Gitmo battens down the hatches

The Miami Herald‘s indefatigable Carol Rosenberg reports on preparations for Hurricane Isaac at Guantanamo Bay, which have delayed pre-trial hearings for five men accused of helping to plot the 9/11 attacks: At the prison camps, Navy Capt. Robert Durand assured that all the detainees and guards at the seafront prison camps would be secured. Most ...

By , a former associate editor at Foreign Policy.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The Miami Herald's indefatigable Carol Rosenberg reports on preparations for Hurricane Isaac at Guantanamo Bay, which have delayed pre-trial hearings for five men accused of helping to plot the 9/11 attacks:

At the prison camps, Navy Capt. Robert Durand assured that all the detainees and guards at the seafront prison camps would be secured.

Most captives, about 85 percent, are routinely held in “brick and mortar structures capable of withstanding hurricane-force winds.”

The Miami Herald‘s indefatigable Carol Rosenberg reports on preparations for Hurricane Isaac at Guantanamo Bay, which have delayed pre-trial hearings for five men accused of helping to plot the 9/11 attacks:

At the prison camps, Navy Capt. Robert Durand assured that all the detainees and guards at the seafront prison camps would be secured.

Most captives, about 85 percent, are routinely held in “brick and mortar structures capable of withstanding hurricane-force winds.”

Others held in less sturdy cells at the sprawling prison camps compound “will be sheltered” in “secure locations capable of withstanding hurricane-force winds.” He would not provide details, citing security concerns.

The “sniper fencing” that covers chain-link fences obscures the views the detainees have of their surroundings — and prevents them from seeing troop movements in and around the camps. But in strong winds, sniper netting “turns it into a big sail,” said Durand, suggesting it could uproot fences inside the Detention Center Zone. “We also have a plan to shelter and feed our troops, civilian employees, contractors and family members in hurricane-safe locations.”

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/08/22/2963137/911-hearing-canceled-as-guantanamo.html#storylink=cpy

Hurricanes are hardly unheard of at the Carribean outpost. In an explainer written during 2008’s Hurricane Ike, Slate‘s Jacob Leibenluft described what happens to detainees during severe storms:

Unless it gets really bad, they stay put. In the words of a camp spokesman, "safe and humane care and custody" of detainees—a stated mission of the camp’s commanders—requires protecting them from "the elements of inclement weather." The military maintains that the facilities currently housing the prisoners are capable of withstanding anything up to a Category 2 hurricane, according to the Miami Herald. As early as February 2002, camp officials also said that in the event of a catastrophic storm, detainees could be housed temporarily in old ammunition bunkers. (In 1994—when the base was housing thousands of Cuban refugees—the Department of Defense said bunkers at Guantanamo could hold as many as 14,000 people.)

In his book, Guantanamo: An American History, Jonathan Hansen recounts that in it’s pre-detention center days, the base served several times as a staging ground for hurricane relief efforts in the Carribean, particularly in nearby Haiti. 

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshuakeating

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