President Biden is coming under renewed pressure to close the Guantanamo Bay prison, more than 20 years after the controversial facility was opened by George W. Bush in the War on Terror.
Biden has established a diplomatic post to oversee the transfer of detainees, the Wall Street Journal reported, but his long-term intentions for the facility, which he vowed to close in 2020, are unclear.
Biden leaves Gitmo in limbo
Nearly 800 men have been detained since “Gitmo” opened 20 years ago following the September 11 attacks.
Among the high-profile prisoners are 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four co-defendants, who have yet to stand trial after years of legal limbo.
The U.S. Navy facility in Cuba has been controversial from the beginning over the alleged use of torture there, but its defenders say closing it would hurt national security.
President Obama failed to keep his promise to close the facility, which was reversed under President Trump. On the campaign trail in 2020, Biden renewed Obama’s pledge to shutter the military prison, but his efforts have been found anemic by critics and he has sent some mixed signals.
“Holding people without charge or trial for years on end cannot be reconciled with the values we espouse as a nation, and has deprived the victims of 9/11 and their families of any semblance of justice or closure,” Democratic Senator Dick Durbin (Il.) said.
Biden signed a defense bill in December that forced him to keep Gitmo open, even as he complained about that condition and urged Congress to axe it.
He continues to insist he plans to shut down the facility, despite reports that a new hospital and court room are being built.
“The United States is focused on responsibly reducing the detainee population and ultimately closing the Guantanamo Bay detention facility,” a Pentagon spokesman told the New York Times.
Biden going easy on terrorists?
Biden has also indicated he won’t get involved in negotiations over a potential plea deal taking the death penalty off the table for Mohammed and the other 9/11 co-conspirators that has sparked outrage, the Wall Street Journal reported.
A willingness to go easy on 9/11 terrorists suggests Biden is willing to incur potentially high moral costs, if it brings him a step closer to closing Guantanamo.
Only 35 detainees remain in the facility after hundreds were let out during the Bush and Obama administrations.
Biden has also released a handful, including a Saudi national who allegedly planned to hijack planes on 9/11.