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. whybeconservative?

    Finally, an adult in charge! Little George doesn't understand what the problem was, but then again, he didn't understand much, did he? After 8 years of trying to show the world that conservatism works, all these guys have done is add to its long list of failures.

    January 12, 2009 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  2. Matt

    @ Yes We Can

    You mean to tell us that Bush was the only incompetent nincompoop for the past 8 years? Interesting. So that means Cheney, Gonzalez, Rice, et al., all those people are competent in your mind? No wonder the GOP is going down the tubes.

    January 12, 2009 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  3. Texas Latina

    Thank God. It was about time!

    January 12, 2009 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  4. Raul Castro

    Darn, and just when I thought we had THE place to send Cheney and Rumsfeld

    January 12, 2009 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  5. Don

    I cannot wait until Obama becomes our official President.

    January 12, 2009 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  6. Proud American

    Where will the prisoners go? We don't want enemy combatants, (or terrorists) in our own country. That wouldn't be very bright.

    January 12, 2009 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  7. b. wallace

    now if only obama will follow thru and completely follow the constituition and scrap the patriot act folly and get rid of martial law execuitive orders and leave gun owners alone then we would have change the people could get behind for sure..

    January 12, 2009 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  8. In da Burgh

    Relocate them all to Afghanistan, let Karzai deal with the lot.

    January 12, 2009 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  9. Peter

    Here come the Republican talking points. Heads up, GOPers...the vast majority of the Gitmo prisoners have never even been formally charged with a crime, not even under that idiotic and extra-legal "enemy combatant" military tribunal system. Remember the tribunals? They were there to try and do an end around run around Geneva Convention Protocols about torture and prisoners of war. Problem is, the military tribunal system falls apart when you don't even bother to charge anyone with a crime. Additionally, thanks to our illegal torturing of the prisoners, any information gathered that way would be inadmissable under virtually every standard of American justice.

    When the proto-AQ bombed the WTC in 1993...using the actual US legal system, the Clinton Justice Department arrested, put on trial, and CONVICTED the terrorists responsible for the attack in less than 5 years. After 7 years, the torture regime at Gitmo has only managed to convict an Afghani citizen of driving Bin Laden's car.

    January 12, 2009 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  10. Dee

    Can't wait to see where those inmates are headed. How about Chicago? I'm sure the legal system there is well-equipped to handle them...

    January 12, 2009 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  11. Get Real, Boise, ID

    Grog in Ohio . . . exciting isn't it? Especially because it sounds like a bleedingheart's wet dream, I know. However, this WILL be Obama's first mistake as president. Be careful what you wish for . . . Not EVERYTHING Bush did was wrong so be careful about reacting in anger you may make a mistake . . . like freeing bad men who want nothing mroe than to plan, conspire and DO VERY BAD THINGS . . . AGAIN! Nothing wrong with suspending the writ of habeus corpus for the worst f terrorists . . . Abe Lincoln did it . . . Use your noggin not your . . . emotions.

    January 12, 2009 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  12. GLI

    to gitmo terrorsits in your neighborhood:
    do you honestly think these men will ever be let out of parole? if so, you are just plain stupid. they will either be found innocent and be released to their country of origin, or will be found guilty and will be imprisoned for the remainder of their natural born life.

    to yes we can (ruin or country, that is):
    how can obama-biden-clinton-pelosi-reid so any worse that bush-cheney-rice-rumsfeld-gonzalez? it seems silly you are so negative when we can sink no lower.

    January 12, 2009 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  13. S Callahan

    Personally, I don't think closing this should be #1, maybe a 3....
    but overall it's best our country gets on tract and follow the Geneva Convention and all the other international agreements we hold for prisoner care. They'll love the US jail cells...earn a college degree...heck even some have 'cushion chairs' in their cell.

    January 12, 2009 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  14. Reid

    I keep wondering about those very young boys who have been in Gitmo all these years with no hope of ever getting out of prison. The cruelty of our own government has been shameful in the extreme.
    Good riddance to George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, and company. Hopefully happy days will be ahead for everyone.

    January 12, 2009 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  15. Michael ATL GA

    I did rather see him move this quick with the universal health care reform.

    January 12, 2009 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  16. Steve

    Grog in Ohio/CNN Junkie,

    These terrorists have to go somewhere. How about near you!

    Gitmo Terrorists in your neighborhood,

    You are right on! Terrorists are NOT protected by the Geneva Convention! Some of you are too silly to realize that!

    January 12, 2009 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  17. bj, Texas

    And just what does the great messaih plan on doing with those caged animals? Oh wait, he will probably have them over for milk and cookies and ask them not to do any more bad things. There, there nice little terrorists, now go home and behave. Big bad USA didn't really mean to hurt your little islamic fundamentalist feelings.

    January 12, 2009 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |

    MY, My,.....Isn't it amazing.... that there is as much hate evident in the early posts here... let me try to change the tenor of these comments.
    The previous posts are 50/50 good vs evil. Thank God the voters of
    our country say the truth. It will feel so good when we stop beating our head agains the wall.... The number of people being held at this place in relation to the population of the world is infintesable but they by being held by us promote hundreds and possibly thousands of others to join the their mentality... we have been our own worst enemy for too long.

    Lead–Follow– or get out of the way... A new President-one who thinks is coming on Jan.20th... he will lead this country back to its rightful place in the world.

    Yup its that old(69yrs)-white-retired guy from Ma. a Former Republican


    January 12, 2009 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  19. Raymond Sumner

    I wonder how many liberals will be cheering after the accused have their trials and the guilty are executed under Obama's watch?

    January 12, 2009 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  20. Terry

    The sooner the better. Our children will be asking us why we allowed the Guantanamo prison to exist. We'll have to shuffle our feet and look at the floor and mumble, "I had no idea what was going on in that place. I would have done something if I had known."

    We can now add our torture of these prisoners to the incarceration of Japanese-Americans during WWII and the slaughter of Native Americans between 1600 and 1900 to the list of things Americans can be ashamed of. Of course, there are many things to be proud of, and every American patriot can be proud of our nation.

    "My country right or wrong. When right, keep her right. When wrong, make her right."

    January 12, 2009 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  21. John. Austin, TX

    any day we close a torture chamber is a good one.

    January 12, 2009 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  22. brad in austin

    Locking people in a prison without a fair trial is not the american way. If you think that keeping people locked in a prison kept this country safe then you probably think the tooth fairy is going to visit you soon.

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

    His mother in law is moving to the white house, so it seems more people will move......

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

    We are the ones who imprisoned them, not other countries, so why should another country take them? When they have their day in court, if they are released, why do you think that they would be allowed to stay in America? They would only be here because we brought them here. They would be sent back to their country or if they were found guilty they would sentenced. What is so hard to understand about justice and our legal system? If things were done the right way from the beginning we would not even be having this discussion.

    January 12, 2009 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  25. What Is He Thinking?

    We have no room in our prisons to move them to the US! Is he planning to just let them go? These are typically people that have been raised from birth to hate Americans and then brainwashed into believing that it's honorable to murder us. Why would we put these people back on the streets? So they can start planning the next 9/11? I thought Obama was doing a great job till I heard this!

    No one wants a war but get your heads out of the sand! You don't open the gates on the prison and let everyone go free so they can murder again just so you can look different than Bush. That's as naive as giving a child molester a job in a daycare facility and believing he won't do it again...

    January 12, 2009 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
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