Barack Obama has announced plans to close Guantanamo, again. Two people who have been there, WGBH's Arun Rath (@ArunRath) and Attorney Michael Mone Jr., discuss its prospects and what it does and does not do.
There are currently 91 prisoners detained at Guantanamo Bay Prison. The president’s proposal would transfer about 30 prisoners to other countries; the remaining 60 detainees would be relocated to detention facilities within the US.
Although Guantanamo would close, 'forever prisoners' would remain. The term denotes prisoners who are being held by the US without trail or charge.
“The so-called ‘forever prisoners’, people who are being detained indefinitely, that will still go on,” says Rath. "More than half of this document that the Obama Administration released today...was explaining and reassuring Congress of the reasons why, if transferred to the US, [the prisoners] would be able to be kept in indefinite detention."
Obama’s recent plan is not the first stab he’s taken at dismantling Guantanamo; the president first said he would close the detention facility when he took office in 2008. Although progress has been made over the last 7 years to return prisoners to their country for due trial, closing Gitmo remains a broken promise.
Mone says that the new plan is well meaning, but falls short of inciting any real change.
“Simply moving Guantanamo is not really a solution,” Mone says. “You’re still going to have indefinite detention without charge or trail, and that’s an anaphia to our legal traditions, it’s an anaphia to our rule of law, it’s simply unacceptable.”
So, what does Obama hope to achieve by simply relocating Guantanamo?
“Guantanamo Bay itself, the military detention center there, has become such a symbol,” explains Arun. “Closing that down, even if indefinite detention still takes place in the US…it’s going to do something for at least the perception of things.”
Even with the promise of continued imprisonment, it is unlikely that Congress will submit to Obama’s latest attempt to close down Guantanamo.
“This plan was dead on arrival, before [the president] announced it,” says Mone.
The plan lacks substance, including any details outlining how the federal government and states would move forward with prisoner relocation. There are also concerns over how keeping suspected terrorists within the country would impact national security.
“There’s been seven years to put this plan forward…but if you look at the plan that was issued today, it’s barely even a plan," says Rath. “It’s more of a statement of principals and purpose – there’s a lot of detail lacking in it. “
There's been seven years to put this plan forward...but if you look at the plan that was issued today, it's barely even a plan.
It is more likely that the purpose of the president’s latest proposal is to put the issue of Guantanamo on the forefront of the 2016 election.
“It’s all politics,” says Mone.