November 10th, 2008
03:26 PM ET
10 years ago

Obama team ponders what to do with Guantanamo inmates

President-elect Obama's transition team has begun pondering what to do with Guantanamo inmates.

President-elect Obama's transition team has begun pondering what to do with Guantanamo inmates.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - President-elect Obama's transition team has begun examining what to do with suspected terrorists at the U.S. prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, which Obama has pledged to close, an aide said Monday.

Denis McDonough, a senior adviser to the incoming Democrat, told CNN no decisions have been made about what to do with the roughly 250 inmates there, "and there is no process in place to make that decision until his national security and legal teams are assembled."

But officials close to the Obama team said Monday that the incoming administration is pondering whether to try some of the Guantanamo Bay inmates in existing federal courts; set up a special national security court to deal with cases involving the most sensitive intelligence information; or release others.

The scenario would eliminate the military commissions set up by the Bush administration to prosecute some of the top al Qaeda figures now held at the facility, such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed - the lead plotter of the September 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington.

The commissions have been delayed for years by legal challenges, and the U.S. Supreme Court ruled an earlier version of them unconstitutional in 2006.

In a full-page ad in The New York Times on Monday, the American Civil Liberties Union urged Obama to close the prison camp on his first day in office, "with the stroke of a pen."

But in an October 31 interview with CNN, Obama said only that he would close the facility "as quickly as we can do prudently."

"I am not going to give a time certain because I think what we have to do is evaluate all those who are still being held in Gitmo," he said. "We have to put in place appropriate plans to make sure they are tried, convicted and punished to the full extent of the law, and that's going to require, I think, a
review of the existing cases, which I have not had the opportunity to do."