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Risch: "What is said in the press about Guantanamo is inaccurate and overblown"
The Guantanamo Bay detention camp is a detainment facility of the United States located within the United States' Guantanamo Bay Naval Base on the island of Cuba. The facility was established in 2002 by the Bush Administration to hold detainees from the war in Afghanistan and later Iraq. It is operated by the Joint Task Force Guantanamo of the United States government in Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, which is on the shore of Guantánamo Bay. The detainment areas consist of three camps: Camp Delta (which includes Camp Echo), Camp Iguana, and Camp X-Ray, the last of which has been closed. The facility is often referred to as Guantánamo, G-Bay or Gitmo, and has the military abbreviation GTMO.
U.S. Senator Jim Risch returned from touring Guantanamo Bay Monday evening, capping a full day of meetings and tours of the detention facilities located at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base on the island of Cuba.
According to Risch:
Since 2002, Guantanamo has held some of the most dangerous terrorists and combatants, and President Bush sought to try detainees through military tribunals.
As a result of the U.S. Supreme Court case, Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, Congress drafted the Military Commissions Act, which was signed into law in October 2006 and provided the legal authority for the United States to try detainees.
After the Justice Department advised that the Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp could be considered outside U.S. legal jurisdiction, the first twenty captives arrived at Guantanamo on January 11, 2002. After the Bush administration asserted that detainees were not entitled to any of the protections of the Geneva Conventions, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld on June 29, 2006, that they were entitled to the minimal protections listed under Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions. Following this, on July 7, 2006, the Department of Defense issued an internal memo stating that prisoners would in the future be entitled to protection under Common Article 3. The detainees held as of June 2008 have been classified by the United States as "enemy combatants."
On January 22, 2009, the White House announced that President Barack Obama had signed an order to suspend the proceedings of the Guantanamo military commission for 120 days and that the detention facility would be shut down within the year. On January 29, 2009, a military judge at Guantanamo rejected the White House request in the case of Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, creating an unexpected challenge for the administration as it reviews how America puts Guantanamo detainees on trial.
On Jan 7, 2011, President Obama signed the 2011 Defense Authorization Bill which contains provisions preventing the transfer of Guantanamo prisoners to the mainland or to other foreign countries, and thus effectively stops the closure of the detention facility. However he strongly objected to the clauses and stated that he would work with Congress to oppose the measures. U.S. Secretary of Defense Gates said during a testimony before the US Senate Armed Services Committee on February 17, 2011: “The prospects for closing Guantanamo as best I can tell are very, very low given very broad opposition to doing that here in the Congress.”
A Guardian UK article called Judge's anger at US torture talks about how after the United Nations called unsuccessfully for the Guantanamo Bay detention camp to be closed, one judge observed "America's idea of what is torture ... does not appear to coincide with that of most civilised nations."
In April 2011, Wikileaks began publishing 779 secret files relating to prisoners in the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.
But Risch sees things differently:
"This tour was an opportunity to understand first-hand the enormous challenge facing military pesonnel and lawyers that work to keep America safe. I was able to tour the legal and detention facilities, as well as talk with a number of military personnel and lawyers about how the United States treats and handles detainees from the global war on terror," said Risch. "I can say without a doubt that a lot of what is said in the press about Guantanamo is inaccurate and overblown."
Unfortunately, in January 2009 President Obama issued an executive order to close the detention center and transfer the detainees. In January, Congress prohibited the transfer of detainees from Guantanamo Bay to the United States, and six months ago, President Obama reversed his position, issuing a new executive order to try detainees using the military commissions authorized by Congress.
"While some detainees were able to be released or transferred to other countries for detention, there remains a clear case for maintaining the detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay," concluded Risch.
Traveling with Senator Risch on the military tour were Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS), Senator John Hoeven (R-ND), and Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO).
There is broad opposition from representatives in Congress. So is the role of the press in Guantanamo a flawed endeavor?
Inside Gitmo: The True Story Behind the Myths of Guantanamo Bay by Gordon Cucullu