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. Obama's the Anti-christ

    Doesn't anyone think this is a little rash?

    These are potentially dangerous people – and to just shut it down on day one shows more lack of leadership.

    "Yes we can!!!" – you forgot the rest..."Ruin the country in a 10th of the time that W did!!!"

    January 12, 2009 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  2. Bob, topeka, ks

    Great. Im sure that getting 3 squares a day, cable TV, and medical care in a US prison while awaiting trial where their taxpayer funded lawyer will argue that they are actually good people at heart will make the terrorists think twice before trying something. Hmmm, cave in the middle East or basketball at Parchman? Tough choice. I guess our only hope is some good, old fashioned, prison justice. Even murderers dont like people messing with their homes.

    January 12, 2009 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  3. shucks

    Bush and Cheney's torture chamber.

    January 12, 2009 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  4. Dennis

    So the US will change course and move back to the rule of law that the founding fathers envisioned? We'll actually take the moral high ground and maybe, just maybe, not be cursed at when we encourage other countries what to do? You mean it's actually possible to reverse the course of terrorism without adapting their own tactics? I say it's about time!!! But then again, I'm just a naive liberal that doesn't understand the nature of the terrorist threat. And we may be a country founded on "Christian values" but JC didn't actually expect us to practice what he preached, did he?

    January 12, 2009 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  5. Hady Moustafa

    WEll ok ,Obama will close the cuban prison and i believe this is a great start for Obama to do in the oval office!! I totally agree with him.

    January 12, 2009 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  6. SLB

    All you critics of Obama should read the article; McCain was for closing Gitmo too. They both knew it wasn't slowing terrorism down at all (only making it worse) AND it was spreading worldwide the idea that the U.S. was a bunch of unprincipled thugs. America can do better than Guantanamo Bay.

    January 12, 2009 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  7. A New Dawn


    To quote Spaceballs, "When will then be now?"


    Eight more days! Eight more days! I can't wait!

    January 12, 2009 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  8. Sandy

    A huge mistake Obama!

    January 12, 2009 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  9. Do the right thing

    Good. It's the right thing to do.

    January 12, 2009 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  10. Meka

    Closing Gitmo, is great news!

    January 12, 2009 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  11. King Obama was the wrong choice!!!

    It does not matter what King Obama does!! The media (who actually runs this country) will make him out the hero!
    It will never be HIS fault....ever!
    Where will we go for bailout money, when the american government goes bankrupt??
    We do not have bottomless pockets and neither do the chinese that are giving us the money for all this bailout????

    January 12, 2009 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  12. Michael

    Good move on his part. We are a nation of laws and if we can't lead by example, then we are doomed. Woe to those angry white southern males who post here who don't see this.

    As for a secure place to put those who are deserving of such accomodations, that bunker prison in Colorado might be a good place.

    January 12, 2009 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  13. shucks

    with all the waterboarding and torture we still don't know where Osama bin Laden is do we? It really worked marvelous didn't it.

    January 12, 2009 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  14. Amy, Rochester

    I couldn't be more pleased to see Obama is sticking close to his Civil Rights background. It is high time that we begin to practice what we preach again.

    January 12, 2009 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  15. Jackie in Dallas

    Many of the people in this camp have never been formally charged with any crimes; almost none have had any legal representation; and few have had their cases reviewed by ANYONE. Closing GITMO is the only moral and ethical choice that the new administration has, as it will force the government to actually deal with all of the cases; free the ones who should never have been arrested, deport those who should be deported, and try the ones who should be tried. That's what our Constitution guarantees, and what our signing the Geneva Conventions guarantees. That's called DUE PROCESS, people, which as Americans we should support.

    January 12, 2009 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  16. R Edwards

    This is his first mistake. Where's he gonna' put them; in the Hilton. They're his friends, no wonder he doesn't want them there.

    January 12, 2009 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  17. Chris

    Where are you going to put them. Are you going to just let them go and give them their freedom like most left wing wackos would do?
    I don't agree with keeping the prison open, but either send them to the grand jury or send them back to their country of Origin, even if their country's government may prosecute them as well or kill them. Who care, but don't allow them to come to the U.S. Just asking for trouble.

    January 12, 2009 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  18. Chuck, Tennessee

    So, how many of you bleeding heart liberals are willing to allow one of the Gitmo terrorists to live in your neighborhood? This is the types of decisions that Obama will make that will show him to be a weak leader who will allow the world to dictate our actions to us. Does anyone care about or even remember 9/11?

    January 12, 2009 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  19. mh

    The individuals at Gitmo have been denied due process, primarily as a result of a lack of evidence backing up the charge of terrorism.

    January 12, 2009 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  20. MarkInPDX

    "so we will have these terrorists in the neighborhoods out on parole"

    Right? Are you really that dense? Did you even read Obama's comments? Apparently not, since he clearly stated that he wants to do this in a manner that is both consistent with our Constitution AND keeps us from releasing those who want to do us harm.

    January 12, 2009 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  21. Jose Serrano

    It's refreshing to see real change come to Washington. Yes, there will be some bumps on the road, but just like we dealt with bad decisions like the invasion and occupation of Iraq.. we can deal with the closing of Guantanamo. I'm sure the world reaction will be different.

    January 12, 2009 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  22. Dan

    The whole World has been begging for an end to this evil behavior by America. How anyone can rationalize such wretched behavior is beyond belief. Intelligence is moving into the White House. America will once again be revered and respected.

    January 12, 2009 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  23. Bold AND Stupid

    I know why doesn't Obamam just invite all of these terrorists over to the White House for cocktails and a nice tour. Maybe they can make a day of it and tour the Pentagon and CIA headquarters too.

    January 12, 2009 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  24. R Edwards

    To Grog in Ohio: Yes it is only 8 days. Then you will regret it from now on.

    January 12, 2009 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  25. canadian pov

    Torture is never acceptable. Your courts just sentenced Taylor to 97 years in jail for participating in acts of torture. Rightly so because torture is the most abhorrent act of man. What is wrong with you people that think its okay to detain people for years without charges or access to legal advice? You would not tolerate it in the US – wait, you have been and its a disgrace.

    January 12, 2009 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
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