Troops can tweet from Guantánamo again
U.S. troops can once again tweet and post on Facebook from the coffee shop, Irish pub and library at the U.S. Navy base at Guantánamo Bay, a base spokeswoman said Wednesday.
The base in southeast Cuba had over the weekend shut down its free Wi-Fi service for troops and base residents in response to a campaign by “Anonymous,” the mischief-making anti-censorship Internet group.
Anonymous had rallied followers to disrupt the base and military through blasts of telephone and email in solidarity with prisoners staging a hunger strike protest at the base. Or as the activists’ website put it, “to join global actions on the ground and hacktivist protests as well as twitterstorms, email bombs, and fax bombs, in three days of nonstop action.”
Wednesday, the military said it was business as usual at the base with 103 captives on a hunger strike, 31 of them were being force fed.
Although Guantánamo has 166 captives, prison spokesmen said this week said they are only allowed to account for 151 of them — the so-called non-high-value-detainees, many of whom have been captives at the Pentagon prison camps since early 2002.
The CIA transferred the so-called high value captives, HVDs, to a secret prison at Guantánamo called Camp 7 in 2006 from years of secret detention and interrogation in a program that President Barack Obama ordered dismantled. The captives include the accused mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, and the alleged architect of the October 2000 USS Cole bombing off Yemen, both of whom were waterboarded by the CIA.
Tuesday evening, Navy Capt. Robert Durand, the prison camps spokesman, clarified that his public affairs unit is forbidden from including those 15 captives in its accounting of the hunger strike — neither to say whether those prisoners have joined the protest nor whether they were being force-fed by Navy medics.
“I can’t discuss the HVDs or operations in Camp 7,” Durand said. “That is a function of our classification guide.”
Over on the base itself, spokeswoman Kelly Wirfel would not say Wednesday morning how long residents were deprived of Wi-Fi service at the social media outlets such as the base bar and coffee, and was unable to say the last time it was purposefully shut down to protect the remote outpost.
“We are continually monitoring our system for security breaches and/or threats to the network,” she said by email, “and take the necessary precautionary measures to defend against these threats.”
During the shutdown, the military blocked Guantánamo computers from receiving or sending emails — except to U.S. government such as .mil and .gov, she said.
Internet browsing was likewise limited to .mil and .gov sites, adding to the isolation of the base of some 6,000 or so residents, a third of them U.S. troops.
The prison had already suspended journalist visits through the end of the month to train a new team of military media escorts.
As a result, no independent media will be on the base when President Barack Obama delivers a policy speech Thursday on his plans to close the prison where a combined military and civilian staff of up to 1,700 government employees work.
Army Lt. Col. Samuel House, a prison spokesman, reported “virtually no disruption to media operations” at the base this weekend other than to prevent people from posting on Facebook or reading Twitter streams.
“From my foxhole, the hacktivist campaign was a failure,” he said.