Guantánamo captives tuned into debate too

McClatchy NewspapersOctober 23, 2012 

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVY BASE, Cuba -- Dozens of well-behaved captives tuned into Monday night’s foreign affairs debate between President Barack Obama and challenger Mitt Romney, a detention center official said Tuesday.

Detainees watched in two separate cellblocks that get satellite TV broadcasts at Camp 6, the communal prison building for cooperative captives, said Army Capt. Jennifer Palmeri. Another block listened to it over the radio.

If they were hoping to hear about their own situation, they were disappointed. Guantánamo didn’t come up, although there was a short exchange over U.S. drone policy, a likely subject of interest because most U.S. drone strikes are in Yemen and most of the 166 detainees at Guantánamo are Yemeni.

No polls were conducted, nor were focus groups assembled. So it was not immediately known who the detainees thought won the debate.

It also was not immediately known in what language they followed the debate, or on what channel. Guantánamo captives get mostly free-of-charge broadcasts from the Middle East and North Africa, but also have access to Al Jazeera’s English channel.

Listening by radio may seem a bit archaic at the state-of-the-art prison where each cellblock has a flat screen television bolted high above the floor, headsets to listen to broadcasts and remote controls to switch channels. But some of the more traditional Muslims shun television, guards say, to avoid seeing scantily clad or simply uncovered women in keeping with their strict interpretations of Islam.

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