Detention & Guantanamo

Ben Fox on the Situation at Guantanamo

By Benjamin Wittes
Sunday, April 21, 2013, 12:00 PM

Ben Fox of the Associated Press has a particularly good account of the situation at Guantanamo. Because it was posted on Friday, amid the late unpleasantness in Boston, most people undoubtedly missed it---so I thought I would flag it now. It opens:

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba (AP) — The morning routine started before dawn with a prisoner chanting the Muslim call to prayer through a small opening in the heavy steel door of his cell as soldiers with face shields quietly paced in the dimly lit corridor. The calm did not last long.

Within minutes, troops began rushing about, the words "code yellow" echoing through their handheld radios. The emergency was a prisoner in another cellblock who did not appear to be moving, prompting the urgent call to the medics to come check him, something they have been called upon to do many times in recent weeks, said the Army captain in charge of the maximum-security section of the Guantanamo Bay prison known as Camp 5.

"Recently, it's been happening very frequently," said the captain, whose name the military would not allow to be released for security reasons.

Officials later said the man who sparked the alarm Thursday was OK, merely faint and dizzy, and he did not have to be hospitalized as others have had amid a weeks-old hunger strike at the prison. Still, it was an illustration of just how tense Guantanamo has become of late, with more than a third of prisoners refusing to eat and nearly everyone locked down for most of the day since a violent clash with guards on- April 13. At least two detainees have tried to kill themselves since that confrontation between guards in riot gear and prisoners with broomsticks and metal bars.

Prison officials opened the prison to journalists from The Associated Press and three other news organizations this week, portraying the atmosphere as tense but under control at this detention center that has been open for 11 years and now holds 166 men, most without charge.