Halliburton Co. has been awarded a $9.7-million contract to build an additional 204-cell detention camp at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to hold additional suspected al Qaeda and Taliban prisoners, the Pentagon said recently.
The move will expand the high-security prison on the base, where hundreds of such "detainees" from Afghanistan are already being held in 612 small cells.
The prison at Guantanamo Bay Naval Station has played a major part in the U.S. war on terrorism declared after September’s attacks on America in which more than 3,000 people died. No prisoners have been charged, but some could eventually face military trials.
Brown and Root Services, an engineering division of Halliburton, will build the additional 6-by-8-ft. cells on the windward side of the remote U.S. base at the southeastern tip of Cuba, the Pentagon said.
The work is expected to be completed by October. But the Pentagon suggested on that the facility could grow even more and that the contract could eventually total as much as $300 million if additional options were exercised over the next four years.
Vice President Dick Cheney is the former chief executive officer of Halliburton, whose main business is providing oilfield services. The company has come under heavy pressure this year because of concerns about its liabilities and a probe by the Securities and Exchange Commission into its accounting for cost overruns on construction projects.
ADDITIONAL CELLS SOUGHT BY RUMSFELD
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in July asked Congress to approve expanding the prison facility, which currently has 612 cells, by 204 cells.
Army Lt. Col. Joe Hoey, a spokesman for the task force running the prisoner operation at the naval base in Cuba, said earlier that the United States was holding and interrogating 564 suspected Taliban and al Qaeda prisoners.
The prisoners were captured in the U.S.-led war against the al Qaeda group blamed for the September attacks and against the Taliban government that sheltered them in Afghanistan.
The captives were moved in April to Camp Delta, a permanent facility built to replace Camp X-Ray, a series of makeshift chain-link cells hastily erected when the U.S. military first brought prisoners from Afghanistan to Guantanamo in January.
The United States drew fire from human rights groups after photographs were distributed of the prisoners squatting in their cells in the blazing Cuban sun. Human rights activists have criticized that U.S. stance that the captives are not prisoners of war under the Geneva conventions.
The fate of the prisoners being held at Guantanamo is still uncertain. The United States government has set guidelines to try some of them before military tribunals but has not said when that might happen.
Camp Delta is made up of solid cells in rows that look like long mobile homes. Unlike Camp X-Ray, they have wash basins with running water and floor-style toilets that flush.
Like X-Ray, Camp Delta is surrounded by fences topped with razor wire and ringed by wooden guard towers manned by sharpshooters. But the new camp is enclosed inside a green mesh curtain, which prevents visitors from seeing in and keeps the prisoners from seeing the tightly guarded shoreline a few hundred yards away.
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