FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: INSIDE GITMO
Reporter: Lisa Millar
Tuesday, 29 April at 8pm on ABC1
President Obama promised to close it and the General who supervised its construction now thinks it was a tragic mistake. Foreign Correspondent goes inside “GITMO”, Guantanamo Bay in Cuba to investigate why this notorious prison remains open. Who remains inside? And why won’t officials open up Camp 7 which holds the most “high value” prisoners, some who are accused of being conspirators in the 9/11 attacks? A special report by U.S Correspondent Lisa Millar, who returns to GITMO 12 years after her first visit.
“Should we close Gitmo? Absolutely. It’s a blight on our history and I say this as a man who helped create it.” So says retired General Michael Lehnert, who 12 years ago was given orders to build cells at the naval base at Guantanamo Bay, which the United States “leased” from Cuba more than 100 years ago.
General Lehnert supervised the building of Camp X-ray, the steel framed cages, open to all weathers,which was proclaimed would house “the worst of the worst” - terrorists involved in the aircraft hijackings which had killed 3,000 innocents in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.
Lehnert says that in the wake of the 9/11 attacks the opening of Guantanamo was understandable, but can now be seen to be a tragic mistake. “I think that Guantanamo stands a recruiting poster for terrorists,” he says.
Washington Correspondent, Lisa Millar was one of the reporters watching in February, 2002 as orange clad figures, hand-cuffed and foot-shackled were dragged into their cells. Returning to Guantanamo for Foreign Correspondent Millar was able to re-visit Camp X-ray, now abandoned to encroaching jungle and to tour Camps 5 and 6 where the majority of the prisoners are held.
It was an immensely frustrating experience being rushed down claustrophobic corridors, banned from filming the inmates or even talking to them off camera.
One prisoner - Shaker Aamer arrived on Valentine’s Day, in February, 2002. He was in terrible shape having endured months of imprisonment and torture in Afghanistan but the camp commander brought joyous news. His son, Faris, had been born in England, joining three older siblings. Shaker Aamer has never been charged with any crime, let alone been put on trial and wants desperately to rejoin his family. Seven years ago he was cleared for transfer out of Guantanamo. But he and 153 others remain locked down - indefinitely - despite President Barack Obama’s promise five years ago to close what has become the world’s most infamous prison. Shaker has been incarcerated for 4,440 days, some 12 years plus.
The Foreign Correspondent team was banned from filming military guides above the neck, or identifying them. And that was before the military censors examined every video frame in case the ABC had breached “operational security”.
Millar says it is the toughest censorship she’s experienced in more than eight years reporting from the United States and numerous assignments with military forces.
INSIDE GITMO on Foreign Correspondent Tuesday, 29 April at 8pm on ABC1.