- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 29, 2001

Guantanamo Bay has a decades-old tradition of welcoming refugees from neighborhood revolutions. Now it will jail accused terrorists from far, far away.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Thursday that the U.S. Navy base in Cuba would be used to hold Taliban and al Qaida fighters. U.S. forces now hold 45 prisoners in the Afghan fighting, in Afghanistan and on a ship off the coast of Pakistan.
Base spokesman Chief Petty Officer Richard Evans noted that Guantanamo has detention facilities for about 100 people, dating from the mid-1990s, when it housed thousands of Cuban and Haitian refugees.
The flood of refugees created new military terminology, "migrant surge ops," one of Guantanamo's four declared missions today. The others are to refuel and repair patrol boats; maintain the port and airfield; and support anti-drug operations in the Caribbean.
The oldest U.S. overseas outpost has repelled enemies and welcomed refugees since 1898, when U.S. Marines fighting the Spanish-American War set up camp at the natural harbor on Cuba's southeast coast.
It was the base for several U.S. interventions during Cuba's turbulent history, and was a refuge for Cubans fleeing revolution in 1917 and 1933.
In addition to its impressive security, the base would offer advantages should it ever host the type of military tribunal President Bush authorized on Nov. 13, although Mr. Rumsfeld says there are no plans for it to do so at the moment.
The base is close enough to the United States two-hour flights depart regularly from Jacksonville, Fla. to quickly ferry in and out legal teams, and yet its offshore status makes any verdict virtually appeal-free. A landmark 1950 Supreme Court decision established, in unusually direct language, that nonresident enemy aliens have "no access to our courts in wartime."
Mr. Bush and Attorney General John Ashcroft have said they prefer military tribunals because they protect U.S. secrets better and because the men believe enemy aliens are not entitled to constitutional guarantees.
"The Bush administration appears to intentionally be following a pattern of making sure there is no judicial review," said Scott Silliman, a former Air Force lawyer and Duke University law professor who recently expressed his concerns about the tribunals in testimony to the Senate.
Most of the time, life for the 2,700 people on the 45-square-mile base is bucolic. During the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, a senior naval officer described the base in a memo as "a community with overtones of suburbia."
Not much has changed: Three-quarters of the residents are civilians family to the sailors and Marines posted there, and maintenance staff from Jamaica and the Philippines.
This Christmas, residents whose affectionate term for the base is "Gitmo" organized a boat parade and tour of some of the homes on base. They enjoy a view from John Paul Jones Hill that takes in the bay and the surrounding mountains.
The base does not have any entrances from the main island, frustrating any attacks or attempts to help prisoners escape and hampering protesters and journalists.
It is secure, in part, because of obstacles Cuban leader Fidel Castro ordered placed to stop his people from seeking refuge there among them a ring of cactus plants.

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