- The Washington Times - Monday, October 22, 2012

U.S. NAVAL STATION Guantanamo Bay, Cuba — Eternal vigilance is the price of being a guard at this U.S. military detention center, where some of its 166 detainees from the war on terrorism believe they are “still in the fight.”

Whether attempting to engage soldiers in political debate, passing messages to one another or trying to injure a guard or other inmates, the detainees keep their military monitors on the lookout for signs of trouble, unrest and conspiracy.

News of scandals — such as Muslim world protests over a YouTube video produced in the U.S. that disparages the Prophet Muhammad and American troops accidentally burning Korans in Afghanistan — can further aggravate a tense environment.

Some detainees have held hunger strikes and sit-ins, thrown their feces and urine at guards, fashioned crude weapons and disrupted activities with yelling, cursing and fighting.

Army Sgt. Maj. Michael Baker, who looks after the guards’ health and morale, said some detainees believe they are “still in the fight” and work to undermine or overthrow their guards.

“They believe that the war’s still going on for them, and they try to manipulate the soldiers each and every day,” he said. “Any little piece of intel, they’re just trying to put a piece of the puzzle together, and they’re trying to pass it on to their internal leadership amongst the detainees.

“The detainees have their own rank structure inside — who’s in charge, who’s not — and it’s no different from any other prison in the United States,” he said. “There are uprises and things like that. Sometimes it’s peaceful, just sit-ins. Sometimes it gets out of hand, where they do go too far and they do attempt to harm a soldier.

“They’ll try to pass notes, any type of verbal messages. They’ll try to yell from one place to another. They’ll try to get soldiers to pass information to each other,” the sergeant major said. “A lot of stuff is written in stuff we don’t understand, so we have to get it passed off and have someone interpret it for us.

“For the soldier, [it’s] ‘eyes on’ all the time, because if you turn your head once, they’ll try to pass something.”

Guards also keep watch for detainees who try to fashion crude weapons from materials such as cardboard and DVDs, and for detainee-on-detainee violence.

“They try to take on their own justice sometimes, which we do not allow,” Sgt. Maj. Baker said. “It’s unacceptable.”

‘Walk on eggshells’

Some detainees keep up with current events via their access to newspapers, television news and the Internet. When they become upset about reported events or crises, their guards must respond with heightened vigilance.

“We had a specific detainee who didn’t like the Koran burnings and got upset about it, and so he did something to end up in Camp 5,” said Army Sgt. Matthew Baker, 23, referring to the area that primarily houses detainees deemed to be the highest threat to themselves or the guards.

In another instance, camp leaders warned guards to be extra vigilant after the YouTube video of “Innocence of Muslims” — a poorly made movie produced in the U.S. that denigrates Islam — sparked anti-American protests across the Muslim world.

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