Admiral says high-security Guantanamo prison doesn’t need replacement after all
By CAROL ROSENBERG | Miami Herald (Tribune News Service) | Published: May 29, 2016
A claim that the secret prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where the military keeps former CIA captives was falling apart was a mistake, the prison commander says.
A Marine general had asked Congress for $49 million and a committee proposed $69 million to build a new one.
The lockup called Camp 7 that houses alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed and 14 other “high-value detainees” is just fine. No new construction is necessary, Navy Rear Adm. Peter Clarke said this past week.
“There was a report … that was not based on sound engineering analysis,” Clarke said without elaboration of who did it and when. “And once engineers got in there and evaluated, it was determined to be structurally safe. It was just preliminary assessments without the rigor of good engineering work.”
His spokesman, Navy Capt. Christopher Scholl, likewise did not reply to requests for a timetable.
Clarke made the remark a week before perhaps as many as seven Camp 7 residents are to be brought to the war court for pretrial hearings in the 9/11 case. The five alleged plotters, facing an eventual death-penalty trial, are due there for a week of pretrial hearings starting Monday.
One of them, alleged plot deputy Ramzi bin al Shibh, has called two other residents of the SuperMax-style building to testify about noises and vibrations he hears and feels at the secret prison and considers intentional. One is a Palestinian captive known as Abu Zubaydah and the other is a Somali, Hassan Guleed. Neither has been seen in public since their 2002 and 2005 capture and disappearance by the CIA. They were brought to Camp 7 in September 2006 and have never been charged with crimes.
The former CIA prisoners were already at Camp 7 for six years when U.S. Southern Command Gen. John F. Kelly asked Congress in 2014 for $49 million to build a new one. In 2014, he testified that the situation was “increasingly unsustainable due to drainage and foundation issues.”
Also in 2014, one of Clarke’s predecessors said that troops were managing but “literally the ground’s heaving up underneath it. So it’s cracking the floor. That’s the biggest issue. So once you start cracking the floors, you start cracking the walls, then doors don’t work — things like that. That’s the issue,” said Rear Adm. Richard Butler, who has since retired. “Right now it’s operational, but the fear is that any more [and] it’s going to potentially not be.”
That same year, without a request from the administration, the House Armed Services Committee inserted $69 million for a new Camp 7 into a draft bill. It was not adopted, but Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, then a deputy and now the committee chairman, said: “The one they have now is falling apart.” He said a new Camp 7 would be better for the troops.