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At Guantanamo, Woods quietly takes command

The Pentagon has quietly installed a Navy aviator who lost classmates in the 9/11 attacks as the 11th commander of its Guantánamo detention center in Cuba.

Rear Adm. David B. Woods, a Utah native in his 50s, took charge last Wednesday in a ceremony attended by soldiers and sailors as well as private contractors who work at the sprawling prison camps, according to photos published on a military website Saturday.

He also runs an intelligence unit and is responsible for "Camp Justice," the war court compound built atop an abandoned airfield during the Bush administration to put the accused Sept. 11, 2001, conspirators and other alleged war criminals on trial.

The Pentagon revealed plans to change management, a regular rotation, earlier this month. But neither its satellite Southern Command in Miami nor the operation itself disclosed that the actual switchover had taken place until Saturday morning when the military posted the prison camps’ internal newsletter on a Guantánamo website.

Woods is the third admiral to run the operation since President Barack Obama ordered its closure by Jan. 22, 2010, a deadline the military missed after Congress blocked funding for transfers and put other hurdles in the administration’s way.

As a result, Attorney General Eric Holder decided to have a military jury judge five former CIA captives charged in the Sept. 11, 2001 mass murder in New York and the Pentagon. Holder had earlier ordered the men face a civilian trial in Manhattan, but reversed course after resistance by Congress and some New York politicians.

The military commission could start later this year at a crude compound atop an abandoned airfield called Camp Justice.

Woods apparently made reference to the coming global spotlight: “Upcoming events will be challenging,” he reportedly warned in the newsletter account, and put detention center operations “on center stage for the entire world to see.”

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