GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba — The Pentagon’s Southern Command intends to seek $69 million from the Republican-controlled Congress to build a prison for high-value former CIA detainees.
Rear Adm. Kyle Cozad, commander of the detention center, said the command included the proposed appropriation in the fiscal year 2017 portion of its four-your plan for the detention center the president has pledged to close.
The current high-value prison, Camp 7, is a bit of a mystery. Reporters can’t see it, and the public can’t know how much the Bush administration spent to build it for the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attacks and more than a dozen other high-level terrorists brought here in 2006.
Marine Gen. John Kelly told Congress in February that structural problems on the secret site where it sits on this 45-square-mile base had made it “increasingly unsustainable due to drainage and foundation issues.”
In an interview Friday, Cozad said the maximum-security lockup is safe.
“Quite frankly, there’s no operational issue with that facility today,” he said. “Otherwise, we wouldn’t have folks in there.”
The House Armed Services Committee included the $69 million in its proposed omnibus defense funding bill this year. But the Democrat-led Senate and the Defense department rejected it. The Senate effectively killed funding by proposing a countermeasure requiring the secretary of Defense to certify any new building’s enduring value.
Cozad dismissed a question of whether, since the GOP will take control of the Senate in January, Guantanamo was more likely to get funding for the new prison. That would “purely be speculation,” he said.
If approved for fiscal year 2017, which will start Oct. 1, a building and enclosures for men meant to be held at Guantanamo could be built after President Obama leaves office in January 2017.
About 90 percent of the prison’s 148 captives are held in Camps 5 and 6 — two steel and cement copies of jails in the United States, with cell space for 300.
Cozad said it was not possible to move the 14 or 15 so-called “high-value captives” to a segregated wing or block where the others are held “based on higher level policy,” and because it would not be “space prudent.”
American policy for handling former CIA captives holds them largely incommunicado with a special secret guard force because details of their waterboarding and other treatment overseas at secret sites are still considered classified.