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Jack Rice is a criminal defense trial lawyer who provides legal advice to those charged with crimes in Federal and Minnesota State courtrooms.


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In Preparation for Jack's Reports, Some Basic Historical Information about Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Part 2

In order to prepare for Jack's travels to Guantanamo Bay, we thought it might be helpful to provide a little background.

The first segment, posted previously, will provide a brief oversight about GTMO, where it is located, and how the U.S. acquired it in the first place. This segment will focus upon the Naval Base itself. A future posting will provide some information regarding the detention camp that is the topic of much of the debate in Washington DC as we speak.

Jack has not had the chance to verify all of the information supplied by Wikipedia. So, you will need to cross reference yourself. However, it should provide a good starting part and overview.

According to Wikipedia:

Guantánamo Bay Naval Base at the southeastern end of Cuba (19°54′N 75°9′W) has been used by the United States Navy for more than a century. The United States controls the land on both sides of the southern part of Guantánamo Bay (Bahía de Guantánamo in Spanish) under a lease set up in the wake of the 1898 Spanish-American War. The Cuban government denounces the lease on grounds that article 52 of the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties voids treaties procured by force or its threatened use.

Since 2001, the naval base has contained a military prison, the Guantanamo Bay detainment camp, for persons alleged to be militant combatants captured in Afghanistan and later in Iraq. Prior to 11 July 2006, the U.S. maintained that these detainees are not protected under the Geneva Convention.

The bay was originally named Guantánamo by the Taíno. Christopher Columbus landed at the location known as Fisherman's Point in 1494. The bay was briefly renamed Cumberland Bay when the British took it in the first part of the 18th century during the War of Jenkins' Ear. In 1790, the British garrison at Cumberland died of fever as had a previous British force,[1] before they could attack Santiago by land.[2]

During the Spanish-American War, the U.S. fleet attacking Santiago retreated to Guantánamo's excellent harbor to ride out the summer hurricane season of 1898. The Marines landed with naval support, but required Cuban scouts to push off Spanish resistance that increased as they moved inland. This area became the location of U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, which covers about 45 square miles (116 km²) and is sometimes abbreviated as GTMO or "Gitmo".

Satellite view of Guantánamo BayBy war's end, the U.S. government had obtained control of all of Cuba from Spain. A perpetual lease for the area around Guantánamo Bay was offered February 23, 1903, from Tomás Estrada Palma, an American citizen, who became the first President of Cuba. The Cuban-American Treaty gave, among other things, the Republic of Cuba ultimate sovereignty over Guantánamo Bay while granting the United States "complete jurisdiction and control" of the area for coaling and naval stations.

A 1934 treaty reaffirming the lease granted Cuba and her trading partners free access through the bay, modified the lease payment from $2,000 in U.S. gold coins per year, to the 1934 equivalent value of $4,085 in U.S. dollars, and made the lease permanent unless both governments agreed to break it or the U.S. abandoned the base property.

In 1983, Cuban workers return home through the North East Gate.Until the 1953-59 revolution, thousands of Cubans commuted daily from outside the base to jobs within. In mid-1958, vehicular traffic was stopped; workers were required to walk through the base's several gates. Public Works Center buses were pressed into service almost overnight to carry the tides of workers to and from the gate.[3] In 2006, only two elderly Cubans still cross the base's North East Gate daily to work on the base; the Cuban government prohibits new recruitment.

During the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, the families of military personnel were evacuated from the base. Notified of the evacuation on October 22, evacuees were told to pack one suitcase per family member, to bring evacuation and immunization cards, to tie pets in the yard, to leave the keys to the house on the dining table, and to wait in front of the house for buses.[4] Dependents traveled to the airfield for flights to the United States, or to ports for passage aboard evacuation ships.

Map of Guantánamo Bay showing approximate U.S. Naval Boundaries.Since 1939, the base's water had been supplied by pipelines that drew water from the Yateras River about 4.5 miles northeast of the base. The U.S. government paid a fee for this; in 1964, it was about $14,000 a month for about two and a half million U.S. gallons (10 million L) per day. In 1964, the Cuban government stopped the flow. The base had about 14 million gallons water in storage, and strict water conservation was put into effect immediately. The U.S. first imported water from Jamaica via barges, then built desalination plants.[5] When the Cuban government accused the United States of stealing water, base commander John D. Bulkeley ordered that the pipelines be cut and a section removed. A 38-inch (964 mm) length of the 14-inch (355 mm) diameter pipe and a 20-inch (508 mm) length of the 10-inch (254 mm) diameter pipe were lifted from the ground and the openings sealed. After this resolution, family members were allowed to return to the base in December 1964.

After the Revolution, many Cubans sought refuge on the base. In fall 1961, Castro had his troops plant an 8-mile (13 km) barrier of cactus along the northeastern section of the fence. This was dubbed the "Cactus Curtain", an allusion to Europe's Iron Curtain[3] and the Bamboo Curtain in East Asia. In 2006, despite the continuing lack of diplomatic relations between the countries, the United States has agreed to return fugitives from Cuban law to Cuban authorities, and Cuba agreed to return fugitives from U.S. law, for offenses committed in Guantánamo Bay, to U.S. authorities.

Minefield maintenance Marines stack mines for disposal, 1997.U.S. troops placed 75,000 land mines across the "no man's land" between the U.S. and Cuban border, creating the second-largest minefield in the world, and the largest in the Western Hemisphere. On May 16, 1996, U.S. president Bill Clinton ordered their removal. They have since been replaced with motion and sound sensors to detect intruders. The Cuban government has not removed the corresponding minefield on its side of the border.[6]

With over 9,500 U.S. troops,[7] Guantanamo Bay is the only U.S. base in operation in a Communist led country, as of 2006.

The U.S. control of this Cuban territory has never been popular with successive Cuban governments. The present government denounces the lease ensuring U.S. control, pointing to article 52 of the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties which declares a treaty void if its conclusion has been procured by the threat or use of force — in this case by the inclusion, in 1901, of the Platt Amendment in the first Cuban Constitution. The United States warned the Cuban Constitutional Convention not to remove the Amendment, and stated U.S. troops would not leave Cuba until its terms had been adopted as a condition for the U.S. to grant independence. The Platt Amendment was dissolved in 1934, and the treaty re-affirming the lease to the base was signed after Franklin D. Roosevelt had issued 29 US warships to Cuba and Key West to protect U.S. interests following a military coup.[8]

Two of the wind turbines installed by the Navy in 2005.Since coming to power in 1959, Cuban president Fidel Castro has refused to cash all but the very first rent cheque in protest. But the United States argues that its cashing signifies Havana's ratification of the lease — and that ratification by the new government renders moot any questions about violations of sovereignty and illegal military occupation.

"Gitmo" has a U.S. amateur radio call sign series, KG4 followed by two letters. This is completely distinct from Cuban radio callsigns, which typically begin with CO or CM. For "ham" purposes it is considered to be a separate "entity." Not surprisingly, this position is not recognized by Cuba's amateur radio society.

Notable persons born at the naval base include actor Peter Bergman and American-British guitarist Isaac Guillory.

In 2005, the Navy completed a $12 million wind project, erecting four wind turbines capable of supplying about a quarter of the base's peak power needs, reducing diesel fuel usage and pollution of the existing diesel generators.[9]

Detention of prisoners

Detainees upon arrival at Camp X-Ray, January 2002In the last quarter of the 20th century, the base was used to house Cuban and Haitian refugees intercepted on the high seas. In the early 1990s, it held refugees who fled Haiti after military forces overthrew democratically elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. These refugees were held in a detainment area called Camp Bulkeley until United States District Court Judge Sterling Johnson Jr. declared the camp unconstitutional on June 8, 1993. The last Haitian migrants departed Guantánamo on 1 November 1995.

The Migrant Operations Center on Guantánamo typically keeps less than 30 people interdicted at sea in the Caribbean region.

Beginning in 2002, a small portion of the base was used to imprison alleged al-Qaeda and Taliban members captured in Afghanistan and elsewhere at Camp Delta, Echo, Camp Iguana, and the now-closed Camp X-Ray. In litigation regarding the availability of fundamental rights to those imprisoned at the base, the U.S. Supreme Court has recognized that the detainees "have been imprisoned in territory over which the United States exercises exclusive jurisdiction and control."[10] Therefore, the detainees have the fundamental right to due process of law under the Fifth Amendment. A district court has since held that the "Geneva Conventions applied to the Taliban detainees, but not to members of al Qaeda terrorist organization."[11]

On 10 June 2006, three Guantánamo Bay detainees committed suicide. The military reported the men hanged themselves with nooses made of sheets and clothes. One of the men was first detained when he was a juvenile. They each had been imprisoned for the past four years, but never charged with a crime. Before June 10, there had been 41 suicide attempts at the camp. On 24 August 2006, the 24 year old Murat Kurnaz was released from the base. He claimed to have been exposed to water torture, sexual harassment and desecration of Islam while staying on Guantanamo.

The closing-down of the Guantánamo Prison has been requested by Amnesty International (May 2005), the United Nations (February 2006) and the European Union (May 2006).

On 6 September 2006, President Bush announces that enemy combatants held by the CIA will be transfered to the custody of DOD, and held at Guantánamo Prison. Among approximately 500 prisoners in Guantánamo Bay, only 10 have been tried, and none of them have been proven guilty.