Of the 91 individuals held at Guantanamo, 35 have been cleared for transfer to other approved countries. The 56 remaining must go somewhere else in order to close the facility.
WASHINGTON, D.C. (Talk Media News) – The Defense Department sent a plan to close the Guantánamo Bay, Cuba detention center to Congress on Tuesday, directing that detainees ineligible for transfer or prosecution to be moved to U.S. soil.
Of the 91 individuals held at Guantánamo, 35 have been cleared for transfer to other approved countries. The 56 remaining must go somewhere else in order to close the facility, but right now U.S. law bars the use of funds to “transfer, release or assist in the transfer or release” Guantánamo detainees to or within the United States, and prohibits the construction, modification or acquisition of any facility within the United States to house any Guantánamo detainee.
This plan addresses how to settle this predicament, asking Congress to make legislative changes necessary to move the detainees to the U.S. It does not address the issue of indefinite detention on U.S. soil.
Addressing reporters from the White House Tuesday morning, President Barack Obama urged members of Congress and opponents to put politics aside, arguing that allowing detainees to be prosecuted and held on U.S. soil ultimately makes the U.S. safer.
Obama noted that despite the apparent uncertainty that could come with having extremists jailed domestically, the U.S. has a solid track record of detaining terrorists caught on American soil without incident.
“The politics of this are tough. A lot of the American public are worried about terrorism and in their min the notion of having terrorists held in the United States rather than some distance place can be scary,” Obama said. “Part of my message to the American people is we’re already holding a bunch of really dangerous terrorists here in the United States because we threw the book at them and there’ve been no incidents. We’ve managed it just fine.”
The plan presents 13 alternate sites to hold those the U.S. deems ineligible for transfer or prosecution, including the Consolidated Naval Brig in South Carolina and the Federal Correctional Complex in Florence, Colorado, and two facilities at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
The plan does not give details on these sites.
However, the Defense Department says its analysis found that closing Guantanamo, and moving detainees to one of these U.S. locations, could “generate at least $335 million in net savings over 10 years and up to $1.7 billion in net savings over 20 years.”
“The centerpiece of the plan – moving those detainees who have not been and will never be charged with any crime to a prison in the U.S. – does not ‘close Guantánamo,’ it merely relocates it to a new ZIP Code,” the Center for Contitutional Rights said in a press release Tuesday. “The infamy of Guantánamo has never been just its location, but rather its immoral and illegal regime of indefinite detention. Closing Guantánamo in any meaningful sense means putting an end to that practice.”
Ten of the 56 not cleared for transfer are currently begin prosecuted at Guantanamo, 22 will be referred for prosecution and 24 will stay in continued detention.
According to the White House, it is reasonable to think the facility could close within 2016 if Congress and the administration began working towards it now.
The White House has hedged in the past whether the President could close the facility via executive action, but last week director of the Joint Staff at the Pentagon Lt. Gen. William Mayville wrote in a letter to 16 members of Congress that the military had no intention of going around the prohibition on transferring detainees.
Since 2002, the Guantánamo Bay detention center has housed individuals accused of terrorism. At its peak, nearly 800 people inhabited the space. When Obama took office 238 were held; his administration has transferred 147.
Obama promised while campaigning in 2008 to close the facility, which he has argued is “a propaganda tool for our enemies and a distraction for our allies.”