BIDEN REVIEWS GUANTANAMO PRISON IN CUBA, SEEKS TO SHUT IT DOWN
President Joe Biden’s aides have launched a formal review of the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, reviving the Obama-era goal of closing the controversial facility with the aim of doing so before he leaves office, the White House said, Matt Spetalnuck, Trevor Hunnicutt and Phil Stewart reported for Reuters.
Aides involved in internal discussions are considering an executive action to be signed by Biden in coming weeks or months, two people familiar with the matter told Reuters, signaling a new effort to remove what human rights advocates have called a stain on America’s global image.
Asked whether Biden would shut the high-security prison located at the Guantanamo Naval Station by the time his presidency ends, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters: “That certainly is our goal and our intention.”
Set up to house foreign suspects following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington, the prison came to symbolize the excesses of the U.S. “war on terror” because of harsh interrogation methods that critics say amounted to torture.
“We are undertaking a National Security Council (NSC) process to assess the current state of play that the Biden administration has inherited from the previous administration, in line with our broader goal of closing Guantanamo,” NSC spokeswoman Emily Horne told Reuters, which was the first to report that the review was under way.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s statement during his January confirmation hearing that the new administration would seek Guantanamo’s closure drew a letter of rebuke signed by seven Republican House members, all military veterans.
“If we release these GITMO detainees, they’ll become rockstars in the Islamist Extremist world, posing an even greater threat to America and the world,” tweeted U.S. Representative Mike Waltz, one of the signatories.
Of the prisoners who remain, nine have been charged or convicted by military commissions. The most notorious is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the accused Sept. 11 mastermind. About two dozen have not been charged but have been deemed too dangerous to release. Six inmates have previously been cleared for release by a government panel but remain jailed with no arrangements for transfer.