Pentagon to expand GITMO after Trump orders it remain open

By Tony Bertuca / February 1, 2018 at 10:12 AM

The Defense Department intends to transfer $14 million in existing funds to expand the controversial U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, according to a new document released by the Pentagon comptroller's office.

The expansion comes as President Trump has signed an executive order directing the facility to remain open. Trump voiced strong support for the facility in his State of the Union address and also announced that he has asked Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to "re-examine our military detention policy."

The Pentagon's plans to expand the "expeditionary legal complex" is detailed in a reprogramming document notifying Congress of the funding shift. It was signed Jan. 19 by Pentagon Comptroller David Norquist.

"The project expansion will include a secure compound with utilities connectivity for the positioning of required prefabricated structures, construction of security fencing, perimeter lighting, vehicle gates, pedestrian gates, pavement, electrical and utility connections," according to the document.

In a justification portion of the document, DOD states the "current trial support facilities are incapable of handling the large number of personnel on the capital defense and prosecution teams and do not provide secure evidence storage."

The $14 million is being reprogrammed for the expansion as it is a "strategically critical time-sensitive expansion project" required to support prosecution and defense teams.

"Reliance on this construction is necessary in order to execute this strategically critical time-sensitive expansion project, which is vital to the OSD Office of Military Commission (OMC) and national security to support the large number of personnel on the capital defense and prosecution teams for the trials to start on the USS COLE and 9/11 cases," the document states.

Trump's order to keep the facility open reverses a previous directive from former President Barack Obama to close it.

Today, the facility houses 41 prisoners, down from a high of nearly 800, but continues to draw criticism from the American Civil Liberties Union and Amnesty International.