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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Pentagon seeks funding for new facility at Guantanamo

The US Southern Command wants $69 million for a new facility where high-value detainees will be kept. The money is included in an appropriation for the 2017 portion of a four-year plan according to Rear Adm. Kyle Cozad commander of Guantanamo Bay.



At present, high value prisoners are kept at Camp 7, a camp that reporters have not been allowed to visit. Marine General John Kelly told the US Congress last February that Camp 7 had become "increasingly unsustainable due to drainage and foundation issues". However, on a recent interview last Friday, Cozad insisted to reporters: “Quite frankly, there’s no operational issue with that facility today.Otherwise we wouldn’t have folks in there.”
The $69 million was included in an omnibus defense bill earlier this year but was rejected by the Senate that was then controlled by the Democrats and was rejected also by the Defense Department. Cozad would not speculate as to whether the new Republican-controlled Senate would be more likely to grant approval for the funding. Given his position, it is not surprising that Cozad would not express an opinion on the issue, but it seems to me much more likely for the funding to go through now.
 The fiscal year 2017 actually begins on Oct. 1, 2016. The new building and enclosures are clearly intended to house detainees after Obama leaves office in January of 2017. There is obviously no plan for the facility to be closed by then. Cozad claimed it would not be possible to move the 14 or 15 high value captives being held at present to a segregated wing of another camp "based on higher level policy" although he did not explain that reason further. He also said such a move would not be "space prudent".
 The commander of the prison itself Colonel David Heath confirmed that the facility would be unlikely to close during Obama's term of office. Heath's term runs out in mid 2016. Heath told reporters closing the facility before he left was an unrealistic hope. Amnesty International has described Guantanamo as a " symbol of injustice and abuse in the US administration's war on terror" and added "it must be closed down". UN head Ban Ki-Moon also urged closure of the facility.
Yet the US public has never been in favor of closing the facility if it means transferring some detainees to the US. In 2007 51 per cent of Americans polled were in favor of keeping Guantanamo open. By 2009 the number had risen to 65 per cent and that figure now is roughly 66 per cent still. One Kuwaiti cleared for release recently has been returned to his home country However, there are 79 detainees cleared for release still being held. A US Department of Defense official claimed that a dozen more could be released in the coming few months. But there are 148 prisoners left in the facility. Their fate still appears to be that of indefinite detention although a few may eventually face charges before military tribunals.

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