Prisoner Hierarchy Developing at Guantanamo

The distinctions between the leaders and followers among the Al Qaeda and Taliban prisoners at Guantanamo Bay are beginning to emerge, giving the U.S. a peek at the structure of the machinery of terror, military officials said Saturday.

"We have indications that many have received training, and that they are observing actions such as security procedures," Marine Brig. Gen. Mike Lehnert, who heads the task force in charge of the detention missions at Camp X-Ray, said.

Army Lt. Col. Bernie Liswell, battalion commander of the military police, said the would-be leaders seem to emerge during the five-times daily prayer periods.

"Their main effort collectively appears to be at prayer time," he said, "Such as those who want to lead a prayer

Like the doggedly rebellious prisoners in The Great Escape, the prisoners have made "some attempts to secret away materials or to coordinate activities," Lehnert said.

But the U.S. military is prepared.

"Given their background and training, this is something that we have anticipated," he said.

Liswell said guards have found rocks and stones in the cells of some of the suspects, but it was unclear whether the detainees were planning an attack or just playing a game like tic-tac-toe. Some prisoners have been seen trying to write messages in the ground with the rocks.

"They can either use that as a sharpening device or to write with," he said.

But whether they're making escape plans or playing an Afghan version of the popualr child's game "MASH," "we take rocks, tell them not to do that," Liswell said.

Some 158 captured warriors from the war in Afghanistan are being held at the camp, in southeastern Cuba, where they are being interrogated to help stamp out anti-American terrorism.

Meanwhile, with international complaints about camp conditions continuing, officials are trying to make life more comfortable for the prisoners. The detainees live in open-air cells made of walls of chain-link fence set on a concrete slab and topped by a corrugated iron roof.

Army Col. Terry Carrico, the commander of Camp X-Ray, says the prisoners will be allowed to grow back their beards, along with the long hair that many devout Muslim men wear. Officials shaved off the beards and hair when the suspected terrorists were captured..

The prisoners also getting pita bread with their meals now, and officials are working with the International Committee of the Red Cross on detainees' requests to have tea and novels to read, Carrico said.

Officials have also developed a simple but effective way of dealing with the prisoners: reward and punishment.

Earlier this week, the prisoners appeared pleased when a Muslim Navy cleric arrived to lead morning prayers, and they were given Qurans, the sacred text of Islam.

"We've issued prayer (skull) caps today," Carrico said. "We can always reward good behavior."

But when prisoners "act out," a comfort item is withdrawn.

"We've taken, for instance, their water bottle," Carrico said. "They decided to throw water at us. We took their canteens of water, we kept it for a few hours, and we gave it back to them. It seems to do the trick."

"We've issued prayer (skull) caps today," Carrico said. "We can always reward good behavior."

Some 20 legislators toured the camp over the weekend to make sure conditions were humane and to find out what the prisoners' fates might be.

The prisoners, from 25 countries, may be sent to their homelands to face military tribunals once American interrogators are done with them, Republican Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma said Friday.

Officials have refused to identify the detainees nationalities, but Britain, Sweden, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Australia have said they have citizens among detainees in Guantanamo.

Several of the visitors said they found the treatment humane and backed the U.S. refusal to bow to demands that the detainees be declared prisoners-of-war under the Geneva Conventions. That would prevent them being tried by secret military commissions empowered with the death sentence.

"We're dealing with terrorists here. ... They don't represent a country. They don't wear uniforms," Inhofe said.

Bush administration lawyers are divided over whether the convention applies to the suspects. President Bush feels it does not, saying these detainees are terrorists, not uniformed members of a national military.

But the legislative delegation said it was more interested in finding whether interrogations that began Wednesday were yielding useful information.

Indeed, interrogators "are starting to obtain valuable information,"  Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.