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At least $500 million has been spent since 9/11 on renovating Guantanamo Bay
He said a Cuban colonel, who crosses into Guantanamo Bay every other month for a meeting with his U.S. counterpart, regularly mocked the state of American roads. "He used to complain about nearly breaking his ankle every time he walked in here," Willingham said.
Down the road from the prison camps is Club Survivor, a relic. The wooden shack that once served as a cafe stands empty, like a ghost town saloon. Military planners envisioned Club Survivor as a place for prison guards to drink a few beers, maybe play a game of volleyball on a field that overlooks the Caribbean.
A contractor set up bleachers and built a retaining wall, but the field is fallow, overgrown with weeds. The project was canceled because of the uncertainty over the future of the prison. The cost: $249,000.
"It didn't make sense to complete it," said a Navy captain and public works engineer who spoke on the condition of anonymity, citing fears about his family's safety because he worked in detention operations.
He pointed out another pre-Obama project across the bay. Building AV624 is a holdover from the 1950s, a two-story military-style barracks long past its prime. The Pentagon decided to renovate it for the hundreds of lawyers, dignitaries, journalists and others who would travel here to attend military commissions.
Work was completed in May 2009. It now resembles a Days Inn, with 56 renovated rooms, new bathrooms, and lounges outfitted with television sets and comfortable couches. The cost: $2.2 million.
But the hallways of AV624 are eerily silent, the rooms empty.
"We did all this work and there's nobody here," the Navy captain said. "It's up to Washington to decide what to do with it."
Located on the western side of the base, AV624 is an inconvenient ferry ride from where the military commissions take place on the eastern side. There, some lawyers and journalists sleep in tents during the commissions.
In 2006, the Pentagon began soliciting bids for a permanent courthouse complex expected to cost as much $125 million. But with the future of detainee operations uncertain, it scaled back the size and scope of the project to a $13.4 million prefabricated structure.
The building is known as the expeditionary judicial facility. In theory, the whole thing is portable and could be shipped back to the United States. It is cavernous, with sheets of glass separating spectators from defendants and prosecutors, judges and military juries. On one side of the courtroom are five defense tables, one for each of the Sept. 11 suspects. Outside the courtroom are five holding cells, trailer-like structures with heavy steel doors and small meeting rooms for attorney-client conferences.
Military charges against Mohammed and the others have been withdrawn, but the Obama administration has faced fierce local resistance to the federal trial it had planned to hold in New York. And some in the administration now think there is little choice but to send the case back to a military commission.