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. political junkie


    January 12, 2009 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  2. Brian

    I can understand Osama wanting to free his buddies...can't you guys??

    January 12, 2009 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  3. Island girl

    ¡Viva Obama! I hope that diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba will improve too.

    January 12, 2009 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  4. Liz

    So where exactly does he plan on housing the terror suspects??? Maybe there's room on Bill Ayers' street now that the Obamas are leaving town!

    January 12, 2009 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  5. Charles L. Shaw, Liverpool, NY

    To my PE, you go dude, I did not vote for you but this is the right thing to do, America should not have "Concentration camps"!

    January 12, 2009 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  6. liz

    We will send a message to the world that we're not really serious about dealing with problems if others say that we're mean. We can't win the popularity contest that way. Maybe he could send them to Mexico?

    January 12, 2009 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  7. Rick

    What a bunch of morons Obama and his crew are. This is a bad move and for what? To score a few publicity points with the limp-wristed europeans?

    My only complaint with Gitmo was that it was not harsh enough.

    January 12, 2009 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  8. Dave, Central Illinois

    Uh, where are the prisoners going? Or is that a minor technical issue? If they are transferred to US prisons, those prisons will become targets. Do any of you really want that?

    January 12, 2009 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  9. the idiot

    The prisoners will now become community ogranizers in Chicago.

    January 12, 2009 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  10. Jason

    Did no one think to ask what he plans to do with these prisoners?

    January 12, 2009 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  11. AndyL

    Commorades, welcome to America. Please feel free to travel around the country and destroy it.

    January 12, 2009 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  12. Scott the Independent

    Gitmo Terrorists in your neighborhood at 4:21 – great imagination, were you once a republican public relations specialist

    January 12, 2009 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  13. Chris

    What Obama loser NEVER tells us is WHERE are the TERRORISTS THEN????????

    January 12, 2009 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  14. James

    Good job Obama, now let us see you make a 'quick move' and put these war criminals on a rope, where they belong.

    January 12, 2009 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  15. Chris

    What Obama loser NEVER tells us is WHERE are the TERRORISTS GOING THEN????????

    January 12, 2009 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  16. boered1

    hmm isn't this one of those campaign promises everyone has been telling me he will not keep?

    guess that is just more of the radical right and the looney left (yes I mean you supporters of the liar hillary!) lies in their attempt to keep this country divided and destroy America.


    and umm Yes we can (ruin the country that is) you seem to forgget the entire rubber stamp congress for the first 6 years of the bush residency.. but than what else is to be expected of the radical right and looney left? And umm Gitmo terrorist.. MOST of the ones we tortured and held without trial ahve already been let free you see they were not terrorist until we turned them into terrorist at Gitmo.. maybe if you had protested wwhen they were imprisoned you would not now have to deal with them..


    January 12, 2009 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  17. paul

    I mean this is just playing with American lives..................you left wing nutjobs got what you wanted hopefully these terrorists no the difference between a real American and a left wing nutjob...........this is absurd...........

    January 12, 2009 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  18. pakuna

    yes we can! bring them mistreated boys here. he is moving everyone else into the white house, just open the right wing to house them poor mistreated boys.

    January 12, 2009 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  19. Mat T

    To those worried about releasing "terrorists" into the US, let me remind you: innocent until proven guilty. These prisoners have been in jail without charge for nearly eight years. If there is evidence they are guilty, charge them and bring them to trial. Otherwise, yes–let them go.

    January 12, 2009 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  20. Scott the Independent

    Yes we can 4:23 – you must have been a Bush publicist – or haven't you noticed the country is already on the brink of disaster one step up from ruin where Bush has lead us.

    January 12, 2009 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  21. Marie

    Appease, appease, appease.

    January 12, 2009 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  22. S.M

    I have a suggestion; Instead of Obama closing down Guantanamo Bay, why not keep it open and throw Bush and Cheyney in this prison and allow those who were tormented to give them the same treatment?

    January 12, 2009 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  23. Anonymous

    What a great way to let the ists back to America. Well America, I hope you're happy.Closing Gitmo will be the start of the end.

    January 12, 2009 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  24. Joel Parkes

    Decisive. Intelligent. A real leader at last...

    January 12, 2009 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  25. Tyran

    Why do people act like Obama is going to set terrorist free. If you have nothing on them then you have to let them go. Some Americans need to stop this constant questioning of the President-elect's committment to this nation. He may not look like you, but his faith in this nation is probaly runs deeper than yours. You try running for President!!!! Yall act like Bush didn't screw up the country. Obama is just trying to undo GW's mess and what a mess it is!

    January 12, 2009 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
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