Though newspapers have been reporting all day that President-elect Barack Obama intends to move swiftly to close the military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay as soon as he takes office, sending detainees to face criminal trials in the US, his aides are suggesting that the incoming administration isn’t close to any such decision.
According to the Chicago Tribune, foreign policy adviser Denis McDonough says Obama shares the “broad bipartisan belief that Guantanamo should be closed,” but that there is “absolutely no truth to reports that a decision has been made” about how to do that, nor is there even any process in place to make such a decision.
The Obama Administration will be under growing pressure to act once he takes office, with the ACLU planning a $500,000 advertising campaign to pressure Obama to close the base by executive order. But obstacles will make the move politically difficult.
After years of detention in questionable conditions under dubious legality, trials in US criminal courts are likely to struggle with legal issues. He will also face political opposition from representatives in the districts where such trials would be likely to take place. Even then, he’ll be left with the question of what to do with scores of innocent people being detained there. They may face torture if sent home, and resettling them in the US would likely be unpopular after years of portraying them as dire threats to homeland security.