Ryan J. Reilly @ HuffPo:
GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba — In late January, shortly after President Barack Obama began his second term, Navy Cmdr. Walter Ruiz stood inside an old airplane hangar on the southernmost tip of the island and reflected on a central but unfulfilled promise of Obama’s 2008 campaign.
“We’re still here,” Ruiz said, as reporters milled around the aging hangar, which has been repurposed as a work space for the journalists and human rights observers who have been flying in and out of Guantanamo since the first suspected terrorists were brought here 11 years ago. Instead of planes, the hangar is now home to several trailer-size sheds with slanted roofs. More offices line the hangar’s perimeter, and a giant map of the base is painted on the floor. Screeching bats fly in and out of the hangar at night.
“We’re still in military commissions. We’re still arguing about the basic protections the system affords us. We’re still talking about indefinite detention,” Ruiz continued. “We’re still talking about not closing the facility.”
After years of legal wrangling, the trials of Khalid Sheikh Muhammad and four other men allegedly responsible for the 9/11 attacks have barely gotten off the ground. Ruiz, an attorney for alleged 9/11 organizer and financier Mustafa Ahmed Hawsawi, estimates he has traveled to Guantanamo 50 to 100 times for client meetings and pre-trial hearings on legal minutiae since he joined the military’s defense counsel office in September 2008.
“I’m here trying this case, people were here trying this case in 2008, arguing many of the same motions we’re arguing now,” Ruiz said. “And I think folks that have been around here for a while would tell you not much has changed at all.”
During his first campaign for the White House, Obama pledged to end an ugly chapter in American history and prove to the world that the United States could safeguard the country from terrorism without sacrificing its commitment to freedom and liberty.
“In the dark halls of Abu Ghraib and the detention cells of Guantanamo, we have compromised our most precious values,” Obama declared in a speech on Aug. 1, 2007. In one of his first acts upon taking office in January 2009, the president, flanked by admirals and generals, directed the military to close the prison camp here within a year.
Today, however, the detention center at Guantanamo appears less likely than ever to close.