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. Pentagon wants to build permanent prison at Guantanamo
MIAMI (AFP) Dec 09, 2004
The Pentagon has proposed building a permanent prison at the US naval base in Guantanamo, Cuba, and the army is working on creating a permanent unit of troops to watch over detainees, a base spokesman told AFP.

The spokesman responded to a report Thursday in The Miami Herald that said the Pentagon was proposing building a permanent 200-cell concrete jail to replace temporary facilities housing about 550 prisoners, at a cost of some 25 million dollars.

Leon Sumpter, spokesman for the base, said: "it's a proposal ... No contract has been given" to build the so-called Camp 6.

The daily also cited an undated memo in which the army asked Congress for funding to set up a 324-soldier unit to watch over detainees at the camp, replacing those who do the job now, most of whom are reserve officers.

"This action is part of a systematic process to enhance Army's capabilities required to defend the nation's interests at home and abroad," the memo says, according to the daily.

Army colonel David Williams of the Southern Command told the paper the 324 soldiers have not been put on the security posting, but that a team is already being trained at the base to take over the guard operations early next year.

Sumpter said of the unit that the "the plan is to hopefully have it by March", with the custody force expected to be stationed "definitely longer than a year."

In Miami, Southern Command spokesman Steve Lucas said that it had long been understood that installing a detention center at the base "was a long-term commitment to support the war on terrorism."

The United States has said Al-Qaeda and Taliban suspects are "enemy combatants" and not prisoners of war because they are not fighting for a state which has formally declared war.

The US Supreme Court ruled in June that civilian courts have jurisdiction over the detainees.

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