May 21st, 2008
Raw Story covered the Guantanamo Bloggers’ Roundtable in which I participated this morning. I get quoted extensively:
Gitmo Admiral: Detainees pretty much live in a fraternity house
By Muriel Kane
Detainees released from the prison at Guantanamo Bay have complained about inhumane conditions there, but according to the admiral in charge, their living situation is “pretty much” like that in a fraternity house.
Rear Admiral Mark Buzby, who is completing a one-year assignment as the commander of the Joint Task Force Guantanamo recently held a conference call with defense bloggers to discuss the treatment of detainees.
“We’re all about the safe and humane care and custody of detained enemy combatants,” Buzby began. “We do that safely and we also do it ethically and transparently, and, of course, in strict accordance with the law.” He added that Guantanamo is “very much different than what it’s portrayed, typically, you know, in popular culture. … The greatest compliment that I get from visitors is, ‘Gosh, I never realized it was so different.’”
Blogger Andrew Lubin asked Buzby about one detainee who claimed “he was put back in solitary confinement for punitive reasons.”
“We don’t have any solitary confinement down here in Guantanamo,” Buzby replied. “What we have is single cells. I mean, there’s one person to a cell. All the cells are all right next to each other.”
“That’s like having a single apartment in a fraternity house,” suggested Lubin.
“Pretty much,” Buzby agreed. “They talk between cells, they talk between tiers, they talk between camps. It’s not quiet over there, let me tell you.”
A psychologist, Stephen Soldz, had already asked Buzby about reports that “three-quarters of the detainees are kept in essentially permanent isolation (units ?), in, I believe, eight-foot by 12-foot cells.” Soldz said he had spoken to a military defense attorney “whose client has been in kept in these conditions for five and a half years and is — frankly, is losing his mind.”
Buzby answered that the facilities are “the very same conditions that U.S. Bureau of Prisons prisoners live in” and insisted that all the detainees “get at least two hours of outdoor recreation with other people every day” as well as a daily shower. “I have pretty good confidence that we’re taking very good care of these people and that there’s not a bunch of people going insane down here,” he stated.
Soltz noted in a follow-up question that the Bureau of Prisons facilities cited by Buzby as models for Guantanamo are “supermax” prisons, meant to be used only on a temporary basis for “the worst of the worst”
In response, Buzby insisted that any of the prisoners who “behave very well and follow the camp rules” can earn the right to live in Camp 4 — where they have communal bunk rooms and “access to recreation about 22 hours a day” — but that the capacity in that section is “not being used right now because, you know, a lot of those detainees aren’t behaving themselves.”
John McCormack of the Weekly Standard then asked, “How do you ensure that those in Camp 4 are not, you know, conspiring? … How do you ensure that this, you know, communal living, 22 hours per day of recreation, isn’t leading to any conspiracies?”
Buzby replied that there had been one riot in Camp 4 in 2006, but that there has been no recurrence because he has been “decreasing the population, if you will, of Camp 4, by more closely vetting those that go in there. … They police themselves fairly well, because many of the people, that are detained there, like the conditions and they don’t want to screw it up or have it screwed up for them.”