Joe Nocera for The New York Times: Obama’s Gitmo Problem

May 28th, 2013

The New York Times
By Joe Nocera
May 24, 2013

Late Wednesday afternoon, less than 24 hours before President Obama made his big national security speech — in which he said, for the umpteenth time, that the prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, should be closed — a group of American lawyers representing Guantánamo detainees filed an emergency motion with the Federal District Court in the District of Columbia. The motion asked the court to order the removal of “unjustified burdens” that the military command at Guantánamo has placed on the detainees, making it nearly impossible for them to meet with their lawyers.

Let me tell you about these new burdens, which were imposed in recent months, around the same time that the detainees’ desperate hunger strike was gaining momentum. Lawyers used to be able to easily get ahold of their clients on the telephone, or could visit them in Camp 5 or Camp 6, where the “no value” detainees have been confined for years. (The smaller group of genuine terrorists is held in separate quarters.)

Not anymore. Today, if a lawyer asks to speak with his or her client, a meeting — and even a phone call — must take place at another location. And before they are moved to the location, the detainees are searched for “contraband.” According to the legal filings, the search includes touching the genitals and the anus of the detainees — which, as the military well knows, violates the detainees’ Muslim faith and will cause them to refuse the meeting. If the detainee does decide to go forward with the meeting, he is then shackled hand and foot, and chained to the floor of a van, in a purposely painful, bent-over position.

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