January 12th, 2009
04:36 PM ET
11 years ago

Obama planning quick move to close Gitmo


CNN has learned that President-elect Obama plans to close the U.S. military prison located at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. (Getty Images/File)

WASHINGTON (CNN) - President-elect Barack Obama is planning to move as early as his first week in office to close the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay to try and show a dramatic break from the Bush administration's approach to the war on terror, according to two officials close to the transition.

One of the officials said it would be in keeping with Obama's campaign promise to shut down the prison through executive order, a move which was also pushed by last year's Republican presidential nominee, Sen. John McCain of Arizona.

"The President-elect has repeatedly said the legal framework at Gitmo has failed to successfully and swiftly prosecute terrorists," said one of the officials close to the transition, who was not authorized to speak publicly about private deliberations.

Such an announcement would be reassuring to liberals, who have been concerned about public comments from the President-elect suggesting he may be back-tracking from quick action on closing down the prison, including an appearance on ABC's "This Week" on Sunday.

"It is more difficult than I think a lot of people realize and we are going to get it done, but part of the challenge that you have is that you have a bunch of folks that have been detained, many of whom who may be very dangerous who have not been put on trial or have not gone through some adjudication," Obama said when asked whether he would close the prison in his first 100 days.

"And some of the evidence against them may be tainted even though it's true. And so how to balance creating a process that adheres to rule of law, habeas corpus, basic principles of Anglo American legal system, by doing it in a way that doesn't result in releasing people who are intent on blowing us up."

Pressed further, Obama tried to make clear that he is planning to shut the prison down, despite potential legal hurdles.

"I think it's going to take some time and our legal teams are working in consultation with our national security apparatus as we speak to help design exactly what we need to do," Obama said. "But I don't want to be ambiguous about this. We are going to close Guantanamo and we are going to make sure that the procedures we set up are ones that abide by our Constitution. That is not only the right thing to do but it actually has to be part of our broader national security strategy because we will send a message to the world that we are serious about our values."

This is a major issue because for critics of the Bush administration, the military prison has become a symbol of mismanagement and overreach in the war on terror. At his final White House press conference on Monday, President Bush was whether the military prison - as well as harsh interrogation tactics used on detainees - has damaged America's standing in the world.

"I strongly disagree with the assessment that our moral standing has been damaged," Bush said. "It may be damaged amongst some of the elite. But people still understand America stands for freedom; that America is a country that provides such great hope."

soundoff (270 Responses)
  1. xavier

    To Mark and the rest of the idiots making stupid comments,
    You all are idiots. Your comments are proof of that. Only idiots would make such racist comment when talking about something that did so much damage to our image around the world. As for the comments by Proud American that only racist use the term racist, only a racist would try to justify the rhetoric of the aforementioned idiots.

    January 12, 2009 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  2. Andy Cornell

    Where oh where will they go? Maybe we can spend millions more dollars to protect the ones that want us destroyed...

    January 12, 2009 08:06 pm at 8:06 pm |
  3. tennisguypitt

    Some of these comments are so stupid they make me want to laugh.

    January 12, 2009 08:10 pm at 8:10 pm |
  4. Home of the Free

    He's going to leave it open for all Idiot republicans.

    January 12, 2009 08:10 pm at 8:10 pm |
  5. mark


    January 12, 2009 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  6. Doug

    @ Mark

    The Bill of Rights never uses the phrase American Citizens. The Fifth Amendment states that NO PERSON shall be held to answer for a crime ..... or deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. The sixth amendment says that in ALL CRIMINAL PROSECUTIONS the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial. The constitution applies to the federal government telling them how they should act in all criminal cases, not just those of American citizens. That's why we're the good guys.

    January 12, 2009 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  7. john from sandiego

    relese them all in downtown D.C., they would blend in perfectly

    January 12, 2009 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
  8. Michael

    To those who say "they aren't Americans, they don't deserve rights" let me simply say we either believe in the rights of man, liberty, the rule of law or we do not. Long ago a man far more capable than I put it more succinctly than I ever could:

    "Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation, we began by declaring that "all men are created equal." We now practically read it "all men are created equal, except Negroes." When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read "all men are created equal, except Negroes and foreigners and Catholics." When it comes to this, I shall prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretense of loving liberty – to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure and without the base alloy of hypocrisy."

    -Abraham Lincoln

    January 12, 2009 08:33 pm at 8:33 pm |
  9. Mike in NC

    Darth Vadik, CA January 12th, 2009 6:06 pm ET

    Hey Mike Mundy, Houston, TX

    How about a proper trial. Heck McVeigh got one, didn't he?

    Yes he did you GENIUS. HOWEVER, he was an American, as such he was afforded a trial in a civilian court. This isn't rocket science people. To be honest the prisoners at Gitmo, a.) DO NOT fall under the US Constitution, and b.)They DO NOT fall under the Geneva Convention. They are NOT Americans, and they DO NOT belong to ANY countries military. You folks should really read up on both the Constitution and the Geneva Convention. There are NO international laws that cover these people. They were captured on the battlefield, while they were in battle. Honestly they COULD and SHOULD be treated as spies, they should get NO trial, they should simply be put in front of a firing squad.

    January 12, 2009 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  10. Ken in NC

    Mark, I have seen several of your very negative comments here and concluded that you could be the poster child for abortions. Your mind is so warped it is shameful.

    The elections are over and Obama is going to be OUR President. Get over it. Give it a rest. If you find that you cannot be an American willing to come together with other Americans to work out the problems we face as a nation then maybe you should move to Mexico or Iraq or some other country.

    January 12, 2009 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
  11. yet another Bush black eye to fix

    just like we need to get our service men out of that debacle in Iraq and home to a hero's welcome and their families

    we need to close Gitmo

    what was Bush thinking, what a turd

    January 12, 2009 08:36 pm at 8:36 pm |
  12. bj, texas

    Stupid Pres Select. He is not my president. The media and acorn appointed him. Instead of a cat he should adopt all the Gitmo prisoners since he seems to care so more for them.

    January 12, 2009 08:36 pm at 8:36 pm |
  13. Mike in NC


    Matt, would you suggest that we have a "CSI" team with every Army or Marine ground unit? You know so they can collect this evidence you speak of? Then we can have the soldiers read each person they capture their "rights"? You have NO CONCEPT of what war is like do you? My friend, you need an education. Why don't you get off of cnn.com and go read up on the US Constitution and the Geneva Convention. Then you can come back here and know what you are talking about?

    January 12, 2009 08:43 pm at 8:43 pm |
  14. J.P.

    Yippee! Terrorists coming to a street near you!

    This certainly is change, but I'd be hard pressed to say it's positive change.

    January 12, 2009 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  15. Former Republican







    January 12, 2009 09:06 pm at 9:06 pm |
  16. Where are you going to put the detainees????

    Nobody wants them Mr. Obama, so what are you going to do with them? Put them in the Blue Room???

    January 12, 2009 09:20 pm at 9:20 pm |

    what will happen to the terrorists

    January 12, 2009 09:28 pm at 9:28 pm |
  18. Rick Sutter

    We should just open the gates and let Castro deal with them. After all, isn't he the hero of the Hollywood elite and the Libs? Surely he will give them all a fair trial. Go Fidel!

    January 12, 2009 09:34 pm at 9:34 pm |
  19. Rick Sutter

    To "The Old Timer". The Lefties don't believe they are terrorists. They believe they are simply the oppressed poor trying to make a statement about their poor treatment by the evil, excessively wealthy, West. Therefore, there is nothing to fear from these poor, misunderstood citizens of the One World.

    January 12, 2009 09:37 pm at 9:37 pm |

    I wish the elected one in the whitehouse would read the blogs that his name is mentioned in. He would find out how much the american people don,t trust this guy something I,ve been saying since day one. He can not be trusted. he put forth some big plans which he will never be able to keep but he has got the American public so brain washed that they can not see through the smoke screen He is just hot air and no experence what so ever.

    January 12, 2009 09:38 pm at 9:38 pm |
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