Pentagon to unveil Guantanamo Bay closure
The Pentagon is expected to submit to Congress on Tuesday United States President Barack Obama’s long-awaited plan for closing the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, setting up a battle with lawmakers who oppose his efforts.
Obama, whose pledge to shut the facility at the U.S. naval base in Cuba dates back to the start of his presidency in 2009, is seeking to make good on his promise before he leaves office next January.
Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis said the administration intended to meet Tuesday’s deadline to present its detailed proposal for closing the facility. There are still 91 prisoners detained there.
“We understand the deadline is tomorrow and it’s our intent to meet it,” Davis told reporters.
U.S. officials have said the plan would call for sending to their homelands or third countries detainees who have been cleared for transfer, now numbering 35, and bringing remaining prisoners, possibly several dozen, to U.S. soil to be held in maximum-security prisons. Congress has banned such transfers to the United States since 2011.
Another option that will be cited in the administration’s blueprint will be the possibility of sending some prisoners overseas for prosecution and trial, one U.S. official said.
The closure plan could also serve as a template for how to deal with future “terrorism suspects” captured in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
However, the document will not name the alternative U.S. prisons under consideration for housing detainees, U.S. officials said. The administration wants to avoid fueling any political outcry over specific sites during a U.S. presidential election year.
Still, Pentagon officials have already surveyed a federal prison in Florence, Colorado, a military jail at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and the Navy brig at Charleston, South Carolina.
The prison was opened in 2002 by former Republican President George W. Bush to house foreign suspects rounded up after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington.
The United States quickly drew criticism from human rights activists and foreign governments over Guantanamo, where most prisoners have been held for more than a decade without trial.