President Barack Obama has made it a priority for his last two years in office to shrink the prisoner population at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp so much that it would become an economic burden if it were kept open any longer, the New York Times reports. Closing the detention camp was an issue he campaigned on as a presidential nominee, and it’s looking as if he’ll make good on that promise.
Obama officials have been putting the plan into action over the course of the last two months, making “secret nighttime flights” to and from the base in Cuba, the Times explains. In 2003 there were 680 prisoners; now there are 127. The Pentagon is gearing up to release two more groups of prisoners over the next two weeks, which will shrink that number even further.
J. Wells Dixon, an attorney who has represented Guantanamo prisoners, spoke about what this issue means for Obama’s record in the White House. “If the president doesn’t succeed in making substantial steps to closing Gitmo now, it will have a very severe impact on his legacy,” said Dixon, a senior staff attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights.
A bottleneck in the process has been finding countries willing to take the detainees, a State Department representative explained. “We are aggressively reaching out to a wide variety of countries,” Ian Moss, the department’s spokesman for Guantanamo issues, said. “The support of our friends and allies is critical to achieving our goal of reducing the detainee population and ultimately closing the detention facility.”
Read more at the New York Times.