The aftermath of the ongoing hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay has spurned a chaotic chain of events. In an attempt to stop the protest, officials implemented a new policy where the prisoners are subjected to mandatory genital "pat downs," hoping this would break the prisoners' spirits. This dehumanizing practice has caused significant uproar and controversy.
Lawyers, journalists, and activists have raised a ruckus, demanding that the practice stop immediately and officials involved be held accountable, prompting Guantanamo prison warden Colonel John Bogdan to issue a declaration in defense of the procedure. Bogdan claims that "Though unclassified, those procedures and rationales contained in the declaration constitute sensitive information, the public disclosure of which will threaten the operational security and force protection of the Guantanamo facility." Apparently, revealing abusive practices at Guantanamo is akin to arming U.S. enemies like Al-Qaeda with knowledge. This position is merely a tactic to diffuse personal responsibility in light of mounting accusations.
Officials are attempting to save face by down-playing the abusive nature of the genital searches. However, the controversy over varying accounts effectively undermines any hopes of damage control. While an earlier disclosure reports that "at no time is the detainee's actual groin exposed to the staff," this is redacted in Bogdan's officially disclosed statement. Also, Bogdan initially reports that "During the brief movement to the camps, detainees are restrained in a manner consistent with standard procedures for military corrections," while his official statement doesn't mention this. Additionally, the statement tries to make the actual act itself less offensive, insisting that guards merely placed their hands "as a wedge between the [detainee's] scrotum and thigh and using [a] flat hand to press against the groin to detect anything foreign attached to the body," and that they used "a flat hand to frisk the detainee's buttocks to ensure no contraband is hidden there," as if these qualifications made the practice any less detestable. Officials at Guantanamo Bay flounder as they attempt to shore up loose ends.
Furthermore, the information Al-Qaeda could gather from a public disclosure pales in comparison to all the information already available. There is a layout of the facility on Google Maps, as shown here, and many journalists have published detailed accounts from their tours inside. Al-Qaeda already knows more than enough about Guantanamo Bay to plan an (incredibly unlikely) assault; their confidence is evidenced by their recent statement that "The terror network will spare no effort to free prisoners held at the U.S. military-run detention centre in Cuba." Bogdan's claim that publicly disclosing information about the genital searches would embolden Al-Qaeda shamelessly attempts to divert attention from the real issue at hand.
Clearly, this practice violates the prisoners' rights. The Defense Department bans procedures of this kind, noting that "Due to cultural sensitivities, modified frisk searching procedures are in place that respect the detainee’s groin area, and guards are not allowed to conduct frisk searches of this area. Guards are limited to grasping the waistband of detainees' trousers, and shaking the pants." Simply put, these genital searches disregard procedure, not to mention the prisoners' dignity. While other controversies out of Guantanamo Bay tend to relate instances of physical and mental torture, this procedure demeans the prisoners and borders on sexual abuse.