Chairman Says Guantanamo Mission Mitigates Global Risk
January 14, 2008
GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba (Army News Serice, Jan. 13, 2008) - Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen toured the new Expeditionary Legal Complex and the detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay Naval Station Sunday, thanking service members guarding detainees for their service.
"JTF Guantanamo has performed extraordinarily well and has really delivered during a difficult mission," Mullen said about the joint task force that runs the detention facility. "The naval station has also done great work to support the mission here. I am equally proud of what the naval station has done."
During his visit, Mullen spoke favorably of the need to continue fostering the integrated capabilities that have allowed service members to perform the JTF mission in a safe and professional manner. He met with service members in a town hall meeting where he discussed future goals for the military and Joint Task Force Guantanamo.
"The world is focused on Guantanamo Bay. We've got to get it right every single hour. The consequences of getting it wrong could be global," said Mullen.
Although Mullen admitted to going on record in support of closing the Guantanamo Bay detention facilities, he said no decision has been made to do so.
"There is no decision to close Guantanamo Bay. Clearly, we have worked our way in the last several years through processes, which have allowed us to understand where we are and what we are doing in a very comprehensive way," said Mullen.
"Guantanamo Bay is known to the world and there are many who editorialize on the fact that Guantanamo Bay should be closed down. The decision to close it down would be made completely out of our purview, and I am not aware of anyone who is considering doing that."
Since the Joint Task Force mission plays an essential part in fighting the War on Terror, Mullen mentioned that the operations are necessary to help protect Americans against possible terrorist attacks.
"The joint detention operation is a part of mitigating risk. We need to keep the detention facilities operating as best as they can be to protect Americans against individuals who have pretty bad backgrounds in terms of the War on Terror," Mullen. "This facility helps mitigate that global risk."
Five hundred of the more than 775 people who have been detained at Guantanamo Bay since 2002 have been released as a result of an in-depth process developed by the U.S. government to evaluate current information and determine a detainee's threat level and intelligence value.
This process is the first of its kind globally, said Joint Task Force Guantanamo Deputy Commander Army Brig. Gen. Cameron Crawford. It provides for someone detained by coalition forces during the Global War on Terror to be transferred or released to the custody of their home countries or third-party nations prior to the end of hostilities - a measure that exceeds those provided stipulated the Geneva Conventions, according to Crawford.
Based on recommendations from the Office of Administrative Review for the Detention of Enemy Combatants, the Designated Civilian Official, (the Hon. Gordon England, U.S. deputy secretary of Defense), determines whether to continue to detain an individual, transfer this individual to the custody of another nation, or release this individual. To date, detainees have been transferred to 28 nations world wide.
A board of three field grade officers conducts annual review boards for each detainee to weigh the evidence against them, as well as determine whether their intelligence value lends itself to continued detention. A judgment of high, medium or low-threat level and intelligence value is placed on each detainee following the evaluation. This process is administrative and does not have any legal bearing on the lawful or unlawful status of enemy combatants, officials said.
Detainees are often transferred directly back to their home country. However, if there is credible evidence that a detainee may potentially be harmed by that country, the U.S. will coordinate with a third party nation for transfer, said Army Lt. Col. James Conrad, operations officer for JTF Guantanamo.
All detainees released from custody of the detention facilities have their personal effects returned to them. In addition, two new sets of clothes, shoes and a new Koran in the detainee's native language are given to the detainee upon departure.
Medical personnel, specially trained security personnel, as well as translators for all detainees being transported are present during each phase of a detainee movement.
Currently about 60 detainees are eligible for transfer or release, officials said, adding that their transfer hinges on U.S. negotiations with these detainees' home countries.
(Spc. Shanita Simmons and Sgt. Sarah Stannard serve with JTF Guantanamo Public Affairs.)