Guantánamo

Guantánamo base searching records amid cancer scare

The flag flying over the war court complex, Camp Justice, as seen through a broken abandoned air hangar window at the U.S. Navy base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, on Feb. 28, 2015, in an image approved for release by the U.S. military.
The flag flying over the war court complex, Camp Justice, as seen through a broken abandoned air hangar window at the U.S. Navy base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, on Feb. 28, 2015, in an image approved for release by the U.S. military. MIAMI HERALD

Navy officials are combing through Guantánamo records in search of evidence of carcinogens at the Pentagon’s war court compound after a complaint questioned whether the death of a former war court defense lawyer was linked to the lawyer’s service at the remote U.S. Navy base in Cuba, the military said Thursday.

The base was also awaiting the arrival of “a small team” of public health experts next week “to provide subject matter expertise for the base commanding officer and leadership.”

The U.S. Navy issued the statement hours after family and colleagues gathered at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, for the funeral and burial of a former war court defense attorney, Lt. Cmdr. William Kuebler, 44, whose July 17th death prompted the inquiry.

The statement cautioned the review — “an exhaustive process” of searching historical records — “could take several weeks.”

In addition, “public health experts are reviewing historical medical records” of seven people, including Kuebler, “who lived and worked in the area’’ of the base’s war court compound and who were subsequently diagnosed with cancer, the statement said.

A colleague of Kuebler’s filed the complaint with the Department of Defense Inspector General’s Office days before the death of Kuebler, a Navy lawyer who for a time represented Canadian captive Omar Khadr and Saudi captive Ghassan Sharbi, both accused of war crimes.

The colleague, a Navy Reserves attorney who at one time worked on a Guantánamo war-court case, listed the names of seven people — both military and civilian, not all lawyers — who had been diagnosed with a variety of cancers and had worked at the war-court compoundin 2008.

A base spokeswoman declined to respond to a Miami Herald inquiry on whether public health experts were additionally taking water and soil samples at the site.

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