GUANTANAMO BAY — The military commission for Omar Khadr, the Canadian citizen held here since 2002 and charged with killing a U.S. soldier, doesn’t get underway until Wednesday morning. An idle press corps, even in the balmy Antilleanspring, doesn’t make for a contented beast, so the media handlers at Joint Task Force-Guantanamo are coordinating tours for us through three of the detention camps. There are tight restrictions on what we can and cannot film and photograph. I’ll attempt to get as visual a presentation of the facilities as I can provide. I haven’t been to Camp Delta — the facility that comprises all six detention facilities — since summer 2005. Back then, the sixth camp hadn’t even been constructed. For a sense of what it looked like five years ago, check out this piece I wrote at the time. I’m very curious to see what’s changed and what hasn’t.
One thing that’s already noticeably different is the media strategy. Five years ago, press handlers at Guantanamo worked to convince visiting reporters that Guantanamo was vital to national security and allegations of abuse were either unfounded or overblown. Upon preliminary observation, that doesn’t appear to be the current approach. No public affairs officer is aggressively questioning reporters to determine hostility to indefinite detention and persuading or hectoring them into acquiescence with the goals of Guantanamo.
The new slogan, emblazoned on the press packets here, is “Safe, Humane, Legal, Transparent.” Reporters who’ve come here recently have told me that the number-one goal of the press strategy here is to convince reporters that the detainees are currently treated humanely and the facility is run professionally — regardless of anyone’s particular view about indefinite detention or military commissions.
More when I get back from the tour of the detention facilities, currently home to 180 or so detainees.