This April 9, 2014 file photo made during an escorted visit and reviewed by the US military, shows the razor wire-topped fence and a watch tower at the abandoned "Camp X-Ray" detention facility at the US Naval Station in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Mladen Antonov/AFP/Getty

Obama shrinks Guantanamo population below threshold

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) published a blog post this week with some advice for President Obama on the future of the Guantanamo Bay prison. “Mr. President, it’s time to move on.”
Let’s note for context that House Republicans have voted 62 times to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Maybe Ryan isn’t the ideal voice on making suggestions about “moving on.”
But even putting that aside, it’s clear the president hasn’t been persuaded by Ryan’s advice. In his State of the Union address this week, Obama took some time to emphasize areas of his to-do list, and reminded the nation once more that he will “keep working to shut down the prison at Guantanamo.” The president added, “It is expensive, it is unnecessary, and it only serves as a recruitment brochure for our enemies.”
This morning, the Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg reported that U.S. officials have now transferred 10 Yemeni detainees from Guantanamo to Oman, the largest transfer in the Obama era.
The military operation – which leaked earlier in the week without disclosure of the destination – left 93 captives at the remote prison, 34 of them cleared for transfer with security arrangements that satisfy Secretary of Defense Ash Carter.
None of the 10 released this week were ever charged with a crime in more than a decade of U.S. military custody.
The result is a milestone of sorts: these 10 transfers shift the prison’s population from 103 to 93. The Washington Post added, “The last time there were fewer than 100 detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, was Jan. 16, 2002.” As of Saturday, that’s 14 years ago.
The detention facility’s population peaked in 2003 with 680 prisoners.
The point of the gradual reductions is, obviously, to reduce the prison population, but it’s also intended to appeal to Congress’ sense of fiscal sanity: the smaller the number of detainees, the harder it is to justify the massive expense of keeping open a detention facility that houses so few people.
Congressional Republicans, however, have convinced themselves that, no matter what, Guantanamo must remain open, indefinitely, despite U.S. military leaders urging lawmakers to close it.
As for what’s next, in July, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters, “The administration is, in fact, in the final stages of drafting a plan” to close the prison. No such plan has been released – and even if it were, Congress would reject it sight-unseen.