President-elect Barack Obama plans to issue an executive order on his first full day in office directing the closing of the Guantánamo Bay detention camp in Cuba, people briefed by Obama transition officials said Monday.
But experts say it is likely to take many months, perhaps as long as a year, to empty the prison that has drawn international criticism since it received its first prisoners seven years ago this week. One transition official said the new administration expected that it would take several months to transfer some of the remaining 248 prisoners to other countries, decide how to try suspects and deal with the many other legal challenges posed by closing the camp.
People who have discussed the issues with transition officials in recent weeks said it appeared that the broad outlines of plans for the detention camp were taking shape. They said transition officials appeared committed to ordering an immediate suspension of the Bush administration’s military commissions system for trying detainees.
In addition, people who have conferred with transition officials said the incoming administration appeared to have rejected a proposal to seek a new law authorizing indefinite detention inside the United States. The Bush administration has insisted that such a measure is necessary to close the Guantánamo camp and bring some detainees to the United States.
Mr. Obama has repeatedly said he wants to close the camp. But in an interview on Sunday on ABC, he indicated that the process could take time, saying, “It is more difficult than I think a lot of people realize.” Closing it within the first 100 days of his administration, he said, would be “a challenge.”
The president-elect drew criticism from some human rights groups Monday who said his remarks suggested that closing Guantánamo was not among the new administration’s highest priorities. But even if the detention camp remains open for months, the decision to address Guantánamo on the day after his inauguration seemed intended to make a symbolic break with some of the most controversial policies of the Bush administration.
I couldn't care less of Guantanamo is actually shuttered this January or next, so long as the Obama administration makes real, substantial efforts to close it, which they appear to be doing here. It is also heartening to see the Obama administration reject the military commissions, as well as further expansions of presidential power, since only a dramatic change in our policies can signal to the world that fully intend to abandon the ideas of indefinite detention and extra-judicial process.