(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Biden will try to close Guantanamo after ‘robust’ review

Biden had said as a candidate he supported closing the detention centre

President Joe Biden will seek to close the prison on the U.S. base at Guantanamo Bay following a review process, resuming a project begun under the Obama administration, the White House said Friday.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said it was the “intention” of the Biden administration to close the detention facility, something President Barack Obama pledged to do within a year shortly after he took office in January 2009.

Psaki gave no timeline, telling reporters that the formal review would be “robust” and would require the participation of officials from the Department of Defence, the Justice Department and other agencies who have not yet been appointed under the new administration.

“There are many players from different agencies who need to be part of this policy discussion about the steps forward,” she said.

Obama ran into intense domestic political opposition when he sought to close the detention centre, a notorious symbol of the U.S. fight against terrorism. Biden may have more leeway now that there are only 40 prisoners left and Guantanamo draws much less public attention, though his announcement did draw some immediate criticism.

The U.S. opened the detention centre in January 2002 to hold people suspected of ties to al-Qaida and the Taliban. It became a source of international criticism over the mistreatment of prisoners and the prolonged imprisonment of people without charge.

The announcement of the closure plan, first reported by Reuters, was not unexpected. Biden had said as a candidate he supported closing the detention centre. Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin said so as well in written testimony for his Senate confirmation.

“Guantanamo has provided us the capability to conduct law of war detention in order to keep our enemies off the battlefield, but I believe it is time for the detention facility at Guantanamo to close,” Austin said. “My understanding is that the Biden-Harris administration does not intend to bring new detainees to the facility and will seek to close it.”

The 40 remaining prisoners at Guantanamo include five who were previously cleared for release through a intensive review process created under Obama as part of the effort to close the detention centre and transfer the remaining prisoners to U.S. facilities.

At its peak in 2003, the detention centre at the Navy base on the southeast tip of Cuba held nearly 680 prisoners. Amid the international outrage, President George W. Bush called it a “a propaganda tool for our enemies and a distraction for our allies” and said he supported closing it but left it to his successor.

Under Bush, the U.S. began efforts to prosecute some of the prisoners for war crimes in special tribunals known as military commissions, but the government also released 532 prisoners.

Obama vowed to close the detention centre, while keeping the larger Navy base, but ran into fierce political opposition over plans to prosecute and imprison men in the U.S. and concerns that returning others to their homeland would pose a security risk.

To some extent at least, that opposition remains. “The Democrats’ obsession with bringing terrorists into Americans’ backyards is bizarre, misguided, and dangerous,” Sen. John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas, said after the White House announcement Friday. “Just like with President Obama, Republicans will fight it tooth and nail.”

Obama argued that keeping the detention centre was not just a bad policy but a waste of money, costing more than $445 million per year in 2016.

Under his administration, 197 were repatriated or resettled in other countries.

That left 41 under Trump, who pledged at one point to “load it up” with some “bad dudes.” He never did and approved a single release, a Saudi prisoner who had reached a plea deal in his war crimes case.

Of those who remain at Guantanamo, there are 10 men facing trial by military commission. They include five men charged with planning and providing logistical support to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The case has been bogged down in pre-trial proceedings for years.

Human rights groups who have long championed the closure of Guantanamo welcomed Biden’s announcement.

“For almost two decades, the United States has denied justice to the hundreds of men the government has kept detained at Guantanamo Bay indefinitely, without charge or trial,” said Daphne Eviatar, director of the Security with Human Rights Program at Amnesty International USA. “Forty men remain there today. It is long past time to close it down.”

By Ben Fox

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

READ MORE: Canada to require negative COVID-19 test at land borders

READ MORE: Mysterious European package from dead Russian artist mailed to Port Hardy family

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

USA

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Pitt Meadows United Church has a new Expression Station, to create a record of people’s feelings during this stage of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Special to The News)
Closed by COVID-19, Pitt Meadows church offers Expression Station

Say what you need to say in this pandemic time, offers United Church

Police tape is shown in Toronto Tuesday, May 2, 2017. (Graeme Roy/The Canadian Press)
CRIME STOPPERS: ‘Most wanted’ for the week of Feb. 28

Crime Stoppers’ weekly list based on information provided by police investigators

On Monday, March 1, 2021, Maple Ridge is hosting an information session on Choose to Move, a fitness program for people 65 and older. (Maple Ridge image)
Maple Ridge seniors invited to information session on free fitness program

Learn about the program for those 65 and older on Monday, March 1

Phyllis Neufeld was on the Alouette River dike in Pitt Meadows on Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021, when she took this photo. (Special to The News)
SHARE: Sun breaks through a rainy Pitt Meadows sky

Send us your photo showing how you view Maple Ridge or Pitt Meadows, and it could be featured soon.

The artwork is by Caitlin Legault who is not the only local person grateful to those who work in health care. A local letter writer recently had to go to hospital and wanted everyone there to know that their efforts are appreciated. (Special to The News)
LETTER: Pitt Meadows letter writer grateful for all those who cared for her at hospital

Staff in every department worthy of praise, local woman says

A health worker holds a vial of AstraZeneca vaccine to be administered to members of the police at a COVID-19 vaccination center in Mainz, Germany, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. The federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate, start with the vaccination of police officers in internal police vaccination centers. (Andreas Arnold/dpa via AP)
B.C. officials to unveil new details of COVID vaccination plan Monday

Seniors and health-care workers who haven’t gotten their shot are next on the list

An investigation is underway after a man was shot and killed by Tofino RCMP in Opitsaht. (Black Press Media file photo)
Man shot and killed by RCMP near Tofino, police watchdog investigating

Investigation underway by Independent Investigations Office of British Columbia.

B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver on Tuesday December 11, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C.’s compromise on in-person worship at three churches called ‘absolutely unacceptable’

Would allow outdoor services of 25 or less by Langley, Abbotsford and Chilliwack churches

Baldy Mountain Resort was shut down on Saturday after a fatal workplace accident. (Baldy Mountain picture)
Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Alina Durham, mother of Shaelene Bell, lights candles on behalf of Bell’s two sons during a vigil on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO and PHOTOS: Candlelight vigil for missing Chilliwack woman sends message of hope

Small group of family, friends gathered to shine light for 23-year-old mother Shaelene Bell

Jasmine and Gwen Donaldson are part of the CAT team working to reduce stigma for marginalized groups in Campbell River. Photo by Marc Kitteringham, Campbell River Mirror
Jasmine’s story: Stigma can be the hardest hurdle for those overcoming addiction

Recovering B.C. addict says welcome, connection and community key for rebuilding after drug habit

A Vancouver restaurant owner was found guilty of violating B.C.’s Human Rights Code by discriminating against customers on the basis of their race. (Pixabay)
Vancouver restaurant owner ordered to pay $4,000 to customers after racist remark

Referring to patrons as ‘you Arabs’ constitutes discrimination under B.C.’s Human Rights Code, ruling deems

Approximate location of the vehicle incident. (Google Maps)
Vehicle incident blocking Coquihalla traffic in both directions

Both directions of traffic stopped due to vehicle incident

Most Read