News & Politics

Will Guantanamo Bay Become 'No Vacancy' Under President Trump?

REUTERS/Bob Strong/File Photo - RTX2P2D6

When Sen. Barack Obama was running for president in 2008 one of his most popular campaign promises was that he would close the Guantanamo Bay terrorist detention facility. It was a perfect chunk of red meat to toss to the progressive base, and helped to create distance between him and Hillary Clinton. It was also a promise made before he began getting security briefings. Once he was introduced to the fact that bad people really do exist in the world he began modifying his expectations for the timetable regarding the Gitmo closing. Thanks to a little push back from the GOP controlled Congress, he still hasn’t been able to accomplish that goal.

Should he be unable to find a way to shut it down in the next month, Gitmo may become a thriving detention center again under President Trump, if the press is to be believed.

Never mind closing Guantanamo. It might be getting bigger.

President Barack Obama is running out of time to fulfill his longstanding promise to shutter the prison at the U.S. military base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Sixty inmates remain in the facility and only a third are cleared for release.

If Obama can’t close it, his successor likely won’t. Donald Trump has not only pledged to keep Guantanamo open, in April he said that “we’re gonna load it up with some bad dudes, believe me. We’re gonna load it up.”

He told The Miami Herald in an interview that month that he would support trying U.S. citizens accused of terrorism at the base, though that would require Congress to change federal law and would likely face constitutional challenges.

Opened in 2002 as a makeshift camp to hold men captured in the early fight against al-Qaida, Guantanamo has become a symbol of the strong-handed U.S. response to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Its advocates say it keeps dangerous terrorists locked up. Opponents say it violates basic human rights, with prisoners held indefinitely without charges. Obama has said it feeds anti-U.S. sentiment worldwide and that the prisoners could be held for less money at facilities in the United States.

Rights groups are determined to make one last push for Obama to close Guantanamo.

“He knows what’s at stake and he knows he can’t leave the door to Guantanamo open for Donald Trump,” said Naureen Shah, director of the security and human rights program at Amnesty International.

It would take a bold and unlikely act of defiance, one that would face legal and political challenges, by Obama to shutter the prison before leaving office.

This is all mostly part of the perfunctory media hysteria before any Republican takes office. Trump hasn’t discussed this much, but we have to pretend that Amnesty International’s concern for terrorists is important. In fact, the entire headline is based on the musings of a professor in Texas:

Robert Chesney, a professor at the University of Texas School of Law in Austin, expects Trump to send some newly captured detainees, perhaps Islamic State fighters captured in Iraq or Syria, to Guantanamo.

“We might end up with more detainees there,” Chesney said, adding it probably wouldn’t happen on a large scale. “This isn’t 2003, with relatively large numbers of terrorism suspects in places where we have a realistic opportunity to nab them.”

That was enough for the Associated Press.

Expect, oh, tens of thousands of highly speculative, loosely sourced, headlines like this between now and January 20th, 2017.