Biden Will Take Up Failed Obama Project to Shutter Guantanamo Bay


President Joe Biden will seek to close the prison on the U.S. base at Guantanamo Bay, resuming a project begun under the Obama administration, the White House said Friday.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said it was the “intention” of the Biden administration to close the detention facility, something President Barack Obama pledged to do within a year of taking office in January 2009.

Psaki gave no timeline, telling reporters that a formal review would be “robust” and would require the participation of officials from the Department of Defense, the Justice Department and other agencies who have not yet been appointed under the new administration.

“There are many players from different agencies who need to be part of this policy discussion about the steps forward,” she said.

Obama ran into intense political opposition when he attempted to close the detention center, a symbol of the U.S. fight against terrorism.

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But Biden may have more leeway now that there are only 40 prisoners left and Guantanamo draws less public attention.

The U.S. opened the detention center in January 2002 to hold people suspected of having ties to al-Qaida and the Taliban.

The announcement of the closure plan was not unexpected. Biden had said as a candidate that he supported closing the detention center. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said so as well in written testimony for his Senate confirmation.

“Guantanamo has provided us the capability to conduct law of war detention in order to keep our enemies off the battlefield, but I believe it is time for the detention facility at Guantanamo to close,” Austin said.

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“My understanding is that the Biden-Harris administration does not intend to bring new detainees to the facility and will seek to close it.”

At its peak in 2003, the detention center at the Navy base on the southeast tip of Cuba held nearly 680 prisoners.

Under Bush, the U.S. began efforts to prosecute some of the prisoners for war crimes in special tribunals, but the government also released 532 prisoners.

Obama vowed to close the detention center while keeping the larger Navy base, but ran into fierce opposition over plans to prosecute and imprison suspected terrorists in the U.S. and amid concerns that returning others to their homeland would pose a security risk.

Under his administration, 197 were repatriated or resettled in other countries.

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Of those who remain at Guantanamo, 10 are facing active prosecutions.

They include five men charged with planning and providing logistical support to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. No date has been set for the trial to start in the long-stalled case.

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