Why is Guantanamo still open?

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In 2009, President Barack Obama signed an executive order to close Guantanamo Bay detention camp. Why?

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It’s Still Open: Will the Guantánamo Bay Prison Become a 2020 Issue?

Barack Obama campaigned on the promise to close the Pentagon-operated prison at Guantánamo Bay. Donald Trump, on the other hand, campaigned to fill the prison base back up.

From the January day 17 years ago when the first prisoners arrived until today, two things have remained remarkably consistent: The prison at Guantánamo Bay remains open and reporter Carol Rosenberg has been covering it. “If you’re asking how Guantánamo ends,” Rosenberg told Intercepted this week, “I have no idea.”

Rosenberg was covering Guantánamo since Bill Clinton was in the White House, before Bush-era Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s “unlawful combatants” ever set foot in the camp. And she was there for that too: Rosenberg watched as the first 20 nameless men arrived. “If you close your eyes and imagine a photo of 20 men on their knees in orange jumpsuits with blinders on their face, that’s a picture taken the first day by a Navy combat cameraman of the first 20 men in,” Rosenberg said.

In the 17 long years since the naval base was used to detain prisoners merely suspected of having something to do with anti-American terrorism, 780 men have passed through its walls. Today, 40 men remain. Some of those men — like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, or KSM, the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attacks — first went through a secret CIA-operated outpost within the military base, known as a black site.

Rosenberg revealed last month that CIA Director Gina Haspel may have had a stint running a CIA outpost at GTMO, which was operated from 2003 to 2004. Rosenberg got the scoop from a recently declassified transcript of a secret court hearing last year, in which KSM’s defense lawyer argued that Haspel’s past involvement at the prison makes a fair trial impossible.

“I look at the words on the page and I’m like, ‘Gina Haspel ran a black site at Guantánamo?’ It’s been widely reported that she certainly ran a black site in Thailand and the Guantánamo episode continues to be really mysterious. And then I begin — I go on a mission to try and figure out the truthfulness of this,” Rosenberg told Intercepted. “Those who know for sure can’t say, but those who know the program have a context where they can talk about it. I’m not saying it’s a fact. I’m saying this piece of information was declassified. The CIA won’t confirm it. They won’t deny it.”

Listen to Carol Rosenberg on Intercepted beginning at 43:00.

Haspel’s alleged involvement at Guantánamo received little attention in the fast-moving, Trump-era news cycle. Yet the history of the American presence at Guantánamo Bay continues to demand attention. Long before the war on terror began, Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, was occupied by the U.S. during the Spanish-American War of 1898. The U.S. leased the land from Cuba and has maintained the military base ever since, paying the annual rent stipulated in the 1903 agreement. Cuba, however, has not cashed those checks for more than 50 years because of its objections to the U.S. base on its soil.

In the early ’90s, political instability — notably involving alleged U.S. meddling — rocked Haiti, causing tens of thousands to flee their homes. The Haitians who tried to reach the United States by boat were interdicted by the U.S. Coast Guard and imprisoned by the Clinton administration in temporary camps at the base. In total, over 40,000 men, women, and children were interned in abysmal and inhumane conditions, unprotected by U.S. constitutional law.

Because of U.S. immigration policy at the time, HIV-positive Haitians couldn’t seek asylum and remained indefinitely at the camp. In 1993, ordering the release of the HIV-positive refugees, a federal judge said their plight was “the kind of indefinite detention usually reserved for spies and murderers.”

Fast-forward to the early days of the invasion of Afghanistan, following the 9/11 attacks. Rumsfeld decided that Guantánamo was the best place to house the “unlawful combatants” without affording them the protections of the Geneva Conventions, calling the base “the least worst place we could have selected.”

Speaking to reporters in early 2002 at Camp X-Ray, the name of the detention facility at Guantánamo, Rumsfeld clarified the administration’s position on the legal status of detainees of the war. “There is a reasonable understanding of what an unlawful combatant is. And the characteristics of the individuals who have been captured are that they are unlawful combatants, not lawful combatants. That is why they’re characterized as ‘detainees’ and not ‘prisoners of war,’” Rumsfeld said. “And it’s important for people to recognize this is a different circumstance, the war on terrorism, it requires a different template.” This “different template” would set in motion over a decade of inhumane treatment, torture, and blowback.

The torture of prisoners under the Bush administration at various black sites around the globe sets the stage for Obama to campaign on a pledge to shut down the prison at Guantánamo. In 2007 at a CNN debate, Obama, then a senator, said, “Our legitimacy is reduced when we’ve got a Guantánamo that is open, when we suspend habeas corpus — those kind of things erode our moral claims that we are acting on behalf of broader universal principles.”

One of Obama’s first uses of his presidential powers was to sign an executive order to shut down the detention facility. The next eight years would prove that closing it would be more complicated and slow-moving than anyone imagined — with virtually no place for the detainees to go. “Because Congress has said that you can’t move them to the United States and forbidden anyone who’s held as a detainee at Guantánamo to be transferred to the United States for any reason — for trial, for detention, for medical care — the reality is it sounds very much like it’ll exist until the last detainee dies and they can shut it down.” Rosenberg said. “Many of these men aren’t chargeable. They’re not accused of being criminals. They’re accused of being foot soldiers for an enemy force which currently has no leader to surrender.”

By the end of Obama’s second term, 197 detainees had been transferred to another country, repatriated, or otherwise released, and 41 men remained. Today, under the Trump administration, more than half of the 40 men who remain at Guantánamo are still being held indefinitely without a charge or a trial.

A new documentary from Field of Vision and the Guardian, “The Trial: Inside Guantánamo With 9/11 Suspect Ammar al-Baluchi,” explores the grueling and complicated legal defense work of preparing for the 9/11 trial. Defense lawyer Alka Pradhan describes the upcoming event as “the biggest criminal trial in U.S. history.” She says, “It is so frustrating to me how few people are watching what’s happening down here.”

Yet, as this profound trial rehashes a dark chapter — the lack of accountability for torture, the events of 9/11, the indefinite detention — the American political reckoning with torture ended when Haspel was confirmed. Despite being herself involved in the worst moments of this very history, Haspel is now head of the CIA. She was chief of base at the CIA’s secret prison in Thailand, where she oversaw torture of at least one detainee, and later as a senior official at the CIA headquarters, she oversaw the destruction of videotaped evidence of the torture of another. Nonetheless, she was confirmed, garnering bipartisan support by making a simple promise that the CIA wouldn’t do it again.

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There has been little mention of the forever prisoners in the early stages of the 2020 presidential race, though it has become an issue in past election cycles, with candidates in 2008 and 2016 debating the prison’s future. It became clear in 2016, with the prison still open, that the responsibility for what to do about it would fall on the new president’s plate. “We look like hypocrites and fools to the entire world,” Sen. Bernie Sanders told CNN during a 2016 town hall. “I think we should shut down Guantánamo. I think, in the long run, it will help us significantly.”

Sanders, a longtime independent progressive running again for president on the Democratic ticket, has long supported the idea of closing the prison and is easily the most outspoken in his field of fellow presidential hopefuls. His position dates back to the early days of the Obama presidency. “I agree with President Obama that Guantánamo must be shut down,” he said in 2009. “I want it shut down as soon as possible. I want to make sure that torture is never again part of America’s interrogation practices, and that all detainees are treated under the rules of the Geneva Conventions.”

Sanders, however, has a strange voting record on the detention facility. He voted in 2009 to block funding for Obama to close the facility, breaking with fellow Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy in opposing that measure.

In 2013, Sanders, along with Sen. Elizabeth Warren, another 2020 Democratic hopeful, voted against a bipartisan amendment that would have made the transfer of Guantánamo prisoners to the United States easier. 2020 presidential candidates Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J., Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., voted in favor of the amendment. Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., has remained surprisingly quiet on the subject.

Rosenberg seems defeated. “What is Guantánamo today?” she told Intercepted. “Guantánamo today is 40 detainees, one of them convicted, and a revolving force of about 1,400 U.S. troops, mostly National Guard, coming down there without family, on nine-month tours, going to the beaches and bars of the base on weekends, and then going home, and going back to their lives. And it’s a temporary prison, which really has no capacity to be shut down.”

For her part, Rosenberg, who has reported for the Miami Herald on every aspect of life at the prison for the last 17 years, will be joining the New York Times to continue reporting on this vital story. “The United States did this,” she said. “The United States owns this. Readers should be able to know what’s going on down there. It’s the right thing to do. And so, if I don’t do it, somebody should do it, right?”

Guantanamo Bay: Still Open, Despite Promises

A major campaign promise is broken.

WASHINGTON, July 3, 2012 -- The first in a series of articles examining the campaign promises Barack Obama made in 2008 and where they stand now.

It might be President Obama's biggest broken promise: closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay.

As a candidate, Obama vowed so many times that he would shutter the prison he called a recruitment tool for terrorists that he himself even noted how often he's promised to do so, in an interview with Steve Kroft shortly after he was elected.

In that interview in November 2008, Kroft asked Obama if he planned to "take early action" to shut down Guantanamo. Obama replied, "Yes."

"I have said repeatedly that I intend to close Guantanamo, and I will follow through on that," he said.

After three and a half years as president, Obama has not done so.

Shortly after being sworn in, Obama did sign an executive order that required that the Guantanamo prison be closed within a year.

"The detention facilities at Guantánamo for individuals covered by this order shall be closed as soon as practicable, and no later than 1 year from the date of this order," read the statement he signed on Jan. 22, 2009.

At the end of that year, in December, with Guantanamo still open and running, Obama accepted the Nobel Peace Prize. He said in his acceptance speech: "I believe the United States of America must remain a standard bearer in the conduct of war. That is what makes us different from those whom we fight. That is a source of our strength."

"That is why I prohibited torture," he added. "That is why I ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed."

Five days later, Obama issued a memo that directed the defense secretary and the attorney general to prepare a prison in Illinois for the Guantanamo detainees.

The deadline in Obama's executive order passed, and still he hadn't shut down the prison. In March 2011, two years after he signed the order, Obama signed another executive order. This one set up a review process for detainees. The document sought to "establish, as a discretionary matter, a process to review on a periodic basis the executive branch's continued, discretionary exercise of existing detention authority in individual cases."

The White House also released a related four-sentence statement in Obama's name. It didn't mention closing Guantanamo, or even use the word Guantanamo.

Obama has run into plenty of opposition in Congress. Lawmakers passed a bill preventing federal money from being used to transfer Guantanamo prisoners to the United States. Obama signed that bill into law, even as he issued a statement that disapproved of it. The provision was part of a bigger military bill that Obama said was too important not to sign.

Republicans, in particular, say that Guantanamo must stay open to keep terrorists there.

The issue has largely subsided, a result of the stagnant economy wearing on the public and perhaps the repetitive nature of the storyline.

Civil rights advocates still hope Obama stays true to his word. By his own power, he could take significant steps to close the prison, or he could issue a so-called signing statement that supersedes the law preventing federal money from being used to transfer prisoners.

Zachary Katznelson, a senior attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union, said Obama can release 87 Guantanamo prisoners who have been cleared, and start proceedings for trials for the other 169 detainees.

"President Obama has enough control and power that he can get these men out today if he has the political will to do so," Katznelson said. "It is a political decision."

Asked if Obama still plans on closing Guantanamo, the White House said yes.

"Obviously Congress has taken a number of steps to prevent the closure of the prison at Guantanamo Bay, but the President still believes it's in our national security interest and will keep trying," National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said in a statement.

Trump Inherits Guantanamo's Remaining Detainees

Trump Inherits Guantanamo's Remaining Detainees

A Humvee passes the guard tower at the entrance of the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay in October 2016. John Moore/Getty Images hide caption

A Humvee passes the guard tower at the entrance of the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay in October 2016.

Earlier this week, the U.S. Department of Defense announced it had transferred 10 more Guantanamo detainees, this time to Oman. Now, 45 remain at the facility, leaving challenges on what to do with the prisoners for President-elect Donald Trump.

Back in 2009, on his third day in office, President Obama ordered the detention facilities at Guantanamo to be closed "as soon as practicable, and no later than one year from the date of this order."

The executive order also called for a review of the 240 detainees then held in Guantanamo.

About This Story

This story was produced in partnership with the PBS series Frontline as part of a larger project about Guantanamo Bay, which will air on NPR and Frontline Feb. 21.

"We concluded that 126 detainees would be approved for transfer. And that means transfer to another country, with security measures," says Matt Olsen, the former head of Obama's Guantanamo Review Task Force, which compiled and evaluated all the available information on the detainees. The files had never been brought together in one place.

But the yearlong review also revealed how complicated the job of closing Guantanamo would be. It still wasn't clear where to put those who could not be released — those who would be tried as war criminals, those considered too dangerous to release but too difficult to prosecute, as well as individuals in more ambiguous categories.

In 2011, Congress began placing restrictions on Guantanamo transfers in its yearly defense authorization bill, effectively stopping the president from transferring the detainees to a U.S. facility.

Matt Olsen is the former head of President Obama's Guantanamo Review Task Force. That task force evaluated information on detainees after President Obama's 2009 executive order. Courtesy of PBS series Frontline hide caption

Even the detainees cleared for release were stuck in Guantanamo if they couldn't return home. For example, there were dozens of Yemenis who had been cleared but couldn't return to a country descending into a civil war.

It was up to the U.S. State Department to find a country willing to take the men the U.S. would not.

"Rather than being the worst of the worst, there are some who have the worst luck because they were from Yemen — because they were from a country that they cannot go back to," says Cliff Sloan, who served as special envoy for Guantanamo closure in 2013 and 2014. He was responsible for persuading other countries to accept the detainees.

The Two-Way

10 Guantanamo Prisoners Freed In Oman, 45 Detainees Remain

The Two-Way

Guantanamo's Camp 5 Closes As Detainee Population Shrinks

"It's a very interesting process talking to foreign governments about their willingness to accept detainees for resettlement . the conversations are difficult. There are many things to work out," he says.

The State Department won't discuss details of the deals between the U.S. and foreign governments to take detainees, but they've ended up all over the world, from Kazakhstan to Uruguay.

Ambassador Lee Wolosky, the current special envoy for Guantanamo closure, says one of the things that makes it difficult to persuade foreign governments to accept detainees is that old but sticky label, "worst of the worst."

"The fact that they have been labeled in a political discourse as the worst of the worst, which some of them are, but some of them aren't. And the ones we're moving out are not, but they're lumped in there," says Wolosky. "That certainly makes the task of doing what we do, which is looking at each case and convincing our foreign partners to look at the facts of each case, more difficult, because of the labeling."

The dozens of detainees left in Guantanamo after Monday's transfer include seven men being tried in military commissions, like Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, as well as others whose actual value and danger are contested.

Even if Obama had been able to serve a third term, it's unlikely they'd be anywhere else.

"Until we are able to get a policy, a plan agreed to by a president — and by a Congress — to deal with the reality of, 'What are you going to do to . address that last group of really hardcore people who are down there?' then this will stay open indefinitely," says Chuck Hagel, who served as U.S. secretary of defense from 2013 to 2015.

Trump has said he intends to start loading up Guantanamo with new war detainees — "bad dudes," in his words.

Hagel says Trump will have plenty of opportunities to do just that.

"The reality is that we are at war. I mean, America is still at war after 15 years. So, as long as that's the reality, we're going to be dealing with Guantanamo. And what you do with those that you capture and you pick up, and . you have responsibility for."

There are still a handful of detainees who have been cleared for release in Guantanamo, and it's possible the transfers could continue up until the moment Trump takes office. The new commander in chief has called for the transfers to stop, so any prisoners cleared for release when Trump takes office may end up stuck in Guantanamo indefinitely.


  • 1 Units and commands
    • 1.1 Resident units
    • 1.2 Assigned units
    • 1.3 Homeported watercraft
    • 1.4 Civilian contractors
    • 1.5 Cargo shipping
  • 2 History
    • 2.1 Spanish colonial era
    • 2.2 Guantanamo Bay during the Spanish–American War
    • 2.3 Lease
    • 2.4 World War II
    • 2.5 1958–1999
    • 2.6 21st century
  • 3 Geography
  • 4 Cactus Curtain
  • 5 Detention camp
  • 6 Represented businesses
  • 7 Airfields
  • 8 Education
  • 9 Climate
  • 10 Notable people
  • 11 See also
  • 12 References
  • 13 Further reading
  • 14 External links

Resident units Edit

  • Headquarters, Naval Station Guantanamo Bay
  • Customer Service Desk (CSD) [9]
  • Joint Task Force Guantanamo[9][10][11]
    • Headquarters, JTF Guantanamo
    • Joint Detention Group
    • Joint Intelligence Group
    • Joint Medical Group
    • U.S. Coast Guard Maritime Security Detachment Guantanamo Bay
  • Marine Corps Security Force Company[9]
  • Naval Computer and Telecommunications Area Master Station Atlantic Detachment Guantanamo Bay [9]
  • Naval Hospital Guantanamo Bay [10]
  • Navy Supply [9]
  • Navy Security Forces
  • SEABEE Detachment
  • U.S. Coast Guard Aviation Detachment Guantanamo Bay

Assigned units Edit

  • Fleet Composite Squadron Ten (VC-10) (1965–1993) [10]
  • U.S. Marine Corps Ground Defense Force (GDF) (1977–2000 [Redesignated as Marine Corps Security Forces Company on 1 Sep 2000]) [10][11]
  • Naval Security Group Activity (Company L) (1966–2001) [10][12]
  • Shore Intermediate Maintenance Activity (SIMA) (1903–1995) [10][13]
  • Fleet Training Group (FTG) (1943–1995) [10][14]

Homeported watercraft Edit

  • YC 1639 (open lighter) [15][16][17]
  • Leeward (YFB-92) (ferry boat) [15][18]
  • Windward (YFB-93) (ferry boat) [15][19]
  • YON 258 (non-self propelled fuel oil barge) [15][20]
  • USS Wanamassa (YTB-820) (large Harbor Tug) [15][21]
  • LCU 1671 and MK-8: landing craft used as an alternate ferry for transportation to areas inaccessible by the primary ferry and for moving hazardous cargo. [22]
  • GTMO-5, GTMO-6 and GTMO-7 (50-ft. utility boats): used for personnel transportation during off-ferry hours. [22]

Civilian contractors Edit

Besides servicemembers, the base houses a large number of civilian contractors working for the military. Many of these contractors are migrant workers from Jamaica and the Philippines, and are thought to constitute up to 40% of the base's population. [23]

Major contractors working at NSGB have included the following: [ citation needed ]

  • KBR
  • Schuyler Line Navigation Company (SYLF)
  • Satellite Communication Systems Incorporated
  • Centerra
  • Islands Mechanical Contractor
  • Munilla Construction Management
  • RQ Construction
  • MCM Construction
  • J&J Worldwide Services

Cargo shipping Edit

Ocean transportation is provided by Schuyler Line Navigation Company, a U.S. Flag Ocean Carrier. Schuyler Line operates under government contract to supply sustainment and building supplies to the base. [24]

Spanish colonial era Edit

The area surrounding Guantanamo bay was originally inhabited by the Taíno people. [25] On 30 April 1494, Christopher Columbus, on his second voyage, arrived and spent the night. The place where Columbus landed is now known as Fisherman's Point. Columbus declared the bay Puerto Grande. [26] The bay and surrounding areas briefly came under British control during the War of Jenkins' Ear. Prior to the outbreak of the conflict, the bay was referred to as Walthenham Harbor by British cartographers. The British expeditionary force renamed the bay Cumberland Bay. They eventually retreated from the area after an attempt to march to Santiago de Cuba was repulsed by Spanish troops. [26]

Guantanamo Bay during the Spanish–American War Edit

During the Spanish–American War, the U.S. fleet attacking Santiago [27] secured Guantánamo's harbor for protection during the hurricane season of 1898. The Marines landed at Guantanamo Bay with naval support, and American and Cuban forces routed the defending Spanish troops. There is a monument on McCalla Hill to one Navy officer and five Marines who died in battle at Guantanamo Bay. [ citation needed ]

The war ended with the Treaty of Paris of 1898, in which Spain formally relinquished control of Cuba. Although the war was over, the United States maintained a strong military presence on the island. In 1901 the United States government passed the Platt Amendment as part of an Army Appropriations Bill. [28] Section VII of this amendment read

That to enable the United States to maintain the independence of Cuba, and to protect the people thereof, as well as for its own defense, the government of Cuba will sell or lease to the United States lands necessary for coaling or naval stations at certain specified points to be agreed upon with the President of the United States [ citation needed ]

After initial resistance by the Cuban Constitutional Convention, the Platt Amendment was incorporated into the Constitution of the Republic of Cuba in 1901. [29] The Constitution took effect in 1902, and land for a naval base at Guantanamo Bay was granted to the United States the following year. [30]

USS Monongahela (1862), an old warship which served as a storeship at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba was totally destroyed by fire on 17 March 1908. A 4-inch (100 mm) gun was salvaged from her wreck and put on display at the Naval Station. Since the gun was deformed by the heat from the fire, it was nicknamed "Old Droopy". The gun was on display on Deer Point until the command disposed of it, judging its appearance less than exemplary of naval gunnery. A similar gun, possibly also salvaged from the Monongahela, is on display near the Bay View Club on the Naval Station. [ citation needed ]

Lease Edit

The 1903 lease agreement was executed in two parts. The first, signed in February, consisted of the following provisions: [30]

  1. Agreement – This is a lease between the U.S. and Cuba for properties for naval stations, in accord with Article VII of the Platt Amendment.
  2. Article 1 – Describes the boundaries of the areas being leased, Guantanamo Bay and Bahia Honda.
  3. Article 2 – The U.S. may occupy, use, and modify the properties to fit the needs of a coaling and naval station, only. Vessels in the Cuban trade shall have free passage.
  4. Article 3 – Cuba retains ultimate sovereignty, but during the occupation, the U.S. exercises sole jurisdiction over the areas described in Article 1. Under conditions to be agreed on, the U.S. has the right to acquire, by purchase or eminent domain, any land included therein.

The second part, signed five months later in July 1903, consisted of the following provisions: [31]

  1. Article 1 – Payment is $2000 gold coin, annually. All private lands within the boundaries shall be acquired by Cuba. The U.S. will advance rental payments to Cuba to facilitate those purchases.
  2. Article 2 – The U.S. shall pay for a survey of the sites and mark the boundaries with fences.
  3. Article 3 – There will be no commercial or other enterprise within the leased areas.
  4. Article 4 – Mutual extradition
  5. Article 5 – Not ports of entry.
  6. Article 6 – Ships shall be subject to Cuban port police. The U.S. will not obstruct entry or departure into the bay.
  7. Article 7 – This proposal is open for seven months.

SIGNED Theodore Roosevelt and Jose M Garcia Montes.

In 1934, the United States unilaterally changed the payment from gold coin to U.S. dollars per the Gold Reserve Act. The lease amount was set at US$3,386.25, based on the price of gold at the time. [32] In 1973, the U.S. adjusted the lease amount to $3,676.50, and in 1974 to $4,085, based on further increases to the price of gold in USD. [33] Payments have been sent annually, but only one lease payment has been accepted since the Cuban Revolution and Fidel Castro claimed that this check was deposited due to confusion in 1959. The Cuban government has not deposited any other lease checks since that time. [34]

The 1903 Lease for Guantanamo has no fixed expiration date. [35]

World War II Edit

During World War II, the base was set up to use a nondescript number for postal operations. The base used the Fleet Post Office, Atlantic, in New York City, with the address: 115 FPO NY. [36] The base was also an important intermediate distribution point for merchant shipping convoys from New York City and Key West, Florida, to the Panama Canal and the islands of Puerto Rico, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago. [37]

1958–1999 Edit

Until the 1953–1959 revolution, thousands of Cubans commuted daily from outside the base to jobs within it. In mid-1958, vehicular traffic was stopped, workers were required to walk through the base's several gates. Public Works Center buses were pressed into service almost overnight to carry the tides of workers to and from the gate. [ citation needed ]

During the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, the families of military personnel were evacuated from the base. Notified of the evacuation on 22 October, evacuees were told to pack one suitcase per family member, to bring evacuation and immunization cards, to tie pets in the yard, to leave the keys to the house on the dining table, and to wait in front of the house for buses. [ citation needed ] Dependents travelled to the airfield for flights to the United States, or to ports for passage aboard evacuation ships. After the crisis was resolved, family members were allowed to return to the base in December 1962. [38]

From 1939, the base's water was supplied by pipelines that drew water from the Yateras River about 4.5 miles (7 km) northeast of the base. The U.S. government paid a fee for this, in 1964, it was about $14,000 a month for about 2.5 million U.S. gal (9,000 m 3 ) per day. In 1964, the Cuban government stopped the flow. The base had about 14 million U.S. gal (50,000 m 3 ) of water in storage, and strict water conservation was put into effect immediately. The U.S. first imported water from Jamaica by barge, then relocated a desalination plant from San Diego (Point Loma). [ citation needed ] When the Cuban government accused the United States of stealing water, base commander John D. Bulkeley ordered that the pipelines be cut and a section removed. A 38 in (97 cm) length of the 14 in (36 cm) diameter pipe and a 20 in (51 cm) length of the 10 in (25 cm) diameter pipe were lifted from the ground and the openings sealed. [ citation needed ]

21st century Edit

The military facilities at Guantanamo Bay have over 8,500 U.S. sailors and Marines stationed there. [39] [40] It is the only military base the U.S. maintains in a communist country.

In 2005, the U.S. Navy completed a $12 million wind-power project at the base, erecting four 950-kilowatt, 275-foot-tall (84 m) wind turbines, reducing the need for diesel fuel to power the existing diesel generators (the base's primary electricity generation). [41] [42] In 2006, the wind turbines reduced diesel fuel consumption by 650,000 U.S. gallons (2.5 million liters) annually. [43]

By 2006, only two elderly Cubans, Luis Delarosa and Harry Henry, still crossed the base's North East Gate daily to work on the base, because the Cuban government prohibited new recruitment since its revolution. They both retired at the end of 2012. [44]

In January 2009, President Obama signed executive orders directing the CIA to shut what remains of its network of "secret" prisons and ordering the closing of the Guantánamo detention camp within a year. [45] However, he postponed difficult decisions on the details for at least six months. [46] On 7 March 2011, President Obama issued an executive order that permits ongoing indefinite detention of Guantánamo detainees. [47] The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 authorized indefinite detention of suspected terrorists, [48] but enforcement of the relevant section was temporarily blocked by a federal court ruling in the case of Hedges v. Obama on 16 May 2012, [49] a suit brought by a number of private citizens, including Chris Hedges, Daniel Ellsberg, Noam Chomsky, and Birgitta Jónsdóttir. [50] After a series of decisions and appeals, the lawsuit was vacated because the plaintiffs lacked standing to file the suit. [51] As of April 2018 [update] , the detention center was in operation.

At the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2013, Cuba's Foreign Minister demanded the U.S. return the base and the "usurped territory" which the Cuban government considers to be "occupied" since the Spanish–American War of 1898. [52] [53] [54] [55] [56]

The Naval Base is divided into three main geographical sections: Leeward Point, Windward Point, and Guantánamo Bay. Guantánamo Bay physically divides the Naval Station into sections. The bay extends past the boundaries of the base into Cuba, where the bay is then referred to as Bahía de Guantánamo. Guantánamo Bay contains several cays, which are identified as Hospital Cay, Medico Cay, North Toro Cay, and South Toro Cay. [ citation needed ]

Leeward Point of the Naval Station is the site of the active airfield. Major geographical features on Leeward Point include Mohomilla Bay and the Guantánamo River. Three beaches exist on the Leeward side. Two are available for use by base residents, while the third, Hicacal Beach, is closed. [ citation needed ]

Windward Point contains most of the activities at the Naval Station. There are nine beaches available to base personnel. The highest point on the base is John Paul Jones hill at a total of 495 feet (151 m). [11] The geography of Windward Point is such that there are many coves and peninsulas along the bay shoreline providing ideal areas for mooring ships. [ citation needed ]

Cactus Curtain is a term describing the line separating the naval base from Cuban-controlled territory. After the Cuban Revolution, some Cubans sought refuge on the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base. In late 1961, Cuban troops planted an 8-mile (13 km) barrier of Opuntia cactus along the northeastern section of the 17-mile (27 km) fence surrounding the base to stop Cubans from escaping Cuba to take refuge in the United States. [57] This was dubbed the Cactus Curtain, an allusion to Europe's Iron Curtain, [58] the Bamboo Curtain in East Asia or the similar Ice Curtain in the Bering Strait.

U.S. and Cuban troops placed some 55,000 land mines across the "no man's land" around the perimeter of the naval base creating the second-largest minefield in the world, and the largest in the Western Hemisphere. On 16 May 1996, U.S. President Bill Clinton ordered the demining of the American field. They have since been replaced with motion and sound sensors to detect intruders on the base. The Cuban government has not removed its corresponding minefield outside the perimeter. [59] [60]

In the last quarter of the 20th century, the base was used to house Cuban and Haitian refugees intercepted on the high seas. In the early 1990s, it held refugees who fled Haiti after military forces overthrew president Jean-Bertrand Aristide. These refugees were held in a detainment area called Camp Bulkeley until United States district court Judge Sterling Johnson, Jr. declared the camp unconstitutional on 8 June 1993. This decision was later vacated. The last Haitian migrants departed Guantanamo on 1 November 1995. [ citation needed ]

Beginning in 2002, some months after the War on Terror started in response to the September 11 attacks, a small portion of the base was used to detain several hundred enemy combatants at Camp Delta, Camp Echo, Camp Iguana, and the now-closed Camp X-Ray. The U.S. military has alleged without formal charge that some of these detainees are linked to al-Qaeda or the Taliban. In litigation regarding the availability of fundamental rights to those imprisoned at the base, the U.S. Supreme Court has recognized that the detainees "have been imprisoned in territory over which the United States exercises exclusive jurisdiction and control." [61] Therefore, the detainees have the fundamental right to due process of law under the Fifth Amendment. A district court has since held that the "Geneva Conventions applied to the Taliban detainees, but not to members of Al-Qaeda terrorist organization." [62]

On 10 June 2006, the Department of Defense reported that three Guantanamo Bay detainees committed suicide. The military reported the men hanged themselves with nooses made of sheets and clothes. [63] A study published by Seton Hall Law's Center for Policy and Research, while making no conclusions regarding what actually transpired, asserts that the military investigation failed to address significant issues detailed in that report. [64]

On 6 September 2006, President George W. Bush announced that alleged or non-alleged combatants held by the CIA would be transferred to the custody of Department of Defense, and held at Guantanamo Prison. Of approximately 500 prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, only 10 have been tried by the Guantanamo military commission, but all cases have been stayed pending the adjustments being made to comply with the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld. [ citation needed ]

President Barack Obama said he intended to close the detention camp, and planned to bring detainees to the United States to stand trial by the end of his first term in office. On 22 January 2009, he issued three executive orders. Only one of these explicitly dealt with policy at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, and directed the camp's closure within one year. All three could have possibly impacted the detention center, as well as how the United States holds detainees. [ citation needed ]

While mandating closure of the detention camp, the naval base as a whole is not subject to the order and will remain operational indefinitely. This plan was thwarted for the time being on 20 May 2009, when the United States Senate voted to keep the prison at Guantanamo Bay open for the foreseeable future and forbid the transfer of any detainees to facilities in the United States. Senator Daniel Inouye, a Democrat from Hawaii and chairman of the appropriations committee, said he initially favored keeping Guantanamo open until Obama produced a "coherent plan for closing the prison." [65] 40 detainees remain at Guantanamo Bay. [66] [67] [68]

Despite the prohibition on the establishment of "commercial or other enterprises" as stated in Article 3 of the second part of the lease, several businesses have been opened in the military base. A Baskin-Robbins ice cream stand, which opened in the 1980s, was one of the first business franchises allowed on the base. [69] In early 1986, the base added the first and only McDonald's restaurant within Cuba. [70] [71] A Subway restaurant was opened in 2002. [72] In 2004, a combined KFC & A&W restaurant was opened at the bowling alley and a Pizza Hut Express was added to the Windjammer Restaurant. [73] There is also a cafe that sells Starbucks coffee, and there is a combined KFC & Taco Bell restaurant. [74]

Most of the restaurants on the installation are franchises owned and operated by the Department of the Navy. [75] All proceeds from these restaurants are used to support morale, welfare, and recreation (MWR) activities for service personnel and their families. [76] These restaurants are located inside the base, as such, they are not accessible to Cubans. In addition to Navy dining facilities and franchises, there are two independent restaurants – the Jerk House, featuring Jamaican jerk chicken and a Cuban restaurant featuring traditional Cuban foods. [ citation needed ]

There are two airfields within the base, Leeward Point Field and McCalla Field. Leeward Point Field is the active military airfield, with the ICAO code MUGM and IATA code NBW. [77] McCalla Field was designated as the auxiliary landing field in 1970. [10]

Leeward Point Field was constructed in 1953 as part of Naval Air Station (NAS) Guantanamo Bay. [78] Leeward Point Field has a single active runway, 10/28, measuring 8,000 ft (2,400 m). [77] The former runway, 9/27 was 8,500 ft (2,600 m). Currently, Leeward Point Field operates several aircraft and helicopters supporting base operations. Leeward Point Field was home to Fleet Composite Squadron 10 (VC-10) until the unit was phased out in 1993. VC-10 was one of the last active-duty squadrons flying the Douglas A-4 Skyhawk.

McCalla Field was established in 1931 [78] and remained operational until 1970. Naval Air Station Guantanamo Bay was officially established 1 February 1941. Aircraft routinely operating out of McCalla included JRF-5, N3N, J2F, C-1 Trader, [79] and dirigibles. McCalla Field is now listed as a closed airfield. The area consists of 3 runways: 1/19 at 4,500 ft (1,400 m), 14/32 at 2,210 ft (670 m), and 10/28 at 1,850 ft (560 m). Camp Justice is now located on the grounds of the former airfield.

Access to the Naval Station is very limited and must be preapproved through the appropriate local chain of command with the Commander of the station as the final approval. Since berthing facilities are limited, visitors must be sponsored indicating that they have an approved residence for the duration of the visit. [80]

Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) provides for the education of dependent personnel with two schools. Both schools are named for Rear Admiral William Thomas Sampson. W.T. Sampson Elementary School serves grades K–5 and W. T. Sampson High School serves grades 6–12. The Villamar Child Development Center provides child care for dependents from six weeks to five years old. MWR operates a Youth Center that provides activities for dependents. [81]

Some former students of Guantánamo have shared stories of their experiences with the Guantánamo Public Memory Project. [82] The 2013 documentary Guantanamo Circus directed by Christina Linhardt and Michael Rose reveals a glimpse of day-to-day life on GTMO as seen through the eyes of circus performers that visit the base. [83] It is used as a reference by the Guantánamo Public Memory Project.

U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay has an annual rainfall of about 24 in (610 mm). [84] The amount of rainfall has resulted in the base being classified as a semi-arid desert environment. [84] The annual average high temperature on the base is 88.2 °F (31.2 °C), the annual average low is 72.5 °F (22.5 °C).

Climate data for Guantanamo Bay
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °F (°C) 84
Average low °F (°C) 68
Average precipitation inches (mm) 1.0
Source: Weatherbase [85]

Notable people born at the naval base include actor Peter Bergman [86] and American guitarist Isaac Guillory. [87]

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