MIAMI — Ten years ago Wednesday, U.S. troops marched 20 men in chains off a military cargo plane at Guantanamo 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 some developments Guantanamo watchers can expect to see:
PRESSURE TO GROW IT
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 administrations goal is to shrink then close it.
Its the presidents stated objective to never send anyone to Guantanamo 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.
PRISON CAMP UNREST
Tensions are high over a toughening of rules ahead of 10 years in U.S. military detention. Captives complain that the camps instituted a new 25-day punitive segregation regime for rule breakers in a cramped cell at the once-secret Camp 5 Echo; that guards are seizing captives spare blankets and clothing after years of a more liberal cell comfort item policy; and that guards are now shackling a captive by all four limbs, not just at his ankles, at medical appointments.
On Tuesday, captives told their guards theyd be refusing meals, staging sit-ins and hanging protest signs for three days surrounding the anniversary, according to accounts from the military and defense lawyers.
No crackdown is intended in the penitentiary-style lockup where 140 captives are allowed to pray, eat and congregate in groups of 20 or so.
Detainees may participate in these non-violent 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 the more severe Camp 5 for convicts and rule breakers.
By Obama administration reckoning, U.S. taxpayers spend $800,000 a year to keep a single captive at Guantanamo Bay, something the people who spend the money wont explain. The Miami Herald filed an expedited Freedom of Information Act request with the prison and U.S. Southern Command in September, arguing for a swift reply because of Defense Department budget cuts.
Southcom refused and put it at the bottom of the list. Now, the Southcom staff attorney is deciding which documents 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 can see that detail prison camp spending.
TALK OF TALIBAN RELEASES
The White House wants to wind down the war in Afghanistan. And its the heart of the conflict that Congress OKd 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, a former Guantanamo defender and now senior counterterror counsel for Human Rights Watch.