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. Cash

    I really hope BO understands the danger that is out there! I don't think he does YET!

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


    January 12, 2009 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  3. Carrie Goodeagle Hayden, Idaho

    This will help clean up our reputation with other "civilized," Nations. We will not tolerate torture. When will Bush and Cheney be tried for War Crimes

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

    We don't have many options with this group - but no matter what your primary motivation - fear, need for global respect, or respect for US law - it's hard to make an argument for keeping them at gitmo for any longer. As dad used to say (less dimplomatically): "Do your business or get off the pot!"

    January 12, 2009 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  5. Peter (CA)

    Wow the right wingers are foaming something fierce today, aren't they?

    If the prisoners are to be released, they will return to their own country.
    Apparently, you guys no longer understand what it takes to actually run a country like competent adults and not like drunken frat boys with daddy's credit card.

    January 12, 2009 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  6. stag

    The Gitmo pisoners are good folks, just misunderstood. I'm sure they will be good neighbors and thankful to be in th USA. Maybe they can become teachers.

    January 12, 2009 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  7. In da'Burgh

    Relocate them back to Afghanistan, let Mr. Karzai deal with how to handle them.

    January 12, 2009 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  8. Barbara

    God bless you, President-elect Obama.

    January 12, 2009 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  9. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    Close Gitmo and send them to live with GWB.

    January 12, 2009 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  10. Thomas Forbes

    Lets face it, in addition to the legal and ethical nightmare, Guantanamo has accomplished little. It has hurt the US more than it has helped all in the name of "justice" and "war on terror". Obama is off to a great start and I applaud him for taking this stand. The world has great hopes for Obama, but it will take a very long time to mend the human, political, and economic damage wreaked by George Bush.

    January 12, 2009 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  11. Joe in NJ

    I think it is premature to announce the closing of Gitmo if you don't already have a plan in place on what to do with the remaining prisoners.

    January 12, 2009 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  12. No Peace

    Yes we can........................bring terrorists into our country who want to kill us.............

    January 12, 2009 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  13. Alan

    Gitmo is more than a prison camp; it's a symbol, and it represents the shame that has been brought to our country by the people who called the shots for the past eight years. It should be shut down. Once that is done, and as we figure out how to legally handle the people who are being held there, we should also figure out how to legally handle those who created the situation. Prisoners held indefinately without being charged, without having a trial, and in some cases tortured – how did the United States become a country that would permit such things to happen?

    January 12, 2009 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  14. De Long

    Yes this is important to close, but his first week, should he and his select democrats possibly consider getting our failing economy back from a recession, so as close the Cuban prison in week 2 or 3 or when he places a stimulas package into our economy...Just a thought from a voting american..

    January 12, 2009 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  15. Get Real, Boise, ID

    Hey, "Gitmo Terrorists in your neighborhood", wait! There's more! If the terrorists do find themselves in our neighborhoods, and if they do "pull some mischeif" . . . it going to be because we created them when we locked them up at GITMO,and not because they were locked up in the first place beacuse they are VERY, VERY BAD PEOPLE, who did VERY, VERY BAD THINGS. Now how ya gonna like that? Well shut up beacause nobody cares and liberalism is fashionable! What the people want is to overreact to BUSH and make a huge mistake because it sounds cool when Obama talks about it in his poliically elegant speaches. Besides, it's what the people want so I guess we'll all get what we wish for! It's going to be exciting! YES WE CAN free the terrorists so they can once again become actively involved in killing more people! Hooray! YES WE CAN! YES WE CAN!

    January 12, 2009 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  16. C.T.

    Gitmo terrorist. You can have the 12- 4am watch.

    January 12, 2009 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  17. New Yorker

    Obama says, " It's more difficult than alot of people realize..." duh, why do you think President Bush kept them there? This is a situation that has no easy solution. Who wants these potentially disastrous detainees in their back yard? Maybe we should put them in tents on the White House lawn where Obama can keep an eye on them. Sorry, but I'm pretty disgusted with his naivety.

    January 12, 2009 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  18. Mike, Syracuse NY

    And the prisoners go where? I'm sure if Obama had a plan, we'd have heard it by now.

    January 12, 2009 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  19. Brandon from WI

    Gitmo and Abu Graib have been a stain on America. It will be nice that Obama will raise the standards of this country to where they should be. Using a terrorist's method against them is like making a rabid dog afraid of you. It doesn't matter to the dog and you just sink to their level.
    As for the fear mongers' comments, the prisoners would go to the country of their origin if they are released. Also, it is easy to call a person incompetent, a lot harder to run for office yourself and change the system.

    January 12, 2009 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  20. JL

    Good, yesterday is to late already. Close it down!

    January 12, 2009 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  21. dt, victoria bc

    I think Obama gets it. Of all the damage that the Bush administration has done, the most hurtful is the abandonment of what I thought the USA always stood for: civil liberties. The support of torture and torturers, and the holding of prisoners without charges or trial at Gitmo, are two prominent ways that the USA is seen by others as having abandoned the moral high ground. There is no better signal that Obama could send than closing Guantanamo Bay if the USA is interested in repairing the damage done to its reputation.

    January 12, 2009 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  22. Jeff

    Obama is not an idiot like Bush is. Gitmo will be closed, and they'll be taken somewhere secure, I 'm sure. And then tried, and if convicted, they'll probably spend the rest of their lives in the Supermax prison...at least until they get the needle.

    So don't be stupid people....use some common sense if you have any. That's what Obama is doing, or don't you listen to what he says.

    January 12, 2009 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  23. Lee

    Keep part of it open for Cheney, Bush, Hadley, Gonzalez, Rove and their minions that promoted the idea that the prsident is "king" and can torture and act above the law. They can be housed in Guantanamo pending extradition to The Hague.

    Then the land ought to be turned over to Cuba since we stole it from them long ago. It's not part of the United States.

    January 12, 2009 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  24. Aimee

    Why? This is not a great start to his term. Where are the prisoners all going to go now? Here? We can't send them back...He better have a good plan on where they are all going to go. I don't want them in my backyard!

    January 12, 2009 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  25. NewJobs!

    Well I guess he found a way to create new jobs right away...let's see how many people can I hire to move a prison from outside the US to the mainland...

    January 12, 2009 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
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