White House alerted ahead of Guantánamo raid

U.S. military officials told the White House in advance of Saturday’s pre-dawn raid that put dozens of captives in lockdown inside a communal camp here, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Monday.

Carney described the weekend operation, in which guards fired four rounds of anti-riot pellets as they battled captives into individual cells as transforming Camp 6 captives “from a communal situation to single-cell living in order to ensure their health and security.”

The once-compliant captives of Camp 6, a 200-cell prison, had spent weeks defying their guards, refusing to let meal carts come inside and covering up surveillance cameras inside individual cells. Some captives met Saturday’s operation to confine individual captives to individual cells with violence, using mop and broom handles as well as water bottles crafted into clubs as self-styled weapons, the military said.

The Obama administration had already acknowledged it was monitoring a months-old hunger strike in the camps, which the military said Monday afternoon rose to 45 of the 166 captives classified by Navy medical teams as hunger strikers. Two of the men were hospitalized for observation, said Navy Capt. Robert Durand, a prison spokesman — and 13 of the men were being fed through tubes snaked up a nostril into their stomachs.

“The detainees in the hospital do not currently have any life-threatening conditions,” Durand told reporters for four news organizations that arrived at this remote base for the first visit by media in three weeks.

The reporters arrived Monday but were not being given an opportunity to observe conditions in the prison camps until Tuesday at the earliest.

Carney, briefing reporters, said that President Barack Obama still supported closure of the prison camps “and we have taken steps in processing detainees and in transferring them to third countries,” but “Congress has, as you know, raised obstacles to this legislatively.” He restated the White House position that the administration would not add any more captives to the prison camps here where a staff of 1,700 troops and Pentagon contractors are responsible for the 166 prisoners.

Carney didn’t provide a specific time when the White House was told about the weekend operation, but said “we had a situation where cameras were being covered. It was impossible to know through the monitoring of it whether the security of detainees was being maintained. And so this decision was taken.”

Before the weekend raid fewer than 80 men had lived in communal POW style settings — praying together, taking meals together and watching satellite TV together. By Monday, they were praying in their individual cells and could no longer see the televisions.