Bergdahl Prisoner Swap Reignites Debate Over Obama's Promise to Close Guantanamo


"We're going to close Guantanamo." So declared presidential candidate Barack Obama in 2007. Two years later, on January 22, 2009, President Obama signed an executive order "to effect the appropriate disposition of individuals currently detained by the Department of Defense at the Guantánamo Bay Naval Base (Guantánamo) and promptly to close detention facilities at Guantánamo, consistent with the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States and the interests of justice." Five years later, however, Guantanamo still remains open for business.

Last week's controversial swap of five Taliban fighters held at Guantanamo in exchange for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl has reignited the debate over both Obama's promise to close the detention facility and his failure to fulfill tha promise.

"With respect to the closure of the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, the President has said repeatedly — in last year's speech at (National Defense University), in this year's State of the Union, and in last week's speech at West Point — that he believes the continued operation of the detention facility harms our national security," National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden, told CNN. "Our policy on Guantanamo Bay is the same now as it was prior to Sergeant Bergdahl's recovery — the United States will repatriate, resettle, or prosecute detainees at Guantanamo Bay to the greatest extent possible, consistent with U.S. national security interests and our humane treatment policy."

Critics, however, charge the administration with failing (or refusing) to live up to its lofty rhetoric. "I believed Barack Obama when he promised to close Guantánamo. It sounds so naïve," wrote Yale Law School's Emily Bazelon at Slate. "Instead of releasing 78 men cleared for transfer by his own task force, Obama has kept them at Gitmo even though most have had this limbo status since January 2010." What's worse, she added, in the Bergdahl prisoner swap, "the president has released five prisoners who sound dangerous. They were not cleared for transfer. They had mid- or high-level roles in the Taliban in Afghanistan."

Earlier this year, Reason TV explained what every American should know about Guantanamo. Click below to watch.