Protection legal professionals have been visiting Camp 7, which was emptied a yr in the past. Its remnants are nonetheless categorised, however they are saying what they noticed was disturbing.
GUANTÁNAMO BAY, Cuba — Its very existence was a secret at first. Camp 7 housed detainees thought of by the Bush administration to be among the many world’s most wished Islamic extremists.
All had been introduced there from C.I.A. prisons. They included the 5 males charged with serving to to plan the Sept. 11, 2001, assaults and a Palestinian generally known as Abu Zubaydah, the primary individual subjected to a torture regime that the company known as “enhanced interrogation.”
Now abandoned, its former occupants have moved to the principle jail advanced at Guantánamo Bay, the power has change into one other entrance within the tangled authorized battle that crawls alongside twenty years after the occasions that led to the jail’s creation.
Contending that the circumstances in Camp 7 had been substandard and exceedingly disturbing, legal professionals for the boys who had been held there from 2006 to 2021 are inspecting the location. They’re attempting to make the case that prisoners who had been held there, at occasions in solitary confinement, ought to obtain diminished sentences or dismissal of the demise penalty if they’re convicted.
The protection legal professionals additionally need something the boys mentioned whereas they had been stored there — both in F.B.I. interrogations or secretly recorded conversations — excluded from their instances as a result of, they are saying, the place was indistinguishable from the abroad black websites the place the boys had been tortured in C.I.A. custody.
They’ve been utilizing the visits to assemble proof, together with taking pictures of the decaying detention web site and bringing consultants with them to supply assessments. A few of the legal professionals say it’s too early to understand how the fabric could be used, together with the pictures, that are thought of categorised. However they are saying the visits, typically with the prisoners they symbolize, may help construct relations between the prisoners and the American legal professionals who’re paid by the Protection Division to defend them.
Prosecutors within the struggle crimes trials are arguing in opposition to the protection efforts. Within the Sept. 11 case, which is presently in plea negotiations, a prosecutor has described the statements the defendants gave the F.B.I. as key trial proof. The prosecution’s place is that, as soon as the C.I.A. prisoners had been delivered to Guantánamo, something they mentioned in interrogations or to different prisoners was voluntary, and so can be utilized at a trial.
Susan Hensler, a protection lawyer, visited Camp 7 for 2 hours final month together with her consumer, an Iraqi accused of struggle crimes. She described it as “chilling” and “akin to being entombed.”
Ms. Hensler; the prisoner, who makes use of a wheelchair; and different members of her entourage crammed inside his former cell and pulled the door almost shut. “It was like being buried alive,” she mentioned, calling it “clearly a facility custom-built for exploitation.”
She was not allowed to elucidate any additional as a result of, although the prisoners are gone, one thing in regards to the place continues to be categorised. The authorized groups which have visited in latest months had been allowed to explain their impressions of the power however not particular options.
Neither army nor C.I.A. spokesmen would focus on the circumstances. The U.S. authorities has persistently refused to say what Camp 7 price, what contractor constructed it or what makes its design so particular, including to its thriller.
No pictures have emerged of the power, which is hidden in hills removed from the suburban-style housing, Okay-12 college and McDonald’s for the 6,00zero residents of the 45-square-mile base. After President George W. Bush suddenly announced in September 2006 that the C.I.A. had transferred 14 “high-value detainees” from secret abroad websites to Guantánamo Bay, it took the army one other yr to acknowledge that that they had been segregated from the 450 detainees who had been already there.
“You’re disappeared off the face of the map at Camp 7,” mentioned Alka Pradhan, who represents Ammar al-Baluchi, a defendant within the Sept. 11 case and Mr. Mohammed’s nephew.
Ms. Pradhan spent fewer than three hours there and located that “the isolation was oppressive.”
Courtroom testimony has proven that the C.I.A. managed the jail for an undisclosed interval and staffed it with guards who had been civilians in army apparel, apparently company contractors.
She mentioned the isolation, clandestine guard power and different circumstances make it the final identified remnant of the C.I.A.’s black site program, which from 2002 to 2006 held greater than 100 prisoners in Afghanistan, Poland, Thailand and different nations.
Funding requests in previous years gave a fleeting sense of a spot whose infrastructure was deteriorating so quickly it was turning into hazardous for the particular unit of Military guards who labored there as Job Drive Platinum.
By 2013, senior army officers had been describing it as a failing facility shored up by non permanent fixes. It had shifted on its basis. Some doorways couldn’t shut, or open. Roofs couldn’t maintain again rain water. In time, human waste from an overflowing sewage system sloshed by cells and corridors.
“Electrical, mechanical, and safe communications methods inside the present amenities are harassed and prone to failure,” the Military mentioned in a 2018 request for $69 million to construct a brand new facility. Workers had been “in danger,” it mentioned, due to the “inefficiencies skilled in correct separation, seclusion, and management of occupants.” A funding request the following yr put the price at $88.5 million and said the failing complex required 74 additional guards.
As a substitute, the Southern Command, in session with the intelligence companies, determined to maneuver the boys to Guantánamo’s primary detainee advanced. Commanders had mentioned consolidating all of the prisoners at a single web site, made up of two adjoining jail buildings, would be more cost efficient.
The detention operation employs 1,500 troopers and civilians, mentioned the jail spokesman, Maj. Dustin W. Cammack, the identical variety of workers it had earlier than the consolidation on April 4, 2021.
Christine Funk, a prison protection lawyer, visited the location with the Malaysian prisoner she represents as a Pentagon worker.
“It seems like there’s a component of unpredictability constructed into that jail at Guantánamo, by design, that’s its personal type of torture,” she mentioned. “I’ve by no means seen something prefer it.”
Her consumer, Mohammed Farik Bin Amin, was held for 14½ years at Camp 7 with out fees. He was solely not too long ago arraigned in a Southeast Asia bombing case, which has no trial date.
“I’ve been out and in of Minnesota jails and prisons for greater than 30 years,” Ms. Funk mentioned. “I’ve seen all the things from minimal to medium to most safety. I’d keep in any one in every of them moderately than keep in that jail down at Guantánamo.”
The army judges have up to now declined to concern a preservation order on the property. A few of its most secretive intelligence methods are gone, however the deterioration has worsened.
Legal professionals reported seeing snakes, tarantula carcasses, rodent droppings and black mould. On completely different visits, the groups needed to step by or round puddles of water that had come from damaged ceiling sections. Reporters have been denied comparable entry.
“I had a very darkish thought after I went inside Farik’s cell,” mentioned Lt. Col. Chantell M. Higgins, a Marine lawyer for 2 former C.I.A. prisoners — Mr. Bin Amin and Abu Zubaydah, whose true title is Zayn al-Abidin Muhammed Husayn. Though held since March 2002, he has by no means been charged with against the law.
“My ideas had been, How is that this an appropriate cell for anyone who’s been detained long run like that?” Colonel Higgins mentioned.