Obama delivers Gitmo closure plan to Congress

US President Barack Obama delivered his plan to close Guantánamo Bay (PDF) to Congress on Feb. 23. This plan comes seven years after Obama first announced he planned to shut down the prison by the end of his presidency. Under the proposed plan, detainees not fit for US prosecution or deportation would be transferred to a yet-undisclosed detention facility in the US. The plan also prioritizes transferring detainees to their home countries when possible, or resettlement in third countries. The plan states that "closing the Guantánamo Bay detention facility is a national security imperative. Its continued operation weakens our national security by furthering the recruiting propaganda of violent extremists, hindering relations with key allies and partners, and draining Department of Defense resources."

Currently, 91 detainees remain in Guantánamo Bay, and 34 await resettlement in foreign countries. In November the US Senate passed the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016 (PDF), which prohibits Guantánamo detainees from being transferred into the US. Obama signed the bill into law, despite the fact that it will delay his plan to close the prison. The NDAA comes after the Department of Defense said it was sending teams to review three Colorado prisons as part of Obama's efforts to close the Guantánamo Bay prison in October. The Guantánamo Review Task Force (GRTF) was created in response to a 2009 presidential executive order (PDF) to review the status of all detainees. There have been multiple detainees released from Guantánamo recently, following reports that 17 were scheduled for release last month.

From Jurist, Feb. 23. Used with permission.

Note: Republicans immediately and overwhelmingly rejected Obama's proposal, with presidential hopeful Ted Cruz saying: "Let me say this, Mr. President. Don't shut down Gitmo—expand it, and let's have some new terrorists there." Cruz said a "very high percentage" of released detainees "are going to return to waging jihad and trying to murder innocent Americans." (NBC, Feb. 23) Five years ago, a supposed 14% recidivism rate among released Gitmo detainees was widely reported, but there was some ambiguity on how "militant activity" was actually defined. Most significantly, ex-Gitmo detainee Said Ali al-Shihri was reported to have a leading position in al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). More recently, ex-Gitmo detainee Ibrahim al-Qosi, AKA "Sheikh Khubayb al Sudani" was reported to have joined AQAP. (LWJ, Dec. 9)