Guantanamo Film Goes Inside Camp

Posted April 2, 2009 at 12:16pm

Film crew members for the National Geographic Channel spent three weeks last August at the Guantanamo Bay detention center, having, in their words, “unprecedented access— to all nine camps.

The result — “Explorer: Inside Guantanamo— — will be shown in a two-hour episode at 9 p..m. Sunday on the National Geographic Channel.

The film includes interviews with security personnel at the prison, attorneys representing prisoners and former Bush administration officials who believe that an active al-Qaida cell operates inside the facility.

Perhaps some of the more fascinating segments, though, come from those who offer a sense of the day-to-day operations of Guantanamo. A guard who goes by “Jane Smith— in the film is trailed by the film crew as she goes through her daily routines: general meetings, interactions with some of the detainees and suicide checks, performed every third minute around the clock.

“It presents views that have not been seen before — to see how me and my guards did what we did every day. We do what we can. The detainees might not think it’s good enough. This is not the right size [of clothing or similar equipment].’ They turn that into torture,— Smith explained after the premiere screening at the National Geographic Society on Tuesday night.

Another voice in the film comes from Sarah Havens, an attorney with Allen & Overy in New York. Havens, who has Yemeni clients and has visited the facility nearly 20 times, also encouraged people to watch. “It shows the desperation of the men who’ve been held in 8-by-12 boxes for the past seven years. It affectively illustrated the main problem of not so much torture, but being detained for so long. I hope it will bring compassion for these men,— she said after the screening.

After the screening at National Geographic Society, Chris Wallace, host of “Fox News Sunday,— moderated a panel of U.S. Army and Navy officials, Havens and Bonni Cohen, who produced and co-directed “Explorer: Inside Guantanamo— with Jon Else.

President Barack Obama has pledged to close Guantanamo within the first year of his presidency. Now, with less than 10 months left, the panel discussed different views on the past and present accusations of mistreatment, ending with at least one agreement for the future: Closing Guantanamo will not end the problems.

Deciding whether to move the detainees to facilities in the U.S., to bring them to trial or to release them, and how to deal with similar situations in the future is crucial. Havens pleaded for the detainees to be charged and brought to trial.