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No Books, No Tours, No Hearings

Ben Wizner,
ACLU Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project
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March 29, 2007

We had expected to depart Guantanamo on Tuesday morning, but David Hicks’s plea and upcoming sentencing hearing have thrown the schedule out the window, and no one seems to know when the proceedings will be completed. Reporters, human rights observers, and even military escorts have been trading rumors and speculation – but, for the time being, the only certainty is that today will be the third consecutive day without any Commission proceedings. So what are we doing?

There have been practical matters to attend to – like a lack of clean clothes and enough books to read – so yesterday we managed to get across the island to the Navy Exchange Store, where I bought socks and t-shirts and $29 Converse kicks. As for books, I nearly got lost in a sea of Danielle Steele and Tim LaHaye, and was on the verge of despair when I spotted, lying on its side, a lone copy of Shalimar the Clown by Salman Rushdie. This place never ceases to amaze.

Apart from our shopping excursion, we’ve been much more restricted than on previous visits. Today, for example, we were forbidden by a Navy public affairs officer from joining a tour of the Northeast Gate – where the base borders Cuba – that was being offered to the media. There’s no legitimate rationale for this – we sleep in the same quarters as the reporters and have hours of unrestricted access to each other daily. (And, from what I’ve seen, most of the reporters here are capable of detecting propaganda without any help from us.)

We’ve also been informed that we’re no longer permitted to eat in certain restaurants here, so there will be no more food blogging. Even without the prohibition, we might have a hard time getting there – for the first time, we don’t have a dedicated vehicle in which our escort can get us places. And today I learned that I’m being evicted from my room and moved into a room with some reporters – because, although we can’t share a tour, evidently we can share a toilet.

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