Video: First-hand at Gitmo

msnbc.com
updated 6/29/2005 5:20:58 PM ET 2005-06-29T21:20:58

With recent calls increasing to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, the Office of the Secretary of Defense has recently given several legislators and other officials access to the prison where several detainees in the war on terrorism are being held.

Retired Army Col. Jack Jacobs, an MSNBC analyst, returned from a trip to the facility this week and sat down with MSNBC's Natalie Allen on Wednesday to discuss his impressions of the prison.

To read an excerpt of their conversation, continue to the text below. To watch the interview, click on the "launch" button to the right.

Natalie Allen: First of all, what kind of access did you have once you arrived at Guantanamo?

Col. Jack Jacobs: Well, it's probably an exaggeration to say we had the run of the place, but we saw absolutely everything, everything we wanted to see. Nothing was held back. It's not a very big place, so it's difficult to hide anything anyway, but we had complete and total access to everything.

Allen: What are the facilities like? How did you find them?

Jacobs: They run the gamut from pretty good -- some of the older facilities are actually quite serviceable -- to a state of the art facility that was built recently and patterned after a high-security, high-tech lockup in Indiana. ... It's got all the amenities for taking care of prisoners, making sure they have the best of everything, and for being able to keep an eye on them too.

Allen: You got to see interviews with detainees while you were there. Was there any sign of misconduct or any sign of abuse while you were there?

Jacobs: Oh, no, I wouldn't expect there to be if we were there in any case. But I can tell you this, the lay of the place, the way it was arranged, the way the interrogations were conducted, by whom they're conducted, and the supervision that takes place indicates to me that it's going to be extremely difficult to abuse anybody without somebody knowing about it.

Probably, people were abused sometime ago. There are stories of abuses having taken place a long, long time ago when Camp X-Ray was in existence. Now, I think it's difficult, if not impossible to have any abuse.

Allen: Some of these prisoners have been there a very long time. Are they still getting any useful information from some of them?

Jacobs: Yeah, they are. We heard both a secure and an unsecure  briefing. The stuff that was classified verified the stuff that we heard that was unclassified.

I can tell you that a lot of information is still coming out. As a matter of fact, there is more information from some of these detainees coming out now then did when they first got there because they're now more comfortable with their interrogators, who by the way, are not military people, they're civilian contractors, and they establish a repoire with these people.

A lot of the information that is coming out is coming from hardened jihadists who are very, very happy to pass all the information that they have, because they're very proud of jihad, they're proud of being jihadists and they get irritated at other detainees who don't spill the beans.

A lot of the information that is coming out now is current. Why? Because these people were low and mid-level operatives when they were first picked up let's say three years ago. Now, all of their contemporaries, who were low- and mid-level operatives when they were picked up three years ago are now running the organizations in al-Qaida and the Taliban. So the information that we're getting from these detainees, who have been there three years, happens to be very, very current.

Allen: Overall, you say (it's) a pretty decent place?

Jacobs:  Well, if you've got to be incarcerated, yes. I wouldn't want to spend a lot of time down there, but I have to tell you, they're getting a lot of information from these people because they're treating them the way they are -- they're treating them very, very well.

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