The Plan to Shut Down Gitmo

   < < Go Back
from The New York Times,

The Obama administration this week will begin the task of trying to persuade Congress to support its plan to shut down the prison in Guantánamo Bay before the president leaves office in January.

Republican lawmakers all too often have been reflexive and thoughtless in their opposition to closing Guantánamo, one of the most shameful chapters in America’s recent history. Closing the prison by the end of the year is feasible. It would make the United States safer, help restore America’s standing as a champion of human rights and save taxpayers millions of dollars.

In recent weeks, the Pentagon and the State Department have made considerable progress toward the goal of further reducing the number of inmates at Guantánamo, which stands at 91. Of those inmates, the government expects to resettle 35 in other countries by this summer.

Of the remaining 56, 10 have been convicted of terrorism charges or have pending cases before the military commission established to prosecute terrorism suspects.

That leaves 46 inmates whose fate is uncertain.

Lawyers who represent Guantánamo inmates say that roughly 10 of those detainees would be willing to plead guilty in federal court to charges such as providing material support to terrorism or conspiracy to commit terrorism.

American officials are separately exploring the possibility of sending some detainees to allied countries that might be willing to prosecute them.

Progress on those fronts would reduce the population at Guantánamo to a very small number. And that would make the cost of running the overseas prison increasingly hard to justify. The cost to taxpayers in the 2015 fiscal year was an astounding $445 million …

There will inevitably be a small number of detainees whom the government deems ineligible for prosecution and too dangerous to release. Officials at the Pentagon have been studying detention sites in the United States where they can be sent. Unfortunately, Congress has passed legislation that bars the administration from bringing Guantánamo detainees onto American soil.

The heads of the armed services committees in the House and the Senate should seek to work constructively with the administration after it unveils its plan for closing the base. This will require inoculating the debate from the irresponsibly bellicose national security rhetoric of the Republican presidential candidates, some of whom have vowed to keep Guantánamo open indefinitely.

When Congress asked the White House last year for a plan to close the base, it posed one question that the administration has largely sidestepped and must now confront. As the United States ramps up military campaigns in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Libya, lawmakers have asked what detention authority and protocols should apply to future cases involving terrorism suspects who cannot be prosecuted in federal court.

There is no easy answer, but that is an issue that the administration, in consultation with Congress, should address.

More From The New York Times: