a threat to U.S. security. The podcast, Eyes Left, is hosted by Michael Prysner, who, interestingly enough, is a U.S. Army veteran.

Out of respect for the men who were illegally tortured in the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, I have chosen not to explicitly explain the brutal and inhumane torture tactics which DeSantis allegedly helped orchestrate. I will not describe their hardships in my own words, but I urge you to listen to the podcast (“Ron DeSantis’s Military Secrets: Torture & War Crimes”) to listen to Adayfi’s account. Adayfi claims that DeSantis began his time at Guantanamo as a seemingly “good cop” who seemed as though he might want to give the detainees fair legal representation. Adayfi explains DeSantis’ attitude quickly changed, and it was revealed that these first illusions of humanity were DeSantis’ attempts to look for vulnerabilities in the men to hurt them more. Detainees had mentioned to DeSantis how the guards often made constant loud noises to keep them awake at night; in response, they increased the noise. Mansoor Adayfi commented that DeSantis watched with visible amusement as he and other detainees were force-fed meal replacement shakes to end their hunger strikes. “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.”Adayfi directly references DeSantis, “I’m telling Americans if this guy, if this is humanity. This guy is [a] torturer, is a criminal.”

Why aren’t more former detainees coming forward with similar claims? Ron DeSantis and all other JAG lawyers do not use their real names while stationed in Guantanamo. Mark Denbeaux, lead lawyer for the high-profile case of detainee Abu Zubaydah, explains, “They don’t want detainees or anyone else to know who they are. That secrecy is a big problem… I’ve never seen that reported.”

You may wonder how Mansoor Adayfi ended up in the Guantanamo Bay detention camp. According to Adayfi, he had traveled to Afghanistan as a teacher’s research assistant and was kidnapped by warlords, held for ransom until age 23, then was sold to the CIA in exchange for a hefty cash bounty. Adayfi remains vocal; he tweets often, expressing his concerns, and has published a memoir titled Don’t Forget Us Here: Lost and Found at Guantanamo, in which he hauntingly recounts the hellish nightmare of the Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp. Ron Chernow, a Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer, boldly states, “[Adayfi] tells a tale of both casual cruelty and organized sadism that should make every American politician redden with shame.” No major news networks have picked this up yet, but I imagine if DeSantis runs for president and becomes a significant candidate as the polls indicate, this will surface. I urge you to share Mansoor Adayfi’s account and to vote with humanity.

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  1. 3
    Doris wrench eisler

    I saw a picture of a group of naked men forced into a pyramid arrangement and held at bay by by vicious , snarling dogs, while a smiling female military member held the leash. I don’t need much convincing about the criminality of Guantanamo and the US, generally.

  2. 5
    Lori Frederick

    Thank you so much for shedding light on this horrendous torture that went on at Guantánamo Bay. If this man is going to be our next president, someone needs to step forward and tell this man’s tale. I am so proud of you, young people who have the courage to tell the truth

  3. 7
    Marilynn Woolfrey

    I fear for this Country! Ron DeSantis is a cruel fascist who Should not even be in a Political job period. This story really needs to be investigated and shown on World News stations all over American to stop this man. Tell his story so everyone knows just who he really is. Get the story out there to the people!

    • 8
      Dee leachman

      How could you remember me ?
      Remembering someone who does you harm isn’t hard. Look at these holocaust survivors, that still remember their torturers.

      This explains desantis and is issue with others freedom.
      There also was never a complete investigation done in this matter. Not all military members are honest
      Especially when crimes are committed. Crimes are committed all the time in the military
      Time for NCIS to finish this what was started

  4. 10
    Elizabeth Faust

    this story needs to be on all the major US networks NOW , it is so disturbing, why are we waiting, Ron DeSantis is mentally sick, ever heard of a psychiatric evaluation , we do medical evaluations for the president , what about a mandatory psychiatric evaluations for all presidentials candidates.

  5. 11
    Dylann Hanrahan

    (updated information) Mansoor Adayfi was taken at the age of 18
    Piers Morgan recently interviewed Ron DeSantis (Piers Morgan vs Ron DeSantis / The Full UNCUT Interview) and said to DeSantis, “you authorized the use of force feeding the detainees who were on hunger strike. Is that true?” DeSantis quickly responded cutting him off, “that’s not true. I was a junior officer I didn’t have authority to authorize anything.”
    Piers Morgan offered no pushback and did not accurately portray the claims made against DeSantis which are not that he authorized the torture himself.
    Many major networks have now picked up or acknowledged the allegations such as Washington Post (March 19), The Independent (March 23), Harpers Magazine (March Issue), etc
    -Dylann Hanrahan 2025

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