Detainees Treated Humanely as Task Force Supports Terror War
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jun. 29, 2005 Probably no example in modern history matches the extent of the effort going into ensuring the fairest and most humane treatment possible for enemy combatants being detained at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the task force commander there asserted today during questioning by the House Armed Services Committee.
Army Brig. Gen. Jay Hood, commander of Joint Task Force Guantanamo, said the task force members are ever mindful of the strict standards guiding their behavior as they conduct two critical missions in support of the war on terror: While keeping terrorists off the battlefield, they're gathering valuable intelligence to support U.S. and coalition troops.
At Guantanamo Bay, every detainee gets clothing, shelter and basic hygiene items, is able to exercise, and has access to "superb" medical and dental care, Hood said. Detainees can send and receive mail, get books and magazines from a detainee library and practice their faith freely, and all are entitled to legal representation, Hood told the committee.
Members of the House committee, many of whom visited the Guantanamo Bay facility June 24, acknowledged the far-reaching efforts being made for the detainees. "Nobody wants to be in prison, but if you're going to be in prison, this is the one to be in," said Colorado Rep. Joel Hefley.
Some representatives questioned if detainees are being treated too fairly, particularly when many of them can be linked to U.S. deaths on the battlefield.
"The vast majority of these detainees we are holding are dangerous men, committed to harming Americans," Hood acknowledged. "I know this because of what we have learned about these men, and the threats and assaults that they make against the guard forces and interrogators."
On a typical day or week, it's not unusual for guards walking a cell block to have urine, feces or spit hurled at them, to have their ethnic or racial background slurred or to hear detainees threaten to track them down after being released and kill them and their families, Hood said.
Yet members of Joint Task Force Guantanamo continue to exhibit "discipline, professionalism and integrity" and to treat detainees humanely, he told the committee. "The watchword of the guard force that deals with these detainees is discipline - discipline in performance of their duties."
Among more than 10,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines have served at Guantanamo Bay since 2002, only 10 have had to be disciplined for failing to perform their duties to the standards expected of them, Hood said.
These were isolated incidents, typically carried out by a single individual who acted inappropriately, and often after being provoked by a detainee, the general said. And in all cases, the chain of command took action.
As they ensure "safe, humane custody of some very dangerous enemies of our nation," task force members continue to carry out another critical mission at Guantanamo Bay, collecting actionable intelligence that's supporting the war on terror, Hood said.
Through information provided by detainees, analysts have been able to locate and identify terrorist networks around the world and learn how terrorist cells communicate, finance their operations and recruit and train members, he said.
"Every week, we learn something that assists in piecing together the strategic mosaic of international terrorism," he said. And frequently, the information gleaned through interrogations has operational value to combatant commanders on the ground.
"The intelligence gathered at Guantanamo is making a vital contribution to our country's ongoing efforts in the war on terror," the general told the committee.
Hood said he's proud of the troops serving at Guantanamo Bay and their contributions in fighting terrorism. "I assure you, the men and women at Joint Task Force Guantanamo are making a difference," he said. "Our nation and our allies are safer for the sacrifices they are making."