The total cost last year of holding the 40 remaining prisoners at Guantánamo Bay topped $540 million, or $13 million apiece, almost certainly making it the world’s most expensive detention program, The New York Times reports. The newspaper’s tally of the costs include paying for the troops who guard the prisoners, including the men accused of plotting the 9/11 attacks, as well as running the war court and doing related construction.
Nearly 18 years after the George W. Bush administration took a crude compound called Camp X-Ray and hastily established it as a holding station for enemy fighters picked up in the war on terrorism, it has taken on a sprawling and permanent feel, with the expense most likely to continue far into the future. Because of the relative isolation of its location on a United States Navy base on Cuba’s southeast coast, the military assigns around 1,800 troops to the detention center, or 45 for each prisoner. Judges, lawyers, journalists and support workers are flown in and out on weekly shuttles. The cost estimate does not include expenses that have remained classified, presumably including a continued CIA presence. But the figures show that running the range of facilities built up over the years has grown increasingly expensive even as the number of prisoners has declined. Guantánamo has held a cumulative total of about 770 foreign men and boys as wartime prisoners at different times, with the prison population peaking at 677 in 2003. The last prisoner to arrive came in 2008.