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

    No More Space Race for US, Rivalry Gives Way to Collaboration

    What began as a struggle for dominance in space between two world powers has changed entirely to one of joint efforts

    Beijing Warns Critics Over South China Sea Dispute

    Official warns critics that the more they challenge China's position regarding disputed territories in one of world’s busiest waterways, the more it will push back

    Move Over Millennials, Here Comes iGeneration

    How the first generation to be born, almost literally, with a smartphone in hand, might change America

    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.
    Image Recognition Market Seen Doubling by 2020i
    X
    Ramon Taylor
    May 05, 2016 10:05 PM
    From auto tagging on Facebook to self-driving cars, image recognition technology as it exists today is still in its beginning phases, experts say — and will soon change the way users and corporations interact with the physical world. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports.
    Video

    Video Image Recognition Market Seen Doubling by 2020

    From auto tagging on Facebook to self-driving cars, image recognition technology as it exists today is still in its beginning phases, experts say — and will soon change the way users and corporations interact with the physical world. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports.
    Video

    Video Child Labor in Afghanistan Remains a Problem

    With war still raging in Afghanistan, the country also faces the problem of child labor as families put their school-age children to work to help make ends meet. But, thanks to VOA's Afghan Service, two families whose children had been working in a brick-making factory - to earn their livings and pay off family debts - now have a new lease on life. Zabihullah Ghazi reports.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Troops Recount Firefight Which Killed US Navy SEAL

    A U.S. Navy SEAL killed Tuesday, when Islamic State fighters punched through Kurdish lines in northern Iraq, was part of a quick reaction force sent to extract other U.S. troops trapped by the surprise offensive. VOA's Kawa Omar spoke with Kurdish troops in the town of Telskuf -- the scene of what U.S. officials called a "dynamic firefight."
    Video

    Video British Lawmakers Warn EU Exit Talks Could Last A Decade

    Leaving the European Union would mean difficult negotiations that could take years to complete, according to a bipartisan group of British lawmakers. While the group did not recommend a vote either way, the lawmakers noted trade deals between the EU and non-EU states take between four and nine years on average. Henry Ridgwell reports on the mounting debate over whether Britain should stay or exit the EU as the June vote approaches.
    Video

    Video NASA Astronauts Train for Commercial Space Flights

    Since the last Shuttle flight in 2011, the United States has been relying on Russian rockets to launch fresh crews to the International Space Station. But that may change in the next few years. NASA and several private space companies are developing advanced capsules capable of taking humans into low orbit and beyond. As VOA's George Putic reports, astronauts are already training for commercial spacecraft in flight simulators.
    Video

    Video US Worried Political Chaos in Iraq Will Hurt IS Fight

    The White House is expressing concern about rising political chaos in Iraq and the impact it could have on the fight against the Islamic State. The U.S. says Iraq needs a stable, central government to help push back the group. But some say Baghdad may not have a unified government any time soon. VOA's White House correspondent Mary Alice Salinas reports.
    Video

    Video Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limited

    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Taliban Threats Force Messi Fan to Leave Afghanistan

    A young Afghan boy, who recently received autographed shirts and a football from his soccer hero Lionel Messi, has fled his country due to safety concerns. He and his family are now taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
    Video

    Video Major Rubbish Burning Experiment Captures Destructive Greenhouse Gases

    The world’s first test to capture environmentally harmful carbon dioxide gases from the fumes of burning rubbish took place recently in Oslo, Norway. The successful experiment at the city's main incinerator plant, showcased a method for capturing most of the carbon dioxide. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.
    Video

    Video EU Visa Block Threatens To Derail EU-Turkey Migrant Deal

    Turkish citizens could soon benefit from visa-free travel to Europe as part of the recent deal between the EU and Ankara to stem the flow of refugees. In return, Turkey has pledged to keep the migrants on Turkish soil and crack down on those who are smuggling them. Brussels is set to publish its latest progress report Wednesday — but as Henry Ridgwell reports from London, many EU lawmakers are threatening to veto the deal over human rights concerns.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora