The current hunger strike at Guantanamo has entered its fourth month, with resistance growing to involve 100 detainees. More medics have been flown in to assist with force-feeding 29 inmates, and five are currently hospitalized. The strike began after searches of inmates’ Korans, but has grown into a protest of indefinite detention.
“The situation is desperate now. People are fainting with exhaustion every day,” wrote detainee Samir Naji al Hasan Moqbel in a recent New York Times op-ed.
We’ve covered the details of detainees’ cases, and the Obama administration’s back and forth on closing Guantanamo. Friday, we brought together a group of journalists to answer your questions about the U.S.' most controversial prison.
ProPublica’s Cora Currier (@coracurrier) was joined by Carol Rosenberg of the Miami Herald (@carolrosenberg), Ryan J. Reilly of the Huffington Post (@ryanjreilly), and Charlie Savage of the New York Times (@charlie_savage) to discuss what’s going on at Gitmo. Some key takeaways:
Guantanamo is currently under a media blackout: Four reporters left this morning, and no new journalists will be allowed back until June. The Pentagon is in the process of training new Public Affairs escorts (known as "minders") who take reporters on scripted tours of the prison camps. "They don't like it when you call it a blackout, but that's what it is," Reilly said.
Gitmo guards are trapped in the middle of detainees and D.C.-level decisions: Guards, many of whom are younger then the men they patrol, are in a difficult position. "The detainees are mad because basically no one is allowed to leave anymore - low-level transfers dried up after Jan 2011 - and to them the guards are the face of all that," Savage said.
Officials won't say who is on hunger strike: But lawyers are alerted when their clients are being force-fed. Attorneys for 13 hunger strikers gave their names to the Miami Herald.
Eighty-six detainees have been approved for transfer — but it's not so simple: "The problem is they come from chaotic countries - primarily Yemen - which makes it harder for officials to say it would be safe to send them because it's not clear the central government is capable of keeping an eye on them," Savage said. As Rosenberg pointed out, saying detainees are "cleared" is a misnomer. "They're not cleared to walk out of the prison camps and board a flight to Fort Lauderdale."
See the full transcript of their discussion below: