(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

A beautiful sunny afternoon showcasing Mount Cain in all its glory. (Kimberley Kufaas Photography)
Mount Cain to start construction on new lodge once season ends

The North Island ski hill has been awarded $874,000 to build a brand new lodge.

The U’mista Cultural Society is getting $294,000 in funding. (North Island Gazette file photo)
North Island gets infrastructure and jobs boost from Economic Recovery Plan

“I’m thrilled that so many North Island organizations are benefiting from this funding”

Gordie Wigman and Edward Cote won $55,425.85 from the draw on Dec. 28. (BCLC photo)
Port McNeill friends win over 55 grand

Wigman and Cote purchased the ticket from the Port McNeill Petro Canada on Mine Road.

OrcaFest parade 2019. (North Island Gazette file photo)
COVID-19: Port McNeill’s annual OrcaFest cancelled again

“We promise you that once we are safely able to do so, OrcaFest will be back!!”

FILE – A COVID-19 vaccine being prepared. (Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing)
B.C. seniors 80 years and older to get COVID vaccine details over next 2 weeks: Henry

Province is expanding vaccine workforce as officials ramp up age-based rollout

Abbotsford’s Kris Collins turned to TikTok out of boredom when the provincial COVID-19 lockdown began in March 2020. She now has over 23 million followers on the video app. Photo: Submitted
Internet famous: Abbotsford’s Kris Collins is a TikTok comedy queen

Collins has found surprise stardom alone with a phone

BC Ferries experienced heavy traffic on Feb. 27 following cancellations the day before due to strong winds and adverse weather. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries sailings fill up quickly after Friday cancellations due to high winds

Waits expected on Swartz Bay-Tsawwassen route, Horseshoe Bay-Departure Bay route

Nanaimo children’s author and illustrator Lindsay Ford’s latest book is ‘Science Girl.’ (Photo courtesy Lindsay Ford)
B.C. children’s writer encourages girls to pursue the sciences in new book

Lindsay Ford is holding a virtual launch for latest book, ‘Science Girl’

Pig races at the 145th annual Chilliwack Fair on Aug. 12, 2017. Monday, March 1, 2021 is Pig Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Feb. 28 to March 6

Pig Day, Canadian Bacon Day and Grammar Day are all coming up this week

Staff from the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, passersby, RCMP and Nanaimo Fire Rescue carried a sick 300-kilogram steller sea lion up the steep bluff at Invermere Beach in north Nanaimo in an attempt to save the animal’s life Thursday. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Rescue Centre)
300-kilogram sea lion muscled up from B.C. beach in rescue attempt

Animal dies despite efforts of Nanaimo marine mammal rescue team, emergency personnel and bystanders

Doctors and counsellors warn of an increase in panic attacks, anxiety, depression and suicide ideas between ages 10 to 14, in Campbell River. ( Black Press file photo)
Extended pandemic feeding the anxieties of B.C.’s youth

Parents not sure what to do, urged to reach out for help

Kara Sorensen, diagnosed with lung cancer in July, says it’s important for people to view her as healthy and vibrant, rather than sick. (Photo courtesy of Karen Sorensen)
B.C. woman must seek treatment overseas for inoperable lung cancer

Fundraising page launched on Karen Sorensen’s behalf, with a goal of $250,000

Gina Adams as she works on her latest piece titled ‘Undying Love’. (Submitted photo)
‘Toothless’ the kitty inspires B.C. wood carver to break out the chainsaw

Inspired by plight of a toothless cat, Gina Adams offers proceeds from her artwork to help animals

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson presents bill to delay B.C.’s budget as late as April 30, and allow further spending before that, B.C. legislature, Dec. 8, 2020. (Hansard TV)
How big is B.C.’s COVID-19 deficit? We’ll find out April 20

More borrowing expected as pandemic enters second year

Most Read