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Detainees Sheltered as Gitmo Gets Ready

WASHINGTON -- Guantanamo guards moved war on terror detainees to hurricane-proof structures and troops stashed military rations in shelters Friday as the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay got ready for a blast of wind and rain from Tropical Storm Isaac.

National Hurricane Center projections said Isaac was not anticipated to build to hurricane strength before it reached the southeast corner of Cuba this weekend. But troops were setting up cots and laying in stocks of military rations -- Meals Ready to Eat -- at designated shelters.

"Detainee movement is complete to secure locations. Sniper netting is down," Navy Capt. Robert Durand reported from the Detention Center Zone inside the base Friday morning.

On Thursday, the Pentagon evacuated 171 people who were at Guantanamo for hearings in the Sept. 11 terror trial -- from the judge to parents of 9/11 dead to journalists -- in a charter plane loaded with lawyers to Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington.

Once the war court visitors were gone, U.S. Air Force engineers moved through the $12 million Expeditionary Legal Complex and took down sniper netting around the secretive maximum-security courthouse.

They did the same at the prison camps, said Durand, because in high winds the nets can turn into sails and try to uproot the razor-wire-topped chain-linked fences that surround the detention center buildings.

At the prison camps, the vast majority of the 168 detainees live in penitentiary style concrete and steel buildings that the Pentagon considers hurricane proof, even though they are built on a Caribbean-front portion of the Navy base. Some of the rest had to be relocated from less rugged prison camps to more secure cellblocks, Durand said. He would provide no specifics, citing security precautions.

Guantanamo was in Condition Readiness 3, meaning the dangerous winds were more than a day away. So sailors and their families got to stay in their suburban-style homes Thursday. And detention center staff got to stay in their trailer park.

Not-quite 6,000 people live at the remote outpost -- from sailors and soldiers to school teachers for the kids of troops who are posted at Guantanamo for long-term servce. About 2,000 residents are foreign laborers, Jamaicans and Filipinos, hired by Defense Department contractors to do work the Pentagon no longer performs.

The storm forced postponement of the 9/11 pre-trial hearings until Oct. 15-19. Only people at Guantanamo there for the war court were evacuated, base spokeswoman Kelly Wirfel said Friday morning.

The base commander, Navy Capt. John "JR" Nettleton, was putting most base residents under a curfew at 12:01 a.m. Saturday, Wirfel said, and leave open the officer's club, MacDonalds and other commercial enterprises Friday night. After that, only emergency vehicles would be allowed on the roads.

The seaport and airstrip were still open and Guantanamo was "standing by to support and provide relief as necessary" in case of storm damage to the base's Caribbean neighbors, she added.

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