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Detainee Operations Will Continue at Guantanamo, Officials Say

By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 29, 2006 – The Supreme Court decision today halting the military commissions of detainees held here will not affect the day-to-day detention operations at the base, defense officials said yesterday.

Before knowing the outcome of today's decision, the officials said that operations in the camps holding about 450 detainees will continue, no matter what the court decided, because the ruling applies only to military commissions.

The mission at Guantanamo Bay is to provide safe and humane custody and care to detainees while conducting interrogation operations to collect strategic intelligence, Navy Rear Adm. Harry B. Harris said yesterday to a group of military analysts visiting the base.

While the detainees always have been and always will be treated humanely, guards and leaders at the camps here keep in mind that the detainees are enemy combatants and are detained for a reason, Harris said.

"We care for dangerous men humanely, but we don't forget that they are dangerous men," he said. "They were committed to killing Americans on the battlefield and they are committed to killing us here."

Detainees are housed in one of four camps on the base, depending on their level of cooperation and intelligence value.

Camps 2 and 3 hold the majority of detainees, some of whom are compliant and some noncompliant, said Navy Cmdr. Catie Hanft, deputy commander of the Joint Detention Group and commander of the Navy Expeditionary Guard Battalion at Guantanamo.

Camp 4 is the medium-security level camp for highly compliant detainees, and Camp 5 is the maximum security camp for detainees who are least compliant or who are deemed to be of high intelligence value, Hanft said.

In all camps, detainees are given basic-issue items, such as clothing, shoes and a mat, and afforded the right to practice religion, Hanft said. Compliant detainees are given comfort items like games, library books, pens and paper, and highly compliant detainees in Camp 4 are allowed to live communally, sharing meals and recreation and spending more time out of their cells, she said.

All detainees here have access to mail, a library with 3,500 volumes in 13 different languages, two to 12 hours of recreation per day, and medical care facilities that rival those offered to U.S. troops on the base, Harris said.

"We are saving the lives and improving the health of the detainees every day," he said.

The detainee hospital here has 20 beds and can be expanded to 30 beds, Harris said. The hospital includes an operating room, a radiology department, a physical therapy department, a pharmacy and a dental clinic. Detainees are also offered eye care, prosthetics services, and specialty care on a recurring basis, he said.

A separate behavioral health unit at Guantanamo monitors the detainees and treats those with mental illnesses or conditions, Harris said. Currently about 11 percent of the detainees are being treated for some sort of mental health condition, which is the average percentage of prisoners with mental health problems in U.S. prisons, Hanft said.

Reacting to the Supreme Court decision, President Bush said today that the government will conform to the court's ruling, and work with Congress to find a way to prosecute the detainees at Guantanamo. He said his focus will remain on keeping the American people safe during the global war on terrorism.

"This ruling won't cause killers to be put out on the street," Bush said at a news conference following his meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi at the White House.

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