Guantanamo Security Tightened

A U.S. Navy Seabee walks inside the brand new Camp 6 maximum security jail, at the Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base, Cuba, Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2006.
AP
The military is toughening a new jailhouse for suspected al Qaeda and Taliban militants to protect guards after a spate of attacks and evidence that detainees have organized themselves into groups to mount uprisings, officials said.

The hardening comes as U.N. human rights investigators are calling for closing the entire detention center on this remote U.S. base. But with the war against terror groups dragging on, commanders say they have no choice in dealing with men deemed enemy combatants.

Events in recent months have made Guantanamo officials extremely wary:

Detainees lured guards into a cell in the prison's Camp 4 by staging a suicide attempt in May, then attacked with fan blades and broken pieces of fluorescent light fixtures, the military says. Defense attorneys say the clash was sparked when guards tried to search prisoners' Qurans.

On June 10, three detainees in Camp 1 committed suicide. Navy Rear Adm. Harry Harris, commander of the jail, described it as a coordinated protest action — "not an act of desperation but an act of asymmetric warfare against us."

Guards recently discovered detainees in Camp 1 were dismantling faucets on sinks, removing long, sharp springs and reinforcing them into stabbing weapons, Army Lt. Col. Mike Nicolucci said. Camp 1 has been emptied of detainees while new faucets are installed, with inaccessible springs.

From July 2005 through August, the military recorded 432 assaults by detainees using "cocktails" of bodily excretions thrown at guards, 227 physical assaults and 99 instances of inciting or participating in disturbances or riots.

"What we have come to assess is these detainees — these terrorists — are still fighting a battle," said Army Brig. Gen. Edward A. Leacock, deputy commander of the detention operation. "They're not on the battlefield but ... they're still continuing to fight to this day."

Leacock said hard-core al Qaeda and Taliban detainees have established a hierarchy of "military guys, religious guys ... the muscle guys, and they all have a role inside the camps."

The goal is to coordinate attacks on guards or organize disturbances, Leacock said in an interview with journalists from The Associated Press and three foreign news organizations Wednesday.

"There are people in the camps — we have identified them — that continue to try to foment problems within the camp," Leacock said. "Our effort is trying to preclude them from developing the plans that will cause ... any kind of uprising."

Leacock did not identify the leaders but insisted extra security measures were called for, even before 14 top detainees, including alleged Sept. 11 plotter Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, were recently transferred to Guantanamo.

  • Scott Conroy On Twitter»

    Scott Conroy is a National Political Reporter for RealClearPolitics and a contributor for CBS News.