More than 200 students and faculty gathered in the Sid W. Richardson Building on Thursday to get the inside story on a place often viewed as controversial- the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.
Former Chief of Staff for Joint Task Force – Guantanamo Capt. Patrick Rabun was invited by the AddRan College of Liberal Arts and the department of criminal justice to share his perspective and to try and dispel misconceptions about Guantanamo Bay.
Rabun served as chief of staff from July 2011 to March 2012 and is currently commanding officer and professor of naval science for Navy ROTC at the University of San Diego.
Rabun was not dressed in his naval uniform during the lecture because he was not officially representing the government, but rather giving a personal account of what he observed at Guantanamo Bay. In fact, Rabun said you will probably never see a presentation on the detention center from a person in uniform.
Occupied by the United States since 1898, Guantanamo Bay was originally just a naval base, Rabun said.
Rabun said after the global war on terror began, war criminals or people with possible ties to terrorist groups were brought to Guantanamo Bay instead of the U.S. This was due to hostile attitudes in the United States immediately following 9/11, as well as legal issues regarding prisoners' rights, he said.
Rabun said the legal debate concerning the extent of detainees' rights is ongoing.
The majority of Rabun's presentation focused on describing the “safe, humane and healthy” conditions at the base.
Rabun said living conditions at the newest camps in Guantanamo Bay are comparable to most U.S. prisons, and that in some cases the prisoners at the detention center actually have better living conditions than some prisoners in the United States.
Junior interior design major Adrian Thoma said he was shocked by Rabun’s description of detainment conditions.
“The biggest surprise to me was learning the way the prisoners were treated and that they are not treated with more hostility,” he said.
Rabun explained that prisoners receive quality health care, recreation time, educational programs and the opportunity to practice group religion.
Rabun also addressed the issue of intelligence collection at Guantanamo Bay.
Rabun said abuses might have been perpetrated in the past by outside agencies, but that to his knowledge, prisoners have not been mistreated in any way since 2008, when the Navy joined the Army in shared command of the base.
“It’s next to impossible for some kind of abuse to occur because we have so many checks and balances in place,” Rabun said.
Rabun said he likes to speak about Guantanamo Bay because many people have misconceptions about the camp and are often exposed to the wrong information.
Assistant professor of criminal justice Bruce Carroll said he thought Rabun’s lecture was enlightening and that it offered a perspective that most Americans are not familiar with.