Military: Detainees behaving in Gitmo

Posted at 6:48 PM, Feb 05, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-05 18:56:00-05

Less than 100 people remain in the detainee facility at Guantanamo Bay.

Many would assume those remaining are the worst of the worst. It turns out, guards and command staff say it’s never been this peaceful at the facility.

Nearly 800 men and boys were once held at the detainee facility. Today, there are only 91.

There are bomb makers, Osama Bin Laden’s body guards, terrorist trainers, financiers, 9-11 conspirators and the  USS Cole Bomber. The last time a detainee was added was in 2008.

Today, there’s a relative calm among detainees.

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“I believe there is some optimism on the part of the detainees who are left here that they might be next.” Joint Detention Group Commander, Col. David Heath said.

Col. Heath explains detainees are broken into three groups -- each getting different privileges.

The best detainees, known as “Highly Compliant,” are allowed to live in a communal setting.  They get to choose 10 items from the detainee library every week and are only locked down in their cells two hours every day.

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The worst group, known as “Non-Compliant,” lives in segregation and is only allowed two items from the library. Currently, only two detainees are listed as Non-Compliant.

Right now, 34 detainees are on a list to be released, 47 are eligible for a type of parole hearing called the Periodic Review board and 10 are being referred for prosecution. Those 10 include five accused in the 9-11 attacks and the USS Cole bomber.

“Most detainees have realized that they have a lot to gain by being compliant and following the rules and living the good life,” Facility Cultural Advisor, known only as 'Zak,' said.

Zak has been working at Gitmo for 11 years. He credits education for the change in behavior as well. He explains many of the detainees didn’t know how to read or write before they were captured.

“So, we are doing something to help them think for themselves, make a choice.”  He said. “Their views have changed.”

The problem is releasing many of the detainees. A large number of them come from Yemen, a county in shambles. The United States doesn’t believe it would be safe to release them into that country, thinking they may rejoin the terrorist fight. Now, other countries have to accept them and the detainee has to agree to go. In recent weeks, one detainee refused to board a plane, deciding to stay at Guantanamo Bay.

“He thinks, ‘why should I go to another place when there is nobody I know around me?’” Zak said.

The shrinking number of detainees is part of a plan set forth by the president to eventually close the facility, something that has had major push-back by some members of congress and a task that is proving to be a challenge for the president without congressional approval.

Still, command staff is preparing for changes, including the potential closing.

“I’m not prepared to discuss our plans on what we would do and when we would do it, but yes we are looking at different contingencies to reduce the size based on the reduction in the detainee population here,” Col. Heath said.