Newscast Media WASHINGTON—Critics accuse US President Barack Obama of breaking his promise to close Guantanamo. But his hands are tied by a reluctant Congress – and an America that might not want captured terrorists on its soil.
Even if “most Americans are more ready” to see Guantanamo Bay’s detention camps closed, as Republican Senator John McCain cautiously phrased it in June, for the foreseeable future the island’s 164 detainees will have to wait for events in the Middle East and a partisan roadblock in the US House of Representatives to be resolved.
Eighty-four detainees have already been cleared for transfer to foreign countries, says Raha Wala, a senior council member at Human Rights First. “Some of those detainees will have to be resettled in third countries, because either their home countries are unable or unwilling accept them, or there’s a credible fear that they’ll be tortured there.”
Republicans have a different fear, one founded on events in late July and early August when upwards of 500 al-Qaeda linked terrorists escaped prisons in Iraq, Libya and Pakistan. Since then, a worsening security situation in Yemen, the home country of the majority of Guantanamo detainees, has stalled plans by President Barack Obama to restart detainee transfers to that country. Most recently, an October 22 jail riot involving dozens of al-Qaeda prisoners was subdued with tear gas in Yemen’s capital. No prisoners have been transferred to Yemen since 2011.
The detainees, in other words, will be sent home slowly. If Guantanamo is to be closed down under Obama’s tenure, many of the 84 – along with another 46 considered “too dangerous” to release – “will likely have to be transferred to the US,” Wala says.
Placing international terrorists behind American bars, however, is controversial. At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the subject in late July, Republicans voiced concerns that detainees might be placed alongside American inmates, where they could spread extreme Islamist ideologies. Worse, they argue, terrorists might be released due to a lack of evidence, ultimately ending up free men on US soil.
But Matthew Waxman, who worked within the Defense State Departments on detainee issues during the administration of US President George W. Bush, considers the latter scenario improbable.
“A dangerous detainee being released into the United States is a very low probability, but it is used to great political effect,” the Columbia University law professor told Deutsche Welle. US prisons already hold high-profile terrorists: A super maximum security prison in Florence, Colorado houses British “shoe bomber” Richard Reid, 1993 World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef of Pakistan as well as the “The Blind Sheik,” Omar Abdel-Rahman of Egypt.
In all likelihood, though, Guantanamo detainees would never be transferred to such a prison. In a May 2013 speech given at Fort McNair in Washington D.C, Obama announced the reinstatement of a special Defense Department post to determine a location for Guantanamo detainees on US soil. Even if relocated to the US, the president said, some detainees still “cannot be prosecuted – for example because the
evidence against them has been compromised or is inadmissible in a court of law.”
Source: Deutsche Welle