Obama-era Guantanamo Bay: ‘Bush with a smile’

Adam Serwer, fresh from a trip to Guantanamo Bay to see a proceeding in an Obama-era military commission, draws some conclusions about the administration’s national security approach:

The detention camps have become more bearable for the detainees, with 85 percent of them now living communally, up from around 40 percent more than a year ago, according to the Joint Task Force (JTF). Only 12 detainees are on hunger strike, (down from a high of 100 in 2006) five of whom are being force-fed, according to a JTF spokesperson. Long-planned construction projects, like a soccer field for Camp Six have been finally completed, giving the detainees more outside space than before. The detainees watch television and have recently been given access to satellite radios that let them listen to the Koran being chanted. In addition to literacy, language, and art classes, a new “life skills” class whose curriculum includes “resumé building” has been set up. Only one detainee has expressed interest so far.

Guantanamo Bay: Now With Only 12 Detainees On Hunger Strike. Serwer says it’s “Bush with a smile.” And that extends to due-process allowances in the commissions after Obama and Congress passed a legislative revamp last year:

“There are significant improvements both in terms of procedure, rights available, and rights to resources, in particular in death-penalty cases,” says Mike Berrigan, principal deputy chief defense counsel for the Office of Military Commissions. “But there’s a large hill to climb.”

Spencer Ackerman, national security reporter for the Colorado Independent’s sister site in Washington, is heading to Guantanamo Bay next week to cover startup hearings in the case of Canadian national Omar Khadr, captured in Afghanistan in 2002 at the age of 15. As he puts it, he’ll be sending “pictures, video and as much of a real-time portrait of military commissions and Guantanamo Bay in the era of Obama as military and technological restrictions permit.”

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