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Guantanamo detention camp commander removed from his post

Tuesday, October 15, 2002

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- The commander of the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, camp where suspected terrorists are being detained has been removed from his post, officials said.

Brig. Gen. Rick Baccus left the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay on Oct. 9, amid unconfirmed reports he had philosophical differences with those interrogating detainees. Navy officials say Baccus was removed only because his duties at the base were consolidated with those of a commander who outranked him.

Baccus has also been relieved of his duties with the Rhode Island National Guard. Its commander, Maj. Gen. Reginald Centracchio, said he relieved Baccus for various reasons that "culminated in my losing trust and confidence in him."

Lt. Col. Michael McNamara, a Guard spokesman, said Baccus wasn't keeping Rhode Island informed of the well-being of troops, even when officials asked for updates. For example, Baccus didn't notify Centracchio about the medical evacuation of a Guardsman, he said.

Centracchio said he has not talked to Baccus since the removal.

Baccus told Providence radio station WPRO-AM that "in no instance did I interfere with interrogations." He also said he has not been notified that he was relieved of his state duties.

Lt. Col. Bill Costello, spokesman for the U.S. Southern Command in Miami, Fla., which oversees Guantanamo Bay, said Baccus' departure was related to the merging of operations at the Naval base.

Baccus, 50, had been in charge of the imprisonment of detainees for about seven months, while Maj. Gen. Michael Dunlavey was overseeing interrogations. Dunlavey, who outranks Baccus, assumed command of the merged operations.

Costello could not confirm published reports that Baccus was undermining interrogators by being too nice to detainees, or that he had a conflict with Dunlavey.

He said Baccus did a good job overseeing the safety and security of detainees, who are accused of having links to the fallen Taliban regime of Afghanistan or the al-Qaida terrorist network.


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