President Barack Obama on Tuesday unveiled a plan to make good on one of his earliest campaign pledges: to shut down the Guantanamo Bay detention center before his term ends in January.
In a statement from the White House on Tuesday, Obama announced a proposal to close the US military prison in Cuba, which was originally opened in 2002 by former President George W. Bush.
“When it becomes clear that something is not working as intended, when it does not advance our security, we have to change course,” Obama said on Tuesday.
“For many years it has been clear that the detention camp at Guantanamo Bay does not advance our national security, it undermines it.”
The long-awaited plan to close Guantanamo dates back to the 2008 presidential campaign. In one of his first official acts as president, he signed an executive order to close the facility within one year. Despite vehement opposition from Republican members of Congress, Obama has still vowed to shut down the center.
“I will keep working to shut down the prison at Guantanamo: it’s expensive, it’s unnecessary, and it only serves as a recruitment brochure for our enemies,” Obama said in his final State of the Union address last month.
The price of Guantanamo
There are approximately 2,000 military and civilian personnel assigned to Guantanamo and 91 inmates held there.
The holding of the prisoners, coupled with operating expenditures, costs the US close to $180 million a year.
According to the Department of Defence, annual recurring costs at Guantanamo are between $65 million and $85 million higher than any other US facility.
Closing Guantanamo could therefore generate at least $335 million in net savings over 10 years and up to $1.7 billion in net savings over 20 years, according to the Department of Defence.
The Pentagon plan to close the US prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, references 13 potential sites for detainees to be transferred to US soil but does not endorse a specific facility, administration officials said on Tuesday.
The cost of the transfer and closure would be $290 million to $475 million, an official told reporters on a conference call. Housing the remaining detainees in the United States would be $65 million to $85 million cheaper than at the Cuba facility, the official said, so costs would be offset within three to five years.
Some 35 prisoners will be transferred from Guantanamo to other countries this year, leaving the final number below 60, officials said. President Barack Obama believes the United States can safely house the rest at a domestic facility, they added.
In short, here are a few key points of Obama’s plan to close Guantanamo.
1. Securely and responsibly transferring to foreign countries detainees who have been designated for transfer by the president’s national security team;
2. Continuing to review the threat posed by those detainees who are not currently eligible for transfer through the Periodic Review Board (PRB);
3. Identifying individualized dispositions for those who remain designated for continued law of war detention, including possible Article III, military commission, or foreign prosecutions;
4. Working with the Congress to establish a location in the United States to securely hold detainees whom we cannot at this time transfer to foreign countries or who are subject to military commission proceedings.
Ahead of Obama’s announcement, the Pentagon sent assessment teams to facilities including a high-security federal prison in Florence, Colorado, and a military jail at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, in order to determine if the facilities were capable of housing high-profile inmates.
And here’s the full plan:
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