Navy names 16th Guantánamo prison commander a week after 15th installed

Rear Adm. Peter J. Clarke
Rear Adm. Peter J. Clarke U.S. NAVY

The Navy is sending a one-star admiral currently working at an anti-trafficking intelligence center in Key West to run the Pentagon prison operation of 116 captives at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, the Navy announced Friday.

Rear Adm. Peter J. Clarke, a submariner, will replace Air Force Reserve Brig. Gen. Jose Monteagudo, a former Miami-based American Airlines and combat pilot who took over at Guantánamo last week after another admiral opted out of the assignment.

Both Clarke and Monteagudo answer to Marine Gen. John F. Kelly, the commander of U.S. Southern Command. Clarke is currently deputy director of the Joint Interagency Task Force South, which tracks air and sea traffic toward South Florida to help U.S. and other law enforcement officials intercept drug traffickers.

Monteagudo had been Kelly’s deputy on detention issues for nearly two years before moving to the base to run the operation of more than 2,000 troops and civilians, from guards to war court support staff. He took the job as the 15th commander, not on an interim basis.

Clarke will become the 16th commander since the first suspected al-Qaida and Taliban captives were brought to what was intended to be a temporary operation at the U.S. Navy base in Cuba, on Jan. 11, 2002. No timetable for transfer of authority has been set. He is expected to remain in Key West until a Navy captain successor is named and approved by Congress for promotion to rear admiral to take over the Key West position.

The announcement comes just days after Kelly traveled to the remote outpost and installed Monteagudo at a ceremony in a base church that for the most part excluded enlisted members of the military and troops below the rank of major in the Army and lieutenant commander in the Navy.

The former detention center commander, Rear Adm. Kyle Cozad, also excluded civilian media from the ceremony in which Kelly addressed Monteagudo by his combat pilot call sign, “Hoser,” announced that the Air Force Reserve officer was Cuban American and complained bitterly about media coverage of the detention center.

Before Key West, Clarke worked at the Joint Chiefs of Staff as assistant deputy director for Regional Operations and Force Management. It is not yet known if he has been to Guantánamo, or where he was serving during the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks that prompted the Bush administration to set up the extrajudicial, offshore detention center.

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The Pentagon announcement released Friday morning, here.

The future commander’s Navy biography, here.

The current commander’s detention center biography, here.

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