US Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his deputy, Rod Rosenstein, are visiting the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay – the first such visit under the new administration. They are reportedly accompanied by Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats.
The high-ranking delegation is visiting the camp to get an “up-to-date understanding of current operations,” Ian Prior, a spokesman for the US Department of Justice, said in a statement.
“Recent attacks in Europe and elsewhere confirm that the threat to our nation is immediate and real, and it remains essential that we use every lawful tool available to prevent as many attacks as possible,” Prior said.
While the DOJ did not mention DNI Coats as part of the delegation, a reporter covering Guantanamo for the Miami Herald did, citing “an official at Guantánamo with knowledge of some members of the entourage.”
This is Sessions’ first trip to Guantanamo since he became attorney general. He first visited the facility as a sitting US senator in 2002, and has long been an enthusiastic supporter of the camp, first used by the Bush administration to hold accused terrorists captured in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere.
Sessions has called Guantanamo a “very fine place for holding these kind of dangerous criminals.”
“We’ve spent a lot of money fixing it up,” he told talk show host Hugh Hewitt in a March interview. “And I’m inclined to the view that it remains a perfectly acceptable place. And I think the fact that a lot of the criticisms have just been totally exaggerated.”
Almost 800 people have been detained in the camp over the 15 years of its existence. Nine prisoners have died, and seven of those deaths are believed to be by suicide. Only nine detainees were ever convicted of a crime. Camp Delta, as the facility is officially known, now holds 41 prisoners.
US President Donald Trump has not officially revoked his predecessor’s orders to close Camp Delta. Although the Obama administration ultimately failed to close down the facility due to strong opposition from Congress and the Pentagon, it released 200 detainees over the years.
In January 2015, then-DNI James Clapper reported that 185 of the 647 detainees released from Guantanamo up to that point were either suspected or confirmed of reengaging in “terrorism or insurgent activities.”
This is not the first time an attorney general has visited the camp. Michael Mukasey did so in 2008 and Eric Holder in 2009.