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

US Investors Eye IPO for China's Alibaba

E-commerce giant handled 80 percent of China's online business last year, logging more Internet transactions than US-based Amazon.com and eBay combined More

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

As cease-fire begins, Palestinians celebrate in streets; Israelis remain wary More

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

In treatment of a 12-year-old boy Chinese doctors used a 3-D printer and special software to create an exact replica of vertebra 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.
Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implanti
X
August 27, 2014 4:53 PM
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 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 Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
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. VOA News reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Northern California Quake: No Way to Know When Next One Will Hit

A magnitude 6.0 earthquake rocked northern California’s Napa Valley on Sunday. Roads twisted and water mains burst. It was the wine country’s most severe quake in 15 years, and while hospitals treated many people, no one was killed. Arash Arabasadi has more from Washington on what the future may hold for those residents living on a fault line.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Ukrainian officials say they have captured Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory -- the latest accusation of Moscow's involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the Ukrainian side of the battle, where soldiers are convinced of Russia's role.
Video

Video Rubber May Soon Come From Dandelions

Synthetic rubber has been around for more than a century, but quality tires for cars, trucks and aircraft still need up to 40 percent or more natural rubber content. As the source of natural rubber, the rubber tree, is prone to disease and can be affected by bad weather. So scientists are looking for replacements. And as VOA’s George Putic reports, they may have found one in a ubiquitous weed.
Video

Video Jewish Life in Argentina Reflected in Yiddish Tango

Jewish people from across Europe and Russia have been immigrating to Argentina for hundreds of years. They brought with them dance music that were eventually mixed with Argentine tango. The result is Yiddish tango -- a fusion of melodies and cultural experiences that is still evolving today. Elizabeth Lee reports from the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, where one band is bringing Yiddish tango to an American audience.

AppleAndroid