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Defense Systems Journal was invited by the Office of the Secretary of Defense to travel to U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay (GTMO) to attend the 9 November 2011 arraignment of Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri (46) a Saudi Arabian citizen alleged to be the mastermind of the USS Cole bombing and other terrorist attacks.  he allegedly headed al-Qaeda operations in the Persian Gulf and the Gulf states prior to his capture in November 2002 by the CIA's Special Activities Division.  A chartered commercial aircraft containing interested parties including Members of the defense, prosecutition, media, USS Cole survivors and deceased family members departed Andrews AFB on 7 November en-route to Cuba. 

GTMO is the oldest U.S. base overseas and the only one in a Communist country. Located on the southeast corner of Cuba, in the Oriente Province, the base is about 400 air miles from Miami, Florida.


Here's the view of the eastern coast of Cuba from the starboard side of the Boeing chartered Boeing 757 after the 3-hour dash from Andrews AFB.  (DSJ had expected/hoped to be sitting in the back of a loud, rickety C-130 looking across the cargo bay at the other side, but also there was meal-service and a movie -- alas, not A Few Good Men.)  
Because of the restricted airspace over Cuba, the charter flight takes an aggressive approach into the runway, which is located on the west side of the bay (leeward), coming straight at the island from the south and banking hard right to land west-to-east on the runway.

Here's a view (Navy photo) of the 8000 ft. runway at the Leeward Air Field (MUGM) at GTMO Naval Station.  This military airfield hosts DoD, Coast Guard, and chartered commercial aircraft such as ours.  Little of the business of GTMO is done on the leeward side of the Bay.



GTMO is divided into two distinct areas by the 2 1/2 mile-wide Guantanamo Bay. The airfield is located on the Leeward side and the main base is on the Windward side. Ferry service -- a 20-minute cruise -- provides transportation across the bay. Two passenger/vehicle ferries (YFB-92, YFB-93) -- and a host of other craft -- are said to be operated by GTMO's Port Services Department and waterfront contractor, Burns & Roe.  

Here's a shot from the observation deck of the ferry.



In addition to being the site of Joint Task Force Guantanamo responsible for detainee operations, Naval Station GTMO provides assistance and services to the US Navy and US Coast Guard ships as well as other foreign naval ships operating in the Caribbean Sea. GTMO also supports the fleet participating in the narco-terrorism operations. It launches migrant operations to provide shelter for Haitians and Cubans. It supports joint operations though it is not a joint operations command.
The Naval Station Guantanamo Bay Security Department is one of the largest departments on the base and has one of the most diverse missions. As the only uniformed law enforcement agency on GTMO, they are called upon to handle Antiterrorism, Force Protection, Physical Security and basic law enforcement functions to include 911 emergencies and day to day calls to service. Here's a picture of their headquarters building.  



A journalist standing in front of one the living quarter tents that comprise Camp Justice.  Camp Justice houses personnel and visitors who support the Military Commissions at GTMO.



Inside one of the six-person Camp Justice tents.  Sparse. Functional.  Perpetually chilled.  ("Bring an extra banket" we were well advised by OSD Media Affairs.)   

GTMO Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) officials note that "Guantanamo Bay offers a wide variety of eating establishments and watering holes for its residents. Boasting restaurants and bars to fit every craving, MWR and NEXCOM [Navy Exchange Service Command] have everything from fine dining to fast food and are sure to have something to satisfy even the most discriminating palate. Focused not only on food but also on ambiance, the Bay has an eclectic mix of eateries and night life hot spots. Many of these facilities are also happy to provide venues and catering for special events and can host a guest list from 5 to 5,000."

The Windjammer Cafe, marquee pictured here, is dubbed by MWR as "Guantanamo's premier casual dining establishment."  Yes, in case you were wondering, a Carribean cafe with Pizza Hut food in an Irish pub has a strange vibe... as does GTMO itself.



Journalists traveled from Camp Justice to tour Joint Task Force-Guantanamo's detainee Camps V and VI
There are currently 171 detainees being held "in a firm, fair, impartial, transparent, and humane manner" in three GTMO camps:
-- Camp V can house up to 100 detainees and, at present, is being used as a "discipline camp" holding from 20-30 detainees -- for up to 20 days -- who have failed to comply with rules.  Camp V is also holding four convicted prisoners.
-- Camp VI holds more than 80% of GTMO's detainees in communal living quarters. 
-- Camp VII -- no visitors are allowed to the ultra-sensitive Camp 7 or "Camp Platnium" -- which holds 14 High Value Detainees (HVD).


Here is a DoD photo of detainee meal service.  We were told that while other disciplinary measures are invoked, "food is never tied to discipline" at GTMO.  We were further advised that there were no on-going hunger strikes -- a frequent tool of detainees in the past -- at the present.  We were also told that detainees are offered daily showers and access to legal meetings or medical appointments when necessary.  We were told that detainees have access to mail (screened) and periodic phone calls and video-teleconferences. 

Here's a shot of one of the 6w' x 10d' by 8h' cells (size exceeds international prison standards) that house the detainees at Camp V.  Each cell contains a toilet, wash basin, and bunk.  Provisions such as rounded-edge, wall-mounted hangers with weight tolerances prevent detainees from hanging themselves.

The Officer-in-Charge of the Camp pointed out the overhead and ambient light in the cell and showed  provisions given to those detainees (don't call them "prisoners") who were "in compliance" (those on the bunk here, including a thicker mattress, different clothing, greater access to library books and magazines) and those were were not (thinner mattress, orange uniforms, less access to library materials). 


GTMO detainees have often (and recently) smeared feces in their cells and pressed it into ventilation ducts.  They have also thrown feces and urine at guards and through the Camps.  Here's a photo of the ceiling in the "C" wing of Camp V.


Compliant detainees are housed in Camp VI's seven communal lving "quads" in groups of roughly twenty.   The have access to large flatscreen televisions and satellite programming, the newest (PSP, DS Lite) video games, digital music/radio, and classroom/group ("inter-rec") educational activities five days weekly in areas including art, computers, "time management" and language study.

This photo shows the leg shackles that detainees wear while engaged in the classroom/group activities, a precaution necessary, the officer-in-charge told us, because outside instructors are brought in to the "inter-rec" room to teach



GTMO detainees are allowed from 2-4 hours (depending on their compliance with Camp rules) of exercise time daily in outdoor courtyards.  Here's a DoD photo of a soccer match.