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. mark

    Could these be considered pardons since obama is most likely good friends with most of these guys...lol

    January 12, 2009 06:21 pm at 6:21 pm |
  2. dejavu65

    Hey all those so bitter that Obama is President, its okay i offer a group hug to you all!! and some local counseling, .......but if its that bad i hear there is plenty of land in Europe, ta ta

    January 12, 2009 06:22 pm at 6:22 pm |
  3. mark

    Mike in NC

    Thank you...so yo uliberals, please show me the "constitution" ya'll are talking about that gives non-americans all of these rights

    January 12, 2009 06:27 pm at 6:27 pm |
  4. commie mommie

    YES WE KAN! I am sooo happy that Gitmo is closing! I would love to host one of these extremist boogers in my very own home! I have an idea.... maybe I can can convert to Islam so I can be more sensitive to their needs.... that is if it is alright with beloved leader. No more of that foolish bush-man that kept these possibly innocent, possible homicidal jihadists locked up all this time. Solidarity!

    January 12, 2009 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  5. tom

    I agree with you MIke in NC, not only do they NOT belong in civilan court , they are not soldiers either and that's why IMO there is a problem with treating them under the Geneva Convention rules. With either of these you give them a legitimacy that they are not due.

    This is likely another promise Obama Hussein can't keep...at least not any time soon.

    January 12, 2009 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  6. Very Proud American

    All the Republicans on this post are FUNNY! Your party will never recover with people like you vocalizing for the GOP......

    To the so-called Proud American you have no business calling Matt a racist.....he is just calling it like most people see the Republican Party and BUSH......Show me how your party wants to Unite this country and then I will consider listening. By the way PALIN ain't it ....2012 will be the same way as 2008....a landslide for the Democrats.

    **Stop listening to Rush & Hannity for your talking points.

    January 12, 2009 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  7. Will, NJ

    Mike and Mark, while there maybe no express and written system to deal with these people, it shouldn't go beyond ordinary judgment that in order to convict a person of a crime they should be tried first. The way we are treating detainees does not represent the views of justice and freedom that the USA stands for. It only further serves as a rallying cry for the actual terrorists and their supporters that we're willing to abuse and detain potentially innocent civilians. Many of those locked up at Gitmo are people that were turned over to US forces via local authorities acting on tips. This means that a man who doesn't like his neighbor could call his local police and have the man arrest under phony charges of terrorism and immediately that man is arrested and held for an indeterminate amount of time. I in no way have sympathy for terrorists and personally believe they should have no rights, but unless a person is convicted of terrorism they should have the same access to our legal system if they are going to be held by our country. Call me a nut if you will, but the thought of being imprisoned for years on end with no possibility of trial or appeal is a scary thought.

    January 12, 2009 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  8. Ashamed

    USA, one of the few countries left in the world that still pursues the practice of torture. And some people here are actually proud of it!

    I for one have always felt america would fight for immoral and unjust treatment of people world wide, not be the perpetrators of the crimes!

    An Ashamed Veteran

    January 12, 2009 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  9. Halden

    The fifth amendment of the Constitution is utterly clear that it does not depict the rights of Americans, but of all people:

    "No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime . . . without due process of law. . ."

    Not no citizen. No person. It's in the Constitution. Obama is doing the right thing here.

    January 12, 2009 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  10. Get Real, Boise, ID

    Mike in NC, I agree with both you and Mark. You summed it up perfectly. Never underestimate the stupidity . . . or the unbridled emotions . . . of the general public. Obama want's to free bad men after all the hard work that went into locking them up.

    January 12, 2009 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  11. Mike in NC

    January 12th, 2009 5:34 pm ET

    Good, the sooner it's closed the better. People deserve due process no matter how despicable they are as a human being and torture is not an acceptable practice for a civilized society – trickery and deception have a better chance of success.

    REALLY? Where is THAT written? Where was the "due process" for the people in the World Trade Center? Where was the "due process" for those in the Pentagon? How about the "due process" for those on flight 93? These people at Gitmo are not entitled to "due process" unless "due process" is defined as a bullet between the eyes!

    January 12, 2009 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  12. Bjorn

    I am greatly intrigued by the prospect of President Bush justifying the wrongs of his administration for the rest of his life. It is indisputable that is administration has done more to damage the United States' standing in the world than any of its predecessors. Will he write a book? Most probably. But I ask, how long can a book remain credible when its author defends himself by calling others elitist. It is a stretch for the son of a president, a former owner of a major league baseball team and a Yale graduate to call others elite is it not? When did elite become such a bad word? There are those, President Bush among them, who never had to work to be called that, but what about the others who are truly elite? Those who worked from the bottom to the top, those who truly deserve to be named elite. I wish for a day when candidates and presidents need not lower themselves to the lowest common denominator to boost their ratings. I want the smartest, most cultured, most successful people running my country. I want the true elite of this nation to be its leaders, and I want them to not have to hide themselves.


    A Student Abroad

    January 12, 2009 07:07 pm at 7:07 pm |
  13. boered1

    @ Mike in NC
    No I do not expect them to read them their rights on the battle field. I DO EXPECT, as a signer of the Geneva Conventions, the US to follow the rules for Prisoners of War 9after all if they are captured on a "battlefield" are they not Prisoners of War?) The objection is with bush redefining these POWS as "enemy combatants" not deserving of the rights established under the Geneva Conventions. There is also the fact that many of these were NOT captured on the battlefield but were turned over to US forces as terrorist. No background work was done on them they were considered terrorist, tortured and held without even verifying they were guilty of anything but being in the wrong place at the wrong time or having enemies who were, at the time of their being turned over, supporting the US. Those are the facts, so do I expect them to get a US court hearing? NO do I expect their treatment to be in compliance with treaties we have signed? YES Has this mimium been done? NO I do agree with you on one point and that is "I love the internet, this is the place where people who know nothing about a subject can "spout off" and tell the rest of us how things should be done based solely on "how they feel"."

    January 12, 2009 07:13 pm at 7:13 pm |
  14. boered1


    The Constitution DOES require us to follow signed, properly approved treaties, the one in this instant iscalled the Geneva Convention: there is your answer.

    January 12, 2009 07:15 pm at 7:15 pm |
  15. No Incumbents 2010

    If Proud American can stop calling everyone idiot, you should be able to stop calling people racist.

    January 12, 2009 07:15 pm at 7:15 pm |
  16. Darrell

    Obama will close GITMO and relocate the prisoners to a facility in a country where they still have no due process rights.

    The move is a not much more than a PR political stunt.

    I'll bet you the dollar bill in my wallet ('cause the government took the rest) that Obama won't let the prisoners go...chicken.

    And why aren't all the liberals on this site raising a ruckus that Obama has flip-flopped numerous times since you elected him? Looks like 4 more years of the same. With that said, thanks for the pending tax cut Obama...I should have voted for you!! You're a better conservative than Bush and McCain combined.

    January 12, 2009 07:15 pm at 7:15 pm |
  17. Bob Smith

    What's he doing? Letting his relatives go?

    January 12, 2009 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  18. Steve

    It's nice to see America returning to American values. Maybe all you pro-torture folks could go start your own country somewhere else, and let those of us who believe in democracy and the rule of law stay here with our new president and get to work.

    January 12, 2009 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  19. lovable liberal

    Amazing, a President who doesn't want to keep building a gulag! It is a new day.

    January 12, 2009 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  20. Pepou

    This is one of the many reasons why I voted and campaigned for him. To regain our country's respect and pride.

    January 12, 2009 07:31 pm at 7:31 pm |
  21. Dave

    So he won't close Guantanamo in 100 days, nor will he pull the troops out of Iraq in 16 months like he promised in his campaign. Hmmmm, it's a good thing he has the economic crisis to take the heat of all the campaign promises he's adjusting to reality now that he will have to live with them.

    January 12, 2009 07:31 pm at 7:31 pm |
  22. SMK

    I love how all my posts sit in MODERATION for hours and hours and usually end up never getting posted because you close comments. Yet, other posters continue to post non-stop. It's been nearly 3 hours, what is going on CNN?

    January 12, 2009 07:31 pm at 7:31 pm |
  23. Pepou

    Gitmo = Gulag. Are we better than the Russians ?

    January 12, 2009 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  24. everygreen

    This will be a very big mistake on Obama's part, none of these people are Americans and they no rights to our way of life. I guess you want our tax dollars to pay for their trials too. This shows a very soft stance on Terrrorism one which we will pay dearly. I guess you like bombing and attacks, they most certainly will happen now. thank you mindless minions

    January 12, 2009 07:50 pm at 7:50 pm |
  25. not americans

    These people are not American's so show me where in the Constitution that they are afforded the rights of U.S. citizens. You can't.

    Can someone explain how a fair trial for these people will be held...first find the soldiers and Marines that caught them and get them all in the courtroom for a trial. How is that gonna work?

    January 12, 2009 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
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