Guantánamo by the Numbers

By David Bowker, a lawyer in New York, and David Kaye, the acting director of the Program on International Human Rights Law at the University of California, Los Angeles. They were staff lawyers at the State Department during the Clinton and Bush administrations (THE NEW YORK TIMES, 10/11/07):

Six years ago this Tuesday, President Bush granted American armed forces sweeping authority to detain and interrogate foreign members of Al Qaeda and their supporters and to use military commissions to try them. By doing so, the president set in motion the creation of military commissions and the detention camp in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

The Bush administration may legitimately claim certain benefits from the Guantánamo system. Some dangerous men are held there, and valuable intelligence has probably been gathered, perhaps even some that has enabled the government to disrupt terrorist activities.

But the costs have been high. Guantánamo has come to be seen worldwide as a stain on America’s reputation. The military commissions have failed to deliver justice, stymied by the federal courts’ refusal to permit the president to create a system at odds with United States courts-martial and the international law of war.

Meanwhile, the number of detainees at Guantánamo has steadily dropped to a little over 300, from its peak of more than 700, no more than 80 of whom are likely to face any kind of American prosecution. Not a single defendant has gone to trial, and only one has pleaded guilty.

Today, most American leaders acknowledge the need for a new approach. The president himself has expressed a desire to see the detention camp closed. But he has only a little more than a year to do so before the next president takes office. It’s time to take a close look at this system of detention and prosecution and move quickly to establish viable alternatives. With apologies to the Harper’s Index, the following data provide a historical snapshot.

A Denim Jacket for Your Time

Number of “high-value detainees” now at Guantánamo: 15

Approximate percentage of detainees found to have committed “hostile acts” against the United States or coalition forces before detention: 53

Approximate number of countries of which detainees are citizens: 40

Most represented countries at Guantánamo: Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Yemen

Cost of building Guantánamo high-security detention facilities: about $54 million

Estimated annual cost of operating Guantánamo: $90 million to $118 million

Cost of “expeditionary legal complex” for the military commission (under construction): $10 million to $12 million

Number of books in the Guantánamo detention library: 5,143

Number of Korans issued to detainees from January 2002 to June 2005: more than 1,600

Number of daily calories per detainee: Up to 4,200, including halal meat

Average weight gain per detainee: 20 pounds

Number of pills dispensed per day: 1,000, to 200-300 detainees

Number of apparent suicides: 4

Number of apparent suicide attempts: 41, by 25 detainees (as of May 2006)

Number of detainee assaults on guards using “bodily fluids”: more than 400

Date of first visit to Guantánamo by the International Committee of the Red Cross: Jan. 18, 2002

Approximate number of visits by lawyers to Guantánamo detainees so far this year: 1,100

Month of first habeas corpus petition filed to challenge detention at Guantánamo: January 2002

Number of habeas corpus petitions filed in federal courts on behalf of detainees: roughly 300

Number of detainees designated by the president as “eligible” for trial by military commission: 14

Number actually charged with crimes (for example, murder and material support for terrorism): 10

Number of pending cases: 3

Number of convictions: 1 (an Australian who pleaded guilty to material support of terrorism and was sentenced to nine months of confinement in his home country)

Estimated number of detainees who may be charged in the future: 80

Month of first release of a detainee: May 2002 (one detainee repatriated to Afghanistan because of an “emotional breakdown”)

Approximate number of detainees released: 445

Approximate number of current detainees found eligible for transfer or release: 70

Countries to which Guantánamo detainees have been transferred: Albania, Afghanistan, Australia, Bangladesh, Bahrain, Belgium, Britain, Denmark, Egypt, France, Germany, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Maldives, Mauritania, Morocco, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Sweden, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Uganda, Yemen

Most recent announced transfer of detainees from Guantánamo: Nov. 4 (eight to Afghanistan, three to Jordan)

Personal items provided to detainees upon departure: a Koran, a denim jacket, a white T-shirt, a pair of blue jeans, high-top sneakers, a gym bag of toiletries and a pillow and blanket for the flight home

Number of detainees said by Pentagon to have resumed hostile activities against the United States after release: at least 30

Number of United States senators who voted in favor of a nonbinding resolution that Guantánamo detainees “should not be released into American society, nor should they be transferred stateside into facilities in American communities and neighborhoods”: 94

Number of bills in Congress calling for the closing of Guantánamo: 3

Number of members of the House of Representatives who signed a letter to President Bush in June 2007 urging him to close Guantánamo and move the detainees to military prisons in the United States: 145

Number of Republicans who signed the letter: 1

Democratic presidential candidates who are on record supporting closing Guantánamo: 8

Republican presidential candidates who are: 2 (John McCain and Ron Paul)

Closest American allies that have called for Guantánamo’s closing: Britain, France, Germany

Next scheduled legal test of the Guantánamo system: Boumediene v. Bush, a challenge to the denial of habeas corpus, set for argument before the Supreme Court on Dec. 5