Terrorists dislike women
October 16, 2014
New coed guard duty causing ruckus at Guantanamo high-value prison
MIAMI (MCT) — The military now has female soldiers escorting former CIA captives around Guantanamo’s high-value prison, an apparent personnel change that defense lawyers say is causing an uproar over religious insensitivity.
When one captive — who had just finished meeting with his attorney — refused to be touched by a female soldier, the military called in a special unit to move him using the detention center’s tackle-and-shackle technique, a Forced Cell Extraction. Since that incident, at least four of the Sept. 11 defendants have boycotted legal meetings over the issue, according to the attorneys.
The prison would not confirm the tension at Guantanamo’s most secretive detention facility, called Camp 7. But Navy Capt. Tom Gresback, a spokesman, said the U.S. military has a policy of being gender neutral in its relations with detainees. As of Thursday there were 149 foreign men, more than half of them approved for transfer.
“Regardless of the camp in which they are assigned, women are a part of the guard force whose responsibilities include escorting detainees,” Gresback said Wednesday. The prison has “no intention in modifying its assignment of job responsibilities to members of the guard force based on gender.” He was unable to clarify Thursday morning whether the detention center was now authorizing female guards to be present at detainee strip searches and showers, something Navy Vice Adm. Patrick Walsh said was taboo in his 2009 report to President Barack Obama on Guantanamo’s conditions of confinement.
Prisoners are generally moved from place to place in shackles, often at the wrists and ankles, with a guard on each side clasping the captive by the arm or shoulder. While the prison has made female guards available to speak with reporters, and has for years released photos of U.S. troops interacting with prisoners, none have described or shown female guards touching them.
The prison has in the past emphasized the lengths to which it goes to respect the captives’ religion.
Among those refusing meetings over the issue is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the accused mastermind of the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
“This is viewed as an attack on Islam because for years the guard force accommodated their religious objections to unwanted touching by someone of the opposite sex,” said Marine Maj. Derek Poteet, Mohammed’s military attorney. “It’s not about objection to women in the military or women’s roles. It’s just about unwanted touching.”
The coed escort issue apparently came to a head Oct. 8 after a captive in his 50s, Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi, held a “peaceful legal meeting” with his U.S. military defense team, said Marine Lt. Col. Thomas Jasper, one of the attorneys who was there. Afterward, al-Hadi “was forcibly extracted from his cell” at the meeting place, Camp Echo, for his return to his prison building. At issue, Jasper said, was “the use of a female guard to escort Hadi between locations,” an apparent change of prison camp policy.
Jasper said that so far as al-Hadi’s lawyers knew, the Iraqi had not been previously subjected to a Forced Cell Extraction from the meeting place. Nor had they previously heard of him having “physical contact with female guards.”
Defense attorney Cheryl Bormann, who represents accused 9/11 plotter Walid bin Attash, said the recent addition of female guards as escorts appears to breach detente at the detention center. Sometime after the CIA brought the Sept. 11 defendants to Guantanamo in September 2006, Bormann says she was told, some female soldiers were briefly assigned to Camp 7 escort duty. The captives protested and the prison replaced them with men, she said. The issue is not that the women are guards. The captives understand “that’s their job,” she said. But, “there’s a religious restriction here. And now all of a sudden there are women who are touching these men who find it religiously offensive.”
Bormann, who consistently wears a black abaya in her client’s company, said she has “never, ever” touched him — and he has likewise never touched her. “It isn’t that it offends his personal integrity,” she said. “It is because his religion teaches him that it is forbidden.”
Two other defense attorneys, who didn’t have permission from their clients to talk about the cultural sensitivities at stake, said captives had been boycotting meetings over the possibility of a coed escort unit between the secret prison and the site where lawyers consult with their captive clients.
Several defense attorneys noted that a female officer had recently taken charge of Task Force Platinum, the rotating force of Army Military Police that work at the secretive prison. Gresback would not confirm that personnel change.
Jasper, in Washington, D.C., said he only learned of the episode this week and would go back to Guantanamo “in a few weeks” to ask his client about it and try to interview witnesses. The Marine officer said he would also file legal motions “to address both the appropriateness and legality of our client being forcibly extracted after a peaceful legal meeting with both of his counsel.”
Al-Hadi, who arrived at Guantanamo from CIA custody in 2007, is accused of committing war crimes as commander of al-Qaida’s Army in Afghanistan in 2003. He could face life in prison. He has appeared to be a pious, traditional Muslim in his brief court appearances, so much so that the judge delayed the start of a brief administration hearing Sept. 15 in deference to al-Hadi’s prayer time.
Detention center staffers during news media visits emphasize how much troops are trained to respect their captives’ religion, Islam. The detention center has an arrow indicating the direction of Mecca painted inside each cell. The guard force says it observes quiet time during the five-times-daily calls to prayer. Medical staff has for years adjusted the tube-feeding hours for hunger strikers to after dark during the holy month of Ramadan. And contractors at the prison camp kitchen emphasize that detainee meals are consistently halal, Islam’s form of kosher.
In his 2009 report, Walsh said the prison’s Standard Operating Procedures “emphasize respect for the person” and forbid female guards from being at strip searches, detainee showers and use of the “Rapiscan” system — a detection device that scanned a captive for contraband.