Two Years Later, Guantanamo Still Open

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Two years after President Obama signed an executive order saying that the Guantanamo Bay prison would be "closed as soon as practicable, and no later than 1 year from the date of this order [Jan. 22, 2009]," the prison remains open and the detainees--even those cleared for release--remain inside, despite the order's provision that those present would be "returned to their home country, released, transferred to a third country, or transferred to another United States detention facility in a manner consistent with law and the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States."

Blame for the prison's continued existence tends to focus not only on the president, but on a number of factors: a recalcitrant Congress, sloppy follow-through, and financial issues are some of the reasons cited. A brief look into the criticism surrounding the prison:

  • Congress Is a Roadblock, writes The Miami Herald's Carol Rosenberg, who says the recent WikiLeaks revelations show that the problem comes down to Congress being unwilling to lead by example. "American diplomats make it clear that the unwillingness of the United States to resettle a single detainee in this country--even from among 17 ethnic Muslim Uighurs considered enemies of China's communist government--made other countries reluctant to take in detainees" she says. "Were we willing to take a couple of detainees ourselves, it would've made the job of moving detainees out of Guantánamo significantly easier,'' says an unnamed official in Rosenberg's article.
  • Fear, Not Logic, Guides Congress  The Miami Herald's Carol Rosenberg, notes that some of the prisoners in Guantanamo have already been cleared for release, but Congress won’t let them go because they're worried that once free, the prisoners will turn against the U.S., based on intelligence estimates that "one-fourth of the captives freed over nine years are suspected of having joined anti-American insurgencies."
  • It’s Not So Bad--Why Rush?  That's the way some GOP leaders see it, writes Time's Mark Thompson, who quotes Rep. Todd Young, R-Ind. as saying "They have a library where they have access to several thousand books," and Rep. Bobby Schilling, R-Ill., saying "They get to watch TV."
  • Guantanamo Is Cost-Effective  That's another reason doors remain open, says Time's Mark Thompson. His source? Rep. Buck McKeon, the new head of the House's Armed Services Committee who says the U.S. has already poured millions into building Guantanamo; if we shut down Guantanamo and relocate prisoners in the U.S. (a disputed possibility), McKeon’s reasoning goes, we'd need new expensive buildings, which could only be considered "fiscally and morally irresponsible ... at a time when our nation is tightening its belt."
  • Obama DOJ Has Been Sloppy  We still have prisoners in Guantanamo for one critical reason, writes Jennifer Rubin in The Weekly Standard: "Holder's department has yet to get around to devising a legal framework suitable for the prosecution of Islamic terrorists in American custody." She quotes former Attorney General Michael Mukasey on this oversight. Problems with the DOJ aren't limited to Eric Holder's tenure, Rubin is careful to note, but his recent leadership hasn't helped things. Mukasey argues that Deputy Attorney General James Cole, who considers containing terrorism "a matter of law enforcement--akin to fighting drug dealers and other criminals--rather than national security," isn't helping things: it's like bringing a knife to a gunfight, especially since Congress said back in 2001 to go ahead and use military force to fight terrorism.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.