Entries in Guantanamo Bay (7)


Twenty-Four Guantanamo Detainees on 'Hunger Strike-Lite'

John Moore/Getty Images(GUANTANAMO Bay, Cuba) -- Twenty-four of the 166 detainees at the Guantanamo Bay camp in Cuba are said to be on a hunger strike, but maybe not in the truest definition of the phrase.

In a briefing with Pentagon reporters today, Gen. John Kelly, the commander of U.S. Southern Command, described it more as “hunger strike-lite.” He labeled claims by some of the detainees’ attorneys that the hunger strike is in response to the mishandling of Qurans at the facility as "nonsense."

“Generally speaking, we think about 24 of them are on, say, hunger strike-lite, where they’re eating a bit but not a lot,” Kelly said. “But they’ve declared that they’re not eating.”

He said Guantanamo handlers define a hunger strike as missing nine meals in a row.

Kelly says the 24 detainees have declared they are on a hunger strike either because they have decided “that they need to be heard perhaps more than they have been,” or in a bid to “regain some attention.”

He explained that detainees at Guantanamo are held in individual cells or in a communal setting. The detainees housed in the cells receive individual meals but those in the communal setting receive food provided in bulk.

“Often, it’s semi-prepared, sometimes not prepared, they prepare it themselves to their own taste and whatnot,” Kelly said. “So it’s kind of hard for us to say that, you know, detainee number one, two, whatever, is not eating nine meals in a row. And we have observation into the communal area and into the cells and we can see what they’re up to and all.”

Of the claims that Qurans were mishandled by Guantanamo personnel in recent weeks, Kelly said, “It’s nonsense. There’s absolutely no mishandling of the Qurans.”

He said there is nothing wrong with non-Muslims handling a Quran. He described how several times during his deployments to Iraq he was presented with copies of the Quran as gifts.

Even so, he said Guantanamo officials ensure that the only personnel who can touch a Quran are the Muslim translators who work there. “No way has a Quran in any way, shape or form been in any way abused or mistreated, so their claims are nonsense,” he said.

Kelly seemed to attribute the detainees’ actions to a combination of factors, namely that Guantanamo is not mentioned publicly by the Obama administration these days. Other than participating in the supposed hunger strike, he said, the detainees did not seem to be, “acting out in any way that’s really unusual for them.”

There are eight detainees who are routinely force fed but don’t seem to be on real hunger strikes, he said. “We have eight of the detainees that present themselves daily, calmly and in totally cooperative way to be fed through a tube."

“We also know they’re eating when they’re in the cells. And I think that’s just in their cases, just their attempt at some level of resistance to demonstrate their displeasure at what’s going on. So that’s the way we see it.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Marco Rubio to Visit Gitmo in Cuba

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., is traveling to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, on Tuesday for the first time, a spokesman told ABC News.

“This visit will allow Sen. Rubio an opportunity to better understand the role Guantanamo Bay plays in U.S. detention operations, and examine how the military commission process for trying the terrorists housed there is proceeding,” Alex Conant said in an email Tuesday.

Rubio, who is a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, will conduct oversight of the facility, tour the base, receive an intelligence overview and meet with the Joint Task Force Guantanamo commander, Rear Adm. Jeffrey Harbeson of the U.S. Navy.

While visiting Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Rubio, who turned 41 on Memorial Day, will see the Expeditionary Legal Complex, where the military tribunals of detainees are being conducted, along with touring CAMP VI, the building where the detainees are held.

Rubio, whose family emigrated to the United States from Cuba, will not leave the confines of the base and returns to Miami Tuesday evening.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Poll: Most Americans Approve of Obama's Military Tactics

Kevin Lamarque-Pool/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- President Obama is drawing strength from an unexpected area as he girds for his re-election campaign, benefiting from military and anti-terrorism policies that have been controversial in some quarters, but are broadly popular with the public overall.

Eighty-three percent of Americans in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll approve of Obama’s use of unmanned drones against terrorist suspects, 78 percent back the drawdown of U.S. troops in Afghanistan and 70 percent favor keeping the Guantanamo Bay detention center open -- the latter, a reversal by Obama from his 2008 campaign position in which he assailed the prison and vowed to close it.

Strength of sentiment also is very much on the positive side.  Strong approval far outpaces strong disapproval, by 55 points on drones (59-4 percent), 47 points on troop withdrawal (56-9 percent) and 29 points on keeping Gitmo running (42-13 percent).

Two-thirds in this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, also favor the use of unmanned drones specifically against American citizens in other countries who are terrorist suspects.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Terrorist Suspect Held at Sea Causes Political Argument

JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., blasted the Obama administration Wednesday morning for the decision to bring Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame, the Somali man facing terrorism charges to New York for trial, saying the administration’s “ideological rigidity” is “harming the national security” of the country.

“Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame is a foreign enemy combatant,” McConnell said on the Senate floor Wednesday morning, “He should be treated as one; he should be sitting in a cell Guantanamo Bay, and eventually be tried before a military commission. Warsame is an admitted terrorist.”

Over the weekend, Warsame, who had been held and interrogated on a U.S. Navy ship for the past two and half months, was flown to New York to face criminal charges in a civilian court. Republicans have argued that foreign terrorism suspects should be tried in military commissions rather than civilian courts.

“It’s astonishing that this administration is determined to give foreign fighters all the rights and privileges of U.S. citizens regardless of where they are captured,” McConnell continued, “And now Warsame, an enemy combatant with ties to al Qaeda who was captured overseas and detained by the military for months, is now in the United States awaiting trial as a civilian criminal suspect. It is not necessary to bring or continue to harbor these terrorists within the United States. The infrastructure is already in place to handle these dangerous individuals at Guantanamo.”

The Obama administration has fallen short of President Obama’s goal to close Guantanamo within the first year of his administration.   McConnell says that with that move it is “abundantly clear” that the administration has “no intention of utilizing Guantanamo unless an enemy combatant is already being held there,” with or without the detainee camp being closed or not.

Democratic Senator Dick Durbin, D-Ill., responded that it was “unfair” to second-guess the president as he said Senator McConnell has, because “the same standard was not applied to the Republican president who tried hundreds of would-be terrorists, accused terrorists in our criminal courts successfully.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Obama May Reconsider Military Tribunals for Guantanamo Detainees

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Exactly two years ago from Saturday, President Obama took the bold step of signing an executive order calling for the shutdown of the controversial Guantanamo Bay detention center "as soon as practicable, and no later than one year from now."

It was one of the first orders of business, and a hugely symbolic step, taken up by the newly-elected president, who argued that such a move would make Americans safer. But after heated debates on where the prisoners should be tried, resistance from U.S. allies on repatriation of detainees, and a bipartisan fight against the administration's stance, a new reality is taking shape.

The New York Times first reported Wednesday that Defense Secretary Robert Gates is expected to soon lift an order blocking the use of military tribunals to prosecute detainees, a marked departure from the Obama administration's rhetoric thus far. But it's also a stark admittance by the administration that the task is much more complicated than officials predicted and they will have to rely on tools that they were hoping to avoid to move forward, experts say.

One of the main impediments against the Obama administration's decision is fierce, bipartisan resistance from Congress.

The $725 billion National Defense Authorization Act that Obama signed on Jan. 7, explicitly prohibits the use of Defense Department funds to transfer detainees from Guantanamo Bay in Cuba to the United States or other countries. It also bars Pentagon funds from being used to build facilities in the U. S. to house detainees, as the president originally suggested.

The move essentially barred the administration from trying detainees in civilian courts. The president objected to the provision in the bill before signing it, calling it "a dangerous and unprecedented challenge to critical executive branch authority" but also said his team would work with Congress to "seek repeal of these restrictions."

Attorney General Eric Holder suggested Thursday that federal trials for the five detainees accused of involvement in the Sept. 11 attacks, including self-proclaimed mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, could still continue despite Congress' restrictions, adding that nothing is off the table as of yet. Holder's efforts to move the five alleged terrorists to a federal court in New York City have come under fire from both Democrats and Republicans, who are unwilling to support such a move.

Proponents of closing the Guantanamo detainee center say they are extremely disappointed by recent reports indicating that military tribunals will resume.

There are about 170 prisoners remaining at the detainee center in Guantanamo Bay, 30 of which were due to face trial in criminal courts or before military commissions. Since 2002, 598 prisoners have been transferred to other countries.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Obama Weighs Move to Retain Control of Guantanamo Closure

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama may formally object to a provision that would prohibit the use of any funds to transfer detainees from the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to the United States for any purpose.

The provision -- attached to the defense authorization bill -- would be a critical blow to the president's stated goal of trying some Guantanamo detainees in civilian courts.  Attorney General Eric Holder sent a letter to Congress late last year calling the provision "an extreme and risky encroachment on the authority of the executive branch to determine when and where to prosecute terrorist suspects."

A final decision on whether to issue a so-called signing statement, which was first reported by ProPublica, and its scope, has yet to be made by the president and his senior staff.

Signing statements are legal documents that a president issues to outline how he thinks a law should be implemented.  The statements can be largely ceremonial, explaining the president's view of the effects of the bill, or they can go as far as challenging the constitutionality of the provision and stating that the president will refuse to enforce it.

A White House official said Monday that even if the president decides to issue the signing statement, he will not seek to bypass the Guantanamo restrictions.  The statement instead would reflect Obama's intention to seek a reversal of the provision through Congress.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Guantanamo: The Next Democratic Rebellion Against Obama?

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- As extension of tax cuts pits Democrats against the White House, President Obama is facing another rebellion from House Democrats, who slipped a provision into the federal funding bill this week barring alleged terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay from being moved to U.S. prisons.

Guantanamo has been a sore point for Democrats and Republicans; Obama signed an executive order 21 months ago -- one of his first as commander-in-chief -- to shut it down.  His plan to have detainees move to federal prisons has taken much heat from both sides of the political aisle.

The president's plan this week also received another blow in the form of a report by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, which said "the number of former detainees identified as reengaged in terrorist or insurgent activity will increase."

Of the 598 detainees who have been released, the DNI report found that 81 of them, or 13.5 percent, are confirmed and 69, or 11.5 percent, are suspected of re-engaging in terrorist or insurgent activities.  Of the 66 former Guantanamo detainees transferred since Obama took office, "two are confirmed and three are suspected of reengaging in terrorist or insurgent activities."

The White House insists that closing the Guantanamo Bay detainee center is a "national security imperative," but the latest move by the House, amid the background of Clapper's report, does not bode well for the president's agenda.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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