GUANTANAMO BAY

Clinic, other features add $20M to new prison cost

 

The exclusive prison some in Congress want to build got pricey, the military says, because it includes a clinic and special legal meeting rooms for the accused 9/11 attack plotters and other former CIA prisoners

 
Sunrise over the U.S. detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba on Oct. 18, 2012 in this pool photo cleared for release by the Department of Defense.
Sunrise over the U.S. detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba on Oct. 18, 2012 in this pool photo cleared for release by the Department of Defense.
MICHELLE SHEPHARD / TORONTO STAR


crosenberg@MiamiHerald.com

The proposed price of an exclusive new prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, grew by $20 million in a year because designers added legal meeting rooms and a private medical clinic for 15 former CIA captives, including accused 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed, a military spokesman said Monday.

Last year, the military estimated it would cost $49 million to build a new Camp 7, Guantánamo’s name for its clandestine high-value detainee lockup. Last week, the U.S. House Armed Services Committee earmarked $69 million in its proposed budget for 2015 Defense Department spending to build the new prison.

Construction is not assured because the full Congress has yet to take up the budget.

“The original estimated cost was made pre-site-selection,” said Army Col. Greg Julian, a spokesman for the U.S. Southern Command, which has oversight of the detention center of 154 war-on-terror captives and a 2,200-member staff.

Now blueprints also include a “medical facility, attorney-client meeting rooms and support with utilities, connecting to the utility grid,” said Julian. He added that the military considers it safer to keep the captives — men once considered the George W. Bush administration’s prized catches in the war-on-terror — at one place rather than move them around the detention center for meetings and services.

Southcom’s commander, Marine Gen. John F. Kelly, has been bullish on the building project because, according to those who have seen it, the current clandestine Camp 7 sits on shifting ground in a secret location on the 45-square-mile base.

Now the floor has cracks, according to the prison commander, Navy Rear Adm. Richard Butler, prompting fears that the walls will crack and doors won’t work.

But the Pentagon chose not to ask to build it, and didn’t include it in its proposed budget for 2015. Instead, military engineers were told to shore the old site up, a plan some members of Congress found unsatisfactory and instead decided to a fund a brand-new building.

Little is known about the current Camp 7 — not the year it was built, not who built it and not how much it cost. (The Miami Herald has filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit to obtain that information.)

It has at least two tiers and is run by a unit called Task Force Platinum, according to court testimony. Detainees who got to Guantánamo in 2006 from three and four years in overseas CIA prisons are kept one man to a cell in what captive Ammar al Baluchi’s attorney, Jay Connell, described as “extreme isolation.”

In February 2009, a senior Pentagon official said it has climate-controlled cells, a recreation yard surrounded by a chain-link fence and rooms where detainees can watch videos and play with hand-held games. That official, Vice Adm. Patrick Walsh, was inspecting the prison for Geneva Conventions compliance, and likened Camp 7 to a “SuperMax” prison in the United States.

The new building would be in some respects safer for the guard force, Julian said, because they’d be spared the task of moving the high-value captives out of their compound to the current attorney-client meeting rooms at Camp Echo.

The use of Camp Echo, described by The Washington Post in 2004 as a former CIA black site, has been controversial at the war court. In early 2013, defense attorneys in the Sept. 11 and USS Cole cases uncovered that the military had listening devices hidden there, raising concerns about attorney-client confidentiality.

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