An MRI machine purchased by the prison in anticipation of an aging detainee population is at a hospital for soldiers in Georgia, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Army Surgeon General says.
In 2012, the detention center ordered the $1.65 million mobile MRI, short for magnetic resonance imaging machine, for delivery by Jan. 28, 2013 to a port in Jacksonville, Florida, where a twice-monthly barge brings supplies to this U.S. Navy base. But it never got there.
Maria L. Tolleson of the Office of the Army Surgeon General in Falls Church, Va., said in an email Friday evening it was installed June 13 at Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center at Fort Gordon in Augusta, Georgia.
Before that, it was “in the possession of the vendor, Siemens,” said Tolleson, chief of the public information division of the Office of the Army Surgeon General.
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Nine days before the Fort Gordon installation, lawyers for a Guantánamo prisoner awaiting a death-penalty trial filed a legal motion seeking an MRI scan of his brain. Pentagon prosecutors told the judge June 18 there was no such scanner at Guantánamo.
Tolleson has yet to reply to a question of who made the decision to redirect it to Georgia, how that is done bureaucratically and what budget paid for it. A fact sheet on the Eisenhower medical center’s website says it operates the clinic at the U.S. Southern Command headquarters in Miami, which supervises the detention center.
Guantánamo’s base hospital has a CT Scan machine, brought here specifically after the detention center opened in 2002, and ultrasound capability. U.S. service members and other base residents who need an MRI travel to Jacksonville, something the 149 detainees at the prison camps cannot do under a ban imposed by Congress on transfers to U.S. soil.
At the time of the purchase, a detention center spokesman said the MRI machine could also be used for the outpost’s sailors and other non-prisoners. Then last week, Navy Capt. Tom Gresback said “further analysis” changed somebody’s mind. “It was determined other modalities [at Guantánamo] could be used to assist with diagnosis and treatment of detainees’ acute medical conditions to include CT scan and ultrasound.”
In court last week, a federal prosecutor said military medical staff at Guantánamo disagreed with a civilian doctor who examined prisoner Abd al Rahim Nashiri, 49, and recommended that an MRI would help assist in planning treatment for his Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Nashiri is accused of orchestrating al-Qaida’s Oct. 12, 2000, suicide attack on the USS Cole warship off Yemen that killed 17 American sailors. U.S. agents waterboarded him and interrogated him with threats of a power drill and a handgun, and his lawyers also want to know if an MRI will show brain damage.
Miami Herald reporter Carol Rosenberg tweets @carolrosenberg