White House acknowledges Gitmo to remain open for foreseeable future

Detainees will continue to be held at the detention center at Guantánamo Bay for the foreseeable future, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs acknowledged Dec. 26 on CNN‘s “State of the Union.” The statement comes almost one year after the Obama administration missed its self-imposed January 2010 deadline to close the facility. Gibbs also stated that in addition to the use of civilian courts and military commissions, some detainees would have to be indefinitely detained:

[T]here are prohibitions legislatively on the transfer of some of the prisoners that are there into some part of this country, some would be tried in federal courts as we’ve seen done in the past, some would be tried in military commissions, likely spending the rest of their lives in a maximum security prison that nobody, including terrorists, have ever escaped from and some regrettably will have to be indefinitely detained, I say regrettably not because it’s a bad thing necessarily for them in terms of the fact that they’re very dangerous people and we have to make sure that even if we can’t prosecute them, we’re not putting them back out on the battlefield.

Gibbs emphasized that the future of Guantánamo Bay hinges on Republican cooperation to close the prison, which would be in the interests of national security, according to Gibbs, due to the facility’s use as a recruiting tool by al-Qaeda.

The administration has run into several hurdles in closing the prison, including strong opposition from members of Congress. Earlier this month, the US House of Representatives voted 212-206 in favor of a defense spending bill including a provision preventing Guantánamo detainees from being transferred to the US for trial. The legislation would block Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the other accused 9-11 conspirators from being tried in a US civilian court, as intended by US Attorney General Eric Holder.

In May, the US House Armed Services Committee approved legislation prohibiting the modification or construction of a facility in the US to hold detainees currently held at Guantánamo. The number of detainees at Guantánamo has been significantly reduced as the administration continues to transfer detainees to a growing list of countries including Germany, Italy, Spain, Maldives, Georgia, Albania, Latvia, Switzerland, Slovakia, Somaliland, Palau, Belgium, Afghanistan and Bermuda.

From Jurist, Dec. 27. Used with permission.