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. WIlly Brown

    This will be the biggest money drain and stain on Obama’s record. Nobody wants the terrorist back and Obama will bring them here and try them under US laws. BAD move democrats. 4 and he’s out the door.

    January 12, 2009 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  2. Scare Tactics

    This will truly be a success when we relinquish "ownership" of that part of Cuba, and any other part of Cuba our country has "rented" from there. Cuba is for the Cubans, that is unless our administration will be open for foreign military bases here. Otherwise, we are tainted with hypocrisy.

    Fear not, Mr. Gitmo Terrorists in your neighborhood. Your concerns are being taken into account, unless it is amusing for you to believe that the incoming admin plans to indiscriminately release detainees. Oh, what a tangled web...

    January 12, 2009 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  3. Bobby Tighe

    Yeah Obama!!! Take all the terrorists and prisoners of war off Cuba and bring them home to the good ol' USA, Here comes AL QUEDA to the homefront!!

    January 12, 2009 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  4. AMG

    GOOD! relocate them to a prison near me. put them in my backyard. i'm fine with that. as long as they have access to the judicial system and habeus corpus is restored.

    January 12, 2009 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  5. really? come on.

    wow, fear monger much? "Gitmo Terrorists in your neighborhood" Please people, let's use our brains.

    January 12, 2009 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  6. bill


    January 12, 2009 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  7. Bararck Obama, still just B.O.

    I guess he plans on creating jobs for people to rebuild the buildings and repair the destruction from the terrorists he unleases on the US.

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

    Let's hope the closing of Gitmo is just the first step toward bringing the government back under the rule of law. It's been an odd 8 years, where two C-students (Cheney and Bush) have been able to make things up as they go along, whether the activities are legal or not. I hope the next steps will be to appoint a special prosecutor to look into these activities, and then prosecute anyone who has broken federal and international law.

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

    What are you talking about Gitmo Terrorists in your neighborhood? I think you been watching to much Fox news. There are procedures to be follow first. These accuse terrorists will be brought to other countries such as, Germany before they go to a U.S prison because of the lack of security and resources available at U.S prisons. Also, they have to give them a trial remember innocent until proven guilty? I believe the U.S use to believe in this before the Bush adm came in. When did the things the U.S valued and believed in change? I can't believe one man could come in and ignore the U.S consitution and people just let it happen. Sure there was some protest but if this were any other third world country then the U.S would already have been label a corrupt government. I am glad Obama is taking steps to close Gitmo this will restore the U.S image around the world and you will be much safer because of it as I remember 9/11 happen 9 months after Bush took office therefore it happen on his watch not to him. You were safer because of the smart diplomatic steps taken by both democrats and republican presidents before 9/11 you are less safer today because of the Bush tatics such as, the Bush doctrine.

    January 12, 2009 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  10. JK Ashburn, VA

    So where will he put all of the Democratic elected officials convicted of corruption?

    January 12, 2009 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  11. TCM

    Yeah, Obama...send them back,; they want a "Do-over."

    January 12, 2009 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  12. Gary of El Centro, Ca

    Haven't you people been listening to Bush speak lately? Why, without torture, wiretapping, and holding people indefinitely with no chance to defend themselves in a court of law, we would all be dead now. Yessiree......we had to destroy America in order to save her. Great job Mr. Bush........nobody could have done a more effective job of destroying America. Your work is done......go on home now.

    January 12, 2009 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  13. tired of corporate politics

    As usual – big splash and cheering and honor to The Obama.
    He will look good then walk away leaving such little questions as:
    – where are the dangerous ones going?
    – where are we sending the rest?
    – what if no country wants them?
    – are they enemy combatants, spies, US criminals now?
    – who in the US will be punished for this mess (he refused to consider Bush impeachment)
    – in his stated escalation in Afghanistan, what is the plan for new prisoners?

    January 12, 2009 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  14. Mike Mundy, Houston, TX

    Dear President Elect Obama,

    Why not send these detainees to Berkley? There, code pink and other anti-war student groups can welcome them with open arms. Please, "do the right thing" and keep them the hell away from schools and neighborhoods!

    Thank you!

    January 12, 2009 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  15. Mike Mundy, Houston, TX

    Hey Grog in Ohio,

    Do you want them? NO you don't!!! Huh? Where should they go? Moron!

    January 12, 2009 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  16. a suthern bell



    January 12, 2009 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |

    Bring these terrorists to Chicago once Gitmo is closed – I am sure they'll find them useful in that city. After all Chicago already has a terrorist working in its University.

    January 12, 2009 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  18. j

    Good, the sooner it's closed the better. People deserve due process no matter how despicable they are as a human being and torture is not an acceptable practice for a civilized society – trickery and deception have a better chance of success.

    January 12, 2009 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  19. Matthew, Houston, TX

    Shut up, TCM.

    January 12, 2009 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  20. dr.mimi de la cruz




    January 12, 2009 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  21. Gallimimus

    America is better than the Gitmo. fiasco. Gitmo. should have never happened and its about time somebody has decided that enough is enough. Think about it, our nations legal system is based on innocent until proven quilty. So, we disregard all of our values, because we don't want to give prisoners a trial? Yah, Yah, I know, there are bad people at gitmo. and they should be given a trial and hung, when they are found quilty. But, they should be given a trial.
    Also, I know what some of you are going to say "maybe some of them should come to your house and stay with you". Thats not the point. The point is America is better than holding prisoners without a trial. If we do not give these people a trial, we are no better than some of the nations that we critique for similiar offenses.

    January 12, 2009 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  22. Voter

    At least as important as this:

    Normalize relations with Cuba NOW!!

    Forget the right wing nuts living in the Cuban quarter in Miami.

    The US has a long and storied history of dealing with international thugs, Communist and otherwise.

    Forget Castro. The Cuban people are suffering. They need help NOW.

    January 12, 2009 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  23. Matt

    @ tired of corporate politics

    To answer your questions:

    We don't know where the dangerous ones are going because we don't know which ones are dangerous because we DON'T HAVE ANY EVIDENCE, which is why Bush played games and wouldn't try them in a real court of law and just wanted to set up military tribunals (i.e., kangaroo courts) he could manipulate. As for those who divulged their criminal behavior under the duress of torture...well, add that one up yourself...try starting with asking yourself if you only believe in human rights for people who are white like you. If the answer is "I don't care, they wanted to attack Amurika!!!" then please get in the line for racists on the right.

    January 12, 2009 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  24. Shawn - GA

    I think it is sad how so many people come on these blogs and comment as if they have any idea what they are talking about. We civilians have no idea what goes on fully, I am sure history will paint the truth. Be is a positive or negative one, however making such hateful comments while having little information just goes to show how ignorant people are. You believe 1 person made everything bad happen? Really? Talk about a scape goat.

    I am very concerned for PE Obama. He is human, he is just a man and he has to work within the same system. He can not possibly change as much as people are thinking he will, it is not possible. I pray that the warm fuzzy feelings do continue so he can get things done, I just see that people in that system are already turning on him and he has not even moved in yet.

    January 12, 2009 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  25. wait and see

    Though, I don't agree with President Bush on most of what has done, I cannot see good in shutting down GITMO, I mean you people really think that these people should be tried in our court system. People that are willingly trying kill our soldiers...so what are going to have to get every soldier, CIA agent, and Marine and have them testify and if we can't do that they get a mistrial. Brilliant. I truly support PE Obama and want nothing the best for him and this country, but most of what he wants just doesn't see realistic, but I will wait and see.

    January 12, 2009 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
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