Some members of Congress are questioning the wisdom of the Pentagons spending $744,000 on a soccer field to keep captives busy outside a $39 million penitentiary-style building at the U.S. Navy base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
Seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars for crying out loud? Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., told Tampas NBC affiliate, WFLA. Our deficit this year is $1.2 trillion and were spending this kind of money on terrorists?
Prison camp commanders unveiled the 28,000-square-foot soccer field during a visit last week by reporters on the base to cover a Pakistani mans guilty plea to war crimes. Commanders called it part of the cost of doing business at the remote outpost and keeping captives diverted at the detention center.
The yard opens in April after contractors install latrines and goals the latest sign that Congress has thoroughly thwarted President Barack Obamas ambition of emptying the prison camps by sending some captives home and others to prisons in the United States.
Bilirakis, in his third term representing some Tampa suburbs, led the charge of indignation over the expense, dashing off a letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. Fellow Florida Republican Rep. Dennis Ross of Lakeland, went further, and introduced the NO FIELD Act.
Its short for None of Our Funds for the Interest, Exercise, or Leisure of Detainees Act, and proposes to strip the Defense Departments 2013 budget by $750,000.
Gitmo should not be a place of comfort, said Ross, a freshman in Congress. It should house the worst of the worst of the worlds terrorists, not be a training ground for the World Cup.
First-term Kansas Republican Rep. Tim Huelskamp made a social media moment out of his dissatisfaction. He asked an apparently unaware Defense Secretary Leon Panetta about the expense at a hearing Wednesday then tweeted the Pentagon chiefs ignorance.
Just asked Sec. Panetta if he knew about Gitmo Soccer Field. He said No, the former farmer from Fowler, Kan., reported on his Twitter page.
He then posted the exchange on YouTube.
A military contractor, BRDC (Burns and Roe Dick Corp. Services), is building the new recreation yard outside Camp 6, a six-year-old, 200-cell prison where about 120 of the most cooperative of Guantánamos 171 captives are kept.
Camp 6 already has two smaller yards so troops call the new recreation yard the Super Rec. Each cellblock is also equipped with large flat-screen televisions bolted to the rafters and exercise machines.
Also, military psychological staff members teach an optional 90-minute weekly session called Enriching Your Life to help captives manage their indefinite stays.
Its based on acceptance and commitment therapy, said Air Force Maj. Michelle Coghill, a Guantánamo spokeswoman.
Detainees engage in experiential exercises that include mindfulness breathing meditations, story telling and lectures to manage depression or anxiety and flexibly handle unhelpful thinking and intense emotions while engaging in value-driven, life-enriching behaviors.
The U.S. military also said, for the first time, that Guantánamo staff had given watches to a very small number of Camp 6 captives.