Joint Task Force Guantanamo

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Joint Task Force Guantanamo
Active November 2002 - present
Country  United States of America
Branch Joint
Part of United States Southern Command
Garrison/HQ Guantanamo Bay Naval Base
Motto(s) Honor Bound to Defend Freedom[1]
Rear Admiral Peter J. Clarke[2]

Joint Task Force Guantanamo (JTF-GTMO) is a U.S. military joint task force based at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Guantánamo Bay, Cuba on the southeastern end of the island. JTF-GTMO falls under US Southern Command. Since January 2002 the command has operated the Guantanamo Bay detention camps Camp X-Ray and its successors Camp Delta, Camp V, and Camp Echo, where detained prisoners are held who have been captured in the war in Afghanistan and elsewhere since the September 11, 2001 attacks. The unit is currently under the command of Rear Admiral Peter J. Clarke.


In 1992, the United States established Operation Sea Signal to prepare for a mass migration of refugees from Haiti and Cuba.[3] In 1994, Operation Sea Signal led to the creation of Joint Task Force 160. JTF 160 was responsible for housing and processing more than 40,000 migrants awaiting repatriation or parole to the United States. Camp X-Ray was established to segregate migrants who had committed crimes, such as theft, assault and battery, prostitution and black-market activities, from other migrants and from U.S. civilians and military personnel at Guantanamo. In 1996, Operation Sea Signal came to an end and the military abandoned Camp X-Ray.

In December 2001, after the September 11 terrorist attacks and the United States intervention in Afghanistan, Joint Task Force 160 was reactivated. Camp X-Ray was prepared as a temporary location for the detention of people captured in Afghanistan who were believed to be part of the Taliban or al-Qaeda, neither of which the United States recognized as legal governments. In January 2002, the first detainees were transferred to Guantanamo Bay and housed in Camp X-Ray. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) had its first visit to the facility six days later. The ICRC has continued quarterly visits up to 2010.

The past commanders of JTF-GTMO:[4]

Status of detainees[edit]

A salad that will be served to a detainee

The status of these detainees is disputed. The United States government defines them as enemy combatants, claiming their status was not that of a prisoner of war as recognized under the Geneva Conventions (due to not being affiliated with any government, being alleged members of Al Qaida or groups affiliated with them).

In Rasul v Bush (2004), the Supreme Court held that the detainees had the right to counsel and to challenge their detentions at an impartial tribunal, according to habeas corpus. On June 29, 2006, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld that they had the minimal protection of Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions in that detainees must be housed and treated humanely, and that they had the right to an impartial tribunal to hear charges against them. It said the military tribunals as established by the Dept. of Defense did not have sufficient authority, and Congress needed to authorize any system outside the established US civil and military justice systems. In Boumediene v. Bush (2008), the Supreme Court held that the detainees' right to habeas corpus could not be taken away by the Military Commission Act of 2006, which they ruled was unconstitutional. In addition, the Supreme Court held that detainees had the right to access federal courts to hear their habeas corpus challenges. Some of the cases are proceeding through the federal court system.

Intelligence task forces[edit]

In February 2002, Joint Task Force 170 was created as the intelligence task force to work side by side with Joint Task Force 160.[citation needed] In April 2002, construction of the new 410-bed Camp Delta (Camps 1, 2, 3) was completed. The detainees were moved from Camp X-Ray to Camp Delta that month. In November 2002, Joint Task Force 160 and 170 were merged to create Joint Task Force Guantanamo.[citation needed]

The Joint Detention Group is one of the components of the Task Force. It is the organization assigned to guarding the captives, and maintaining camp security.[6] The guards within the Joint Detention Group come from the United States Army, United States Navy, and other United States Armed Services.

In 2009, guards outnumbered prisoners in Guantanamo by more than five to one.

The officers commanding the Joint Detention Group, also known as the warden, have included:

Living quarters[edit]

Enlisted personnel live in pre-fabicated quarters, similar to shipping containers.[9] Each prefab unit houses four to six personnel. Each prefab unit ships with a toilet and sink, but no internal partitions. Occupants are allowed to erect curtains to make temporary partitions, for privacy. Occupants share communal showers, shared between prefab quarters.

Officers and senior non-commissioned officers typically share cottages left over from family residences that were constructed when the base had a larger permanent population.[10][11] Four occupants share a two-bedroom cottage.

According to Commander Daniel Jones, JTF-GTMO's Staff Judge Advocate,:[11]

"The chow here is probably the best I’ve had and a mainstay of each day’s activities. A "surf and turf" and special birthday meal are served at least once a month. By the end of your tour in GTMO you’ll either weigh 300 pounds or be able to bench press 300 pounds. Nevertheless, you can look forward to a farewell BBQ and presentation of the highly coveted GTMO Bar Association Certificate."

Task Force motto[edit]

"Contractors at Guatanamo Bay recently painted 'Honor Bound.' The full motto "Honor Bound to Defend Freedom" was established during the command of Army Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, who served here from late 2002 to early 2004) (Photo by Army Sgt. 1st Class Carlos "C-LO Sancho" Sanchez)"

Joint Task Force Guantánamo's motto is "Honor Bound to Defend Freedom."

Representation in culture[edit]

  • Guantanamo: Honor Bound to Defend Freedom is the title of a 2004 book by Victoria Brittain (a former Guardian foreign editor) and novelist Gillian Slovo (ISBN 1-84002-474-7).
  • Guantanamo: Honor Bound to Defend Freedom is the title of a 2004 play, based upon interviews with the families of men detained in Guantanamo Bay, by the same authors. It premiered at the Tricycle Theatre in London in 2004 and transferred to Off Broadway.[12]
  • Good Morning Gitmo is a one-act comedy written by Mishu Hilmy and Eric Simon in 2014. The play takes place decades into the future where the guards and staff have been forgotten at Camp Delta. It was originally produced by The Annoyance Theater in Chicago, Illinois.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Carlos "C-LO" Sanchez (January 17, 2008). "Honor Bound to Defend Freedom" (PDF). The Wire (JTF-GTMO). p. 15. Retrieved 2008-02-10. [dead link]
  2. ^ Joint Task Force Guantanamo Joint Task Force Guantanamo Public Affairs, Retrieved April 4, 2016
  3. ^ JTF-GTMO, Joint Task Force Guantanamo Timeline Archived 2010-03-08 at the Wayback Machine., accessed May 2010
  4. ^ Carol Rosenberg (2016-11-17). "Navy sending new commander to run President Trump's Guantánamo prison". Miami Herald. Retrieved 2016-11-17. 
  5. ^ Buzby Assumes Command of JTF-Guantanamo US Navy
  6. ^ "Detainee operations" (PDF). Joint Task Force Guantanamo. 2009. Retrieved 2010-01-22. 
  7. ^ {{cite news | url= | title=Detainees in Cuba get appetizing incentives | publisher=Boston Globe | date=2003-09-14 | author=Dan Fesperman

External links[edit]