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Guantanamo's Cost

Democratic Senator Richard Durbin chairs a hearing on "Closing Guantanamo" on July 24, 2013. MICHELLE SHEPHARD/TORONTO STAR

This is what we know for sure - detaining men at the U.S. Naval Base prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, costs more than incarcerating the detainees on U.S. soil.

Gitmo has been dubbed the "the Most Expensive Prison on Earth."

Carol Rosenberg first reported in 2011, that American taxpayers pay $800,000 annually per detainee, more than 30 times that of U.S. prisoner.

But at a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing before Senator Richard Durbin on July 24, Democratic lawmakers said the cost had soared to $2.7 per prisoner, which means about $454 million annually to operate the facility. It seems that new number comes from a disclosure to Congress by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel.

But Pentagon spokesperson Todd Breasseale questioned how the numbers were crunched, saying Department of Defense estimates a cost of $150 million a year. "The cost of the various salaries of service members and contractors who would be paid the same regardless of where they're assigned, is not a cost we include in our total Guantanamo detention facility cost approximation," he said, adding that past or projected construction expenditures are also not factored.

"To be sure," Bresseale said. "$150 million a year is hardly a reasonable cost to the American taxpayer and, as the President has stated, it is terrifically inefficient."

For years, critics of Guantanamo have cited what they say are other costs to keeping Guantanamo open. Durbin stressed these arguments during the hearing, saying Guantanamo, "weakens our alliances, inspires our enemies and calls into question our leadership on human rights."

But those arguments haven't swayed the American public. An ABC News-Washington Post poll last year found that 70 percent of Americans believed Guantanamo's prison should stay open.

It is no wonder Gitmo critics are pushing the new costs in the hopes of getting some attention. Senator Dianne Feinstein, who chairs the Senate's Intelligence Committee and reiterated the figures at the hearing last Wednesday, called it "a massive waste of money."

Americans may not care if Guantanamo stays open - but will they pay for that?

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/07/24/3519656/5-senators-at-guantanamo-hearing.html#storylink=cpy

Michelle Shephard is the Star's National Security correspondent and author of "Decade of Fear: Reporting from Terrorism's Grey Zone." She is a three-time recipient of Canada's National Newspaper Award. Follow her on Twitter @shephardm


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