This month, in a secret drill, prison guards practiced for something that hasn’t happened at Guantánamo in a decade: receiving a new war-on-terror detainee. Navy Rear Adm. John Ring, the prison commander, hasn’t got any word that new prisoners are coming. Since President Trump signed an order keeping the prison open, Ring’s staff is preparing for what spokeswoman Navy Cmdr. Anne Leanos calls an “enduring mission,” the Miami Herald reports. Guantánamo has 40 prisoners and a staff of 1,800 troops and civilians. With the maximum-security Camp 5 prison just reopened, after a cellblock was remade into a clinic and mental health ward, the detention center can now take in another 40 men.
Any new detainees are likely to be members of the Islamic State, not al-Qaida. The militant movements are not allies and have vastly different aims. “Unless we got some al-Qaida from Afghanistan, which is possible, most of the conversation is about Syria, and most of those guys, I understand, are ISIS,” said Ring. Any new prisoner would be the first to arrive at Guantánamo since the CIA delivered an Afghan “high-value detainee” in 2008. That was years before the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria declared its worldwide caliphate, invaded and controlled a huge swath of Iraq and Syria and released videotapes of killings of captives in orange jumpsuits. “If suspected ISIS fighters are transferred to Guantánamo I would expect that a legal challenge to their detention would be filed within days if not hours of their arrival,” said Wells Dixon of the Center for Constitutional Rights. He says the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force, Congress’ permission for the president to wage war on al Qaida and the Taliban over the Sept. 11 attacks, does not apply to ISIS. “The one thing that’s guaranteed is it will create years more of litigation,” Dixon said.