GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba -- The U.S.-run Guantanamo Bay detention center in Cuba, targeted for closure by Barack Obama during his campaign for the presidency, is instead quietly undergoing millions of dollars of upgrades that could allow it to remain open for years as a prison for suspected terrorists, NBC News has learned.
Among the recent improvements to the facility commonly known as “Gitmo”:
A heavily guarded soccer field for detainees known as “Super Rec,” which cost nearly $750,000 and opened this week; cable television in a communal living quarters and “enriching your life” classes for detainees, which include instruction on learning to paint, writing a resume -- even handling personal finances.
“Well, that's one class, but it’s not a popular (one),” Army Col. Donnie Thomas, commander of the military guards at camp, said with a laugh. “But it’s a class. It’s just to keep these guys busy.”
Other improvements are more practical, such as a new headquarters for the guards and a new hospital, which is still in the planning stages.
Navy Adm. David B. “Woody” Woods, commander of the Guantanamo facility, told NBC News that the improvements have “made it safer for the detainees, safer for the guard force,” and have not adversely impacted security at the facility.
“We treat them all as a threat only because if you don't then you're gonna get surprised, and that's not our business,” he said.
Many of the improvements have been made at the most modern facility in the detention center, known as Camp VI, a communal living compound that houses about 80 percent of the 169 detainees currently held at Gitmo. There, detainees who are deemed to be compliant with the rules and therefore eligible for more privileges are able to watch 21 Cable TV channels, DVD movies, read newspapers and borrow books from a library. Read more at MSNBC.com