Today President Obama set out his plans to close the prison located in Guantanamo, Cuba after a seven year struggle to iron out political and practical issues of closing the prison.
Guantanamo Bay Naval Station (GTMO) is different from the prison issue that the President discussed today. Closing the prison at GTMO does not mean closing GTMO.
According to the Defense Department, the plan provides a way ahead for closing the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, which will markedly enhance our national security, while continuing to treat all detainees in U.S. custody in a manner that is consistent with international and domestic law. The plan has four primary tenets:
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.
The prison has earned notoriety over the years for housing one of the masterminds of the 9-11 attack, among other high value captures terrorists, and for controversial practices that some believe are inhumane and border on torture.
In an interview with the Associated Press in January 2016, Marine Corps Gen. John F. Kelly, the commander of Southern Command, suggested that the US may jointly operate the US Naval Base at Guantanamo, Cuba with Cuba.
Kelly said he believes the facility remains strategically valuable, a deepwater port in the Caribbean, and he would like to see it remain open even if the detention center closes. He suggested it could be run jointly with the Cubans, offering employment to the local population as it once did. But the general says he hasn’t discussed it with anyone in the Castro government. “It wouldn’t be appropriate,” he said. – AP
GTMO, the oldest overseas US navy base, is at the top of Cuba’s list of matters to resolve as US-Cuba negotiators try to normalize diplomatic relations. The 45-square-mile outpost symbolized America’s resolve to oppose Soviet intrusion in our hemisphere – and more recently serves as a modern haven for mysterious methods employed against captured Islamic terrorists. The result of the current negotiations may be that GTMO’s 116 years of continuous service will end should Cuba’s demands prevail.