GUANTANAMO BAY NAVY BASE, Cuba — Earlier this month, Jamaican guest workers went through Camp X-Ray, the original terrorist detention site here, and uprooted weeds that had engulfed open-air wire cages abandoned seven years ago. A five-member FBI forensic team then spent a week photographing the restored area.
The photographs, in response to court orders preserving the place, are part of the military's plan to abandon the detention center, an eight-year-long project that evolved from a spare set of chain-link fence cages to a sprawling complex of prison cells, interrogation rooms, a hospital, classroom and court house that may have cost American taxpayers as much as $1 billion.
Administration officials acknowledge that the Jan. 22 deadline President Obama set earlier this year for Guantanamo's closure probably won't be met. But the decision announced Friday to send five accused 9/11 plotters to New York for trial was another step toward the all-but-certain shuttering of Guantanamo — if not in January, then afterward.
"One hundred and eighty days after the last detainee, the majority of personnel and equipment will be gone," said Navy Capt. Don Theisse, the officer in charge of planning for the day after the last of the 215 current detainees are gone.
Still unknown is how much of the detention center, which opened Jan. 11, 2002 and held about 800 foreign men and boys, must be preserved.
U.S. courts have forbidden the government from destroying portions of the facility where detainees were held at the request of defense lawyers who want it kept intact as a crime scene.
Meanwhile, Rear Adm. Tom Copeman, the current prison commander, is tasked to figure out how to dismantle what was long the darling of the Defense Department — run on a $100-million-a-year budget with uncounted extra resources from across the government.
Think of emptying out a wealthy relative's house after a lifetime of acquisition.
The military has built secret infrastructure, such as Camp 7, for former inmates of the CIA's now-abandoned overseas prison network. It requisitioned cargo planes and barged in everything from an expeditionary courtroom to a mobile hospital to a 16,000-item prison camp library.
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