I went to the prison at Guantanamo Bay on June 16 with a small bi-partisan group of House members. It was my third trip, and I came away thinking that those Congressional visits may not be helpful in generating support for closing the facility. (That conclusion, by the way, has nothing to do with the true fact that I fell on a step and fractured my foot while at the facility.) The problem is that a one day guided tour can easily leave the wrong impression.
What one sees at Guantanamo is what appears at first blush to be simply an efficiently managed prison, the mission of which as described by the congenial and impressive Rear Admiral David Thomas, Commander of Joint Task Force-GTMO, is the "safe, transparent, legal and humane treatment of detainees." He answered all our questions, fed us lunch, and took us on a tour of the facility. This man is clearly a strong and popular leader who is doing his job and doing it well.
Admiral Thomas took us on the grand tour. One of the must-sees is Camp 4 where prisoners live in barrack-style units, 5 to a unit (though built to accommodate 10) who are "free" to move in and out of an outdoor yard 20 hours per day. Camp 5 and 6 are medium and maximum (not counting the high value detainees) and visitors are shown the small individual cells and are told that these prisoners are given up to 4 hours per day out in the yard with other prisoners. Camps 4, 5, 6 are comfortably air-conditioned.