Even as federal judges review the Defense Department's power to detain and try suspects in the war on terror, the Pentagon is quietly planning for permanency at the U.S. detention center at Guantánamo...

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MIAMI — Even as federal judges review the Defense Department’s power to detain and try suspects in the war on terror, the Pentagon is quietly planning for permanency at the U.S. detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

Pentagon planners are seeking $25 million to build a state-of-the-art 200-cell concrete building meant to eventually replace the rows of rugged cells fashioned from shipping containers at Camp Delta.

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At the same time, the Army is creating a full-time, professional guard force — a 324-member Military Police Internment and Resettlement Battalion that will replace a temporary, mostly reserve force at Guantánamo.

Aside from the Marine force that set up the prison nearly three years ago, many of the troops who guarded captives in Guantánamo have been Army reservists mobilized from civilian law-enforcement duties in the U.S. Midwest.

The prison today has about 550 captives from 42 nations who have been brought to Cuba from Afghanistan. Only four have been charged with crimes, a trial process now stalled in federal courts.

On Nov. 8, U.S. District Judge James Robertson in Washington, D.C., ruled unconstitutional a Military Commission’s war crimes trial for Osama bin Laden driver Salim Ahmed Hamdan, 34, of Yemen. The Pentagon then suspended all war crimes trials while the Justice Department appealed his decision.

“They’re betting that the courts are going to, in the end, find for the government, that they can keep these enemy combatants, as they label them, indefinitely, as long as they have some kind of an annual review process,” said retired Army Col. Dan Smith, a West Point graduate and Vietnam veteran who is now a senior military affairs fellow at the Friends Committee on National Legislation, a Quaker lobby.

“So Guantánamo becomes an extra-territorial — I don’t want to say gulag — a prison for anyone we want to put down there and label an unlawful enemy combatant,” Smith said.

Camp Delta was projected to last five years when it opened in May 2002.

Built by Kellogg Brown & Root, a subsidiary of Pentagon contractor Halliburton, Delta’s cells were welded from steel shipping containers by laborers brought in from South Asia.

Detainee claims

prisoners beaten

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Prisoners at the U.S. detention center in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, have been beaten while blindfolded and handcuffed, terrorized by attack dogs and forced to take drugs, an Australian detainee said in an affidavit released yesterday.

David Hicks, 29, was one of the first prisoners to arrive at the camp in eastern Cuba in January 2002. He is one of only four terror suspects who have been formally charged among 550 detainees there accused of links to Afghanistan’s ousted Taliban regime or the al-Qaida terror network.

“At one point, a group of detainees, including myself, were subjected to being randomly hit over an eight-hour session while handcuffed and blindfolded,” Hicks said in an affidavit sealed in August and released by his attorneys yesterday. “I have been struck with hands, fists, and other objects, including rifle butts. I have also been kicked.”

Some of the allegations made by Hicks and others would be investigated, Pentagon spokesman Maj. Michael Shavers said.

The release of the affidavit comes the same week as the publication of several documents that show FBI agents sent to Guantánamo Bay warned the government of abuse and mistreatment as early as the start of the detention mission.