[JURIST] The US Defense Department said Wednesday that it is considering plans to increase the number of courtrooms at the US prison facility in Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] in order to begin trying suspected terrorists, a proposal that could cost hundreds of millions of dollars. DOD Deputy Assistant Secretary for Detainee Affairs Charles "Cully" Stimson said the plans include increasing the number of courtrooms at Guantanamo from one to 10, building more housing for lawyers and improving the prison camp's ability to generate power and water. Military officials hope to begin trying suspected terrorists in mid-2007 under the new Military Commissions Act of 2006 [PDF text; S 3930 summary], which was approved [JURIST report] by Congress in September and signed [JURIST report] by President Bush in October. Stimson estimated that building efforts would take at least a month to complete as pre-trial proceedings are scheduled to begin in the early part of next year.
Building cost proposals are expected to be submitted to US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld [official profile] next week. The Defense Department is also planning to send congressional staff to Guantanamo next month to provide specifics on the proposed plan. Currently, 400 detainees are housed at the prison facility and 60-80 of those are eligible [JURIST report] to face military commission trials [DOD materials; JURIST news archive] for alleged terrorist activities, some of them under joint proceedings. Reuters has more.