Obama's Failed Promise to Close Gitmo: A Timeline
On the same day that the September 11th high-jackers returned to court, word came that the office responsible for closing the prison has itself been closed, adding another entry to the long list of scuttled attempts to shut down the detention facility.
President Obama promised to shut down the Guantánamo Bay Detention Facility during his first presidential campaign. But five years later, the controversial prison remains open. The Obama administration finally shut down something today, but the move will only frustrate civil libertarians even more. Because with Guantánamo's closure still indefinitely delayed, the office responsible for closing the prison has itself been closed. The New York Times's Charlie Savage reports that Daniel Fried—the State Department's the special envoy for closing the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba—has been reassigned and will not be replaced. The news comes on the same day that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and four other Guantánamo detainees began another round of pre-trial hearings for the attacks of September 11, 2001, a case that will surely reignite a fierce debate about the role of due process, torture, and oversees detention facilities. The Obama administration's latest seeming deferral adds yet another entry to the long timeline of failed attempts to shut down Gitmo.
June 24, 2007: The Associated Press's Elizabeth White reports on a speech by Presidential hopeful Barack Obama, then a junior Illinois Senator, to a crowd in Texas. "We're going to close Guantanamo. And we're going to restore habeas corpus," Obama says. "We're going to lead by example—not just by word but by deed. That's our vision for the future."
January 22, 2009: Freshly inaugurated President Obama signs an executive order to close the Guantánamo Bay Detention Facility within one year. He says the action is meant to "restore the standards of due process and the core constitutional values that have made this country great even in the midst of war, even in dealing with terrorism." In the summer of 2009, he grants a six-month extension to the Guantánamo closing commission.
December 15, 2009: The President tells federal authorities to acquire a prison in Thompson, Illinois as Guantánamo's replacement. The idea is to transfer Gitmo prisoners to this super-maximum security facilites and shut down the controversial Cuban prison. Not-in-my-backyard rage and fear over terrorists within U.S. borders ensues.
May 19, 2010: The House Armed Services Committee rejects the Obama administration's plan to bring Guantánamo detainees into domestic prisons by approving legislation that prohibits detention centers inside the U.S.
March 7, 2011: President Obama signs another executive order, this one focussed on creating a review process for detainees. The goal is to "establish, as a discretionary matter, a process to review on a periodic basis the executive branch's continued, discretionary exercise of existing detention authority in individual cases." In the same breath, he re-institutes military tribunals for detainees.
April 23, 2011: The plan to prosecute September 11th mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed in federal court falls apart, with Attorney General Eric Holder informing the president that KSM would be returned to Guantánamo Bay for trial. A report in The Washington Post claims this move will "mark the effective abandonment of the president's promise to close the military detention center."
Septemberg 29, 2012: The last westerner held at Guantánamo, Omar Khadr, is sent back to Canada after serving eight years for murder in violation of the law of war and other charges.
January 28, 2013: The State Department shuts down the office of the envoy for closing the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.