U.S. lawmakers keep quiet about Guantanamo tour

The Miami HeraldMarch 9, 2011 

Rep. Allen West toured the secretive Camp 7 at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba — where the alleged Sept. 11 plotters are held — but wouldn’t say Tuesday what he saw.

“There’s nothing more I can say other than the fact I saw Camp 7,” the Broward Republican told reporters on a conference call, hours after he and a bipartisan delegation of House Armed Services Committee members returned from a daylong tour of the offshore detention camp. “It looks like a Camp 7.”

The reputed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed and four alleged co-conspirators are held at the secluded site and West did acknowledge, “I did see one very popular individual.”

But he had no interaction with any detainees: “That’s not part of the protocol there,” he said.

Still, West said he believes the detainees get better treatment than some U.S. prisoners.

“I found detainees have first-class medical care, access to 21 satellite TV stations, and bountiful meals," the Tea Party star tweeted Tuesday morning.

West and four other members of Congress, whose names the House Armed Services Committee had yet to release, took a day trip to the detention center on Monday. Their visit came as the White House announced its latest changes to its Guantánamo policy that are expected to kick-start military commissions later this year.

West said he was encouraged by Obama’s decision, which he attributed to “reality.’’

“I think when he took over as president, he was still being candidate Obama,” West said. “He’s now coming to the realization of the necessity of having these military tribunals. He’s starting to understand what’s happening on the ground in these combat theaters of operation.”

West himself has familiarity with detainees: a former lieutenant colonel, he made international news for firing his gun near a detainee’s head in Iraq while attempting to extract information about a planned attack. West turned himself in, was fined and received an honorable discharge after 22 years.

He said Tuesday he hoped the military tribunals would begin as soon as possible.

“I hope we do not allow the defense attorneys to push this process off for too long,” he said. “We’ve got to start seeing these people as enemy combatants and not as criminals that we just get bogged down in our legal processes. Our constitutional rights are meant for Americans, not for the type of people we’re finding on these battlefields.”

The delegation was led by Rep. John Fleming, R-La. Other members included Larry Kissell, D-N.C., Mark Critz, D-Penn., and Colleen Hanabusa, D-Hawaii.

West said the captives’ were treated better than some in the United States. He compared their detention with 18 months in solitary confinement for Corey Clagett, a soldier who was sentenced to 18 years in prison after pleading guilty to murdering an Iraqi detainee and taking part in the killings of two others.

“If we were doing something like that to a detainee down in Guantánamo Bay, I think the international community would be in an uproar,” he said, noting that the Guantánamo detainees have access to “television, newspapers” and the outdoors.

McClatchy Washington Bureau is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service