Obama backpedals over closing Guantanamo Base

Obama backpedals over closing Guantanamo Base

Obama backpedals over closing Guantanamo Base

Al-Qaeda and Taliban detainees in orange jumpsuits sit in a holding area at Camp X-Ray at naval base Guantanamo Bay in this 2003 photo. The US plans to install a $40 million fiber optic cable to the base, destroying hopes for its closure. AFP photo

The Pentagon plans to install a $40 million fiber optic cable between the U.S. military jail at Guantanamo Bay and the U.S. mainland, a spokesman said July 5, an indication the facility will not close any time soon.

The goal is to bring the infrastructure of the naval base up to par with other government agencies, Pentagon Spokesman Todd Breasseale said. According to a “feasibility study” conducted by the U.S. Defense Information Systems Agency, the project will cost an estimated $40 million, Breasseale told Agence France-Presse. The project, which is part of the budget for the fiscal year 2013, must be approved by Congress. “It feels like the sort of dial-up Internet that we had in the 90s,” Breasseale said. “It’s a very limited bandwidth.”

Obama’s election promise

The construction of a fiber optic link would greatly improve telecom access for those living at the U.S. military base in Cuba. Detention camps at the naval base currently house 169 inmates.

President Barack Obama had promised the detention center would be closed, but Congress has so far blocked any substantive measures. News of the fiber optic cable project comes after the
recent construction of a football field for Guantanamo inmates, at a cost of $744,000. “It would be a mistake to assume that some potential use of fiber optic communication lines” at Guantanamo Bay “is any indication of how long the detention center will be around,” said Breasseale. “Our goal remains to close the detention facility. We have no plans to close the naval station there.” According to commanders at the base, such a long term investment makes sense only if the U.S. intends to continue using the facility.

“It only makes sense to do if we’re going to be here for any period of time,” Navy Capt. Kirk Hibbert told the Miami Herald. In 2009, Obama signed an executive order to close Guantanamo. But a decision on the specifics of such a plan was postponed, and in 2011, he issued an executive order permitting the indefinite detention of Guantanamo detainees.

The Guantanamo Bay naval base is built on Cuban land leased to the United States in 1903. Terror suspects have been detained at the prison there since 2001.