Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Taxpayer Values - Guantánamo

“At a cost of $2.8 million per prisoner per year, Guantánamo is the most expensive prison in the world. (The costliest prison in the U.S., the Colorado Supermax, at $78,000 per prisoner per year.) And the costs will continue to rise as facilities that were built to be temporary, like the Camp America Dining Facility, deteriorate. In addition to the dining facility repairs, the 2015 defense budget also calls for $11.8 million to upgrade a medical clinic that was never built to serve an aging population of prisoners. Congress earmarked another $69 million to renovate Camp 7, the top-secret facility that holds the 15-high value detainees who were tortured in CIA black sites prior to their transfer to Guantánamo. In March, The Miami Herald reported that the ground below the facility had shifted, causing the floors and walls of the building to crack. New Republic, September 21, 2014.
Wow, at that cost level, I guess that Gitmo must be both a model prison and an exemplar of the best and fairest justice system on earth, right? Well, blogger fans, you know me well enough to know how deeply my tongue must be embedded into my cheek! So let’s get the straight dope from one who really knows, to see how effective this “detention center” has been. Try this Op-Ed in the March 27th New York Times from Morris D. Davis, a retired Air Force colonel, who was the chief prosecutor of the military commissions at Guantánamo Bay from September 2005 until October 2007:  “Just six detainees have been both convicted and sentenced for war crimes in military commissions since President George W. Bush first authorized them in November 2001.
“Charges against three were later dismissed, and five who were convicted were eventually transferred from Guantánamo. Thus we have a legal system where it is more advantageous to be found guilty of a war crime than never to be charged at all and remain imprisoned indefinitely.
“About 85 percent of the 779 men ever held at Guantánamo are no longer there. Most left during the Bush administration. While the number of transfers has been much smaller under the Obama administration, the pace accelerated in the latter part of 2014… Of the 122 men detained, nearly half have been cleared for transfer by unanimous votes of military, intelligence, law enforcement and diplomatic officials who determined that the detainees could not be prosecuted, posed no identifiable threat to the United States and did not need to remain in our custody. Nevertheless, 56 men cleared to leave still remain…
But the list of nations that will accept detainees that we no longer wish to detain is growing short. Uruguay is the latest country to say they’re finished taking such releasees. And as for the United States, state after state has suggested that NIMBY is the operative philosophy: not in my backyard. They don’t want trials moved to their precious  venues, and the most conservative Congressmen and women seem to like indefinite detention almost as much as they enjoyed the “enhanced interrogation” techniques (applied to a number of Gitmo detainees before they arrived by loving cadres from the C.I.A.).
The problem is not only the rapidly deteriorating infrastructure but the inability to keep leadership, judges and counsel at the facility: “[In early March], we learned that, only months into the job, the official in charge of the military courts system at Guantánamo Bay was stepping down, after judges ruled he had interfered in proceedings. The appointment of an interim replacement was the sixth change of leadership for the tribunals since 2003…
“That’s not all. Besides the revolving door at the convening authority’s office, six military attorneys have served as chief prosecutor for these courts over the same period. (I was the third.)” Davis in the NY Times.
Guantánamo has become a rich source of anti-American propaganda which terrorist organizations use to recruit more of their ilk. Our European allies consider these tribunals to be little more than “kangaroo courts,” and the entire debacle of indefinite confinement under very hard circumstances to be a rather total violation of human rights. What worse, even Americans who suffered real pain from unlawful terrorist attacks have never seen the convictions of the perpetrators that would have brought defined justice to the losses they have suffered: “As unfortunate as this waste of resources and damage to America’s reputation are, the greatest tragedy is the pain inflicted on the friends and families of the 9/11 and Cole victims. For them, justice has been endlessly delayed.
“Rather than showing ‘the world that justice is in fact being done,’ as [venerable Washington lawyer Lloyd N.]  Cutler wrote, Guantánamo has come to symbolize torture and indefinite detention, and its court system has been discredited as an opaque and dysfunctional process. The latest reshuffle of personnel will not alter this impression." Davis in the NY Times.
Indeed, even the United Nations has taken a pretty strong stand against Gitmo and the American practices in that camp of unending misery. But the United States has done everything in its power to frustrate U.N. efforts to investigate and find the truth. Here’s a report from British newspaper, The Guardian (March 16th): “The Pentagon said it will refuse the United Nations special rapporteur on torture from interviewing or even meeting detainees held at the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay. The UN’s Juan E. Mendez called for increased access to the prison last week….
“The Guardian reported [March 15th] that the Obama administration had reaffirmed its commitment to secrecy at the notorious detention center following a visit to Gitmo by a handful of new US senators who are supportive of the prison… Méndez, the UN’s special rapporteur on torture, ‘has been invited to visit Guantánamo; however, he will not be permitted to interview detainees,’ Army Lieutenant Colonel Myles Caggins, a Pentagon spokesman, told the Guardian.
“[In Early March], Méndez said he has been offered certain terms attached to a Gitmo visit, yet he, like his predecessor in 2004, declined to accept based on stipulations he deemed too narrow… ‘The invitation is to get a briefing from the authorities and to visit some parts of the prison, but not all, and specifically I am not allowed to have unmonitored or even monitored conversations with any inmate in Guantanamo Bay,’ he said… Mendez has sought a level of unfettered access to Gitmo detainees since 2010, yet the Obama administration continues to spurn his requests, maintaining that Mendez is allowed only a restricted viewing of the prison facilities.”
So let me see, Guantánamo is the most expensive prison to operate (cost per inmate) of any prison earth, is decaying and eroding fast, cannot keep its personnel to work in that facility, its mere existence has recruited an untold number of additional terrorists, justice remains denied for both victims and inmates, the notion of “justice” at that facility violates just about every democratic principle we hold sacred, we are held in scorn, as a hypocritical rogue bully unwilling to support human rights in our own system, and all that wasted money could go for programs that we desperately need at home. And the reason we have this facility, which Congress will not allow Guantánamo Bay to close is????
I’m Peter Dekom, and as long as we cannot fix the most egregious violations of our own principles, how in the world can we ever generate the kind of respect we used to have as a nation… or will we ever again?

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