Intelligence: The Guantanamo Supermax


December10, 2006: The United States has opened a new "supermax" (maximum security) prison facility at Guantanamo Bay, transferring 42 detainees to it. The new supermax can hold up to 178 prisoners, and has been built due to over 650 attacks on guards. It will be operated beside another prison built in 2004. This will allow the United States to close an older prison, which left guards more vulnerable to attacks. In at least 430 of the attacks, the detainees threw bodily fluids at the guards (which holds the risk for transmitting diseases). In another 225 cases, the assaults were physical. This far exceeds the number of instances of misconduct by guards. As of November 2005, the total of such incidents was 42, some of which involved provocation - like a detainee spitting on a guard. Numerous other allegations, such as Koran desecration, have also been unfounded.

There are three camps in operation at Guantanamo Bay. The new camp, Camp 6, is a maximum security facility. Camp 5 is also built to these specs. Camp 4 is a medium-security facility for the more cooperative detainees - those who follow the rules. In Camps 5 and 6, the prisoners will be kept in solitary confinement, and won't have the opportunities for recreation that more compliant detainees at Camp 4 will have. Eventually, Camp 3, an interim prison built in 2002, will be shut down.

The new prison will make it harder for the detainees to communicate with each other. This tends to improve the safety of guards - as it keeps inmates from coordinating an assault or other mass actions. Intelligence officers also like that isolation, since it will make it easier to get information. Information from interrogations has thwarted attacks, provided information on terror group financial matters, and has kept terrorists and bomb-makers from training others.

The United States currently has 430 detainees - with a number of others having been released or turned over to other countries. While Guantanamo Bay has been the subject of criticism, it has worked pretty well - and the United States has been working to make further improvements. That said, Human Rights Watch still wants the center shut down, again showing more interest in putting out press releases and for the rights of terrorists as opposed to those of innocent people. - Harold C. Hutchison (


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