National Security

Gitmo detention commander who was ousted mishandled classified info, Southcom says

Navy Adm. John Ring was removed from command of the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay due to mishandling classified information and fostering a poor command climate, the U.S. Southern Command said Thursday.

Ring, a former commander of the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier who was appointed to the post in April 2018, was removed from duty by Southern Command commander Adm. Craig Faller this spring “due to a loss of confidence in his ability to command.”

At that time, Faller did not offer any more details, citing an ongoing investigation into Ring, the 18th commander of Guantánamo prison operations.

That command investigation is now complete, and the statement by Southcom Thursday came in advance of the official release of the redacted investigation.

Southcom’s investigation, which was subsequently reviewed by the Defense Department inspector general, “found that Ring mishandled or directed the mishandling of classified information, made inaccurate reports, and created a poor command climate.”

The Miami Herald obtained a copy of the redacted investigation through a Freedom of Information Act request. In it, military personnel assigned to the base reported that the command climate was such that decisions could not be questioned, and those who did try to raise concerns were warned by Ring’s staff they would “be off the island the next day.”

Southern Command in a statement on Thursday said that “Ring’s relief was not based on statements he made to the media during his tenure.”

CORRECTION: The story was updated to correctly reflect that Admiral Ring has made no public comment. A previous version incorrectly stated otherwise.

Tara Copp is the national military and veterans affairs correspondent for McClatchy. She has reported extensively through the Middle East, Asia and Europe to cover defense policy and its impact on the lives of service members. She was previously the Pentagon bureau chief for Military Times and a senior defense analyst for the U.S. Government Accountability Office. She is the author of the award-winning book “The Warbird: Three Heroes. Two Wars. One Story.”