One Last Push

Closing Gitmo


In the twilight of his administration, President Barack Obama is still trying to deliver on a promise he made on the campaign trail in 2008 and in his first executive order: closing Guantanamo Bay, the U.S. detention facility located in Cuba.

The plan, announced in February, proposed a "careful" transfer of 35 detainees to other countries, expediting the review process for the possible transfer of another 56 detainees to other countries, using "all of the legal tools" to resolve remaining detainee cases before military commissions, and transferring any detainees who cannot be sent overseas to an undetermined facility in the United States.

Critics, such as Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R–N.H.), say they want to know more about the "terrorist activities and affiliations" of detainees before approving any plan. Sen. Ted Cruz (R–Texas) claims that closing the detention facility would be a step toward something even worse. "He is releasing terrorists that our soldiers bled and died to capture," Cruz told a CNN town hall in February. "And the next president is going to have to send soldiers out to capture them again or kill them when they return to waging jihad."

Obama's first attempt to close Guantanamo, in 2009, was thwarted in large part by then–Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D–Nev.). "Democrats under no circumstances will move forward without a comprehensive, responsible plan from the president," Reid said at the time. "We will never allow terrorists to be released into the United States."