by Douglas Ankney
Navy Rear Admiral John Ring, commander of the Guantanamo Bay military prison in Cuba, commonly known as GITMO, was relieved of his position on April 27, 2019. Admiral Craig Faller, commander of the U.S. Southern Command, met with Ring and informed him that he was being fired for loss of confidence in his ability to command.
Colonel Amanda Azubuike, spokeswoman for the Southern Command, said Ring’s dismissal had nothing to do with a recent media visit that he had hosted, but that he was fired after a month-long investigation. The media visit resulted in a feature article published by The New York Times.
“The vast majority of commanders complete their assigned tours with distinction,” Azubuike said. “When they fall short, we hold our leaders accountable, which reflects the importance we place on the public’s trust and confidence in our military leaders.”
Ring’s deputy, Brigadier General John F. Hussey, is now acting commander at the Guantanamo prison. He is responsible for 40 prisoners and a staff of 1,800, including civilian employees and military personnel. A statement from the Southern Command said the leadership change “will not interrupt the safe, humane, legal care and custody provided to the detainee population” at GITMO.
The prison began operating after the 9/11 terror attacks. Afghans who defended their nation from U.S. military forces were captured (or sometimes turned in for reward money) and then transported to GITMO, which at the time was nothing more than cells made from chain-link fencing. Those were eventually replaced by modern prison buildings. At its peak the facility held 700 detainees, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed – the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. While most of the prisoners were later transferred to their home countries, Mohammed and other “high-value” detainees were sent to Camp 7, a high-security unit at GITMO.
Ring took command in 2018. Soon after taking charge, he became an outspoken advocate of building a new facility to replace Camp 7. The military trials of the remaining detainees at GITMO have been delayed, in part because evidence against them, including confessions, was obtained using waterboarding and other forms of torture.
Despite efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay prison during the Obama administration, President Trump announced in January 2018 that the facility would remain open. [See: PLN, June 2018, p.62]. GITMO made headlines beginning in 2013 after detainees – of whom many had not been charged with a crime and were being held indefinitely – went on a hunger strike and were subjected to abusive force-feeding. [See: PLN, Sept. 2016, p.24].
Rear Admiral Ring, who previously commanded the aircraft carrier Nimitz, will be temporarily assigned to duties elsewhere in the Southern Command.
Sources: nytimes.com, usatoday.com, newsweek.com
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