Law­suit re­veals the good life at Gitmo

The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitics - BY JIM MCELHATTON

Thanks to a mul­ti­mil­lion-dol­lar fed­eral con­tract, Guan­tanamo Bay pris­on­ers can en­roll in sem­i­nars to learn all about ba­sic land­scap­ing and prun­ing, cal­lig­ra­phy and Mi­crosoft Pow­erPoint while the U.S. fig­ures out what to do with them.

Pris­on­ers also can get in touch with their artis­tic sides.

“At a min­i­mum, the art sem­i­nar shall in­clude wa­ter color paint­ing, char­coal sketch­ing, Ara­bic cal­lig­ra­phy, acrylic paint­ing and pas­tel paint­ing,” con­tract records re­viewed by The Wash­ing­ton Times state.

The doc­u­ments sur­faced last week in a U.S. Court of Fed­eral Claims law­suit stemming from a dis­pute over a more than $5 mil­lion con­tract to pro­vide li­brary and sem­i­nar ser­vices to de­tainees at U.S. Naval Sta­tion Guan­tanamo Bay, Cuba.

The pa­pers of­fer a glimpse at just how mil­i­tary de­tainees can pass the time while of­fi­cials de­cide their fates.

Pres­i­dent Obama is push­ing once again to make good on his prom­ise to shut down the prison, hop­ing to make it eas­ier to trans­fer de­tainees out of the fa­cil­ity as part of the up­com­ing de­bate on the an­nual de­fense pol­icy bill.

He will face strong op­po­si­tion from con­gres­sional Repub­li­cans who ar­gue that the Guan­tanamo Bay de­ten­tion fa­cil­ity re­mains the best place to hold sus­pected ter­ror­ists.

Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Harry Reid, Ne­vada Demo­crat, said Mon­day that Democrats sup­port Mr. Obama’s re­quest for more trans­fer au­thor­ity but that the Repub­li­cans’ po­si­tion will get a vote.

“We should have a de­bate on that and have a vote on that,” he said.

As the fight plays out in Wash­ing­ton, de­tainees at Guan­tanamo can en­roll in sem­i­nars last­ing an hour to 90 min­utes once or more ev­ery day. Class ra­tios are low, with no more than 20 pris­on­ers al­lowed in a class.

In hor­ti­cul­ture, de­tainees learn the “prin­ci­ples of hor­ti­cul­ture 1 & 2, ba­sic land­scape plants and land­scape prun­ing prac­tices,” records show.

A “life skills” sem­i­nar teaches pris­on­ers, among other things, about com­put­ers and typ­ing, in­clud­ing Mi­crosoft Word, Ex­cel and Pow­erPoint at ba­sic, in­ter­me­di­ate and ad­vanced lev­els.

A nu­tri­tion class in­structs pris­on­ers about the “prin­ci­ples of nu­tri­tion and sci­en­tific foun­da­tions of ex­er­cise and fit­ness,” records show.

De­tainees, who also can learn English, ap­pear to get some­thing akin to re­port cards, too, though it’s un­clear whether they see their grades.

The con­trac­tor must pro­vide to the gov­ern­ment a quar­terly stu­dent eval­u­a­tion re­port for each de­tainee en­rolled in a sem­i­nar.

Con­tract of­fi­cials also must sup­ply sup­port­ing doc­u­men­ta­tion such as tests, spe­cial projects and in­struc­tor rec­om­men­da­tions.

Treat­ment of the de­tainees has been a con­tentious is­sue since the prison opened in 2001 as the U.S. went to war in Afghanistan.

Amer­i­can of­fi­cials say they try to take spe­cial needs into ac­count.

“Due to cul­tural and re­li­gious con­sid­er­a­tions,” sem­i­nars must be given by male in­struc­tors flu­ent in English as well as Ara­bic or Pashtu, records state.

The sem­i­nar work had been per­formed by Tor­res Ad­vanced En­ter­prise So­lu­tions LLC, ac­cord­ing to records, but the gov­ern­ment sought pro­pos­als and chose a lower bid­der for the con­tract.

Tor­res filed a protest on the grounds that the re­quest for pro­pos­als was de­fec­tive be­cause it was never clear whether per­son­nel could teach more than one class.

Re­gard­less of how the dis­pute shakes out, more than 200 pages of con­tract records at­tached as ex­hibits to the bid protest shed light on what is per­haps one of the world’s most re­mark­able li­brar­ian jobs.

At the Guan­tanamo li­brary, staff mem­bers are re­quired to ex­am­ine all re­turned read­ing ma­te­rial for any notes or mark­ings.

The con­trac­tor “shall mon­i­tor and re­port li­brary us­age and com­mu­ni­ca­tion pat­terns that may in­volve the use of li­brary ma­te­rial, as well as re­port pos­si­ble re­quests that may be a se­cu­rity and/or safety risk,” the con­tract records state.

The con­trac­tor also is re­quired to keep a file called the weekly Ko­ran re­port to “track the num­ber and per­cent­age of de­tainees in pos­ses­sion of Ko­rans.”

Stephen Dinan con­trib­uted to this re­port.

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