“How to Report from Guantanamo Bay”

Kudos to NYMag for spotlighting a reporter who actually does the hard stuff:

The Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg has reported from the detention center at Guantanamo Bay since the first detainee arrived in 2002. Last month, President Obama scuttled the office responsible for closing the center, which means Gitmo’s “media tent city” will be a permanent press encampment for the foreseeable future. Petra Bartosiewicz spoke with the veteran correspondent by phone from Gitmo’s Camp Justice, where Rosenberg has been covering pretrial hearings this month of the alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

When he took office, President Obama promised to close Guantanamo within a year. Now the office dedicated to closing the detention center has itself been closed. What’s going on?
There are 166 detainees here right now. Congress has incrementally imposed harder and harder restrictions on their resettlement. Last year, two detainees went to El Salvador and two left dead. Nobody wants to be the person who sent someone back who will be behind the next terror attack. So it’s Guantanamo forever.

How many times have you been to Guantanamo?
I’d say I’ve averaged about a week a month over the past eleven years. My longest stay was 41 nights. To get here you have to fly to D.C. You show up at a golf course near Andrews Air Force Base at about five in the morning and then get on a plane to Guantanamo with the judge, the defense attorneys, the prosecutors, and the media. It’s the war court on a plane, everyone but the defendants…

Are reporters being monitored less now?
Well, there are two soldiers in the room with me right now, and there’s a red sticker on my phone that says, ‘This telephone is subject to monitoring at all times, use of this phone constitutes consent to monitoring.’ I think being on this island basically constitutes consent to being monitored…

How long do you think you’ll continue covering Guantanamo?
There are people who call the War on Terror the “forever war”; if this is the forever war, then this is the forever prison. I want to stay here for the 9/11 trial, which I think is years away. I feel like I have an institutional knowledge. Everyone else rotates in and out of here. The soldiers come and go, the lawyers come and go, most of the reporters come and go. I feel a responsibility to stay. I want to see how it ends. I’m a little concerned it’s never going to.

44 replies
  1. 1
    some guy says:

    The boot stamping on your face. Forever.

  2. 2
    Zifnab25 says:

    The boot stamping on your their face. Forever.

    Hey, now. I’m pretty, young, white, and privileged.

    In all seriousness, though, we’re setting a really nasty precedent here. I’m curious to know what the options are, when Congress can effectively defund the 4th Amendment.

  3. 3
    chrome agnomen says:

    Guantanamo: America’s shame. (one of them)

  4. 4
    MomSense says:

    @Zifnab25:

    “In all seriousness, though, we’re setting a really nasty precedent here. I’m curious to know what the options are, when Congress can effectively defund the 4th Amendment.”

    Yes, Congress can defund the 4th Amendment and SCOTUS can fund the 1st.

  5. 5
    PeakVT says:

    I want to see how it ends. I’m a little concerned it’s never going to.

    It will end when all the prisoners are dead (which assumes that none get added, which of course is quite possible.)

  6. 6
    LanceThruser says:

    I want to see how it ends. I’m a little concerned it’s never going to.

    Epitaph for America?

  7. 7
    Thor Heyerdahl says:

    A Canadian View of the Politico’s Whitehouse access whining: Edmonton Journal Five good reads for Feb 26 – A world without Politico

  8. 8
    Bulworth says:

    Prisoners? Cuba? There are much more important things to worry about–like the propriety of Michelle Obama appearing at the Oscars. Lots of people are very concerned. //

  9. 9
    Mike in NC says:

    Shocked, simply shocked, that our dysfunctional, do-nothing Congress is incapable of doing anything except collecting their paychecks.

  10. 10
    Forum Transmitted Disease says:

    “Barack Obama has made his decision; now let him enforce it!”

    -Congress

    I doubt very much that Guantanamo will be closed by the time I die, and that’s (reasonably) at least 40 years away.

  11. 11
    Belafon (formerly anonevent) says:

    There are 166 detainees here right now. Congress has incrementally imposed harder and harder restrictions on their resettlement. Last year, two detainees went to El Salvador and two left dead. Nobody wants to be the person who sent someone back who will be behind the next terror attack. So it’s Guantanamo forever.

    This one paragraph has more truth in it than an entire year of WP, NYT, and the WSJ combined.

    No one wants to be the one who raises the next Timothy McVeigh, but we don’t lock white males up on just-in-case.

  12. 12
    japa21 says:

    @Belafon (formerly anonevent): Correct. Some actual reporting about why Gitmo isn’t closed and who is to blame. Shocking, I know.

  13. 13
    gene108 says:

    I want to see how it ends. I’m a little concerned it’s never going to.

    What you really need to figure out for the time line for GITMO is a good actuary.

    You need to estimate the expected life span of the current crop of prisoners.

    Once they all die, GITMO will be cease to have prisoners. Though it may still operate as a “warning” to others, because I can’t see Republicans ever wanting to close it. Ever. Thought it will no longer have detainees.

  14. 14
    Scott P. says:

    @gene108:

    Even Spandau closed, eventually.

  15. 15
    gvg says:

    Problem is that reasonably sane people look at what we’ve done to these prisoners and think it’s illogical to not expect most of them to HATE the US and if allowed to go free, want to act on that. Even if they were totally non political before arrest (maybe especially if) and even if it would certainly result in their death.

    This in fact is one reason I think that precivil war whites thought they couldn’t free the slaves…too dangerous. I happen to think that fear was more understandable though because the numbers of slaves were much higher.

    We are a bunch of wienies. I’ve been annoyed about this since Chiney said 1% possibility of danger was too high etc. The guy was older than I am and also lived through the cold war where danger was real…people got on with their lives and we knew better than torture. Voters have become wimps.

    I don’t see a way out of this trap but it’s because people are keeping blinkers on.

  16. 16
    Mr Stagger Lee says:

    @gene108: I consider Gitmo a sunny tropical version of Spandau Prison. At least when the Soviets held German prisoners in WWII they had no pretense of of what they were going to do to them. (Consider that of the 91,000 Germans captured at Stalingrad, only 6,000 came home).
    This American empire will allow the nation to rot from the inside before they will close Gitmo.

  17. 17
    PeakVT says:

    @gene108: Once the prisoners are gone and Cuba transitions to democracy, Gitmo will close. I’m fairly sure that Cuba will become a democracy first.

  18. 18
    Poopyman says:

    Well, this certainly highlights a problem, and I’m sure somebody’s on the phone right now trying to coerce the Miami Herald into firing Carol Rosenburg.

  19. 19
    Paul in KY says:

    @Belafon (formerly anonevent): We don’t already have all the white males locked up.

  20. 20
    Chris says:

    @gvg:

    We are a bunch of wienies.

    This.

    I lived in Paris for three years as a kid. That means that for three years, I was sharing the same city as Carlos the Jackal, the Osama Bin Laden (e.g. Most Wanted Terrorist) of the seventies and eighties, who was eventually caught by the French, tried in a civil court and locked up in a regular prison, not just on the mainland but in the middle of Paris. They have a few other terrorists like that locked up in jails around the country. Nobody, I mean nobody in all of Paris was even remotely concerned that they were in any danger.

    That’s something that comes to my mind every time I hear a “rugged,” badass American mewl about how absolutely terrified he is at the dangerous prospect of locking up terrorists in high security prisons. Yep, the Average American has less balls than what he routinely mocks as Cheese Eating Surrender Monkey Land. ::clap clap clap::

    (And these are the people who think they have the Nerves Of Steel to outdraw a dangerous criminal and shoot him down in the streets before he has a chance to pull the trigger. Yeah. Okay).

  21. 21
    Paul in KY says:

    @Scott P.: That was only after the Brits had Hess killed (good for them).

  22. 22
    Chris says:

    @gvg:

    Oh,

    This in fact is one reason I think that precivil war whites thought they couldn’t free the slaves…too dangerous. I happen to think that fear was more understandable though because the numbers of slaves were much higher.

    And you see a modern version of this in white people who are terrified to death of becoming a minority in their own country.

  23. 23
    Paul in KY says:

    @Mr Stagger Lee: The Germans also had no pretense about what was going to happen to Soviet prisioners.

  24. 24
    GregB says:

    Listening to conservative Dr. Carson on NPR trotting out the old rightwing bromide that a person on welfare learns not to go out and buy a large porterhouse steak because they’ll starve the rest of the month.

    A very calm and suave man this Dr. Carson. He’s trying to put a new face on conservatism, common sense conservatism the new face of the GOP.

  25. 25
    Paul in KY says:

    @Chris: If they hadn’t done anything worth being brutalized for, you’d think they wouldn’t be afraid.

    Makes you understand what they think about their own actions vis a vis minorities.

  26. 26
    Joel (Macho Man Randy Savage) says:

    Jim Fallows had a guest who did a really good three-part post on our mess in Afghanistan. Seems like the internet has yet to take notice. I’m doing my part.

  27. 27
    SatanicPanic says:

    If our treatment of Cuba itself is any indication, we’re not closing that base anytime soon.

  28. 28
    Mr Stagger Lee says:

    @PeakVT: I suspect when Raul Castro exits stage left, the CIA will engineer some hack to win the Cuban Presidency, (with maybe Marco Rubio “Ambassador to Cuba, i.e man behind the throne giving orders) And Gitmo will hum along quite smoothly.

  29. 29
    Joel (Macho Man Randy Savage) says:

    @Belafon (formerly anonevent): I think it would be more accurate to say that the feds aren’t just locking up the Aryan Nations. At least not those who haven’t yet committed a crime.

  30. 30
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Chris: Having lived in both Britain and Germany a times during the 80s, the only real response to terrorist actions I saw on the part of the populace was to be wary of unattended packages and luggage. Also the common courtesy of making sure that they didn’t walk too far away from their own luggage on a train platform and create a concern for others. Fairly rational responses to the actual threat that they faced.

  31. 31
    Chris says:

    @Mr Stagger Lee:

    My money’s on Cuba becoming a Cold War style battleground again, with Venezuela supporting the more conservative elements of the regime as they cling to power and the United States supporting a regime change that finally reopens the country to the Miami based mafia.

  32. 32
    SatanicPanic says:

    @GregB: He’s brand new and I’m already sick of him. Maybe because he hasn’t said anything original or insightful yet. And I don’t think he ever will for that matter.

  33. 33
    Amir Khalid says:

    @Paul in KY:
    They were awfully slow about offing Hess, weren’t they? Dude had been the sole remaining inmate at Spandau for 20 years when they strangled him.

  34. 34
    Paul in KY says:

    @Mr Stagger Lee: I think people who think that underestimate the robustness of the Cuban political system. They already have a replacement for Raul Castro & when he retires/dies, I fully expect this person (or another honcho) to take over in a peaceful transition of power.

    The Communist government (IMO) was an ‘independence from Bautista’ nationalist movement & those who remain are basically committed to it (otherwise they’d have left back in the boatlift days).

  35. 35
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Paul in KY: @Amir Khalid: What is the supposed motivation for killing him? Was he going to out the Duke of Windsor as a Nazi sympathizer? Or was it simply that Thatcher want to cut down on expenses and Spandau was pricy?

  36. 36
    Paul in KY says:

    @Amir Khalid: That was because the Russians (who had always voted against releasing him) had indicated they would vote differently & the British had always voted ‘yes’, but always knew the Russians would vote the way they really wanted to.

    So, the British would either be forced to change their vote (and all the hoopla that would arise) or let him out & have him tell his experiences of working with Edward VIII & Wallis, or take another option….

  37. 37
    Paul in KY says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: Out the Duke & Dutchess of Windsor as out & out traitors to the Crown & Great Britain.

  38. 38
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Paul in KY: Variations of that have been a staple of WWII spy novels for years. I don’t think anyone would have been surprised if Hess said something like that.

  39. 39
    Ash Can says:

    Yeah, but Obama didn’t use the bully pulpit, so it’s obviously all his fault.

  40. 40
    Hill Dweller says:

    Republicans put all the crazy restrictions on moving prisoners when they took over the House. Obviously, congressional Dems folded.

    The Obama admin took about a year to scour the various government agencies/departments and decide who should stay or go. Once completed, they started moving people out of Guantanamo. That stopped in Jan. 2011.

    There are currently 80 people cleared to be released, but they can’t move them.

  41. 41
    Lurking Canadian says:

    I do no understand this “cleared to be released” part. So these people are held in US custody, even though they have been cleared by military tribunal of all charges, because Lindsey Graham and John McCain won’t let them be moved? How does that not make the Senators literally kidnappers?

  42. 42
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Lurking Canadian: IIRC there is also a question of where to send the people when they are released. Some of their home countries won’t take them.

  43. 43
    Paul in KY says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: Mortifully embarassed that a former King of the British Empire (and their family member) would be a treasonous slimeball.

    They knew he was a slimy lounge lizard, but that is a whole nother ballgame from plotting with Nazis to retake the throne in a puppet regime.

  44. 44
    marshall says:

    It will end, and i think it will end this decade. At some point, the Castro dynasty will retire or die, and there will be a democratic “spring” in Cuba, and we (the US) will shower the new regime with love. They will want Guantanamo back, perpetual lease or not, and they will get it.

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