ARLINGTON, Va. – Following nearly two years of negotiations, the Department of Defense has authorized celebrity psychologist Dr. Phil McGraw to provide psychological counseling services to detainees housed at the United States Naval Base in Guantanamo, Cuba. According to the Department of Defense, the roughly 122 detainees still in detention at Guantanamo receive the best medical care available in accordance with the Geneva Convention’s rules on the Treatment of Prisoners of War. “This includes psychological treatment,” says Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral Jonathan Shepherd.
Dr. Phil will have access to a select number of detainees who meet strict requirements set in place by Joint Task Force Guantanamo which falls under U.S. Southern Command and oversees operations at the detention center. The Pentagon has issued Dr. Phil a temporary security clearance granting him limited access to GTMO including an undisclosed location within the facility where the counseling sessions are set to be held. “This is all very official,” says Dr. Phil’s publicist Shauna Roberts, adding that the process to obtain a security clearance “was a learning experience.”
Due to security concerns the DoD will only permit Dr. Phil and one additional person, camera operator Peter Ross, access to the base. JTF-GTMO will provide a translator in addition to Marine Corps Security Force personnel which will be present at all times during the counseling sessions while remaining out of view of the detainees, who will not be aware of their presence.
The approved list of detainees has not been released as of yet but Ms. Roberts confirmed Tuesday on Entertainment Tonight that Canadian citizen Omar Ahmed Khadr is among them. Khadr is the youngest detainee being held at Guantanamo, having been picked up in 2002 by U.S. forces in Afghanistan at the age of 15, he spent ten years in detention prior to pleading guilty to terrorism charges before a closed military tribunal. “Dr. Phil is very much looking forward to getting to know Omar,” Roberts said. “He has a wonderful ability to connect with young people on a personal level.”
In a recent interview with Us Weekly, Dr. Phil said he holds “a strong admiration for Omar,” and that “adolescence can be a tricky period for young people from all walks of life.” Dr. Phil said he hopes he can help make a positive difference in Khadr’s life.
The Pentagon will hold all rights to the taped counseling sessions and have the final say as to whether to release them, edited or as is, to CBS Television Distribution, which produces the Dr. Phil Show. Due to ongoing national security concerns, the Obama Administration may move to classify the tapes as Top Secret, which would remove them indefinitely from the public eye. Dr. Phil remains hopeful though; in a recent tweet to his followers he proclaimed, “It’s time to ‘Get Real’ in Gitmo! #DrPhil2015.”