Tags: Security | Tight | For | Inmates | X-Ray

Security Tight For Inmates At X-Ray

Sunday, 27 January 2002 12:00 AM

Through binoculars at the press post a few hundred yards away, they can be seen talking with one another, sometimes sitting back to back, sometimes stretching their legs. The chain-link cells are flush against each other; there is no distance between these prisoners.

"They are checking out the environment, determining what their options and opportunities are," said Brig. Gen. Michael Lehner, commander of the task force guarding the camp. "Our view is we are not going to give them any."

The proximity of prisoners to each other is not optimal for security, as it could allow the prisoners to collude, say officers.

"Those were the cards we were dealt," said Lt. Col. Angel L. Lugo, a spokesman for the Joint Detention Operations Group at "GTMO" -- pronounced "gitmo" -- as the base is known in military parlance.

Security is indeed tight at the breezy two-acre enclosure, just a few hundred yards from the sparkling bay and even closer to the living quarters of many military families assigned to Guantanamo Bay Naval Base.

The hoods that the prisoners were wearing when they arrived -- and which helped spark a global controversy about their treatment -- were to prevent them from learning how close they are to the base population, military officials say.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, visiting the facility for the first time since it began being used 15 days ago to house prisoners, said he would not release the recommendations for improvements to the camp made by the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Rumsfeld said the Red Cross counseled him against releasing their report as it might compromise their ability to visit prisoners in other places less amenable to public scrutiny. Earlier in the week Rumsfeld said he would release the ICRC report, which is based heavily on private interviews with the prisoners.

Seven tall guard towers look down into the perimeter of the camp, encircled by two separate 8-foot-tall chain link fences topped with razor wire. The Marines in the towers, emblazoned with American flags, are armed.

The Army soldiers who patrol the interior of the camp, tending to the food, water and logistical needs of the prisoners, are not armed lest they be overpowered. No weapons are allowed inside the gate of the camp.

Overall, however, Camp X-Ray officials say the prisoners have been relatively docile.

The prisoners are issued jumpsuits and black gym shorts, which serve as underwear. They get flip-flops and "Lively Salon" anti-dandruff shampoo, as well as soap, toothpaste and a toothbrush -- sawed off so it can't be made into a weapon. They get three meals a day and shower about three times a week. They are issued two towels, a sheet and two blankets -- an upgrade since last week, as the prisoners said they were cold at night.

"I think they really wanted to just use it as a pillow," said Lugo.

The prisoners might well need the added comfort to get to sleep, as bright lights are trained on the compound through the night for security reasons and generators hum ceaselessly around the camp. The detainees are awakened at 5:20 every morning and get breakfast delivered to their cells around 6:30 a.m.

Muslim Navy chaplain Saiful Islam issues the Arabic call to prayer five times a day over a public address system. A white marker on a pole flanked by an American flag and a guard tower indicates the direction of Mecca, the holy city in the direction of which Muslims always pray.

Construction of new facilities at the controversial Camp X-Ray continues around the clock, with 64 cells empty and another 60 being built. Ultimately this temporary facility will comprise 340 cells.

Last week, the United States halted the transfer of prisoners from Afghanistan, citing a shortage of facilities at the base.

Just outside the gates are five windowless plywood shacks. Three are used for interrogating prisoners. Another serves as storage. The fifth is the headquarters of the military unit staffing the prison.

Prisoners arrive in massive C-17 cargo planes, where they are shackled and strapped to chairs for the duration of the 27-hour trip. They alight on buses, and then on to a ferry for the 20-minute ride across Guantanamo Bay, a beautiful blue deep-water inlet ringed by green mountains.

The ferry is escorted across the water by a heavily armed fast boat and soldiers in humvees with machine guns mounted to the decks both precede and follow the convoy.

The prisoners come through two gates and then, one by one, are brought to shower. They are then checked out by a doctor and accounted for in the camp. For some of them, this is their first shower since they were captured.

For others it's their first opportunity to see a doctor in months, if not longer. Five have had surgery since arriving at Camp X-Ray. One prisoner has been treated for a painful eye, blinded long ago. Another had an infected gunshot wound in his foot, which was drained and cleaned. The prisoners are treated by the same medical staff that serves the U.S. personnel at the base.

"The detainees very much appreciate the care. They let us know that," said Cmdr. James Gallagher.

Gallagher said the doctors separate their personal feelings about the prisoners from their jobs.

"I see a person who has an injury or a disease. My goal is to cure them," Gallagher said.

The prisoners are escorted by two guards and remain in shackles and handcuffs while they are being examined.

Copyright 2002 by United Press International.

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Through binoculars at the press post a few hundred yards away, they can be seen talking with one another, sometimes sitting back to back, sometimes stretching their legs. The chain-link cells are flush against each other; there is no distance between these prisoners. ...
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2002-00-27
Sunday, 27 January 2002 12:00 AM
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