Closing the Camp? An inside look at the Guantanamo Bay detention center

GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba (WSVN) — Questions about the treatment of prisoners at “Gitmo” in Cuba have arose. 7News traveled to Cuba for an exclusive look inside the detention camp.

The prison at the U.S. Naval Base on the Southeastern tip of Cuba is known as Guantanamo Joint Detention Center or Gitmo for short. That word, however has become synonymous with abuse. It’s one reason President Obama is working toward closing its gates. The new leadership at Gitmo wants the world to know that chapter is now closed and allowed 7News a restricted inside look.

In the darkness, off the main road, a rickety guard tower surrounded by razor wire is the location of what used to be Camp X-Ray at Guantanamo Detention Center. The area is now abandoned and overgrown.

Soldiers said it’s a new day at the Guantanamo Joint Detention Center for those behind bars. It’s another day for the soldiers who patrol inside these fences. “I actually volunteered to come here and do this mission a second time,” said a common area guard. “Just to be involved in this mission, you are putting yourself in a bit of history.”

The mission is to keep America safe, but the history, however, is a checkered one. It was once a camp for migrants, but after Sept. 11, it became a prison for accused terrorists. Since then, it has become a target by human rights organizations. “We don’t abuse people here; we don’t torture people,” said Commander of Joint Detention Group Col. David Heath. “I don’t go out of my way to make people miserable. The past I can’t speak for; I wasn’t here.”

Reports from the International Red Cross in 2007 detailed beatings, prolonged shackling and sleep deprivation. Now, the United States Military offers to take journalists on a tour of the detention center where just 80 detainees remain.

7News took a look at Camp Six. The detainees here are what officials call highly compliant — they follow the rules. The faces of the detainees are not allowed to be shown on camera. Soldiers said, in accordance with the Geneva Convention rules against exploiting prisoners, the inmates wear loose garb and sandals.

Each cell houses one person. They receive a prayer rug and an arrow that points to Mecca, so they can pray in accordance with the laws of Islam. “This is the typical set up for each cell,” said another common area guard.

In a common area, those who are compliant can spend as many as 22 hours a day there. “We also have a cell converted into a media room, where they have access to a TV and PlayStation, if they choose to play video games,” said a common area guard.

The TV has 300 channels. They have access to books from the library that represents 15 languages. “It’s a chance to show what our values are, and a chance to demonstrate to the detainees and the world that we take care of people in our care,” said a camp librarian.

The books and newspapers are censored for violence, extremism and sexuality. In some of the magazines, the detainees have even scratched out the faces of women, because they feel the exposed faces of women are inappropriate.

However, the mood here is not all friendly. Some of the soldiers do not show their faces. They have what are called “block names,” while others cover their names with tape because some detainees have used it as a threat. “Oh, I know who you are, I will get your family, I’m gonna do this if you don’t do this for me,'” Heath said.

One guard said he’s been “splashed,” which means he was hit with a bottle of water mixed with bodily fluid. He told 7News that he’s not scared. “I talk to a man as a man,” he said. “For me to do anything less, that would be derelict within my duties and my being.”

The U.S. Military did not show 7News Camp Seven where 15 so-called “high value” detainees are being held, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, one of the confessed architects of Sept. 11.

It’s also important to note the U.S. Military reviewed all video we shot to make sure no guards or detainees faces were shown.

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