Saturday, June 18, 2005

Halliburton unit to build $30M jail at Guantánamo

The Pentagon announced that a Halliburton subsidiary was awarded the contract to build a state-of-the-art $30 million prison for 220 terrorism suspects at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.


The Pentagon capped a week of intense debate on the future of its prison for terrorism suspects Friday with an announcement that Vice President Dick Cheney's old firm will build a new, $30 million 220-cell prison block at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown & Root received the work under a $500 million Navy contract from July 2004, according to a Defense Department contract announcement e-mailed to The Herald on Friday.

The $30 million will cover a two-story, air-conditioned building overlooking the Caribbean called Camp Six as well as a security fence. Work should be completed by July 2006 and will include day rooms, exercise areas and space for medical personnel to treat captives.

Amnesty International blasted the decision, noting it came as members of Congress have just begun debating the wisdom and cost-effectiveness of the detention project.

''Amid numerous calls to dismantle the facility, the administration instead plans to memorialize in bricks and mortar its decision to operate outside of the law,'' said deputy director Curt Goering.

Army Brig. Gen. Jay Hood, the prison camp commander, has said the new cells could ultimately replace portions of the more troop-intensive Camp Delta -- a more open-air facility cut from steel shipping containers.

Camp Delta was specially built for al Qaeda and Taliban suspects brought to the base from Afghanistan, starting in January 2002, but prison camp spokesmen have said it is already deteriorating in the humid, salty air.

The prison camp already has a similar building called Camp Five -- with 100 single cells and a central monitoring system and locking hub, which requires fewer guards than Camp Delta.

Camp Five also has state-of-the-art interrogation rooms that have video monitors -- which commanders in Cuba have said are meant for ''high-value'' detainees. Earlier this year, there were 50 captives in the building.

With 520 prisoners at Guantánamo, the new building and electric fence could permit the Pentagon to consolidate more captives into the two buildings and likely decrease the number of soldiers guarding the prisoners and its perimeter.

Army Col. David McWilliams, a spokesman for the Southern Command, said the military had submitted the proposal for the more permanent structure long before the current debate. It was unclear why the announcement of its approval came this week.

Halliburton's KBR subsidiary already has done extensive work at the base in southeast Cuba. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said this week that prison camp construction has already cost about $100 million, and the Pentagon spends $90 million to $95 million a year to run it.

Military contractors bring in much of their equipment and supplies on a barge from Jacksonville, and most laborers arrive on charter planes because the base is independent of the island's economy -- cut off from Cuba by a minefield and Washington's economic embargo against Fidel Castro's communist government.

The Bush administration had initially included $41.8 million for the new prison and high-tech fence in its supplemental appropriations request. that sought $81.9 billion in war-on-terror funding.

It was not immediately clear whether the price of the project had dropped to $30 million or whether other contracts would provide related work at Camp 6.