OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion
It was an obsession for former President Obama that he was never able to do, but now Joe Biden has his sights set on doing what his former boss could not.
Biden is planning to close the United States detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where some of the worst enemies of our nation are being held, NBC News reported.
President Joe Biden has quietly begun efforts to close the U.S. detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, using an under-the-radar approach to minimize political blowback and to try to make at least some progress in resolving a long-standing legal and human rights morass before the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
After initial plans for a more aggressive push to close the facility — including rebuffed attempts to recruit a special envoy to oversee the strategy — the White House changed course, sources said. The administration has opted to wait before it reaches out to Congress, which has thwarted previous efforts to close the camp, because of fears that political outcry might interfere with the rest of Biden’s agenda.
Not only does he want to close it, but he wants to do it quietly to avoid people being as furious as they should be.
“They don’t want it to become a dominant issue that blows up,” a former senior administration official who is involved in the discussions on closing the base said of Biden officials. “They don’t want it to become a lightning rod. They want it to be methodical, orderly.”
The plan is to send some of the terrorism suspects to foreign nations and then convince Congress to allow the rest, including some who are suspects in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, to be housed in prisons on the mainland.
There are only 40 detainees left at Guantanamo Bay, but it is still going to be tough for Biden to convince Congress to go along with his idea.
President George W. Bush opened the detention facility in 2002. At its peak, it held nearly 800 detainees, including 9/11 suspects and combatants from the battlefield in Afghanistan. By the time Obama took office in 2009, fewer than 300 detainees were in the camp.
During his campaign for president, Obama had pledged to shutter the prison within a year of taking office. Two days after he was inaugurated, he issued an executive order to close Gitmo by the end of the year, and he restated the goal in media interviews.
Congress, however, resisted the transfer of detainees to the U.S. The House and the Senate rejected funding for the move and also blocked the transfers, with many Democrats voting against the Obama administration’s plans.
Why do these Democrats believe that the American citizens want to have the base closed and have terrorism suspects on the mainland?
There are 9 detainees that are eligible to be transferred to foreign nations and the United States has to make arrangements with those governments and obtain agreements to send them.
There are 19 others who may be deemed eligible to be transferred to other nations as they are eligible for the Periodic Review Boards and have never been charged.
But there are, at minimum, another dozen detainees, including those accused of conspiring in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, who cannot be transferred. Ten are in the military courts and two have been convicted by military courts.
The Biden administration is likely to work plea deals for these detainees that would allow them to continue to be detained but would spare them the death penalty.
The ultimate plan for Biden is to eventually name a State Department envoy, sign a new executive order to close the facility and then convince Congress to allow the remaining detainees to be brought to the United States.
A spokesperson for the NSC told NBC News that the administration “is conducting a thorough and deliberate review focused on closing the facility.”
“As to the overall issue of Guantanamo, the Biden administration remains committed to the goal of closing the facility,” they said. “To that end, the NSC continues to work closely with the Departments of Defense, State, and Justice and other departments and agencies.”