A plan detailing how to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center is expected this week from the Pentagon. President Obama promised in his campaign speech to close the controversial facility, yet 112 prisoners are still held there. “We have a plan that helps achieve the president’s goal of closing Guantanamo and we are forwarding that plan to Congress very soon,” Pentagon spokesman Captain Davis said, according to Agence France-Presse. “Clearly the Congress’s help is needed in doing this.”
According to RT Tuesday, in response to a Congressional request, a small team of Pentagon officials has been researching where to house the remaining prisoners held at the military facility, as well as the costs. Intending it to be a legacy, Obama has struggled to achieve Gitmo’s closing during his administration, despite drafting an executive order calling for its closure and repeatedly calling the prison too expansive and saying its presence served as a recruiting tool for US enemies.
Established in 2002, shortly after the 9/11 World Trade Center terror attack, the detention camp once housed 779 extra-legal detainees. To date, 657 have been released or transferred, 125 of them under the Obama administration.
Senator Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) two years ago calculated that the cost of housing a detainee at Guantanamo for a year was $2.7 million per inmate. Inside a US federal prison, the cost would drop to $72,000 a year per inmate.
Reuters reports that according to one U.S. official, the plan would have four sections, one detailing potential U.S. alternatives for detainees, including the Centennial Correctional Facility in Colorado, one of the more promising locations. The Pentagon states that a small Defense Department team has surveyed facilities including the Consolidated Naval Brig in South Carolina and the Federal Correctional Complex in Florence, Colorado. The U.S. Disciplinary Barracks and Midwest Joint Regional Corrections Facility located at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas are also being examined.
Last week the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a defense bill that included measures to bar Obama from closing Guantanamo before he leaves office in 2017. It is expected to pass the Senate as soon as Tuesday.Republican lawmakers are furious at suggestions that Obama might use an executive order to close the prison and move detainees to U.S. soil. They have been working to make the issue part of the 2016 presidential campaign.
Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis declined to specify when the plan would get to Congress, other than it would be “very soon.” Requesting anonymity, U.S. officials said it was expected this week.
The Obama administration aims to transfer eligible detainees to foreign countries, prosecute those who can be prosecuted, and move to U.S. soil suspects who cannot be prosecuted but are deemed too dangerous to release, an option now, thankfully, barred by law.
Any proposal from the Obama administration would undoubtedly face an uphill, if not impossible, battle in Congress. Republicans, including leadership in both chambers, are opposed to any plan that would move detainees into the United States.