What Does Guantanamo Cost Us?

According to a recent Washington Post article, since 2001, the Pentagon has spent at least 500 million in renovating Guantanamo, in addition to approximately 150 million a year in operational costs.

Some interesting expenditures for base personnel:  volleyball court ($259,000); go-kart track ($296,000); 27 playgrounds (for a total of $3.5 million); a KFC/Taco Bell restaurant ($733,000); and a café whose renovation only cost $683,000.

Even if the amount invested does not include the annual operating costs of $150 million—which according to the White House double the amount of a comparable U.S. federal prison—it does include other costly expenditures, such as Camp 7 (13 million).

But what have torture, indefinite detention and unfair trials at Guantanamo cost in undermining human rights, the rule of law and America’s reputation and influence?

There are a million reasons to close Guantanamo right now. Especially since domestic U.S. prisons already safely hold convicted terrorists and U.S. federal courts have a far better track record than military commissions of prosecuting terrorism cases since 2001—at far less cost.

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28 thoughts on “What Does Guantanamo Cost Us?

  1. What happened to the Prez' "executive order" to close GITMO's detention facility in January of 2010?

    LOL… I just shake my head at the naivete. Good luck in your quest to release enemy combatants (with or without an unneccessary Federal trial).

    Obama has a long way to go, but unfortuneatly for you guys he has learned a thing or two since taking office.

    U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay Cuba existed long before it became home to terrorists and in the unlikely event the terrorists are released or detained somewhere else, U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay Cuba will continue to exist. Those operating costs you point out are not excessive when compared to any of the other military installations world-wide.

  2. What happened to the Prez’ “executive order” to close GITMO’s detention facility in January of 2010?

    LOL… I just shake my head at the naivete. Good luck in your quest to release enemy combatants (with or without an unneccessary Federal trial).

    Obama has a long way to go, but unfortuneatly for you guys he has learned a thing or two since taking office.

    U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay Cuba existed long before it became home to terrorists and in the unlikely event the terrorists are released or detained somewhere else, U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay Cuba will continue to exist. Those operating costs you point out are not excessive when compared to any of the other military installations world-wide.

  3. How do you know they're rightly detained unless they've gone through a legitimate legal process?

    Amnesty isn't calling for the Naval Base to be shut down, but for the counterterrorism detention center to be closed.

    And it has cost more (in dollars, and in the US' reputation) to have counterterrorism detentions at GTMO then it would have at the supermax facility in Florence, Colorado, where many convicted terrorists are imprisoned.

  4. They are rightly detained because they have been determined to be an enemy combatant (Combatant Status Review Tribunals and Annual Review Boards). The Department of Defense does not need a federal conviction to detain enemy combatants during armed conflict. Thats how I know.

    If you are worried about money, perhaps we should have kept them at Bagram. Much of the money (less the morale/welfare/recreation of Soldiers and families) has been spent improving the detention facility. Camp X-Ray was certainly not good enough (I agree). The detainees since then live under conditions that most U.S. Federal Inmates would envy. They receive the best health care around and truth be told… many would prefer stay then be released to home country.

    Brian is right and it has been fascinating watching a know nothing – no experience having – naive Presidential candidate learn from a little on-the-job training.

  5. Miss Escobar's thoughts on Guantanamo are very interesting. The contradictions of the Administration are all well put out in the posting. Keep on with the good work!

  6. How do you know they’re rightly detained unless they’ve gone through a legitimate legal process?

    Amnesty isn’t calling for the Naval Base to be shut down, but for the counterterrorism detention center to be closed.

    And it has cost more (in dollars, and in the US’ reputation) to have counterterrorism detentions at GTMO then it would have at the supermax facility in Florence, Colorado, where many convicted terrorists are imprisoned.

  7. They are rightly detained because they have been determined to be an enemy combatant (Combatant Status Review Tribunals and Annual Review Boards). The Department of Defense does not need a federal conviction to detain enemy combatants during armed conflict. Thats how I know.

    If you are worried about money, perhaps we should have kept them at Bagram. Much of the money (less the morale/welfare/recreation of Soldiers and families) has been spent improving the detention facility. Camp X-Ray was certainly not good enough (I agree). The detainees since then live under conditions that most U.S. Federal Inmates would envy. They receive the best health care around and truth be told… many would prefer stay then be released to home country.

    Brian is right and it has been fascinating watching a know nothing – no experience having – naive Presidential candidate learn from a little on-the-job training.

  8. Miss Escobar’s thoughts on Guantanamo are very interesting. The contradictions of the Administration are all well put out in the posting. Keep on with the good work!

  9. Where is the "change" that Obama promised on this issue? Close it , said Obama. This prison has never been that open but secret at the same time. Horrors on Human Rights!!

  10. Where is the “change” that Obama promised on this issue? Close it , said Obama. This prison has never been that open but secret at the same time. Horrors on Human Rights!!

  11. MSG Allen,
    The CSRTs are a flawed, unfair process, according to the Supreme Court. That's why they allowed GTMO detainees to file habeas petitions.

    Bagram, according to the US military, has hurt the US in Afghanistan–it has a horrible reputation for abuse.

    The supermax prision in Colorado is a better alternative. And so are regular US due process and federal courts.

    Obama is caving to fear mongering from people like yourself. It's a shame, but the squeaky wheel gets the grease, especially in politics.

    Human rights supporters need to squeak louder!

  12. Well Joe, label me a "fear monger" all you want.

    I'll just stick to argueing facts.

    The CSRTs and ARBs evolved from day one until present ( or atleast until the Sec Def – at the direction of our Commander-in-Chief – ordered them halted). Since February '09 there have been ZERO CSRTs or ARBs and nothing replacing them — meaning that because of the action of this administration detainees are receiving NO review of detention determinations.

    Mainstream media, "people like yourself" (to borrow your words), and like minded individuals painted Bagram with the broad anti-U.S. military brush as a result of the actions of the 377th MP company. Yes reputation is a hard thing to overcome, but correcting those mistakes wasn't.

    Granting Habeas rights just solidifies (and gives enemy combatants even more rights then at anytime in the history of U.S. Armed Conflict) the argument that a federal conviction is an unneccessary step at continued detention. It is the difference between a suspected criminal and an enemy combatant.

    No "room at the inn" at the Colorado Supermax prison. There is nothing wrong with the facility they are currently detained in. Besides those poor guys would freeze at rec time from Oct – March in Colorado. Why not let them stay in the warm carribbean? 1/2 the post above complained about the cost of renovating and modernizing the facility… Why move them?

    Good luck with your squeaking… Even the O Administration is appearing to be more interested in defending the nation then paying attention to your squeaking.

  13. MSG Allen,
    The CSRTs are a flawed, unfair process, according to the Supreme Court. That’s why they allowed GTMO detainees to file habeas petitions.

    Bagram, according to the US military, has hurt the US in Afghanistan–it has a horrible reputation for abuse.

    The supermax prision in Colorado is a better alternative. And so are regular US due process and federal courts.

    Obama is caving to fear mongering from people like yourself. It’s a shame, but the squeaky wheel gets the grease, especially in politics.

    Human rights supporters need to squeak louder!

  14. Well Joe, label me a “fear monger” all you want.

    I’ll just stick to argueing facts.

    The CSRTs and ARBs evolved from day one until present ( or atleast until the Sec Def – at the direction of our Commander-in-Chief – ordered them halted). Since February ’09 there have been ZERO CSRTs or ARBs and nothing replacing them — meaning that because of the action of this administration detainees are receiving NO review of detention determinations.

    Mainstream media, “people like yourself” (to borrow your words), and like minded individuals painted Bagram with the broad anti-U.S. military brush as a result of the actions of the 377th MP company. Yes reputation is a hard thing to overcome, but correcting those mistakes wasn’t.

    Granting Habeas rights just solidifies (and gives enemy combatants even more rights then at anytime in the history of U.S. Armed Conflict) the argument that a federal conviction is an unneccessary step at continued detention. It is the difference between a suspected criminal and an enemy combatant.

    No “room at the inn” at the Colorado Supermax prison. There is nothing wrong with the facility they are currently detained in. Besides those poor guys would freeze at rec time from Oct – March in Colorado. Why not let them stay in the warm carribbean? 1/2 the post above complained about the cost of renovating and modernizing the facility… Why move them?

    Good luck with your squeaking… Even the O Administration is appearing to be more interested in defending the nation then paying attention to your squeaking.

  15. MSG What facts are you arguing? CSRTs were flawed and that's why they were halted.

    "Enemy combatant" was an invented claim by the Bush admin, so of course no EC had received as many rights before.

    Nice, let soldiers at Bagram take the fall for abuses ordered from the top.

    Habeas as grounds to make trials obsolete? We'll see what you say about that when you're kidnapped, detained without charge and denied a fair trial!

    The cost of GTMO, as the post points out (and Petreaus said too) is to the USA's moral authority. It's about hearts and minds.

    Anyway, let's get real: the government's intention, whether under Bush or Obama, has been to hide evidence of torture, not to provide sufficient due process to sort guilty from innocent.

  16. MSG What facts are you arguing? CSRTs were flawed and that’s why they were halted.

    “Enemy combatant” was an invented claim by the Bush admin, so of course no EC had received as many rights before.

    Nice, let soldiers at Bagram take the fall for abuses ordered from the top.

    Habeas as grounds to make trials obsolete? We’ll see what you say about that when you’re kidnapped, detained without charge and denied a fair trial!

    The cost of GTMO, as the post points out (and Petreaus said too) is to the USA’s moral authority. It’s about hearts and minds.

    Anyway, let’s get real: the government’s intention, whether under Bush or Obama, has been to hide evidence of torture, not to provide sufficient due process to sort guilty from innocent.

  17. o CSRTs are not currently flawed. The most recent system of CSRTs and ARBs (AFTER HABEAS, AFTER CONGRESS, AFTER PUBLIC OPINION) were halted because Pres O administration wanted to re-invent the wheel (and that wheel has yet to be re-invented). In the meantime it has been since O took office that ZERO (allegedly flawed or not) administrative review boards have taken place.

    o Enemy combatant is not a new term or concept.

    o Who said anything about letting Soldiers take a fall? My point was the issues at Bagram were corrected and will not be repeated. I agreed "reputation" is hard thing to overcome.

    o No one at GITMO was "kidnapped" and unless I travel on my own to join the jihad or ties with al qaeda I have nothing to worry about landing myself at the wrong side of club GITMO or some other U.S. DoD detention facility.

    o Hearts and minds? Whose hearts and minds? The radical jihadists? Will win hearts and minds (of the non-radical jihadists) when the truth about living conditions starts to be talked about.

    The Government's intention isn't to hide evidence. You get real.

    Squeak….squeak….

  18. o CSRTs are not currently flawed. The most recent system of CSRTs and ARBs (AFTER HABEAS, AFTER CONGRESS, AFTER PUBLIC OPINION) were halted because Pres O administration wanted to re-invent the wheel (and that wheel has yet to be re-invented). In the meantime it has been since O took office that ZERO (allegedly flawed or not) administrative review boards have taken place.

    o Enemy combatant is not a new term or concept.

    o Who said anything about letting Soldiers take a fall? My point was the issues at Bagram were corrected and will not be repeated. I agreed “reputation” is hard thing to overcome.

    o No one at GITMO was “kidnapped” and unless I travel on my own to join the jihad or ties with al qaeda I have nothing to worry about landing myself at the wrong side of club GITMO or some other U.S. DoD detention facility.

    o Hearts and minds? Whose hearts and minds? The radical jihadists? Will win hearts and minds (of the non-radical jihadists) when the truth about living conditions starts to be talked about.

    The Government’s intention isn’t to hide evidence. You get real.

    Squeak….squeak….

  19. CSRTs have been replaced by habeas: as the SCOTUS ordered!

    Show me an example of "unlawful alien enemy combatant" in US or itnernational law prior to the Military Commissions Act of 2006.

    Only low level soldiers were held accountable for violations at Bagram–when those violations appear to have been authorized from the top. One, that's letting them take the fall and two, if those responsible get off the hook, we don;t know they won;t happen again.

    Extraordinary rendition is essentially kidnapping: many GITMO detainees ended up at GTMO that way.

    Hearts and minds of the people where terrorist groups operate. Read Matthew Alexander's blog up on this site. He's a military interogator–someone we should all look to for advice on this topic!

  20. CSRTs have been replaced by habeas: as the SCOTUS ordered!

    Show me an example of “unlawful alien enemy combatant” in US or itnernational law prior to the Military Commissions Act of 2006.

    Only low level soldiers were held accountable for violations at Bagram–when those violations appear to have been authorized from the top. One, that’s letting them take the fall and two, if those responsible get off the hook, we don;t know they won;t happen again.

    Extraordinary rendition is essentially kidnapping: many GITMO detainees ended up at GTMO that way.

    Hearts and minds of the people where terrorist groups operate. Read Matthew Alexander’s blog up on this site. He’s a military interogator–someone we should all look to for advice on this topic!

  21. SCOTUS didn't order CSRTs to be replaced. Granting Habeas IN ADDITION to CSRTs.

    A quick easy google search and cut and paste "enemy combatant" and here is some easy reading for you:

    “Enemy combatant” is a general category that subsumes two sub-categories: lawful and unlawful combatants. See Quirin, 317 U.S. at 37-38. Lawful combatants receive prisoner of war (POW) status and the protections of the Third Geneva Convention. Unlawful combatants do not receive POW status and do not receive the full protections of the Third Geneva Convention. (The treatment accorded to unlawful combatants is discussed below).

    The President has determined that al Qaida members are unlawful combatants because (among other reasons) they are members of a non-state actor terrorist group that does not receive the protections of the Third Geneva Convention. He additionally determined that the Taliban detainees are unlawful combatants because they do not satisfy the criteria for POW status set out in Article 4 of the Third Geneva Convention. Although the President’s determination on this issue is final, courts have concurred with his determination.

    Authority to Detain

    The President has unquestioned authority to detain enemy combatants, including those who are U.S. citizens, during wartime. See, e.g., Quirin, 317 U.S. at 31, 37 (1942); Colepaugh v. Looney, 235 F. 2d 429, 432 (10th Cir. 1956); In re Territo, 156 F. 2d 142, 145 (9th Cir. 1946). The Fourth Circuit recently reaffirmed this proposition. See Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, 296 F.3d 278, 281, 283 (4th Cir. 2002). The authority to detain enemy combatants flows primarily from Article II of the Constitution. In the current conflict, the President’s authority is bolstered by Congress’s Joint Resolution of September 18, 2001, which authorized “the President . . . to use all necessary and appropriate force” against al Qaida and against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines” committed or aided in the September 11 attacks.” Pub. L. No. 107-40, § 2(a), 115 Stat. 224 (2001) (emphasis added). This congressional action clearly triggers (if any trigger were necessary) the President’s traditional authority to detain enemy combatants as Commander in Chief.

    Presidents (and their delegates) have detained enemy combatants in every major conflict in the Nation’s history, including recent conflicts such as the Gulf, Vietnam, and Korean wars. During World War II, the United States detained hundreds of thousands of POWs in the United States (some of whom were U.S. citizens) without trial or counsel. Then as now, the purposes of detaining enemy combatants during wartime are, among other things, to gather intelligence and to ensure that detainees do not return to assist the enemy.

    I'm not commenting or challenging your assertion that low-level Soldiers took the fall for Bagram (though none were convicted of the most serious charges and most were totally aquitted). Same can be said of Abu Ghraib… and with exception of a General Officer that was administratively reduced in Rank and relieved of Command. What I am saying is the operation performed a 180-degree turnaround and you will not see a re-occurence of what happened with the MP Unit. Bagram is not the subject of this post, I thought we were talking about Guantanamo Bay.

    What you call "kidnapping" most call capturing the enemy. But until you become Commander-in-Chief or some one with some authority I'm not concerned with changing your mind.

    al-qaeda will not stop recruiting people "where terrorist groups operate" by us appeasing them. al-qaeda will not stop recruiting people if we give KSM a soapbox in a NYC Federal Court. al-qaeda will not stop recruiting if we change the zipcode of the detention facility. You are still an infidel whether your heart bleeds for detained enemy combatants or not.

  22. SCOTUS didn’t order CSRTs to be replaced. Granting Habeas IN ADDITION to CSRTs.

    A quick easy google search and cut and paste “enemy combatant” and here is some easy reading for you:

    “Enemy combatant” is a general category that subsumes two sub-categories: lawful and unlawful combatants. See Quirin, 317 U.S. at 37-38. Lawful combatants receive prisoner of war (POW) status and the protections of the Third Geneva Convention. Unlawful combatants do not receive POW status and do not receive the full protections of the Third Geneva Convention. (The treatment accorded to unlawful combatants is discussed below).

    The President has determined that al Qaida members are unlawful combatants because (among other reasons) they are members of a non-state actor terrorist group that does not receive the protections of the Third Geneva Convention. He additionally determined that the Taliban detainees are unlawful combatants because they do not satisfy the criteria for POW status set out in Article 4 of the Third Geneva Convention. Although the President’s determination on this issue is final, courts have concurred with his determination.

    Authority to Detain

    The President has unquestioned authority to detain enemy combatants, including those who are U.S. citizens, during wartime. See, e.g., Quirin, 317 U.S. at 31, 37 (1942); Colepaugh v. Looney, 235 F. 2d 429, 432 (10th Cir. 1956); In re Territo, 156 F. 2d 142, 145 (9th Cir. 1946). The Fourth Circuit recently reaffirmed this proposition. See Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, 296 F.3d 278, 281, 283 (4th Cir. 2002). The authority to detain enemy combatants flows primarily from Article II of the Constitution. In the current conflict, the President’s authority is bolstered by Congress’s Joint Resolution of September 18, 2001, which authorized “the President . . . to use all necessary and appropriate force” against al Qaida and against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines” committed or aided in the September 11 attacks.” Pub. L. No. 107-40, § 2(a), 115 Stat. 224 (2001) (emphasis added). This congressional action clearly triggers (if any trigger were necessary) the President’s traditional authority to detain enemy combatants as Commander in Chief.

    Presidents (and their delegates) have detained enemy combatants in every major conflict in the Nation’s history, including recent conflicts such as the Gulf, Vietnam, and Korean wars. During World War II, the United States detained hundreds of thousands of POWs in the United States (some of whom were U.S. citizens) without trial or counsel. Then as now, the purposes of detaining enemy combatants during wartime are, among other things, to gather intelligence and to ensure that detainees do not return to assist the enemy.

    I’m not commenting or challenging your assertion that low-level Soldiers took the fall for Bagram (though none were convicted of the most serious charges and most were totally aquitted). Same can be said of Abu Ghraib… and with exception of a General Officer that was administratively reduced in Rank and relieved of Command. What I am saying is the operation performed a 180-degree turnaround and you will not see a re-occurence of what happened with the MP Unit. Bagram is not the subject of this post, I thought we were talking about Guantanamo Bay.

    What you call “kidnapping” most call capturing the enemy. But until you become Commander-in-Chief or some one with some authority I’m not concerned with changing your mind.

    al-qaeda will not stop recruiting people “where terrorist groups operate” by us appeasing them. al-qaeda will not stop recruiting people if we give KSM a soapbox in a NYC Federal Court. al-qaeda will not stop recruiting if we change the zipcode of the detention facility. You are still an infidel whether your heart bleeds for detained enemy combatants or not.

  23. Ahh, but here's the rub: the meaning of "auec" was redefined after September 11, in the AUMF and again in the MCA 2006 and it is between those differences that one can make the claim that auec's have never had such rights before.

    And anyway that's a distraction–under Common Article 3 and the ICCPR people have the right to habeas and fair trials.

    The point about Bagram is that no senior administration or miltiary leaders have been investigated or prosecuted for their possible roles in torture and homicide there, and no victims have been given access to adequate remedy, all as required by law.

    Again, law also rules out transferring people form one country to another outside of judicial review to be torture or held outside the law.

    And yet again, law requires giving people a fair trial. Furthermore, the US federal courts have been vastly more successful and prosecuting terrorists then miltiary commisisons. Federal courts have the same protections again grandstanding and for classified evidence.

    And further, actual miltiary and intelligence experts say sucessful counterterrorism requires living the values we preach. General Petraeus is a big proponent of that. And I trust him a lot more on the subject of counterterrorism than I trust a blog commentor. Other readers can decide for themselves!

  24. Ahh, but here’s the rub: the meaning of “auec” was redefined after September 11, in the AUMF and again in the MCA 2006 and it is between those differences that one can make the claim that auec’s have never had such rights before.

    And anyway that’s a distraction–under Common Article 3 and the ICCPR people have the right to habeas and fair trials.

    The point about Bagram is that no senior administration or miltiary leaders have been investigated or prosecuted for their possible roles in torture and homicide there, and no victims have been given access to adequate remedy, all as required by law.

    Again, law also rules out transferring people form one country to another outside of judicial review to be torture or held outside the law.

    And yet again, law requires giving people a fair trial. Furthermore, the US federal courts have been vastly more successful and prosecuting terrorists then miltiary commisisons. Federal courts have the same protections again grandstanding and for classified evidence.

    And further, actual miltiary and intelligence experts say sucessful counterterrorism requires living the values we preach. General Petraeus is a big proponent of that. And I trust him a lot more on the subject of counterterrorism than I trust a blog commentor. Other readers can decide for themselves!