Guantánamo

Guantánamo prison: A primer

The Pentagon has built a series of facilities at Guantánamo Bay since it inaugurated its offshore detention and interrogation center for terrorist suspects in January 2002 by airlifting from Afghanistan to Cuba, and housing the first 300 or more temporarily at Camp X-Ray. In early 2011, House Armed Services Committee chairman Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif., declared the prison camp infrastructure had an overall capacity to confine 800 captives. Navy Adm. Kurt Tidd, commander of the U.S. Southern Command, told Congress in March that with closures, degraded facilities and a downsized prison staff of 1,700 troops and contractors the capacity was around 65.

Here's a breakdown of the known lockups and other buildings, with best estimates of the current detainee population:

Camp X-Ray: The first camp, with 311 cells made of chain-link fencing, has emerged as the iconic image of the rugged, makeshift accommodations granted so-called enemy combatants in remote Cuba. A maze of kennel-like cages, the camp housed prisoners for about four months. It was an arrangement that allowed them to chat and pray communally and at one point organize the first hunger strike. One captive's leaked interrogation log indicated it was used even after it was closed for the "enhanced interrogation techniques" used on Mohammed Qahtani, a Saudi whom a senior Pentagon lawyer declared was tortured in U.S. custody. Now abandoned, and overgrown with weeds, it once provided journalists from around the world an opportunity to see how the detention center's infrastructure has evolved. But in 2016 the detention center commander, Rear Adm. Peter Clarke, forbade his public relations staff from bringing media there during the monthly, guided tours. His successor commander, Rear Adm. Edward Cashman, notified a federal court in March that he intended to demolish it. By the summer of 2018 it was still there and Cashman's successor, Rear Adm. John Ring, said talks were underway on what to do with the site. One idea: A solar array. Opened: Jan. 11, 2002. Current population: Zero.

Camp Delta, also known as Camps 1-2-3: This was the first improvement for housing the detainees. Halliburton workers from the Indian subcontinent welded metal shipping containers to create about 720 individual steel and mesh cells in boxcar-style arrangements on a site near the coast, which the captives could not see. In June 2006, three Arab captives were simultaneously discovered hanging in their cells in a single block at Camp 1, initially unnoticed by guards because they hung towels to block the view. By January 2009, a Pentagon report said, it was being used to house an undisclosed number of hunger-striking detainees being force-fed nutritional shakes through tubes snaked up their noses to reach their stomachs. After that, it was used to jail detainees considered leaders or troublemakers in a special section called One-Alpha, men the military believed could influence other captives. It also contains meeting rooms for some defense lawyers to consult with their client captives; a prefabricated building with videteleconference capacity for a prisoner to address the Periodic Review Board; and the prison library. Detainees never did browse the stacks in the two prefab buildings. Rather, it is a storage site that in February 2017 held 33,500 books, magazines, audio recordings and DVDs available to circulate among low-value detainees. Opened: April 28, 2002. Current detainee population: Zero.

Navy Base Brig: In 2002, if not later, the Pentagon housed war on terror captives defined at the local level as "high-value detainees" in the base brig just off the road to Camp X-Ray, near the turnoff to the base hospital. Among those known to be held there was Mohammed Qahtani, a Saudi captive who was subjected to harsh, isolating interrogation at Camp X-Ray long after the prison said it was closed. The 10-cell lockup was there before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 and is believed no longer used to hold any war on terror captives. Opened: Unknown. Current detainee population: Unknown.

Camp Echo: The military uses this 24-cell camp as a segregation site for captives who can't mix with others. It has also been routinely used as a meeting site between captives and their lawyers, who for years shared meals with their clients inside the shed-style buildings containing a tiny cell, a toilet and shower, with adjoining space for a table and chairs, and an ankle shackle fixed to the floor. Until a federal judge ordered the practice halted in November 2004, it was also used as a special segregation site for detainees facing war-crimes trials before military commissions. Confessed al-Qaida foot soldier David Hicks of Australia lived there on and off for long stretches of his five-year stay at Guantánamo and was held there following his guilty plea while awaiting repatriation to his homeland. Prior to that, the Washington Post reported in 2004, it was a CIA black site. In July 2016, the prison showed a bunkhouse for captives to stay up to a week before release to another country. Then in October 2016 the Pentagon sent home Mohamedou Ould Slahi to Mauritania, ending his years of solo segregation there. Opened: Date unknown. Current detainee population: Zero.

Camp 4: Meant to be a showcase, pre-release detention area for 175 or so of the most cooperative, least dangerous captives, it was designed to resemble a traditional POW lockup. It had 10-cot bunkhouses, communal showers and toilets and a common outdoor eating area with picnic tables where captives could pray together. Commanders also added exercise bicycles and let play pickup soccer beneath a watchtower in "The Big Sky Camp," as captives called it for its open-air spaces. In May 2006, one block was the scene of what guards described as a foiled uprising. Later, the site had a classroom with desks and leg shackles for Arabic, Pashto and art classes as well as a satellite TV trailer. The military emptied the camps in January 2011 for repairs but by Sept. 11, 2011 it was out of service -- a vacant, rusting compound used by the BBC in a live broadcast two-hour program. By then, President Barack Obama's Jan. 11, 2009 closure order, complete with his sweeping signature, could be plainly seen fading on detainee bulletin boards where guards had hung it soon after the commander in chief signed it. Opened: February 2003. Current detainee population: Zero.

Camp 5: This maximum-security, $17 million two-tiered building modeled after a state prison in Bunker Hill, Ind., currently has four blocks capable of housing about 75 captives monitored by guards using closed-circuit cameras and a central locking system. In 2017 and 2018, Alpha Block was transformed into a medical unit, complete with dental and opthamological suites and a two-cell psych ward. At one time, the main building had special interrogation cells outfitted with faux Persian carpets, blue velour reclining chairs with an ankle shackle point, monitors, panic buttons and open-air, cage-like recreation yards. It has in the past housed 100 prisoners considered of greatest intelligence value, each in a single cell with toilet and fixed sleeping shelf under constant monitor by guards who peer through their windows. A top tier block in the building has been used as a "Convicts Corridor" to segregate Ali Hamza al Bahlul, the only remaining prisoner who has been convicted of war crimes at a Military Commission and received a sentence. Each detainee gets his meals slid through a slot in the metal door, and could exercise in a chain-link fence encircled recreation yard. In the summer of 2011, at least one prisoner smeared his excrement in his cell ventilation shafts, sending a stench through the structure that sickened both captives and guards. Commanders claimed it ended some months later due to peer pressure. In the summer of 2016, guards closed it and leaders notified a federal court of the planned Alpha Block medical unit, an $8.4 million project that was complete by June 2018 . Opened: May 2004. Current detainee population: About 2.

Camp 5 Echo: The prison's disciplinary block, this 24-unit boxcar-style lockup within Camp 5 has steel plates rather than metal mesh welded between cells in conditions captives and their lawyers likened to abusive isolation. It was built in November 2007 at a cost of $690,000, according to Navy Cmdr. Tamsen Reese, who as prison spokeswoman in late 2011 released the first-ever photo of the segregation site, at right. It is not shown to reporters invited to the remote Navy base for prison camps tours that boast a safe, humane and transparent approach to U.S. military detention. "Typically," according to Reese, the segregation site "serves as a disciplinary block for those non-compliant detainees in Camps Five and Six. Discipline is administered through a process of reduced levels of privileges, and not by use of isolation or solitary confinement." It is not known when the prison sealed up the cells. Navy Vice Adm. Patrick Walsh, finding the camps compliant with the Geneva Conventions in February 2009, described it as "an open air facility with 24 individual adjoining steel mesh cells arranged in two parallel and equal rows – similar to Camp 1." Opened: April 2008. Closed by 2016.

Camp 6: This $39 million, centrally run, 200-cell prison with 175 beds welded to the walls was meant to be a minimum-security, all-enclosed version of Camp 4, with communal eating areas, easy-access showers and its own medical and dental clinic based on a Michigan model. After detainees fought guards inside Camp 4 in May 2006, it was redesigned as a maximum-security lockup where captives ate every meal and spent at least 22 hours a day alone in a 6.8-by-12-foot cell furnished with a stainless steel sink and toilet, a bunk and a steel desk with a slot to hold each captive's Quran. A common recreation yard was subdivided into chain-link-fence-style cages. By August 2010, the military said detainees were back to living collectively there, with up to 20 hours a day of TV or radio broadcast through headsets. Commanders said each of the 22-cell pods was organized according to broadcast preference with two pods having exclusively Quran readings broadcast from Saudi Arabia. Another was made up predominantly of Yemeni soccer fans who dominated in matches in the communal recreation yard. Afghan Awal Gul, 48, collapsed and died in one cellblock after working out on an elliptical machine Feb. 2, 2011. On May 18, 2011, guards spotted another Afghan, Hajji Nassim, hanging from bed linen in a recreation yard early one morning in what was considered the sixth suicide at the detention center. On Feb. 28, 2012 the camps' public affairs team showed reporters a two-toned gravel field surrounded by fences and barbed wire to reveal a $744,000 soccer field there, called the "Super Rec," for recreation. From April 13, 2013 through part of 2014 single-cell lockdown continued in some portions as the prison eased back to communal in Camp 6, with hunger strikers and others under lock down in Camp 5. Once Camp 5 was closed, in August 2016, the guard force consolidated all non-high-value detainees into this eight cellblock lockup. Most lived collectively. Opened: December 2006. Current detainee population: 23 or fewer.

Camp 7: Little is known about this 32-cell, two tier secret camp within the camps, whose existence was revealed Dec. 8, 2007, in declassified notes of the first attorneys to meet former CIA-held captives. The Pentagon refuses to say how much taxpayers paid to build it, when it went up and what firm got the contract. The camp is not on the media tours that boast safe, humane, transparent care and custody of the 40 foreign captives but members of Congress sometimes get to stop in and look at the prisoners through one-way glass. Its special guard force, called Task Force Platinum, is drawn from National Guard troops who come and go on a nine-month tour of duty. In February 2009, then Vice Adm. Patrick Walsh described it as similar to a SuperMax prison in the United States -- with 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. It also has can provide dental services so ex-CIA captives need not be taken to the main detainee medical facility. Only one Camp 7 detainee has been known to ever leave detention there: Tanzanian Ahmed Ghailani, who on June 9, 2009 was sent to New York a for a federal criminal trial. Baltimore-raised Pakistani Majid Khan, who pleaded guilty to war crimes on Feb. 29, 2012, was segregated from the others at Camp 7 in an annex situation similar to the Convicts Corridor at Camp 5, according to Rear Adm. David B. Woods. There are no known pictures of the place. The Trump administration is seeking a $69 million earmark from Congress to replace it. In March 2014, then prison camp commander Rear Adm. Richard Butler blamed site selection and said ground beneath the secret prison had shifted, cracking the floors and walls and preventing certain doors from working. But in May 2016 a subsequent commander, Rear Adm. Peter Clarke declared it structurally sound. In war court testimony in the Sept. 11 mass murder trial related to conditions of confinement, detainees described a door from the cell that leads to an individual chain-linked fence and fabric enclosed cage of sorts, called "Charlie Rec," for an individual outdoor area described by prosecutor Clay Trivett as a "patio." Opened: Date unknown. Cost: Unknown. Current detainee population: 15.

Camp Iguana: It was initially established as a segregated housing compound for pre-teen "juvenile enemy combatants" flown in from the war zone, and had a single cement-block building. Later, contractors and sailors added a series of wooden huts -- first for meetings between captives and their lawyers, later as a lockup for men whose detention was ruled unlawful by the federal courts. It for years housed ethnic Uighur Muslims from China behind razor wire topped chain-linked fences. Pentagon spokesmen stopped letting media see it after some Uighurs waved protest signs for visiting reporters written on military-issue art supplies. The last Uighurs left for Slovakia in December 2013, and the prison kept it in caretaker status until disclosing its decommissioning in August of 2017. By February 2018 all the buildings but one were demolished. Opened: Date unknown.

Behavioral Health Unit: The prison's psychiatric ward is a separate building adjacent to the detention center hospital, both run by U.S. Navy medical professionals who come and go on rotations of generally less than a year. The BHU, as the psych ward is known, serves as a segregation site for captives removed from the general population with diagnoses of mental illness or "self-injurious behavior." The Behavioral Health Unit can hold up to 12 detainees in special single-occupancy cells, ostensibly under constant surveillance. A Yemeni captive died in his cell there in the summer of 2009 in what military investigators concluded was a suicide. Reporters on media visits pass by it on their way to a detention center hospital briefing, but are generally forbidden to look inside. Opened: 2006. Closed May 2018.





Detention Center Headquarters: The prison's senior staff work at the Intelligence Operations Facility, or IOF, the command-and-control center for the estimated 1,700 military and contract workers at the detention center complex that today houses 40 foreign men as captives. The state-of-the-art building known as the Red Roof Inn was built in 2004 for $13.5 million. It's not far from the Seaside Galley dining facility for prison staff where the captives' meals are also prepared. The commander and his deputies occupy space in this eavesdrop-proof structure, the best and most technologically equipped building at the Navy base on a space far from the downtown at the site called Radio Range. It has video-conferencing, the staff judge advocate and a public affairs officer. Based on testimony at the war court's Camp Justice compound, miles away, it also receives a live feed of military commissions proceedings so the jailers can monitor testimony and arguments in the cases against their captives. The public affairs staff reported in September 2016 that it has a plaque with steel from the World Trade Center, presented to the staff by the firefighter father of two sons killed on 9/11 as well as a framed "Flag of Honor" inscribed with former prison commander Rear Adm. Richard Butler's name -- an American flag whose stripes are made up of the names of every single person who was killed on Sept. 11, 2001. Opened: 2004.

Camp Justice: Built atop the old McCalla Airfield, this is the site where the Pentagon holds sessions of the military commissions as well as some Periodic Review Board hearings. The centerpiece of the war court compound is the Expeditionary Legal Complex, or ELC — a state-of-the-art maximum-security courthouse capable of trying six defendants at a time and releasing the audio to the public on a 40-second delay. It also has six cells, each capable of holding a single captive. Five are behind the maximum-security courthouse and a sixth is inside a razor-wire-ringed tent adjacent to a dilapidated hangar. When this cell was first shown to reporters in February 2008 it was described as meeting Federal Bureau of Prison standards — and available to imprison witnesses brought to Guantánamo Bay from federal prisons. The Camp Justice compound also has a series of maximum-security, snoop-proof office-style trailers for attorneys to handle classified documents. The classified office spaces, called Razors, were flown in on a C130 cargo plane in June 2007 — the last known aircraft to land on McCalla Field. Now one portion of the tarmac has a trailer park for some lawyers, translators, paralegals and other war court support staff. Another holds tents where reporters and war court observers are assigned to sleep. A hilltop building overlooking the airfield has a now defunct medium-security courtroom, as well as office space. The largest fixture on the site is a rundown aircraft hangar with offices for war court security staff, news reporters, some soldiers and an air-conditioned $49,000 wooden shed that serves as a stage-set of sorts for Pentagon press conferences. The military disclosed the initial cost of building the ELC at $12 million — in part because the tents and certain equipment came from existing Air Force supplies — but it has never revealed the true costs of subsequent building, maintenance and upkeep projects. The Navy and Marine Corps. Public Health Public Health Center has conducted multiple surveys amid concerns that this former airfield could be hazardous to occupants' health. In 2018, Congress authorized the expenditure of $14 million on an ELC expansion. Opened: May 2008. Population can range from fewer than 10 to over 100 during hearings.

updated June 9, 2018

Carol Rosenberg, Miami Herald

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