Since the beginning of the War on Terror the US prison at Guantanamo Bay has sat under a cloud of controversy and in the middle of legal limbo. Suspected terrorists and innocent alike have been kept in the wire-enclosed camp in Cuba, outside the reach of American courts. National Geographic captured the day-to-day life in the prison for the film Explorer: Inside Guantanamo which airs tonight at 9 p.m. on the National Geographic Channel.
The documentary highlights hardworking military guards, former detainees, and the depressing reality of men being held for years without charges. The director Bonni Cohen took time to answer some of my questions. Check out her thoughts on whether the detainees will make it to US soil, the professional nature of the camp, and how Guantanamo is different than a typical prison. And stop by tomorrow for the second part of my interview.
Will detainees make it to US soil? Interestingly some of the more liberal habeas attorneys are saying now, "Well God, if they have to stay in detention, Guantanamo is better than being moved somewhere in the United States. At least they have each other." I think that even the detainees would think they're in a better position where they are now, than if they would be moved to the United States. I don't think moving them to the US is really going to happen. . . The idea now is returning as many of these men back home many of them have been cleared to go home. . . There are certain number of them, these hardcore guys, and we know who they are, that are never going to get out.
On the professional nature of the camp: Of course everybody thinks it was staged for us. But that just was not the case. For some reason American journalists would rather just continue to believe whatever it is that they have believed for the last seven years without any gradation of changes, it's just bizarre for me. You can't go into a place for three weeks and have the entire thing be staged for you.
To see what Bonni thinks about the conditions at Gitmo, and for a preview from the film, read more.
How is Guantanamo different than other high security prisons? The big difference between a max prison and Guantanamo is that the guys (in the US) know why they're there, and they know how long they're going to be there. They know when they're getting out and they've had a chance to defend themselves. That's the biggest difference. In terms of the overall conditions, I think they're probably a little bit better at Guantanamo. I think the psychological conditions are much more grueling at Gitmo.