With a dwindled detainee population of just 41 war on terror prisoners, the detention center spokesman said Thursday that Guantánamo has functional cell space for perhaps 200 new captives.
No new orders have arrived from the White House or Pentagon in the first week of the Trump administration, although spokesman Navy Capt. John Filostrat said commanders are studying how to add new captives should the new president make good on his pledge to “load it up with some bad dudes.”
How fast could they take in those 200 new prisoners, he was asked by a knot of reporters making the first Detention Center Zone visit of the Donald J. Trump administration.
“Pretty quickly,” Filostrat replied, declining to elaborate.
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“I have no further instructions,” he added. “We’re doing our job, holding them safely and humanely until we’re told to transfer them or take more.”
Filostrat called the guards’ housing “substandard,” continuing a command campaign to build new barracks. But there was no talk of needing additional soldiers beyond the 1,650 staff of troops and civilians, including around 100 Navy medical personnel who in the past have managed tube feedings of hunger strikers. No new protests have emerged among the 41 captives, he added. “Our detainees are highly compliant.”
No prisoners were in sight during an hour-long drive around the zone where some troopers were out for an afternoon jog past a sign declaring “Personal Courage” the value of the week. At the Camp 6 prison complex, a U.S. Navy ambulance driver was offering an orientation tour to a fellow sailor.
And on the road linking the prison area to the base itself, a young soldier or sailor was headed back to the Detention Center Zone on foot, toting a skateboard.
In the absence of additional instructions, the Pentagon announced a new hearing of the Periodic Review Board, the parole-style panel set up by the Obama administration to decide if any of the “forever prisoners” could be approved for rehabilitation or resettlement.
“We’ve gotten no guidance on the PRB,” Filostrat said, adding that the role of the prison is to “get detainees to the location” — a double-wide trailer in a rusted and mostly abandoned section of Camp Delta.
As of this week there are 26 indefinite detainees, captured from around the world. Another 10 have been charged at the war court, military commissions, and five are approved for transfer with security assurances that satisfy Secretary of Defense James Mattis.
The Obama administration had intended to transfer all cleared captives but in the end left the five behind, including some men for whom the State Department could not make repatriation and resettlement arrangements.