Despite these tactics, little intelligence came from the prison camp, CIA sources told author Jane Mayer for her 2008 book, The Dark Side. So the CIA sent an intelligence analyst to Guantánamo. He interviewed about two dozen detainees and concluded about a third of the camp's population had no connection to terrorism.

Mahvish Khan, then a University of Miami law student, found something similar when she began visiting the camp as a translator. The child of Afghan immigrant parents who had gone on to become doctors, she had grown up in a conservative Muslim home in Michigan.

Khan says she expected to find members of the Taliban or Al-Qaeda. Instead, the first detainee she met was a pediatrician who had worked to establish democracy in Afghanistan and then fled to Syria when the Taliban took over. The second man was an 80-year-old paraplegic who had been bedridden for 15 years. Bounty hunters had delivered both of them. "Most of the people were there because they were turned in for money, or because there was some sort of tribal feud," she says. "I saw U.N. workers, people who had built girls' schools, who had been prosecuted by the Taliban . . . as well as businessmen who debtors [turned in]."

Some of the worst abuses at Guantánamo may have taken place in these hastily built plywood interrogation rooms, next to Camp X-Ray.
Barry Bland
Some of the worst abuses at Guantánamo may have taken place in these hastily built plywood interrogation rooms, next to Camp X-Ray.
Army Colonel Bruce Vargo, commander of detention camps at Guantánamo Bay, sits in an office inside Camp Delta.
Barry Bland
Army Colonel Bruce Vargo, commander of detention camps at Guantánamo Bay, sits in an office inside Camp Delta.

In summer 2004, two years after Khadr's arrival, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the Bush administration could not hold prisoners indefinitely without charges. Detainees had the right to try their cases in federal court. In response, camp authorities quietly released 114 detainees by the end of the year. Virtually none had seen the evidence against them. In June 2006, the Supreme Court suspended the tribunals for three months until Congress officially authorized them.

For Khadr, nothing changed. He continually wrote letters home, promising his mother that Allah would protect them. In an interview with the CBC, his mother, dressed in a black burqa that covered everything but her eyes, said she would be happy to see her son die a martyr. She also admitted that when the planes hit the World Trade Center, her first thought was, "Let them have it." As for the American medic Khadr reportedly killed with a grenade in 2002, his sister Zaynab was unapologetic. "Big deal," she said with a shrug.


It's an early January morning at Guantánamo. Young soldiers with cropped hair jog along the streets in the gray light of dawn, their T-shirts drenched in sweat from the thick tropical air. As they run single file, a car passes on the winding street, headed to the mess hall up the road. Classic rock broadcast from one of two military-controlled radio stations drifts from the window.

A few miles away, down on the waterfront, prisoners rise for morning prayer. They kneel and recite Koranic verses. Later, they wash their white uniforms and hang them on chainlink fences to dry.

Across the camp, Omar Khadr sits slumped over a defense table in a convincing replica of a U.S. courtroom. He is no longer the frail, clean-shaven teenager who begged Army soldiers to kill him. He scratches a thick beard and rubs his left eye, blinded all of those years ago by American shrapnel. His lanky, 6-foot-1-inch frame stretches a white prison uniform, and his face is slack with boredom.

For 61/2 years, through torture and isolation, he has awaited his day in court. Next door to the multimillion-dollar courthouse hosting Khadr's hearing, inside a double-wide trailer tucked into the corner of a cavernous, dusty hangar, a reporter watches the proceedings on a flat-screen television mounted on the wall. It's as close as the Pentagon allows the media.

A Navy lawyer finishes questioning an FBI agent just after 11 a.m., and the camera shifts to Army Colonel Patrick Parrish, who is presiding in a judge's flowing black robes. "Because of the inauguration, then, we're going to recess for the rest of the day. We're going to reconvene tomorrow at 0900," he says. Parrish pauses and clears his throat. "Unless we're told otherwise by the commission."

In that instant, the TV set broadcasting Khadr's hearing flips to live coverage of President Barack Obama's inauguration ceremony. Khadr's slumped figure is replaced by the black-robed figures of the U.S. Supreme Court, tromping down the icy stairs of the U.S. Capitol.

With George Bush sitting nearby, Obama repudiates what Guantánamo Bay has come to represent. "We reject as false the choice between our safety and ideals," he says, setting in motion plans to close the camp within a year and throwing Khadr's case into limbo.

The next day, the brass at Guantánamo try to wrap their minds around what has happened. Army Colonel Bruce Vargo — the detention camp's top commander — keeps an office inside a fluorescent-lighted trailer in the heart of Camp Delta, where the best-behaved prisoners are held. An Ohio native with meaty, pinched features and a booming voice, he seems the perfect officer — in control and unflappable. "Look, we are responsible for the safe, humane, and transparent legal care and custody of these detainees," he says matter-of-factly. "That has not changed, all right?"

Vargo won't talk about conditions prior to his 2007 arrival, but it is obvious much has changed since the early days at Camp X-Ray. Today, detainees live in sterile, modern prison cells that look like maximum-security units in places such as Leavenworth, Kansas, and Florence, Colorado. Inside Camp 6 — the highest-security location other than Camp 7, which is in a secret on-base location that is off-limits to journalists — guards proudly display spartan cells with shatter-proof mirrors and collapsible "suicide-proof" clothing hooks.

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3 comments
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Marnie Tunay
Marnie Tunay

I am surprised to hear you say that Dennis Edney is prepared to have Omar Khadr move in with him. My understanding from speaking with him in late October was that he had considered that option and decided it was not a workable one. It doesn't matter in any case, because Omar Khadr is never coming back to Canada:http://fakirsca.blogspot.com/2...Marnie TunayFakirs Canadahttp://fakirscanada.googlepage...

Concerned Citizen and Taxpayer
Concerned Citizen and Taxpayer

It's interesting that this Guantanamo issue was missing from the New Times stands at Litchfield Park Library, and stands around Dysart and Litchfield Road, Sun City and at the Downtown Courthouse. This important issue is a must have. We believe that with the thousands of people coming in for the Anti-Arpaio march the stands were stripped. Not much different between Arpaio's jail and the the state prisons here and Guantanamo, with a culture steeped in what the world has seen in Abu Ghraib -- AZ Corrections officials set up / and ran Abu Ghraib during the abuse years. The Iraqis want nothing to do with the U.S. prisons - and taxpayers have wasted billions in these fiascos, of which Guantanamo is a part of. This has moved from Iraq and Guantanamo to Arizona and are racheting up for the next "war" against humanity on our soil. People wake up -- this is NOT the America we have known. Stop the madness and hatred and abuse of power.

Mike Wells
Mike Wells

See, I don't get this:They say this kid is guilty because 'he's the only one who could have thrown the grenade'...How do they know this? They say the fighting went on for an hour, but since the kid ws the only one alive, he's the "only" one who could have thrown a grenade an hour ago? SO he held the Special Forces guys off for an hour single-handedly?Secondly, why is it a crime to fight back in a wartime situation? So the guys weren't part of an organized military, neither were the French resistance fighters in WWII, did we bring them up on charges?Third, if these guys ARE criminals, why no actual charges? This game of semantics is ridiculous- 'He's-not-a-POW,-but he's-not-a-civilian-so-we-can-keep-him-forever-if-we-want'. We would expect anyone to do better with our captives, ciivilian or military, and we can't use the 'But they are meaner to our guys' excuse, we have always stirven to be above that, or we would have stuck our Vietnam prisoners in holes for months at a time, with watery rice for their only meals, torturing them on a daily basis.

It's about time the country grew up. I, for one, am glad that the new Administration is moving in this direction.

 
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