It has been one of the most controversial aspects of the War On Terror. For some it has been a place that is a symbol of injustice conveyed at the hands of the U.S. government’s security apparatus, and for others it is a necessary installation to stash those who pose the most danger to America. Either way, President Obama seeks to make good on his campaign promise to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay (GITMO) once and for all. He announced his detailed plan today.
The plan to move close to 60 detainees to the continental U.S. will cost $475 million, but will supposedly save $180 million per year once a new site is operational. The Pentagon is examining 13 separate sites in the U.S. to accept GITMO’s prisoner inventory, including seven existing prison facilities and six military installations.
The Pentagon’s plan (made at Obama’s direction, which he later endorsed), does not recommend one of these sites over another. Generally, it lacks fine details and has parts that are classified and remain outside the public’s revue. It is supposed to serve as starting point for deeper planning and legislative negotiation. The Obama administration is currently prohibited by law from moving detainees that currently reside at GITMO to facilities the United States.
Still, great hurdles remain. Congress, which is dominated by the Republicans in both the Senate and House, are largely against the move for both legal and national security reasons. This is only amplified by the fact that it comes deep in a major political season that has everything from Senate seats to the Presidency to a Supreme Court Justice position up for grabs.
Additionally, few in these local communities (even ones that already have maximum security prisons) want to see the most dangerous people in the world brought to them, thanks to the perceived magnetism for terror they bring.
The Obama Administration argues that there are already terrorists being held in the U.S. and that they have been successfully tried in the court system. This is in addition to Obama’s long standing accusation that GITMO is a terrorist recruiting tool, as well as a international mark against the U.S. and that it does not represent America’s traditions or values.
At its peak in 2003, the detention center at Guantanamo Bay held a whopping 680 detainees. When the Bush Administration left Washington this number was down to 245. Today there are 91, but about 30 should be transferred to foreign nations by the end of summer. This leaves about 60 that are either slated to be prosecuted through military tribunals or are going to be held indefinitely.
Pentagon spokesperson Captain Jeff Davis told the following to the AP regarding the state of GITMO’s prisoner roster:
“We’ve always been very clear about what needs to happen. We’re going to continue to transfer detainees to other countries who agree to take them, and take steps to make sure that... the threat they pose to the US is limited. Second, that we’ll continue to prosecute those that can be prosecuted. And third, that there’s this small group of individuals that can neither be safely transferred nor prosecuted, and it will address those three things and lay out a range of options.”
Contact the author at Tyler@jalopnik.com.
Photo credits: AP, Top Shot DoD