By Cooper Cecil
President Barack Obama signed an executive order on January 22, 2009, two days after his inauguration, to close the detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, within the year. Seven years later, the prison for terrorist suspects remains open. Normally Obama’s executive order would be enough authority to fully close the compound however President Obama’s order was delayed by congress and their ability to prevent detainees at Guantanamo from entering U.S. soil. Similarly countries that these detainees are from, a large portion from the fighting in and around Afghanistan in 2002, are no longer allowed to reside in their countries and any attempts to repatriate them have failed. This is further a problem as each detainee cost U.S. taxpayers an enormous amount of money. The ACLU reports;
“The injustice of Guantánamo is costing us a fortune. Here’s how that money could be better spent. In 2013, American taxpayers spent $454 million detention operations at Guantanamo Bay, which now holds 61 detainees. That’s roughly $7.4 million per detainee”
Figure 1: Chart provided by ACLU.org, The Guantanamo Money Pit
With a majority right wing house and senate Obama’s attempts to fully rectify the problem have hit barriers but continue to move forward. Juliette Kayyem, a CNN national security advisor, claims;
“The reasons that Congress is wrong on this issue are well-known: From a security perspective, it is a rallying cry for our enemies, a recruitment tool for terrorists and an embarrassment of our ideals. From a fiscal perspective it makes no sense — it is egregiously expensive compared to civilian prisons in the United” (Kayyem).
This opposition by the house and senate hasn’t stopped the prison from slowly lowering its population over the last seven years. Peter J. Kadzik, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General, wrote to the chairmen of the Committee on the Judiciary in the U.S. House of Representatives;
“Of the nearly 800 detainees at one time held at Guantanamo Bay, more than 85 percent have been transferred, including more than 500 detainees transferred by the prior Administration and 147 detainees transferred by this Administration. As of February 23, 2016, 91 detainees remain at Guantanamo Bay” (Department of Defense).
The United States Department of Defense has provided clear steps to close the prison while abiding by U.S. and national law. To close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, the U.S. Government is pursuing three lines of effort simultaneously, explained in Kadziks outline:
(1) Identifying transfer opportunities for detainees designated for transfer;
(2) Continuing to review the threat posed by those detainees who are not currently eligible for transfer and who are not currently facing military commission charges; and
(3) Continuing with ongoing military commissions prosecutions and, for those detainees who remain designated for continued law of war detention, identifying individualized dispositions where available, including military commission prosecution, transfer to third countries, foreign prosecutions or, should Congress lift the ban on transfers to the United States, transfer to the United States for prosecution in Article III courts and to serve sentences.
On September 15th the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation to prohibit the removal or transfer of detainees from Guantanamo Bay to the U.S. homeland or any foreign country making the job of President Obama and the defense department even harder. If Obama can’t figure something out soon he may have to pass the task to the next president and depending on the outcome election that might mean the continued assault on closing Guantanamo if Hilary wins or a resurgence of population if Trump is elected. This would also mean Obama failed to live up to his promise from 7 years earlier during his inauguration, something I hope not to see.
@ACLU. “The Guantánamo Money Pit.” American Civil Liberties Union. N.p., 24 Oct. 2013. Web. 23 Sept. 2016.
Kadzik, Peter J. “Efforts to End Guantánamo Bay Detentions Continue; Obstacles Abound.” The American Journal of International Law 103.4 (2009): 758-60. Web. 20 Sept. 2016.
Kayyem, Juliette. “The Truth about Closing Guantanamo Bay (Opinion).” CNN. Cable News Network, 25 Feb. 2016. Web. 23 Sept. 2016.