Reporter Demands Info|on Guantanamo Money

WASHINGTON (CN) — A Miami Herald reporter who has covered the Guantanamo prison camp for 15 years sued the Pentagon on Monday, claiming it stonewalled her request for information about $340 million in upgrades, new construction and staffing in years to come, despite President Obama’s long-stated goal of closing the prison.
     Carol Rosenberg asked the Department of Defense and its U.S. Southern Command about its plans to spend more than $340 million at Guantanamo in the next five years, she said in her federal FOIA complaint.
     “Despite the shrinking prison population, the Obama Administration’s stated intent to close the base, and presidential candidate [Hillary] Clinton’s support for closing the base, evidence suggests that the level of staffing at Guantanamo is nearing a historic high,” the complaint states.
     Rosenberg says the Pentagon plans to $240 million on building upgrades and new construction in the next five years, $66 million to build a new school, and another $40 million for a new fiber optic cable that will run from the base to Puerto Rico.
     “Given the dissonance between the Obama Administration’s stated plans to close the Guantanamo detention facilities and DOD’s increased investments and staffing at the base, and in light of the uncertain status of the base’s continued existence in the run-up to the November 2016 election, the detention of individuals at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base and DOD’s allocation of personnel to handle detainees is a matter of significant public interest,” Rosenberg says in the complaint.
     She submitted a FOIA request on Sept. 29, asking for “daily personnel census reports,” (PERSTAT reports, in Pentagon-speak) on the number of troops, civilians and contractors “assigned to the commander of Joint Task Force Guantánamo.”
     “Because the Government has not provided the requested PERSTAT reports, or the data they contain, plaintiff has been unable to report accurately on the number of staff at the Guantánamo Base, depriving the public of a crucial opportunity to exercise meaningful democratic control over a matter of great public concern in an election year,” Rosenberg says.
     Southcom denied her request for expedited processing, which she told it is needed, “so that the public can engage with candidates in the upcoming presidential and congressional elections and exercise meaningful democratic control over matters to be addressed in her report.”
     Southcom didn’t buy it. It told her in an Oct. 4 email that “a compelling need was not demonstrated” to warrant expedited processing.
     Rosenberg asked the court to compel the expedited processing, with waiver of fees and costs of suit.
     The Pentagon said it does not comment on pending litigation.
     Rosenberg’s attorney, Hannah Bloch-Wehhba, declined comment. She is with the Media Freedom & Information Access Clinic at the Abrams Institute at Yale Law School, in New Haven, Conn.

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