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Ex-Gitmo prison chief takes CentCom post

Maj. Gen. Jay W. Hood’s nomination as top U.S. military man in Pakistan was pulled.

Maj. Gen. Jay W. Hood’s nomination as top U.S. military man in Pakistan was pulled.

TAMPA — A general who was excoriated in the Pakistani press for his role commanding the controversial prison at Guantanamo Bay has been assigned as chief of staff at U.S. Central Command, the Pentagon says.

Army Maj. Gen. Jay W. Hood replaces Rear Adm. John Miller at CentCom's MacDill Air Force Base headquarters. Hood will serve under Gen. David Petraeus, who is expected to become CentCom commander later this year.

Hood, 54, was commander of Joint Task Force Guantanamo from 2004 to 2006 at a time when U.S. guards were accused of desecrating the Koran and when fasting detainees were force fed.

In March, President Bush moved to appoint Hood to a post as senior military officer in Pakistan. But the appointment was quietly withdrawn after scathing criticism in Pakistan, where nearly 70 Guantanamo detainees had been repatriated.

Hood, as Guantanamo commander, completed an investigation in 2005 that confirmed five cases in which the Koran was mishandled either deliberately or unintentionally by guards.

His investigation also found that 15 detainees themselves desecrated the holy book.

"Mishandling of a Koran here is never condoned," Hood told reporters in 2005. "When one considers the many thousands of times detainees have been moved and cells have been searched since detention operations first began ... I think one can only conclude that respect for detainee religious beliefs was embedded in the culture" of the prison.

In fact, some detainee lawyers and human rights groups credited Hood with improving conditions at Guantanamo, though that did not mollify critics in Pakistan.

Bill Levesque can be reached at levesque@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3436.

Ex-Gitmo prison chief takes CentCom post 06/20/08 [Last modified: Friday, June 20, 2008 10:35pm]
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