GUANTANAMO BAY NAVY BASE, Cuba — Guards didn’t go through
the prison camps Wednesday and unpin the presidential closure order from
detainee bulletin boards. And the detention center didn’t put in an urgent call
Rather, President Barack Obama’s acknowledgment — in
television interviews in China — that his administration would miss its Jan. 22
deadline for closure barely caused a ripple in the place slated for closure.
“That’s certainly a portent of things to come for
us,” said Navy Rear Adm. Tom Copeman, commander of the prison camps
housing 215 war on terror captives. “But the president doesn’t command and
control his military forces through news conferences.”
Besides, units of the Virgin Islands and Rhode Island
National Guard have just arrived for one-year assignments at the detention
center, planned by the Pentagon before the president issued his closure order.
Commanders reported no unrest in the eight camps that house
detainees in a range of facilities — and lawyers reported no real surprise,
Some detainees now get to see Al Jazeera and other news
channels and were already aware of the tug of war between the White House and
Congress over whether and where the captives might go in the United States.
Others had watched improvements and reinforced security measure around the
camps and already doubted the deadline would hold.
“They think they’re moving — but not soon,” said
Marine Capt. Chris Kannady, defense lawyer for a Sudanese man accused of
training al-Qaida members. “Their concern is, ‘What conditions are we
going to be walking into? Who is going to be in charge of this prison?'”
Only 26 detainees have left since Obama took office — one to
New York for trial, one dead to Yemen as a suicide and the rest home to their
native countries or resettlement elsewhere.
“You see no one’s packing up and getting ready to
leave,” said Kannady. “There’s absolutely no evidence now that it’s
going to be closing.”
The admiral, whose official schedule Wednesday reported 65
days until Jan. 22, didn’t declare himself disappointed by the news the target
for closure would slip.
“It is what it is,” he said. “We’re a small
piece of the puzzle of this whole thing. Our job is to provide for the legal,
safe, humane care and custody of these guys until such time it is no longer
Obama said he was still hopeful his administration would
succeed in closing the detention center in 2010. But, “I’m not going to
set an exact date because a lot of this is also going to depend upon
cooperation from Congress,” he told Fox News.
He also defended his Justice Department’s decision to move
to a federal court in New York City the war crimes conspiracy trial of five
former CIA captives here accused of mass murder in the Sept. 11, 2001.
But the uncertain end date also raised other questions —
chief among them whether the Pentagon will stage full-blown military
commissions trials here.
Last week, Attorney General Eric Holder confirmed five other
men here would face war crimes trials but said officials had not yet selected a
U.S. site to stage them.
At the war court Wednesday, Afghan Mohammed Kamin boycotted
his pretrial hearing while defense lawyers complained to Air Force Col. Thomas
Cumbie that the Pentagon had not yet turned over accounts of 17 interrogations
of their client.
Kamin, 31, allegedly trained with al-Qaida after U.S. troops
invaded his country, spied on U.S.-led coalition bases there and planted
missiles and mines that never exploded.
He was sent here in 2004 and charged more than a year ago
with providing material support for terrorism. The case has been on a go-slow
mode while the Obama administration has amended the rules for the military
commissions created during the Bush years.
Cumbie gave Pentagon attorneys until Dec. 15 to provide
Kamin’s lawyer, Navy Lt. Cmdr. Rich Federico, with his client’s interrogations,
or explain why they can’t. He threatened unspecified “sanctions.”
Via McClatchy-Tribune News Service.