Obama Shuts Down Office that Would Close Gitmo

By:  Thomas R. Eddlem
01/30/2013
       
Obama Shuts Down Office that Would Close Gitmo

President Obama has issued an order to close the small office he created with the responsibility of closing Guantanamo Bay prison. He repeatedly promised during the 2008 presidential campaign and immediately after assuming office to close the Cuban prison, which houses many of the detainees picked up after the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001; however, the closure never happened.

President Barack Obama issued an order on January 28 to shut down the small office he created with the responsibility of closing Guantanamo Bay prison. Obama repeatedly promised during the 2008 presidential campaign and immediately after assuming office to close the Cuban prison, which houses many of the detainees picked up after the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, but the closure never happened.

Despite being touted by former Vice President Dick Cheney as housing the “worst of the worst” suspects in the “war on terror,” most of the detainees turned out to be innocent people picked up at the wrong place at the wrong time during the fog of war, such as the Chinese Uyghurs and the British-Pakistani trio “Tipton Three” profiled in the award-winning documentary movie The Road to Guantanamo. A study of Guantanamo detainees by Seton Hall Law School Professor Mark Denbeaux revealed that only seven percent of them had been picked up by U.S. or coalition forces on the Afghan or Iraqi battlefields; the rest were captured by bounty hunters or friendly governments such as Pakistan. The Guantanamo prison still holds 166 prisoners, and some 86 have been cleared for release by the Obama administration, even as they have continued to languish in prison for up to 12 years.

The Obama administration's decision closed a pretty small office, populated primarily by one employee, Daniel Fried, and some secretarial assistants. Charlie Savage of the New York Times described Fried this way:

A career diplomat, Mr. Fried traveled the world negotiating the repatriation of some 31 low-level detainees and persuading third-party countries to resettle about 40 who were cleared for release but could not be sent home because of fears of abuse.

Savage added that the move “appeared to signal that the administration does not currently see the closing of the prison as a realistic priority, despite repeated statements that it still intends to do so.”

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