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Biden Administration Slowly Making Progress in Finally Closing Gitmo

President Joe Biden has said he wants to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, where 39 detainees still reside, by the end of his term. The Biden administration first announced its intention to close the facility during a White House press briefing in February 2021. When asked by a reporter if the prison would be closed by the time Biden leaves office, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said, “that’s certainly our goal and our intention.”

Eight months into President Biden’s term, 39 detainees remain housed at the prison in Cuba. 10 detainees have been cleared by the Guantanamo Periodic Review Board system and are eligible for release, but they have not been transferred to a different country and out of the prison yet. The Periodic Review Board system was set up during the Obama administration to determine whether detainees being held there were guilty or not. President Barack Obama often spoke about wanting to close the prison, which has been used to hold prisoners from the invasion of Afghanistan and the war on terror since early 2002.

GUANTANAMO BAY, CUBA – JUNE 26: (EDITORS NOTE: Image has been reviewed by the U.S. Military prior to transmission.) Razor wire is seen on the fence around Camp Delta which is part of the U.S. military prison for ‘enemy combatants’ on June 26, 2013, in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

In order to close the prison, President Biden would need to move all 39 detainees to other prisons or locations. When former President Obama wanted to try the five accused of plotting 9/11 in New York City, he faced swift public and political backlash. President Obama also promised to shut Guantanamo when he campaigned for office, setting up the office of military commissions and the Periodic Review Board system during his tenure, but failed to close the prison during his eight years in office.

One detainee who was already cleared for release during the Obama administration was released to his home country of Morocco in July. This was the first transfer of a detainee under President Biden. Aside from the 10 already eligible for release, 17 detainees are eligible for periodic review board hearings, two detainees have been convicted, and ten are in the office of military commission process, meaning they are still in the pretrial process in the military court system created for the law of war offenses, and they have yet to be proven guilty or innocent.

The Biden administration says it is conducting an interagency review to “assess the state of play that the Biden administration has, that we’ve inherited from the previous administration.”



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