January 22, 2016

Is Obama Serious About Closing Guantánamo?

By Mattathias Schwartz

January 22, 2016 The New Yorker - President Barack Obama’s final State of the Union address, which he delivered last week, contained a brief mention of the prison at Guantánamo Bay. The President said he would “keep working to shut down the prison … it’s expensive, it’s unnecessary, and it only serves as a recruitment brochure for our enemies.” The phrase “Keep working to shut down” falls short of an iron-clad commitment of the sort that Obama repeatedly made on the campaign trail when he first ran for President. On January 22, 2009, during his first week in office, he signed an executive order mandating that “detention facilities at Guantánamo” be “closed as soon as practicable … no later than 1 year from the date of this order.” That supposed hard one-year deadline is six years past due today.

Obama has made progress on Guantánamo. He reduced the prisoner population from two hundred and forty-two, at the beginning of his term, to ninety-one, as of Thursday. (At its height, in 2003, the number was six hundred and eighty-four.) He created the Periodic Review Boards, a parole-style hearing for reviewing the status of current detainees. But thirty-four of the ninety-one remaining prisoners who have already gone through the reviews and been recommended for transfer have nonetheless remained in Guantánamo, in some cases for many years. It took more than five years for Shaker Aamer, a Saudi citizen and British permanent resident whom the board recommended for transfer in January, 2010, to finally return to the U.K. last October.

Read more in The New Yorker.