Last summer, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said he was still open to closing the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, but expected a formal plan from the Pentagon. The senator said at the time that he’d met with President Obama about the issue, and he told the president, “Okay, give me a plan. Give me a plan, okay?’”
As of this morning, that blueprint is now available for scrutiny.
The plan, which has been on Obama’s agenda since he took office in 2009, hinges on the transfer of between 30 and 60 detainees to U.S. soil, and suggests several possible locations in South Carolina, Kansas and Colorado. The rest of the 91 detainees at the prison would be sent to other countries.There are currently 35 detainees eligible for transfer, and the plan calls for an accelerated review of remaining detainees to determine whether they pose a threat — and, if not, if they should be eligible for transfer.
The Defense Department posted the full, 21-page document fleshing out the plan online this morning.
The detention facility’s population peaked in 2003 with 680 prisoners. As of today, the Obama administration had reduced that total to just 91 – its lowest point in 14 years. To close the prison, obviously, it would have to reach zero.
The Pentagon’s report does not explicitly say which facilities would be expected to house transferred detainees, but there are multiple prisons – many of which already lock up dangerous terrorists – capable of the task.
According to the White House, officials intend to “work with Congress” to find “secure” locations. Unfortunately, with Republicans in the House and Senate majority, “work with Congress” is an unfortunate way of saying “bang your head against a wall.”
Anticipating Republican opposition, the president this morning emphasized angles intended to appeal to GOP lawmakers.
“For many years, it’s been clear that the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay does not advance our national security – it undermines it. This is not just my opinion. This is the opinion of experts; this is the opinion of many in our military. It’s counterproductive to our fight against terrorists, because they use it as propaganda in their efforts to recruit. It drains military resources, with nearly $450 million spent last year alone to keep it running, and more than $200 million in additional costs needed to keep it open going forward for less than 100 detainees. Guantanamo harms our partnerships with allies and other countries whose cooperation we need against terrorism. When I talk to other world leaders, they bring up the fact that Guantanamo is not resolved.”
Republicans know all of this. At least for the last several years, they haven’t cared at all.
The GOP-led House Armed Services Committee has agreed to hold a hearing on the new Guantanamo plan, though it’s likely the discussion will only be a precursor to congressional Republicans rejecting it – even if it means defying the advice of U.S. military leaders.