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

Photogallery Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving With Feasts, Festivities

Holiday traditions include turkey dinners, 'turkey trots,' American-style football and New York parade with giant balloons More

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

With two years left in term, analysts say, president has less to lose by taking conversation on race further More

Video Italian Espresso Expands Into Space

When Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti headed for the ISS, her countrymen worried how she would survive six months drinking only instant coffee 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.
To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violencei
X
Lenny Ruvaga
November 27, 2014 7:05 PM
The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violence

The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

Throughout the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, President Barack Obama has urged calm, restraint and respect for the rule of law. But the events in Ferguson have prompted him to call — more openly than he has before — for profound changes to end the racism and distrust that he believes still exists between whites and blacks in the United States. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Online Magazine Gets Kids Discussing Big Questions

Teen culture in America is often criticized for being superficial. But an online magazine has been encouraging some teenagers to explore deeper issues, and rewarding their efforts. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky went to this year’s Kidspirit awards ceremony in New York.
Video

Video US Community Kicks Off Thanksgiving With Parade

Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday whose roots go back to the country's earliest days as a British colony. One way Americans celebrate the occasion is with parades. Anush Avetisyan takes us to one such event on the day before Thanksgiving near Washington, where a community's diversity is on display. Joy Wagner narrates
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid