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. wally

    Would closing Gitmo with a "cluster bomb" be sufficient?

    January 12, 2009 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  2. JJ in FL

    ... putting us one step closer to regaining our standing in this world. obama would like us to lead by example. that's a far cry better than bush's "do as i say, not as i do" approach to world leadership. a welcome change!!!

    January 12, 2009 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  3. Nick - West Hills (L.A.), CA

    At the rate things are going, the rhetoric and anger between the left and thr right may soon start to resemble the level of animosity between Israel and the Palestinians.

    Good grief, people. Please stop this nonsense. We are ALL Americans. We ALL love our country. We ALL want peace and prosperity and opportunity.


    January 12, 2009 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  4. Brandon

    Thank you Barack Obama for ending this national disgrace. Generations of future americans will look upon this episode with shame, similar to our detention of Japanese Americans in WW2

    January 12, 2009 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  5. Hands up

    What! Just let them go so they can bomb us. Good plan Obama. Invite them to stay in the WHite House While they plan there next attack.

    January 12, 2009 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  6. Brock

    Obama is a lunatic, Hurry up 2012 we need palin!

    January 12, 2009 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  7. ednadavid

    Thank god! This stain on the character of our Nation's values and all that we represent will hopefully end this era.

    January 12, 2009 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  8. Rosie

    The Obama Administration has not taken over this country yet! You can't blame a person for wrong-doing when he hasnt started anything yet.

    Go and rub Ben-gay on yourselves, nay sayers!

    January 12, 2009 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  9. WOW

    We all know what happens as soon as they step foot on American soil.... not good...

    January 12, 2009 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  10. arc, Lugano CH

    Gitmo Terrorists in your neighborhood January 12th, 2009 4:21 pm ET Great Obama will close the Cuban prison; and in the next year or so we will have these terrorists in the neighborhoods out on parole …. great plan.

    January 12, 2009 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  11. Ray

    There was a story on NPR this morning that stated the exact opposite of this article.

    January 12, 2009 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  12. Steve

    Only 8 more days until the economy gets even worse, our taxes go sky high and our national security is put at even greater risk. This is not going to be good, folks. We barely survived 8 years of Clinton...another Democrat will be horrible.

    January 12, 2009 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  13. Anonymous

    Yep, ruination is coming. We have enough terroriest already here because of our loose borders, especially with Mexico because the bleeding heart liberals won't shove the illegals back across. Now he's going to close Gitmo and bring all the terrorists jailed there to the US. The, they will be released here with a huge mad-on and guess what they're gonna do! You guessed it! Look out!

    Yep, Grog, keep counting the days until queen Pelosi, Prince Harry, Chris Dodd, Barney Frank and, last but least, NOBAMA himself, messiah! If you thought one man was bad (Bush), keep your eyes wide open – there's more idiocy to come. The Dems are already pouting because Nobama's stiumlus package of over $300 billing isn't enough money for them to spend!

    January 12, 2009 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  14. Bad Idea

    What is he going to do with everyone there today? For all those that are pleased with the fact that TERRORISTS are being freed, why don't you volunteer to have them live in your neighborhood? Because I don't want them in mine.

    January 12, 2009 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  15. Charlie in Maine

    one week one day. can't wait.

    January 12, 2009 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  16. nojabo

    I just wonder what he will say to the mother of an American soldier killed by someone released from Guantanamo Bay. This is not a hypothetical. There have already been people released who have returned to the battlefield. Most of these people cannot be prosecuted because the evidence against them isn't admissible in court. That of course, does not mean they are not a threat to this country. To then say "well we have to release them, then" is a non-sequitur. Soldiers, (and that's what these losers are), have been captured and held without trial since the beginning of time. Trying to treat a terrorist captured by the military like a criminal defendant is a recipe for disaster. I guess as long as it's not your loved one in harm's way makes it ok.

    January 12, 2009 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  17. richard

    8 days and the Democrats won't have no one to blame but themself. We can all watch our country crash and burn.

    January 12, 2009 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  18. Kyle W.

    Great idea Obama!! Close the prison and bring them to American soil so they can hopefully get a mistrial and set them free in our country to go and do what ever they please. I can see where this administration is going. Don't forget there is a reason these poeple are in the prison in the first place. But I guess that doesn't matter anymore right?

    January 12, 2009 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  19. Johnny V

    ..............and do what with these guys??????

    January 12, 2009 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  20. William, from Cali!

    "Every action".......can have adverse "reactions" and "consequences"! Remember that! Be careful!

    January 12, 2009 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  21. Polar Bears Against Palen

    Obama should keep it open....and lock Bush and Cheney in there.....speaking of terrorists.

    January 12, 2009 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  22. Bama Bound

    Giving up Gitmo isn't about political prisoners who just happen to be the scum of the earth. It is about undoing everything that is right about American one block at the time. Out intelligence gathering efforts in the Carribean will suffer immensely as a result of abandonment of this facility. First the Panama Canal, now Gitmo. Is Ellis island next?

    January 12, 2009 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  23. patNY

    didn't reagan close down the mental hospitals and vet hospitals housing vet mental patients, which resulted in all the crazy homeless...

    so, would this mean that all the accused in the cuban prison will be walking the streets if they can get bail?

    January 12, 2009 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  24. billy-bayou

    Great ! Close the prison Pay their way into the State and city of their choice, set them up with $100,000.00 from the bailout fund and give them 24/7 security to set up their madrasas and terrorists camps. That is the change we need to institute "the great ones"(obama) plan. Boy, is he going to teach us a thing or two.
    But that's what you all wanted, CHANGE, I listened to it for two long years.When your cities start exploding, enjoy your CHANGE.

    January 12, 2009 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  25. Mike

    GTIYN – You know....they can deport them back to their country of origin. Odds are they won't want to live in your neighborhood anyway.

    January 12, 2009 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
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