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. Grog in Ohio

    YES we can!!!

    8 days till the end of the Bush administration.

    January 12, 2009 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  2. Mike Dallas

    Good for him. While I am not against jailing perceived war criminals I am against holding them without access to legal counsel and certainly not allowed to sit in a prison for 6 years and no, the fact that the prison is not on American soil does not make it better or right.

    The shrub and crew has had 6 years to charge them or let them go, they chose to do nothing but hold them in prison.

    January 12, 2009 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  3. 18 year old voter from Jersey

    "'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"

    so why not try to fix it, before closing it down? If PE Obama plans on closing it down, I really hope he has somewhere in mind to send those who are being detained there, because bringing them onto American soil for prosecution could be bad news. My biggest fear though, is that he will close it down before being fully briefed on the inner workings of Guantanemo. None of us actually know exactly what goes on there...

    January 12, 2009 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  4. Gitmo Terrorists in your neighborhood

    Great Obama will close the Cuban prison; we will bring the prisoners to the US as no other country will take them; and in the next year or so we will have these terrorists in the neighborhoods out on parole .... great plan.

    January 12, 2009 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  5. PF

    Big message to the terrorist that we are open to attack again... Not a good idea.

    January 12, 2009 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  6. cnn junkie


    January 12, 2009 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  7. Yes we can (ruin the country, that is)

    Obama-Biden-Clinton-Pelosi-Reid: Wow this is a big change, We now have 5 incompetent people in charge of the country instead of just one.

    January 12, 2009 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  8. alvino

    Now that is change we can believe in!

    January 12, 2009 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  9. Griff

    CNN's Mister Snider??? Sounds a little Snidy to me....
    You will never cover your past..... There is No Heaven....

    January 12, 2009 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  10. Ed, Santa Fe, NM

    it should be named after Bush and Cheney.... Gitmo is the hallmark of their rancid administration.....

    January 12, 2009 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  11. John in Ohio

    Just be sure the CIA spooks don't open up torture camps elsewhere.

    January 12, 2009 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  12. Puff


    January 12, 2009 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  13. Veronica

    He is a man of his word.


    January 12, 2009 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  14. BattleChicken

    Hopefully this is just the first of the secret prisons that get closed.

    Secret prisons that operate outside of due process are very unamerican.

    January 12, 2009 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  15. Mickey, New York

    I say keep it open just for George Bush, Dickard Cheney, Condi Rice, and the rest of their ilk. Let's show them just how reliable information derived from waterboarding is...

    January 12, 2009 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  16. Randall from FL

    Please don't put them anywhere near my hometown. If there is any justice he will relocate them to Chicago, IL.

    January 12, 2009 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  17. Cuba Wanted Change in 1959 - Be Careful What You Wish For

    Just where is the annointed one going to put the terrorists? I sure don't want them in MY backyard. Ship them home!!!

    January 12, 2009 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  18. mary, older white lady from NJ for Pres. Obama

    YES HE WILL!!!


    January 12, 2009 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  19. Darko

    Phase I of – "Get them to like us" is now underway.

    January 12, 2009 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  20. ran

    Great way to start rebuilding our trust around the world again. People we really did pick the right person to lead us out of the last 8 yrs.

    January 12, 2009 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  21. mick

    OK, you want to close Gitmo so we "look better to the Muslim world", but what happens to the war criminals? Where do they go? Does anyone care?

    Obama supporters, get ready for reality. Once Bush is out, its all on Obama and our collective tax dollars.

    "Yes we can!" – that's a slogan, not an workable solution.

    January 12, 2009 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  22. Independent Paul from Phoenix

    What is Obama's plan for those detainees? I don't have a problem with closing the prison, but if these people are released back to their communities, they will turn around and try and destroy us...again.

    What is the administration prepared to do with them?

    January 12, 2009 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  23. Marc

    Close it ASAP. There are guys there that plan or planned to commit any kind of terrorist act againts the USA? Give them the USA's JUSTICE, not that stuff that GWB&Co. gave to us at the cost of the Constitution...

    January 12, 2009 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  24. Mike

    Sure close it and bring them all over here.. might as well have all the thugs living here in the US rather than some other country.

    January 12, 2009 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  25. Rob

    There we go. Let 'em go free. Better yet, let's give them some money for all the pain and suffering that big ol' mean Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney did to them. Then, they can take that money, go over to Russia, buy a nuke (since they'll sell 'em to anybody), then come over and try to finish the job they started on 9/11.

    Once again, too many people behavin' like it's September 10th. People want to accuse me of worrying too much? Hey, I'd rather be worrying and safe then feeling more at peace with the world community and glowing.

    Ask yourself this – If you were in jail under the leadership of people like those being help at Gitmo, you think they'd just up and close the jail down, give you a fair trial? Nope, they only way you'd be leaving there is in pieces, after you were part of a nice propaganda video.

    Thank God you freaks weren't around during WW2. We'd all be goose-stepping now...well, all of us except for basically everyone who wasn't blond haired and blue-eyed. Hmmm, anyone see any similarities between the Nazis and a group that wants to eliminate everyone who isn't a Muslim??? But instead of Churchill we've got Obama and Code Pink. Time for today's French lesson, repeat after me, "I surrender"

    January 12, 2009 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
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