Tensions between detainees and the military at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have spiked in recent weeks, with a hunger strike at one of the camps reflecting growing despair that the Obama administration has abandoned efforts to repatriate prisoners cleared for release, according to defense lawyers and other people with access to information about detention operations.
A majority of the 166 detainees remaining at Guantanamo Bay are housed in Camp 6, a facility that until recently held men the military deemed “compliant.” But the camp, where cell doors are left open so detainees can live communally, has been at the center of a series of escalating protests since January.
The lawyers and human rights advocates said there is a mass hunger strike at Camp 6 that is threatening the health and life of a number of detainees. In a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, they said they have received “alarming reports” that men have lost “over 20 and 30 pounds” and that “at least two dozen men have lost consciousness due to low blood glucose levels.”
A military official said 14 detainees are on hunger strikes and six of them are being force fed. Others have been refusing meals but eating non-perishable food stashed in their cells, officials said.
In a statement, Navy Capt. Robert Durand, a spokesman for Joint Task Force Guantanamo, said “claims of a mass hunger strike . . . are simply untrue.”
The International Committee of the Red Cross, the only outside organization allowed unrestricted visits to the camps, said it visited Guantanamo from Feb. 18 to 23 and “is aware of the tensions at the detention facility.”
The Obama Administration has refused to share the evidence related to the last year’s Ft Hood shooting with the Senate. Defense Secretary, Robert Gates argues that sharing the evidence with the Senate could compromise the prosecution process. Two U.S. Senators have threatened the Administration to subpoena.
The army and officers at Walter Reed Hospital apparently missed warning signs of radicalization in Major Hasan, according to a military review concluded on Friday.
“It is clear that as a department, we have not done enough to adapt to the evolving domestic-internal security threat to American troops and military facilities that has emerged over the past decade. In this area, as in so many others, the department is burdened by 20th century processes and attitudes, mostly rooted in the Cold War,” Defense Secretary Robert Gates told the press.
The army has an idea of who missed what, and intends to take action against the individuals and hold them responsible for lapses in judgment on Hasan’s behavior.
Communication breakdowns in the FBI and Pentagon also led to a failure to act upon Major Hasan’s contact with Anwar al-Awlaki, who has been implicated as a player in Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s radicalization case as well.
At a recent security conference in Munich, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates told European nations that they were under direct threat from Islamist extremists and that this phenomenon would not go away. Gates tied European security to NATO success in Afghanistan. In fact, Western intelligence services have recently established operational links between al-Qaida in Afghanistan and al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) whose goals include striking at the heart of Europe. Al-Qaida has not made any secrets of its eagerness to target Europe. Indeed, al-Qaida’s number two, Ayman al-Zawahiri, has repeatedly threatened Europe. In 2007, numerous al-Qaida-linked plots were foiled in Europe and several cells were dismantled in France, Spain, Denmark, Belgium, Germany and the UK. This led Gilles de Kerchove, the EU’s anti-terror chief, to say last November that al-Qaida was the biggest threat to Europe. Olivier Guitta reports.
By John Milburn TOPEKA, Kan. — A foundation that has sued the military alleging widespread violations of religious freedom said Tuesday that it has evidence showing that soldiers are pressured to adopt fundamentalist Christian beliefs. The photos and videos of religious materials and activities are part of a lawsuit filed by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation and Army Spc. Jeremy Hall, an atheist, against Maj. Freddy J. Welborn and Defense Secretary Robert Gates. The material was gathered from Fort Riley in Kansas, the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., and Fort Jackson, S.C. Examples at Fort Riley, where Hall is stationed, included a display outside his military police battalion’s office with a quote from conservative writer Ann Coulter saying, “We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity.” Another photo from Fort Riley shows the book “A Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam” for sale at the post exchange.