The University has released an unofficial “Fact Set Regarding the Employment of John Bogdan” for circulation within the UNC Charlotte community. The bulleted list contains Chancellor Dubois’ responses to criticisms and allegations against Associate Vice Chancellor of Safety and Security John Bogdan’s military service at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The Fact Set expresses the University’s support for Bogdan by praising his leadership during the April 30 recovery and addressing accusations about his tenure at Gitmo, including his alleged involvement in conducting genital searches and force-feeding detainees.
John Cox, associate professor and president of UNC Charlotte's new chapter of the American Association of University Professors, called the Fact Set "deeply troubling and distressing on many levels."
Cox criticized the Fact Set's "cavalier dismissal of all allegations about human rights abuses at Gitmo" and "presumption that is speaks for all of us -- that UNC Charlotte endorses methods that, it certainly seems, are excused and justified by this statement, such as force feeding and the use of rubber bullets."
Vice Chancellor for Institutional Integrity and General Counsel Jesh Humphrey described the Fact Set as a “response to historical mischaracterizations of John Bogdan’s service record that resurfaced following the publication of a Niner Times article last October.”
The article in reference is an opinion article that followed a news story written in early September.
The opinion article, written by former opinion editor Nikolai Mather, referred to Bogdan as a “cold-blooded war criminal” for overseeing “a host of human rights violations.” The student newspaper later added an editorial note to say "alleged cold-blooded war criminal."
Shortly after the article was published, a group of UNC Charlotte students, staff, faculty and community members created the “Coalition to Remove John Bogdan.” The group protested the associate vice chancellor’s hiring through social media, flyers and chalking, but has since been largely inactive.
Bogdan served as the warden of the Joint Detention Group at Gitmo from 2012 to 2014. During his controversial tenure, the U.S. military prison received media attention when detainees started a hunger strike and were subsequently fed through nasogastric metal-tipped tubes.
During an interview in Aug. 2019, Bogdan told the Niner Times that his focus was the “safe, humane treatment of the detainees” and the decision to force-feed was a “medical protocol” that “wasn’t under his purview.” The Fact Set echoes this, adding “the enteral feeding of detainees engaged in hunger strikes has been upheld several times by the courts.”
The Fact Set acknowledges Bogdan’s supervision of the raid, saying he sought and received all necessary approvals.
The Fact Set says of the genital searches, “These custodial searches were unanimously found to be reasonable security precautions by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in 2014 in the case of Hatim et al v. Obama, 760 F.3d. 54.”
The Federal District Court for the District of Columbia had previously barred the protocol, calling it “religiously and culturally abhorrent” and claiming it was a tactic to prevent detainees from meeting with their lawyers during a hunger strike.
In a statement sent to the Niner Times, UNC Charlotte student and candidate for Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners Cade Lee criticized the Fact Set, calling it “intimidating and threatening.”
“The University must tread carefully as their rhetoric is bordering intimidation of the UNC Charlotte community to stay silent and complicit while a human rights abuser supposedly protects them,” said Lee.
Humphrey, however, said in an email to a faculty member that the University does not intend to intimidate and “cannot and does not file lawsuits asserting an employee’s reputational rights.”
“Characterizations of John as an ‘accused war criminal’ are -- with very little question -- defamation per se. That is a statement of fact, not an implicit legal threat,” he added.