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Commissions resume in Guantanamo

By Spc. Jeshua Nace

NAVAL STATION GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba (Army News Service, Feb. 28, 2006) – With commissions slated to resume March 1 for four detainees at Guantanamo Bay, and about 16 international media outlets expected to report on the proceedings along with several other organizations that will observe the hearings, officials said security will be nothing short of tight.

The Joint Task Force-Guantanamo leadership and security teams kept the commissions running smoothly in January.

“One of the toughest challenges we had was that the security element had no idea of what ‘right’ looked like,” said Army Capt. David Murphy, officer in charge of commissions security. He explained that prior to January, no one in security there had run commissions and didn’t have a definitive answer for exactly how to do it.

“The first thing we do is check for security badges to ensure people are in the appropriate areas and only go where they’re allowed to go,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Janira Gonzalez.

The commissions building has staunch regulations that prohibit a variety of items from being brought into the courtroom. Aside from state-of-the-art technology to assist the MAs, keen eyes are a must.

“We have to make sure people aren’t bringing in recorders or communication devices; things like cell phones,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Mathew Pfeiffer.

“I am sure that however these missions play out, that you can count on the Soldiers and Sailors continuing to be competent, courteous and professional throughout the mission,” Murphy said.

This week’s commissions will include hearings for Ali Hamza Ahmed Suleiman al Bahlul, Sufyian Barhoumi, Ghassan Abdullah al Sharbi and Binyam Ahmned Muhammad.

During the proceedings in January, there was a pool of 30 reporters but only eight media reps were allowed to view the proceedings from the courtroom during any given time period. For the rest of the reps, a closed-circuit feed was set up inside the joint information bureau which allowed the remaining reporters to view the proceedings though the same rules applied with respect to recorders and cell phones.

Naval security personnel also ensure a safe, secure environment is provided for the detainees and their attorneys to speak with confidentiality.

“Any interaction between the detainee and his lawyer takes place in a room that was set up specifically for them. It’s soundproof but we have to be able to observe everything from an adjoining room,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Daniel Ross.

Army Captain David Murphy, officer in charge of commissions security said that until the last commission the security force had no experience.

“The ability of the Sailors of base security to adjust to the ever-changing ways of completing this task was outstanding and speaks to the highest standards of the Navy,” Murphy added. “Our mission continues on and while I expect more challenges to arise from gallery operations, I’m sure the Soldiers and Sailors here will continue to be competent, courteous and professional

(Spc. Jeshua Nace serves with the JTF GTMO PAO.)

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