Media's water offers a double chill

 

crosenberg@miamiherald.com

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVY BASE, Cuba -- Several dozen media members brought in last week by the Pentagon to watch a day or two of the first U.S. war-crimes tribunal since World War II got a ghoulish surprise when they went in search of drinking water at Camp Justice.
Bottled water in Tent City, where reporters are kept, is chilled in a 3,470-pound shipping refrigerator meant for the dead.
It's marked ''MORTUARY'' on the side and has shelves to accommodate eight body bags being airlifted by the U.S. Air Force.
It's all part of the ''Expeditionary Legal Complex,'' which can be dismantled and moved elsewhere should either presumed presidential candidate make good on his pledge to close the prison camps at Guantánamo.
An escort who briefs visiting news media assured that the $32,000 ADR-300 mortuary had never been used for its intended purpose.

WHISTLING DIXIE

Also a surprise, particularly to the foreign media, was what appeared to be a Confederate flag flying above Tent City.
U.S. military escorts explained that it was actually the state flag of Mississippi. An Air Force engineering unit called The 172nd -- nicknamed ''The Prime Beef'' -- is in charge of keeping Tent City functioning. And it hails from Jackson, Miss.

PRICE OF FREEDOM

On sale at the commissary: ''Got Freedom?'' T-shirts that mimic the milk campaign. Cost: $9.99. It's tax-free in this U.S.-controlled slice of Cuba.

DRIVER 'TUNED OUT'

In the al Qaeda world of driver Salim Hamdan, exhortations to martyrdom and railing at the infidels can become mind-numbing. Or so claimed several FBI agents who testified last week at the trial of Osama bin Laden's driver, the Yemeni with a fourth-grade education.
''Mr. Hamdan pretty much got tired of hearing the same thing over and over again,'' said FBI Agent George Crouch Jr. And so, he "tuned out.''

NEW PRESS ROOM

For two days, Guantánamo got to show off its $49,000 war-court media room -- a Hollywood-style set built inside an abandoned airfield's hangar, which is a crude copy of the Pentagon's podium where Secretary Robert Gates takes questions.
With nearly three dozen reporters on the island -- the vast majority flown in for two days -- many of the seats were, for the first time, filled during a question-and-answer session with the prosecutor.
By the weekend, the facility that the Defense Department says can host up to 60 journalists was down to only 11 -- four newspapers, three wire services, one radio reporter and an audio-video team from This American Life, which came to Guantánamo for gavel-to-gavel coverage of the Hamdan trial.
Tent City has 20 tents capable of sleeping 120 in the media section. Saturday's occupancy meant each media member could have his or her own six-man tent -- with nine to spare. Media minders sleep in Navy housing.

SNAPSHOT TO SANA'A

The driver on trial as a terrorist didn't get a veto of his court sketch, but he got a glimpse.
An attorney told sketch artist Janet Hamlin that the Yemeni captive was eager to see her drawing. With permission of the guards, she held it up during a recess.
Hamdan studied his likeness, then flashed a grin and thumbs-up -- a contrast to his somber demeanor in front of the U.S. military jurors.
Why was he so eager?
Speculation centered on the fact that the media would show his likeness around the world -- something like a snapshot sent home to the wife and kids in the Yemeni city of Sana'a.

Read more Guantánamo Special Coverage stories from the Miami Herald

  • Web Extra | A prison camps primer

    The Pentagon has built a series of facilities at Guantánamo Bay since it inaugurated its offshore detention and interrogation center for terrorist suspects in January 2002 by airlifting captives to remote Cuba from Bagram, Afghanistan.

  •  
In this Feb. 2, 2002 file photo, a detainee brought by airlift from Afghanistan is carried on a stretcher before being interrogated by military officials at Camp X-Ray at the U.S. Navy Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

    GUANTANAMO

    ‘Flouting the rules of law and morality’

    GUANTANAMO BAY NAVY BASE, Cuba — Before this onetime coaling station for the U.S. Navy ships in the Caribbean was transformed into a site holding captives in the war on terror that U.S. officials had called the worst of the worst, most Americans were unaware of its existence.

  •  
These men are among those being force-fed at Guantanamo, according to their lawyers who say they got notice from the Justice Department. Top row from left: Yemeni Tariq Ba Awdah, 34, Syrian Jihad Diyab, 41, Yemeni Mohammed Al-Hamiri, in his 30s. Bottom row rom left: Kuwaiti Fayez Kandari, 35, Yemenis Yasin Ismael and Samir Muqbil, both in their 30s. Five of the photos come from the captives' military intelligence risk assessments obtained by McClatchy from Wikileaks. Kandari's photo was taken by the International Red Cross and released by his family.

    Who's still being held at Guantánamo

    Here is a comprehensive list of who is still held at the Guantánamo detention center in Cuba. McClatchy determined who was still there using both sources and court records as well as secret intelligence files obtained by WikiLeaks and passed to McClatchy.

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