News / USA

10 Years After 9/11 Guantanamo Still Open, Still Controversial

Following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States and the U.S. military intervention in Afghanistan, the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba became a prison for suspects captured in America’s war on terror.

Meredith Buel


Life at Guantanamo (*Don't miss our interactive feature )

The young guard squints into the blazing sun that beats down on the detention center at Guantanamo Bay.  Around him lines of chain link fence stretch out to a view of the blue-green waters of the Caribbean Sea.

A little beyond the detention center are small hills, some hard-scrabble grass, cactus, and rocks - a stark, almost desert-like environment. Closer in, are the newer, almost sterile detention camps, with looming guard towers, and seemingly endless layers of razor wire. Large iguanas and banana rats scurry around the sprawling naval base on the southeastern tip of Cuba.

This is the U.S. Guantanamo Bay Detention Center today, a place that gained notoriety after 2002 when images of shackled detainees in orange jumpsuits captured in America’s war on terror hit the front pages. Quickly, human rights groups began questioning the interrogation techniques being used here.

But today, guard Daniel Snell, a Navy Master-at-Arms, takes pride in his job.  “For me,” he says, “it is a sense of duty, honor.”

Camp X-Ray, where detainees were held in open-air cages in the tension-filled months following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks against the United States, has long since closed. Grass is growing through the buildings, parts of it have collapsed and the old guard tower is leaning over.  

Employees

New detention camps have been built, with air conditioning, medical facilities, a library, a communal center, and art classes. But those working here understand they are in a place that generated hostility around the world and is still controversial.

“We maintain the highest standards of conduct with our guards,” says Navy Rear Admiral Jeffrey Harbeson, the commander of Joint Task Force Guantanamo.  “We hold ourselves up as a model of professionalism for detention operations.”

But critics of the decision by then President George W. Bush to send detainees to Guantanamo, where most have been held without trial, say the move was “catastrophic.”

“It caused incalculable damage to this country’s reputation around the world,” says Eugene Fidell, a lecturer on military law at Yale University.

Of the nearly 780 detainees that were brought to Guantanamo over the past decade, about 600 have since been returned to their home countries or elsewhere.

Detainees

According to a 2010 report by the Guantanamo Review Task Force, nearly 50 of the current detainees are “too dangerous to transfer, but not feasible for prosecution.”

Under authorization from the U.S. Congress, these detainees may be held indefinitely, although they can challenge their status in court.

The most dangerous detainees are held in maximum security facilities at Guantanamo. They spend 20 hours a day in a cell by themselves. When they leave their cells to watch television or read, they are shackled.

Most of the others are held in a medium security prison, where they have to be in their cells four hours a night. They are free to walk around the cell blocks and can meet in common areas to read, eat and pray. Meals and magazines are brought to them.

Interaction with guards is at a minimum, and face-to-face contact with people in the outside world is almost non-existent. Photographers can only film through double-paned dark-tinted glass and reporters are not allowed to talk to any detainee.

Top Secret

There is one camp at Guantanamo Bay that is so protected its very location is top secret. Camp Seven is believed to hold the suspects behind the 9/11 terrorist attacks, but no-one wants to discuss it.

“Well, I can’t talk too much about Camp Seven at all for national security reasons,” says Donnie Thomas, the Army colonel in charge of the Joint Detention Group.

Shortly after his inauguration in 2009, U.S. President Barack Obama signed executive orders he hoped would shut down the Guantanamo detention sites within one year. But Congress blocked plans to move detainees to the United States and prosecute them in federal court.

Earlier this year, Mr. Obama cleared the way for military trials to resume at Camp Justice, part of the Guantanamo Bay complex, and signed another executive order creating an indefinite detention system. There are periodic reviews to decide a detainee’s status.

Nearly 10 years after the first detainees were brought here, as the guards walk in the Caribbean sun past layers of razor wire, guard towers and reinforced cell blocks, there is no evidence this controversial site will close anytime soon.

* Don't miss our interactive feature on Guantanamo

You May Like

Anti-Terror Drills Highlight China’s Push Into Central Asia

China, Russia, several central Asian countries wrap up massive anti terrorism military drills in Inner Mongolia More

Erdogan’s First Step: Secure More Power in New Role in Turkey

Erdogan was sworn in as Turkey's first popularly elected president on Thursday; he picked former foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu as PM More

Pakistan Army Fails to Break Political Deadlock

PM Sharif claims he didn't ask army to defuse crisis; military rejects claim More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assaulti
X
Daniel Schearf
August 29, 2014 9:30 PM
After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video America's Most Popular Artworks Displayed in Public Places

Public places in cities across America were turned into open-air art galleries in August. Pictures of the nation’s most popular artworks were displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms and more. The idea behind “Art Everywhere,” a collaborative campaign by five major museums is to allow more people to enjoy art and learn about the country’s culture and history. Faiza Elmasry has more.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.

AppleAndroid