NY Times Wants Info on Gitmo Health Care
MANHATTAN (CN) - New York Times reporter Charlie Savage sued the Department of Defense for information on aging prisoners at Guantanamo who have serious medical problems beyond the scope of care they can get at the prison.
The United States has been imprisoning people at Guantanamo for 12 years.
"The naval base includes a limited medical facility for diagnosing and treating detainees," Savage and the Times say in the federal FOIA complaint. "It also includes a limited hospital for diagnosing and treating base personnel. When American troops, family members, and support staff encounter more serious health problems than the base medical facilities are equipped to handle, they are stabilized and then flown to the United States for treatment at a facility with advanced equipment and specialized doctors.
"Congress has enacted a series of restrictions on the executive branch's ability to transfer detainees out of Guantanamo, including a statutory ban on bringing them into the United States for medical emergencies.
"In April 2013, a medical commander at the Guantanamo medical facility for detainees, answering questions from visiting reporters, said the facility lacked a variety of advanced health care equipment and medical devices. She said she presently could not, for example, perform radiation therapy or kidney dialysis on a detainee, should the need arise."
Savage cites March 20, 2013 congressional testimony of Gen. John F. Kelly, U.S. Marine Corps commander of SOUTHCOM, who testified to the House Armed Services Committee.
At that hearing, Congressman Adam Smith, referring to Guantanamo, said: ""There are some very severe long-term implications of what's going on down there. We have I think it's 166 inmates down there now. They're aging, as we all are, and there are certain - there's a certain lack of support facilities in that general area. And if we're planning on keeping them there forever, there's an enormous amount of expense in terms of both caring for the inmates and then also dealing with our staff down there that has to do that. You know, I think medical care is one of the biggest concerns. There are not, you know, first-class facilities down there. And as the law stands now and we have an inmate who has a heart attack, doesn't die, but needs more complicated care, where's he going to get it in Guantanamo? He's not. And that opens up all kinds of implications in terms of human rights violations and problems that we would have with our own laws, as well as with international laws."
Gen. Kelly answered by referring to a private conversation he had had with Smith. Kelly added that he had consulted a Pentagon attorney "who has advised me on what our, not necessarily our public affairs p osition is relative to ... one of them having, say, a heart attack and we stabilize him there on island but can't move him off to a higher level of care ... so that is a concern."
On April 3, 2013, Savage sent a FOIA request to SOUTHCOM, asking "all documents 'containing or related to the legal advice provided by DOD to Southcom with regard to legal policy options if a Guantanamo detainee were to have a serious health issue that is beyond the scope of the Gitmo base medical facilities to address, in light of the restrictions on transferring detainees.'"
He hasn't seen any documents yet - more than a year after the Pentagon's 20-day statutory period to respond.
Savage wants to see the record. He and the Times are represented by NY Times attorney David McCraw.