Ten years ago Wednesday, U.S. troops marched 20 men in chains off a military cargo plane at Guantánamo Bay to launch Americas war on terror experiment in offshore detention and justice. Now, the prison camps enter their second decade with death penalty tribunals on the horizon and President Barack Obama still struggling to find a formula for closure.
Here are 10 developments Guantánamo watchers can expect to see:
Pressure to add to the prison population: Congress has, through a variety of legislation, tried to grow the enterprise that has hundreds of empty cells in the crude complex that sprawls along the U.S. Navy bases waterfront. But the Obama administration goal is to shrink the population, then close the prison.
Its the presidents stated objective to never send anyone to Guantánamo again, Army Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale said on Tuesday. As of this week, the military had 1,850 U.S. troops and Defense Department contractors on staff of the prison holding 171 captives. The prison camps can hold at least 800 captives.
Prison camp unrest
Tensions are high over a toughening of rules at Guantánamo. Captives complain that the camps have instituted a new 25-day punitive segregation regime for rule breakers, in cramped cells in a once-secret disciplinary block. They say that after years of a more liberal policy, guards are now seizing captives spare blankets and clothing; and that they are shackling a captives four limbs, not just his ankles, at medical appointments.
On Tuesday, captives told their guards that for three days around the anniversary, theyd be refusing meals, staging sit-ins and hanging protest signs, according to accounts from the military and defense lawyers.
No crackdown is intended in the penitentiary-style lockup where the majority 140 captives are allowed to pray, eat and congregate in groups of 20 or so. Detainees may participate in these nonviolent forms of protest and have the opportunity to reasonably express themselves without losing those privileges, said Navy Cmdr. Tamsen Reese. The prison spokeswoman had no comment on what was happening in the secret prison camp for former CIA captives or in the more severe Camp 5 for convicts and rule breakers.
By the Obama administrations reckoning, U.S. taxpayers spend $800,000 a year to keep a single captive at Guantánamo Bay, a figure the prison camp staff wont explain. In September, the Miami Herald filed a Freedom of Information Act for documents that show how that money is spent.
Now, the Pentagons Southern Command in Miami is assembling the documents, and an attorney there is deciding which might be released, says Southcoms Army Col. Scott Malcom. Next, the Pentagons Freedom of Information office will get a chance to scrub the documents the public may get to see that explain, in detail, prison-camp spending.
Talk of Taliban releases
The White House wants to wind down the war in Afghanistan. Congress OKd it in the Sept. 18, 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force, from which the Pentagon designed its indefinite detention regime.
But, If there are peace talks and if the war is considered over, what will the courts say about continued detention? says Andrea Prasow, senior counter-terror counsel for Human Rights Watch.