What’s going on at Guantanamo Bay?
There’s been yet another arrest involving possible espionage associated with workers at the Naval Base where the U.S. is holding 660 al Qaida and Taliban suspects.
The Department of Homeland Security yesterday announced they had arrested a civilian contractor who had worked at the base as a translator. The suspect was arrested as he returned to the U.S. after a trip to Cairo. Homeland Security officials claim the 31-year-old Egyptian-American was carrying 132 compact disks, of which some carried classified information.
This is the second arrest of a translator at the Guantanamo Bay base. An Air Force enlisted man was accused in July of sending classified information about the Guantanamo facility to an unspecified “enemy.” The Justice Department has also accused him of planning to give other secrets about the prison to someone traveling to Syria.
The Defense Department has also detained a Muslim Army chaplain, who had worked close to the non-English speaking detainees. Officials say that others are still being investigated.
While all three men are presumed innocent until proven guilty, the charges are disturbing.
While the operation at Guantanamo Bay has been criticized and praised since a highly secure prison was built there nearly two years ago, it’s been assumed that the facility is secure. The Cuban base itself is one of the most secure bases flying the American flag. Terrorist sympathizers infiltrating our military from the inside is a legitimate concern.
The military believes that information about the prisoners currently being held at the base should remain classified. If the identities are revealed, according to this rationale, al-Qaida terrorists would be given a heads up on what the U.S. knows, and what it doesn’t know, in its war on terror.
There is also concern that information about specific U.S. personnel working at the base could be leaked to terror cells in the U.S. and in other parts of the world. The last thing the government wants is for interrogators, guards and military police to have their families targeted by terrorists.
These arrests should be a wake up call for our government’s handling of security clearances -?especially when dealing with personnel who have access to terror suspects. The U.S. government was in a bind following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks with a shortage of translators who could speak Arabic and other languages spoke in Afghanistan.
Hopefully this rush to fill billets didn’t come at the cost of compromised security. Efforts must be doubled by ensuring that all security background checks are air tight. The military must also insure that background checks are complete and accurate before placing personnel in close contact with prisoners.