Guantanamo: The Tour

Guantanamo: The Tour
May 18, 2013

Last week, thanks to the generous support of the Freedom of Press Foundation, I traveled to Guantanamo during the height of a mass hunger strike to tour the detention facility, along with four other members of the media. We were shown the two main detention camps—5 and 6—as well as Camp X-Ray, the detainee hospital, library, food preparation and we observed the prisoners' morning prayer. 

The tour was carefully scripted and well choreographed but still incredibly valuable. The military impressed upon us how troublesome and ungrateful the prisoners are and how patient the guards have been despite being routinely "splashed" with feces and urine. The doctors and nurses told us they have not heard a single prisoner on hunger strike who has been tube fed complain about the brutality of the process, which I laid bare in an exclusive report for Al Jazeera last week.

We left the island last Friday, the 100th day of the hunger strike. The number of Guantanamo prisoners refusing food grew by three during our weeklong visit. There are now 103 prisoners participating in the protest. Thirty are being tube fed, according to the government's tally.

A Guantanamo spokesman, Navy Capt. Robert Durand, told me the military will not negotiate with the prisoners to end the hunger strike. 

These photographs were reviewed by the military and some were cropped to conceal surveillance cameras, a guard tower and other landmarks the military deemed sensitive. The rest of the photographs can be viewed on Flickr.

The guard tower overlooking Camps 5 and 6. This photographed was cropped to conceal a surveillance camera.

Camp 5, Charlie block. These cells were empty during the media tour.

Another view of Charlie Block.

Guards walking the block at Camp 5 just before the start of the prisoners' morning prayer.

The entrance to Camp 5. Even though there is a sign that says "no photography" we were permitted to take pictures.

An aerial view of Camp X-Ray, where the first prisoners who arrived in January 2002 were kept in open air cages. 

Guantanamo officials have wanted to tear down Camp X-Ray. But a federal judge ordered X-Ray to be preserved as possible evidence.

Interrogation huts at Camp X-Ray, now shuttered and overgrown with weeds and vines.

These are the "cells" that were used to house the first prisoners transferred to Guantanamo in 2002. The prisoners remained there for three months before being sent to the camps that were being built by KBR.

Although there is a hunger strike taking place, food is still prepared for prisoners and media was given a tour of the facility.

A bed in the emergency room at the detainee hospital. The guard force first restrains the prisoner while the physician/nurse stands by.

The "acute care" room in the detainee hospital.

The entrance to Camp Delta, which used to house all of the detention camps. It was the sign that said the "Value of the Week" is "Integrity" that caught my eye.

The restraint chair and force-feeding kit in the detainee hospital. We were told this was set up this way for display purposes. It resembles an execution chamber.

"Leonato," whose fake name was taken from Shakespeare's play "Much Ado About Nothing," is a registerd nurse and the officer in charge of the detainee hospital. He was providing us with a demonstration of the force-feeding process. He said has not heard one prisoner complain to him about pain or discomfort from being tube fed.  

Shackles on the floor in the prisoner "media room" in Camp 5. Behind the shackles is a recliner.

A plaque commemorating the construction of maximum security Camp 5, which houses noncompliant prisoners. Notice that the contractor, Kellogg Brown & Root, which was part of Dick Cheney's old firm, Halliburton, is cited.

There's also plaque commemorating the construction of Camp 6.

An isolation cell in Camp X-Ray where one prisoner was detained by the US. Former Guantanamo guard Brandon Neeley, who worked at Camp X-Ray when it opened, said Martin John Mubanga, who held dual citizenship in the United Kingdom and Zambia, was detained there.

This is a kennel in the old Camp X-Ray that was used to house military dogs, which were used to intimidate prisoners. The canines had better accommodations than the prisoners.

No one was able to answer why there had to be silence when in the vicinity of the prisoners.

Two Guantanamo guards Joint Task Force-Guantanamo made available for a 20-minute interview. I had to send my questions to the military a week in advance. The female guard is 21 years-old and works in Camp 5. Before being deployed to Guantanamo she worked at Fort Leavenworth. The male guard works in Camp Echo and is 20 years-old. He arrived at Guantanamo when he was 18. He had no prior experience working in a prison environment. We were not allowed to identify the guards by name. Both said the prisoners were manipulative and "not really" on a hunger strike. The female guard said the prisoners have routinely splashed her with feces and urine and called her a "bitch and whore."

The officer in charge of maximum security Camp 5, where noncompliant prisoners are detained. We were not allowed to photograph her face or publish her name for security reasons. 

The communal area of Camp 6, which houses compliant prisoners. The block was empty when we visited. All prisoners in Camp 6 have been held in isolation since April 13, when guards staged a pre-dawn raid at the camp.

A restraint chair used for force-feeding in a cell at Camp 6.

A book in the Detainee Library that appears to have been read many times, judging from the dog-eared pages. It's a story about survival.