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MR machine rented to scan single terrorist at Guantánamo doesn't work

by Thomas Dworetzky , Contributing Reporter
The long and twisting road taken by a portable MR scanner making its way to Guantánamo just hit another snag – it got there, but the $370,000 leased machine apparently does not work.

At a pretrial hearing Army Col. John Well told the court that the device “is not functional and operational,” according to the Miami Herald.

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According to Pentagon spokesman Air Force Maj. Ben Sakrisson, it was installed correctly but for unknown reasons its liquid helium “had dissipated.”

There is no word on whether the issue would be covered as part of the original $370,000 deal, which covers four months of leasing.

The device is there for the trial of Abd al Rahim al Nashiri, facing the death penalty as the alleged architect of the USS Cole bombing on the Oct. 12, 2000. Seventeen sailors died in the blast.

A forensic scan of Nashiri was ordered in 2015 by trial judge Air Force Col. Vance Spath after defense lawyers had argued that signs of brain damage could impact sentencing. As a result of the order, the scanner was obtained on a temporary basis, Gary D. Brown, the chief of staff of the Office of Military Commissions, had informed defense counsel in September.

Nashiri spent four years of enhanced interrogation at secret CIA prisons that included waterboarding, a mock execution, rectal rehydration, confinement in a coffin shaped box and “walling” – slamming a suspect's head into a collapsible wall.

Guantánamo medical staff have diagnosed Nashiri with depression and PTSD.

The machine had not been used to scan any detainees before the issue arose. That said, at this point in time, Sakrisson noted, “all necessary personnel and medical staff have completed training and are certified to operate the equipment and conduct MR testing.”

The Navy had bought a Siemens 1.5T, $1.65 million portable MR machine for the base in 2012, slated for a January 2013 delivery to Florida,. But it ended up stored for a year and then shipped to the Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center at Fort Gordon in Augusta, Georgia, after the military decided that it was unnecessary at the terrorist detention facility, which has a population of about 5,500.

The Navy then leased another machine for the base on a short term basis.

Original plans were for the machine to be on the island and available to the defense for about four months – from mid-October, 2017, through mid-February, 2018. At that point it would be sent back to the U.S.

“It is unknown at this time whether other individuals will utilize the MR at other periods of time,” Sakrisson said.

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