President Barack Obama ran on a foolish promise: that he would close Guantanamo Bay. He didn’t do this right away. People concerned about America’s national security hoped that this was because he understood what that would take. The replacement of radical Islamists in American mainland prisons, or the repatriation of subversive radicals to their home countries, or worse, to countries that have a soft spot for radical Islamists.
But as always, easily identifiable unintended consequences are no match for pie in the sky liberal idealism:
The Obama administration is running out of time and options to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center in Cuba, so officials are scrambling to release as many prisoners as possible and considering novel legal strategies that include allowing some men to strike plea deals by video-teleconference and sending others to foreign countries to be prosecuted.
But it looks to be little, too late to close the prison before President Barack Obama leaves office in January, denying him the chance to fulfill a campaign pledge.
There’s the difficulty in transferring prisoners from the U.S. base in Cuba, questions about the legality of plea deals and solid opposition in Congress to anything that might help Obama achieve that promise.
“The clock has struck midnight and the American people have won,” said Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., who has said he would oppose any effort to move detainees to prison facilities in his state. “The president needs to admit that.”
Later this month, lawmakers are on track to extend a ban on moving detainees to U.S. soil. That would leave the president with no way to make the January 2017 deadline, barring an unexpected reversal in Congress or a politically explosive executive order.
The White House increasingly is pointed to a parallel strategy: trying to shrink the number of detainees in hopes of persuading lawmakers that Guantanamo is too expensive to sustain as a prison.
Of the 80 remaining detainees, 30 have been cleared for an overseas transfer. Most will leave starting in late June and continuing into July, according to a U.S. official. Those prisoners will go to a number of countries, including at least one in Europe, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity because the administration had not authorized public release of the information.