The Pentagon is building a second secret courtroom at Guantanamo Bay to conduct war crimes trials that will not allow public access, the New York Times reported.

The new $4 million wartime courtroom is expected to begin operating in 2023. It will be intended for smaller trials and will allow two military judges to hold proceedings at the same time. 

In addition, only cleared persons will be admitted, such as members of the intelligence community and guardsmen and lawyers with special clearance.

Guantanamo Bay already has a courtroom opened in 2008, where the public can watch the trials live although the audio is delivered with a 40-second delay to give officials time to remove data they consider classified, the NYT said.

The trials of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the four other men accused of planning the Sept. 11 attacks will be held there with a gallery for the public.

In the new courtroom, which the report said was designed before Biden took office, because it will not have a public gallery, a “virtual gallery” is being planned with multiple cameras showing multiple angles simultaneously, as well as a 40-second audio delay, according to Ron Flesvig, a spokesman for the Office of Military Commissions.

He also said the new room is being built adjacent to the existing one, although it has not been decided where the virtual gallery will be located. Its cost is also not yet known, the spokesman said. 

The Guantanamo Bay prison has increased its secrecy during the 20 years it has been in operation, restricting what the public can see. Even photographs of the site have been banned and access to journalists is denied. 

The Biden administration, as Obama had intended, aims to close the military prison in Cuba before leaving office. Shortly after taking office, Biden decided to overturn President Trump’s executive decision to keep Guantanamo open.

In the Obama era, Congress opposed closing the prison on the grounds that returning detainees to their home countries or being tried in U.S. courts poses national security risks.

The declassified Office of National Intelligence report, dated December 2020, revealed that 229 of the 729 inmates released from Guantanamo had returned to terrorist operations, including carrying out and planning attacks, as well as recruiting and funding terrorists.

The prison currently holds 39 inmates, according to the Daily Mail. Former President Bush opened the prison after the Sept. 11 attack. His administration released 540 detainees, who were repatriated to Pakistan, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia. The Obama administration released another 200. Trump effectively suspended the releases.

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