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Daily Archives: September 17th, 2019

By Andrew Jacobs
• Sept. 16, 2019
When the Indian government bowed to powerful food companies last year and postponed its decision to put red warning labels on unhealthy packaged food, officials also sought to placate critics of the delay by creating an expert panel to review the proposed labeling system, which would have gone far beyond what other countries have done in the battle to combat soaring obesity rates.
But the man chosen to head the three-person committee, Dr. Boindala Sesikeran, a veteran nutritionist and former adviser to Nestle, only further enraged health advocates.
That’s because Dr. Sesikeran is a trustee of the International Life Sciences Institute, an American nonprofit with an innocuous sounding name that has been quietly infiltrating government health and nutrition bodies around the world.
Created four decades ago by a top Coca-Cola executive, the institute now has branches in 17 countries. It is almost entirely funded by Goliaths of the agribusiness, food and pharmaceutical industries.
The organization, which championed tobacco interests during the 1980s and 1990s in Europe and the United States, has more recently expanded its activities in Asia and Latin America, regions that provide a growing share of food company profits. It has been especially active in China, India and Brazil, the world’s first, second and sixth most populous nations.
In China, the institute shares both staff and office space with the agency responsible for combating the country’s epidemic of obesity-related illness. In Brazil, ILSI representatives occupy seats on a number of food and nutrition panels that were previously reserved for university researchers.
And in India, Dr. Sesikeran’s leadership role on the food labeling committee has raised questions about whether regulators will ultimately be swayed by processed food manufacturers who say the red warning labels would hurt sales.
“What could possibly go wrong?” Amit Srivastava, the coordinator of the advocacy group India Resource Center, asked sarcastically. “To have a covert food lobby group deciding public health policy is wrong and a blatant conflict of interest.”
The organization rejects allegations that it works to advance the interests of its corporate members. “Under no circumstance does ILSI protect industry from being affected by disadvantageous policy and laws,” the group said in a statement.

After decades largely operating under the radar, ILSI is coming under increasing scrutiny by health advocates in the United States and abroad who say it is little more than a front group advancing the interests of the 400 corporate members that provide its $17 million budget, among them Coca-cola,Pont, PepsiCo, General Mills and Danone.

Coke products in Shenzhen, China. ILSI, an organization founded by a former Coca-Cola executive, and the Chinese government are so intertwined that ILSI’s top leaders double as senior officials at China’s Centers for Disease Control.
Last year, the candy maker Mars withdrew from ILSI, saying it could no longer support an organization that funds what a Mars executive described as “advocacy-led studies.” In 2015, ILSI lost its special access to governing bodies at the World Health Organization after critics raised questions about its industry ties.
In the 40 years since its creation, ILSI has methodically cultivated allies in academia and government through the conferences it sponsors around the world, and by recruiting influential scientists to committees that work on issues like food safety, agrochemicals or the promotion of probiotic supplements.
Although conference topics seldom touch on politically contentious matters, critics say they serve a larger purpose: cultivating scientists and officials who might normally avoid an event directly sponsored by McDonald’s or Kellogg’s.
“It also helps that they are always held at five-star hotels, and that they serve you lunch,” said Dr. Shweta Khandelwal, a nutritionist with the nonprofit Public Health Foundation of India. “We certainly don’t have the money to pay for people’s lunch.”
In many ways, Dr. Sesikeran is the ideal ILSI recruit: a former top government official and marquee nutritionist. In the seven years since he retired as director of India’s National Institute of Nutrition, Dr. Sesikeran has advised companies like Nestle, the Japanese food giant Ajinomoto and the Italian chocolate maker Ferrero.

Since 2015, Dr. Sesikeran has been a trustee of both ILSI-India and the organization’s global operation based in Washington, and he is a frequent speaker at ILSI events, where he has lectured about the benefits of artificial sweeteners and genetically modified crops.
The ILSI positions are unpaid, but they come with all-expense-paid travel to meetings around the world.
Last year, when the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India needed someone to lead its panel on warning labels, officials chose Dr. Sesikeran. Pawan Kumar Agarwal, the authority’s chief executive, had spoken at ILSI seminars alongside Dr. Sesikeran, and in 2016, he tapped Dr. Sesikeran for a committee weighing the pros and cons of genetically modified mustard plants.
According to Indian law, seats on such scientific panels are reserved for independent experts, a point highlighted in a letter that Mr. Srivastava of the India Resource Center recently sent to the food authority. “The regulated cannot be the regulators,” he wrote, noting that ILSI’s disclosure forms require board members to place the organization above all other interests.
Dr. Sesikeran did not respond to interview requests. Dr. Arun Gupta, a pediatrician with Nutrition Advocacy in Public Interest-India, said that in private, Dr. Sesikeran has defended his close association with industry, saying he believed he could bring about needed change by working with big food companies, not against them.
Rekha Sinha, the longtime executive director of ILSI-India, said suggestions that the organization promotes industry were wrong. In the two decades since its founding, she said, ILSI-India had funded studies on diabetes, helped promote the mandated fortification of processed food with vitamins, and advised the government on how nutrition affects those with H.I.V. and AIDS.

Dr. Alan Boobis, right, at a May 2016 meeting in Germany with health officials and scientists on endocrine-disrupting chemicals.CreditUniversity of Konstanz, via Associated Press
“The criticisms of ILSI-India that are circulating out there are very painful because they are not justified,” she said.
As it expands across the globe, ILSI is drawing unflattering attention. Over the past year, researchers have documented how the organization’s China affiliate helped shape anti-obesity education campaigns that stressed physical activity over dietary changes, a strategy long espoused by Coca-Cola that critics say was designed to protect corporate profits.
In Beijing, relations between ILSI and the government are so intertwined that ILSI’s top leaders double as senior officials at China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Through freedom of information requests, authors of a recent study in the United States obtained emails between ILSI trustees, its corporate members and the group’s allies in academia urging them to step up their fight against the W.H.O.’s increasingly tough stance on sugar.
In one exchange in 2015, Alex Malaspina, the founder of ILSI, sought suggestions from ILSI trustees and an official at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta about how to influence Dr. Margaret Chan, then the W.H.O.’s director-general.
“We must find a way to start a dialogue,” wrote Mr. Malaspina, who retired as ILSI’s president in 2001 but was still in frequent contact with its staff, trustees and corporate members. “If not, she will continue to blast us with significant negative consequences on a global basis. This threat to our business is serious.”
James Hill, an ILSI trustee and expert on weight management, responded, “I agree that we need to do something to try and prevent W.H.O. from taking a completely anti-food industry stance in the obesity field.”
In a statement, ILSI, based in Washington, said claims that it sought to influence the W.H.O. were “unfounded and inaccurate.” Although it did not provide further details or respond to specific questions about its activities overseas, the organization said in another statement that ILSI entities are allowed to provide regulators “information relating to factual matters within ILSI’s scientific expertise.”
In addition to its far-flung offices, ILSI runs a research foundation and an institute focused on health and environmental issues that is largely funded by the chemical industry. It also publishes the academic journal Nutrition Reviews and organizes scores of scientific conferences around the world.
Much of ILSI’s work in recent years has focused on fostering relationships in developing countries.
“Emerging economies are where the action is,” said Laura A. Schmidt, a professor of health policy at the University of California, San Francisco. “These are places where the health infrastructure is less established and populations may be less informed about health hazards. If corporations can get in on the ground floor, they can shape the narratives and policies around unhealthy products.”
The organization’s annual report and website brim with assurances about its commitment to transparency. According to its code of ethics, ILSI projects “must address issues of broad public health interest.”

Coca-Cola products in a store window in Mexico City. ILSI shut down its Mexico branch after news media revealed that speakers at an ILSI conference on sweeteners were all advocates for the beverage industry.
But the organization has a long history of championing corporate interests. In 2001, a W.H.O. report criticized the group for its role in financing studies that cast doubt on the dangers of smoking, and in 2006, the agency barred ILSI from activities involving the setting of standards for food and water after its stealth efforts to sway policy in favor of industry came to light.
Over the past decade, ILSI has received more than $2 million from chemical companies, among them Monsanto, which was bought by Bayer last year. In 2016, ILSI came under withering criticism after a U.N. committee issued a ruling that glyphosate, the key ingredient in Monsanto’s weed killer Roundup, was “probably not carcinogenic,” contradicting an earlier report by the W.H.O.’s cancer agency. The committee, it turned out, was led by two ILSI officials, one of them Alan Boobis, the vice president of ILSI-Europe who has done consulting work for the chemical sector.

In India, ILSI’s expanding influence has coincided with mounting rates of obesity, cardiovascular disease and especially diabetes, which affects more than 70 million Indians. Experts say that number could soar to 123 million in the next decade as more people embrace processed foods high in fat, sugar and salt.
The government has responded with bold measures, including a 40 percent tax on sugar-sweetened soda introduced in 2017. But other efforts, including a ban on junk food sales in and around schools, have stalled amid opposition from food and beverage companies.
“The power of this industry is even greater than that of the tobacco industry,” said Sunita Narain, the director of the Center for Science and Environment in New Delhi. Four years ago, she took part in a government panel on warning labels whose report was promptly shelved. “But they are so shadowy that these players don’t dare come to the table representing the food industry, because no one would accept Coca-Cola or Pepsi in the room.”
ILSI-India has excelled at getting its allies into the room.
In addition to Dr. Sesikeran’s roles, Dr. Debabrata Kanungo, an ILSI member and former official with the Indian Ministry of Health, sits on two scientific food panels: one considering the safety of pesticide residues, and another on additives in processed foods. Ms. Sinha, ILSI-India’s executive director and an economist by training, briefly served on a government nutrition panel along with Dr. Sesikeran, but both were removed after they failed to declare their relationship with ILSI as a conflict of interest.
Even as its influence in the developing world grows, ILSI has faced occasional pushback. An ILSI-funded research project on childhood obesity in Argentina was canceled three years ago after parents whose children were enrolled in the study learned more about the organization. And in 2015, ILSI officials in Washington shuttered ILSI-Mexico after the news media there wrote unfavorably about a conference it organized on sweeteners.
Many of the speakers, it turned out, were well-known advocates for the beverage industry, and at the time, the Mexican government was considering modifications to a newly enacted tax on sugary drinks.
It did not help that the head of ILSI-Mexico was Raul Portillo, a former Coca-Cola executive in charge of regulatory and scientific affairs.

In an email to one of the group’s trustees, Mr. Malaspina, ILSI’s founder, called the incident a “mess” and said he was saddened by the decision to suspend ILSI-Mexico. “I hope we have now reached bottom and eventually we will recover as Coke and ILSI are concerned,” he wrote.
The suspension, it turns out, lasted less than a year, and ILSI-Mexico is up and running with a new executive director: J. Eduardo Cervantes, the former director of public affairs at Coca-Cola of Mexico.
A version of this article appears in print on Sept. 16, 2019, Section D, Page 1 of the New York edition with the headline: An Outsize Food Policy Footprint.


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The highlighted sections while not exactly related to the current administration and Congress eerily echoes the issues of 1776 except the despots are our leaders who we have elected and certainly can and should replace. MA
The Declaration of Independence
The Want, Will, and Hopes of the People

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America
When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.
New Hampshire:
Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton
John Hancock, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry
Rhode Island:
Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery
Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott
New York:
William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris
New Jersey:
Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark
Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross
Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean
Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton
George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton
North Carolina:
William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn
South Carolina:
Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton
Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton


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Remember when President Obama wanted to close Guantanamo? If these few prisoners were put in facilities on the mainland, it could prove to be a boon to whatever location it is put in and save the U.S. a substantial amount of money. MA.

Carol Rosenberg 6 hrs ago
This article was produced in partnership with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

GUANTÁNAMO BAY, Cuba — Holding the Nazi war criminal Rudolf Hess as the lone prisoner in Germany’s Spandau Prison in 1985 cost an estimated $1.5 million in today’s dollars. The per-prisoner bill in 2012 at the “supermax” facility in Colorado, home to some of the highest-risk prisoners in the United States, was $78,000.
Then there is Guantánamo Bay, where the expense now works out to about $13 million for each of the 40 prisoners being held there.
According to a tally by The New York Times, the total cost last year of holding the prisoners — including the men accused of plotting the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks — paying for the troops who guard them, running the war court and doing related construction, exceeded $540 million.
The $13 million per prisoner cost almost certainly makes Guantánamo the world’s most expensive detention program. And 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. The troops work out of three prison buildings, two top-secret headquarters, at least three clinics and two compounds where prisoners consult their lawyers. Some also stand guard across the base at Camp Justice, the site of the war court and parole board hearing room.
The prison’s staff members have their own chapel and cinema, housing, two dining rooms and a team of mental health care workers, who offer comfort dogs.
Judges, lawyers, journalists and support workers are flown in and out on weekly shuttles.
The 40 prisoners, all men, get halal food, access to satellite news and sports channels, workout equipment and PlayStations. Those who behave — and that has been the majority for years — get communal meals and can pray in groups, and some can attend art and horticulture classes.
The estimated annual cost of $540 million covers the 12-month period that ended last Sept. 30 and does not include expenses that have remained classified, presumably including a continued C.I.A. 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.
A Defense Department report in 2013 calculated the annual cost of operating Guantánamo Bay’s prison and court system at $454.1 million, or nearly $90 million less than last year. At the time, there were 166 prisoners at Guantánamo, making the per-prisoner cost $2.7 million.
The 2013 report put the total cost of building and operating the prison since 2002 at $5.2 billion through 2014, a figure that now appears to have risen to past $7 billion.
Guantánamo Bay, said Capt. Brian L. Mizer, a Navy lawyer who has represented detainees at the prison across a decade, has “America’s tiniest boutique prison, reserved exclusively for alleged geriatric jihadists.”
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.
The Bush administration released about 540 of the detainees, mostly by repatriating them to Pakistan, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia. Then the Obama administration released another 200 through third-country resettlement or repatriation. President Trump ran for office on a promise to keep the prison open and possibly send more “bad dudes” there, though no one new has arrived since he took office.
It has been clear for years that there is no political consensus to end detention operations at Guantánamo Bay and move the remaining prisoners to the United States.
The growing costs represent the bill for that choice. And with the military justice system moving at a crawl, the cost is a particular sore spot for critics of the prison.
“I don’t think there’s any need to have an incredibly expensive facility down at Guantánamo housing, you know, 40 people,” Representative Adam Smith, Democrat of Washington, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee and a longtime proponent of closing the prison, said in June. “So ultimately I think they should be transferred here.”
Comparing Guantánamo with more traditional prisons is tricky. Federal prisons employ civilians who pay for their own food and health care, drive their own cars, live in their own homes and amuse themselves on their days off.
The Defense Department provides all of those things for the military personnel at Guantánamo, mostly National Guard forces and reservists who come and go on nine-month rotations. Soldiers handle the prisoners on the cell blocks or in transit, monitor them by security camera and patrol perimeters.
The guard staff is so large, a former warden said, for the same reason the detention center was located here in the first place: It is isolated.
“I don’t have the state police,” Col. David Heath, then the Joint Detention Group commander, essentially the warden, told reporters in 2016. “I don’t have the county sheriff. I don’t have anybody else to call to help me keep things under control here.”
The prison’s uniformed staff members also include a Coast Guard unit that patrols the waters below the cliff top prison zone; Navy doctors, nurses, psychological technicians and corpsmen; a unit of Air Force engineers; lawyers, chaplains, librarians, chaperones and military journalists. Each has layers of commanders who oversee their work and manage their lives at Guantánamo.
In addition to the troops, the prison employs Defense Department contract linguists, intelligence analysts, consultants, laborers, information technology professionals and other government workers. In 2014, that civilian work force numbered 300.
The detention operations are within the Guantánamo Bay naval station, which has 6,000 residents, including the more than 2,000 troops and civilians assigned to the detention operation. The naval base has its own budget separate from the costs of the prison and the court.
The restricted areas that house the prison function like a base within a base, behind a security checkpoint that is about a seven-minute drive from the naval station’s McDonald’s. The court, managed by a different military authority, is a five-minute drive from the McDonald’s in a different direction.
The detention center zone has its own headquarters, motor pool, mental health services, minimart, and public affairs team, which recently referred to the troops assigned there as “warfighters.”
With the exception of an Army security force of fewer than 300 soldiers who live in prefabricated containers within the prison zone, most troops who work in the prison complex live on the naval base.
Some cellblock guards live in the Tierra Kay townhouses near the trooper clinic, the quickest commute to the zone. Most commanders live deeper on the base, in two-bedroom homes in an area called Windward Loop.
And hundreds of enlisted soldiers live in the kind of trailer park familiar to forces who served in Iraq or Afghanistan. The troops call them CHUs, for containerized housing units. Each unit has two bedrooms, one toilet and a shower and is within walking distance of the Navy base’s baseball field, bars, commissary and cafeteria.
In 2018, Congress approved spending $115 million on a dormitory-style barracks complex to replace trailer housing for 848 troops. But no contract has been awarded, construction has not yet begun and Navy spokesmen could not provide the target completion date.
In contrast to the naval base, the prison zone resembles a battlefield-style operation. It has watchtowers and Humvees and dirt roads and a series of permanent and semipermanent prison facilities, all of them built since 2002 and surrounded by razor wire that rusts in the salt air.
The 40 prisoners’ cells are in three different buildings, but during the day, the inmates can be scattered across seven or eight different sites — the war court, a hearing room for parole-like board meetings, the base hospital and two adjacent compounds where the prisoners consult their lawyers.
Consolidation through new construction would allow the prison to reduce its staff at one site by 74 troops, saving $8 million in “manpower costs,” Rear Adm. John Ring, the former prison commander, told reporters in April, suggesting a per-troop cost at the facility of $108,000.
The Defense Department concluded that taxpayers spent $380 million for Guantánamo’s detention, parole board and war court operations, including construction, in the 2018 fiscal year, or more than $9 million per prisoner.
Adding those “manpower costs” of $108,000 a year for each of the 1,800 troops brings the total figure to more than $540 million.
Even in the unlikely event that more prisoners were sent to Guantánamo, the per-prisoner cost would not necessarily decline. Commanders said that adding more detainees would require more military police.
The base, and the prison and court facilities within it, functions in a state of isolation, totally cut off from the Cuban economy.
It operates in some respects like an aircraft carrier at sea, even desalinating its own water with fuel brought in by tanker.
Nearly all of the base supplies — like family household shipments, frozen pizza dough for the bowling alley food court and rental cars for the base commissary — arrive twice monthly on a government contract barge from Florida. A refrigerated cargo plane brings fresh fruit and vegetables weekly.
Commanders have also attributed some costs to the wear and tear on the prison staff facilities. Guantánamo is hot, humid, whipped by tropical storm winds and the occasional hurricane.
In the past two years, the military hired contractors to do $15 million in repairs to the guards’ townhouses, a $14.5 million expansion of the war court compound, $1.5 million in repairs to the trooper clinic, more than $1 million renovating air conditioning and ventilation in the officers’ homes, $648,000 on erosion and climate control around the general population prison complex, $273,110 to replace a latrine near a now defunct kitchen and $47,690 to renovate the prison staff chapel.
Defense Department contractors who bid for these job have to factor in the cost of bringing in their own workers and equipment, including bulldozers and buzz saws. As a measure of how expensive it is to do construction here, the projected cost of a new prison for 15 former C.I.A. captives that was first proposed during the Obama administration has jumped from $49 million to $88.5 million in five years.
Other costs involve the military commissions, where eight of Guantánamo’s 40 prisoners are charged with terrorism or war crimes, six in death penalty cases that began in 2011 and 2012.
The military commissions costs, based on congressional documents, exceeded $123 million in 2018.
Each hearing requires a major movement of people and materials from the United States to the base on passenger planes the Pentagon charters for $80,000 one way. There were 52 such commercial flights in 2018 between Joint Base Andrews, outside Washington, and Guantánamo. Until the start of a trial — the trial of the men accused of plotting the Sept. 11 attacks is scheduled to begin in early 2021 — the majority of the legal work is carried out in a warren of rental offices near the Pentagon, some of which have sat empty for more than a year as they await security upgrades.
The troops have a multitiered health care system. The trooper clinic cares for the guards’ basic needs. Serious medical matters are handled by the base’s small community hospital. More complicated cases, or soldiers who require specialized tests, are sent to Navy health care facilities in Jacksonville, Fla., or Bethesda, Md.
In 2017, the Navy shipped a portable M.R.I. machine to Guantánamo to scan the brains and bodies of detainees awaiting death penalty trials, by order of a military judge, who granted a request by a defense team to do the tests and hire experts to look for damage done by torture. But because there is no on-site technologist to run it, an off-island contractor has had to shuttle to the base to service it.
Health care for detainees is handled by a group of about 100 Navy doctors, nurses and medics who also staff the trooper clinic. The 100-member medical team had a $4 million budget last year.
But when a prisoner needs specialized care, such as a colonoscopy and spine surgeries, the military brings special teams to Guantánamo at a cost the military declined to disclose.
It is all part of the mix and match nature of serving at Guantánamo, where troops staffing the prison on nine-month tours get imminent-danger and hardship-duty pay — and on their time off can go scuba diving or take leave and bring friends and family to the Navy base for vacations.


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