New plan to shut detention facility will require congressional action
President Obama wants to turn the page on a dark chapter of American history by ending the illegal detention of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. Obama said maintaining the prison helps terrorist groups recruit new members and undermines relationships with allies.
The U.S. has held captives at the naval base on Cuba for more than 10 years. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, more than 800 people have been imprisoned there without due process, including 21 children and individuals as old as 89.
As of early February, 34 individuals who have been cleared for release are still imprisoned. The U.S. government says it lacks evidence to proceed with charges against another 28 individuals who are also still being held. At least 26 of the prisoners at Guantanamo were tortured at other prisons outside the U.S. before being transferred and the FBI has reported numerous abuses against prisoners at the facility.
In a statement, Obama said keeping the prison open undermines U.S. national security and stains the country’s broader record on upholding the highest standards of rule of law.
Part of Obama’s statement as posted on the White House blog:
“For many years, it has been clear that the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay does not advance our national security—it undermines it. It’s counterproductive to our fight against terrorists, who use it as propaganda in their efforts to recruit. It drains military resources, with nearly $450 million spent last year alone to keep it running and more than $200 million in additional costs needed to keep it open going forward. Guantanamo harms our partnerships with allies and other countries whose cooperation we need against terrorism.”
Obama wants to speed the transfer of some of the prisoners to third countries, as well as the reviews of the status of others. In one of the potentially most controversial elements of the plan presented to Congress would be to transfer some of the prisoners who have been sentenced to prisons in the United States.