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. Chelle

    Yes we can (ruin the country, that is) January 12th, 2009 4:23 pm ET

    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.


    The country is ALREADY ruined, please get a CLUE

    January 12, 2009 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  2. everygreen

    let the attacks begin stupid people. don't cry either once they start

    January 12, 2009 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  3. Chris from Philly

    This is a great move. The Constitution was at risk under the Bush Administration and much of that had to deal with Guatanomo Bay. The torture and lack of any rights of prisoners there was atrocious. It's not like Obama or anyone supports terrorists of course, but if we're gonna give the death penalty to some accused terrorists, we need to make sure they are given just basic freedoms to ensure that they really are responsible for what they are being charged with. Guatanomo Bay was an abuse of power and this will change the tone world wide and gain the US some needed respect!

    January 12, 2009 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  4. Chris in VA

    Better yet, convert it to the "Madoff Hilton" – it has all the amenities one would expect at a "celebrity" prison – tropical climate, ocean views.....

    January 12, 2009 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  5. rob

    didn't the NY Times just publish a story saying that Obama recently went back on his promise to close the prison because it would be too dangerous to close up so quickly? And now he is changing his mind AGAIN?

    Obama just bought new shoes, and they sound like this..flip flop flip flop

    January 12, 2009 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  6. SMK

    So what's his plan for closing the prison? Send all these terrorists back to their home country to allow them to attack us again? Or maybe he can just throw them in our countrie's criminal system and they can be back out on the streets in a year or less. No country wants these people because of what they represent and no one is willing to take them in. The best course of action would be to build a new maximum security prison here in the States, try and convict each and every one of them. If they are guilty, execute them right away. Innocent, well, highly doubtful...but if they are send them home and pray they don't return to their terrorist ways.

    As for the torture and what not. We did what we had to do to get the information we needed. So, it's ok for them to kidnap American's, video tape them, then cut off their heads. But it's not ok, if we use necessary means to obtain information to better protect our country?

    January 12, 2009 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  7. zzzzz

    Yes we can (ruin the country, that is) January 12th, 2009 4:23 pm ET

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

    What rock have you been living under? The country has already been ruined. Anything is better than what we had for the eight last years.

    January 12, 2009 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  8. Griff

    "O"Bama-Git". Sounds better....

    January 12, 2009 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  9. Jeff in Illinois

    There goes the sex lives of several prison guards...

    January 12, 2009 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  10. Working for a living

    Nothing like acting without all of the facts. This will be the first of many stupid acts. Hey but he will win votes and will not have to stand up for what is right. He will just give in and let the problems happen.

    January 12, 2009 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  11. Uncle S.A.M.

    President-elect Obama has the right idea. With the chaos going on in the Middle-East right now, closing down Gitmo will show the people in that region that we are serious about restoring America's image around the world and that we are a moral society. It's just one step to let the world know that CHANGE has come.

    January 12, 2009 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  12. Not in 100 days

    Obama promised his leftist faithful to close this down within 100 days of taking office. Now that he will have to deal with the reality of really dangerous people, we shall see how fast this happens if ever. I often wonder what countries in the world our standing has fallen with? The countries our fathers and grandfather liberated? The muslim countries that don't allow freedom of religion, press, etc. Former soviet countries? Germany? Africa where Bush has actually helped with health care? Who freaking cares?

    January 12, 2009 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  13. TomD

    This is how the way the most powerful country on earth should act. If they come to US Prisons then I'm sure they will not be "let out on parole" in the streets. LOL!!! Get real. I bet you still believe Elvis is alive too?

    January 12, 2009 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  14. P. Y.

    It's about time. It should have been closed down years ago.

    Hey " gitmo..........
    Wake up! Be honest ! There is nothing this man will ever do that you will agree with. You are a real idiot !

    January 12, 2009 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  15. Pat F

    I hope the prisoners don't thank him by blowing up some more US buildings.

    January 12, 2009 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  16. heat seeker

    Yes, Obama-Wan-Kenobi, you're our only hope.

    January 12, 2009 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  17. Bea

    @Gitmo Terrorists in your neighborhood and .Yes we can (ruin the country, that is).......please don't get off your meds.

    January 12, 2009 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  18. Javier

    What right does the U.S. have to dump its prisoners in someone else's country. As for them being terrorists, where is the proof and the trial to convict them as such.

    January 12, 2009 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  19. rightly optimistic

    "Gitmo Terrorists in your neighborhood"

    i think your right. u should work in the administration. the world is black and white only.

    we either lock them up unfairly, or recklessly release them into suburbs.

    learn to see some gray and u might just understand how the world works

    January 12, 2009 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  20. Kevin B

    It is way past time to remove this stain on america's character. The "detainees" should be moved to in custody in Afganistan, which where the majority are from any way.

    How GWB could have even opened up such wound is a direct testimony as to how shorted sighted he was about the constituion and international perception.

    Great job Mr Obama !!

    January 12, 2009 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  21. JAMES


    January 12, 2009 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  22. America Is Great Again

    For Comments 1 and 3
    Just because he is going to close down GITMO, does not mean that he will just leave them. The prisoners will be relocated to HIMAX facilities. Also, some prisoners are actually not terrorists, just innocent civilians caught in bushes patriot act sweep. Also, Mccain wanted to do the EXACT SAME THING. And how is Obama more incompetent than a 74 year old with no real grip on our current issues?

    January 12, 2009 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  23. Mr. Jenks

    "Great plan" – So we put these accused terrorists in our prison system and on our soil. How is that better? They have a trial and get off due to tainted evidence and move into your neighborhood one day. Then what?

    January 12, 2009 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  24. Ken in Dallas

    The elite?

    Our moral standing has been damaged by Guantanamo in the eyes of the people whose good will we most need. America's values and tradition of individual rights are what give hope to those downtrodden, hapless, helpless souls who suffer under the heels of tyrants around the world. The fact that the most powerful government in the world can be constrained from abusing the rights of the lowest, as well as the rights of the highest, is America's enduring testament that All Men are Created Equal, and that They are Endowed by the Creator with Inalienable Rights.

    What the Bush administration has diminished is the deepest, most profound reason the United States of America were founded and joined into one nation. This is the final proof that Bush should never have been president: he misunderstands what is distinctive, what is definitive about America. To Bush freedom is only a word.

    Rights are what America is all about. To misunderstand that is a great wrong.

    January 12, 2009 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  25. DIZIZI31

    He must act quickly. If not then he could be guilty of same war crimes as the outgoing President George W. Bush. Listen up America, Where is the outrage for the release of the prisoners being held in Iraq and Afghanistan that are set to be released? And Bush signed that document. Let's hope the US gets out of there quickly before they have time to think about being held against one's will and not being charged with anything.

    January 12, 2009 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11