Not everyone agrees that the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba should be shut down. Six months ago, President Barrack Obama called for Guantanamo to be shut down within a year. Now, he wants to transfer the remaining 229 detainees to a secure, stateside facility.
The latest plan has generated some strong criticism from one of the pre-eminent authorities on terrorism. “Guantanamo is a very good solution to a very difficult problem…if it ain’t broke, why fix it?” said Neil Livingstone, head of ExecutiveAction, a crisis management firm in Washington.
“Guantanamo is a safe and secure place. There is no reason to get rid of it,” said Livingstone.
Could Trials Jeopardize Security
In moving the detainees, many of whom were battlefield combatants in Afghanistan, the administration would like to find a facility that would not only provide security. It also wants the new prison to have its own courtrooms for future military and civilian trials. Authorities are reportedly considering a military prison in Kansas and a maximum-security prison in Michigan as possible sites.
“I don’t see any real necessity to have to put these people on trail," said Livingstone. "It seems to me there is always the risk of compromising key intelligence information and so on." Livingstone suggests the alternative would be to detain some of the suspects indefinitely.
A Unnecessary Risk
The plan to move the detainees has other detractors. "(President Obama) continues to cling to the misplaced false hope that released detainees will not return to the fight," said Kirk Lippold, who heads Military Families United, a group that advocates keeping the detainees at Guantanamo. "It is an unrealistic and unnecessary gamble with our national security.” said Lippold.
Lippold, the former commander of the USS Cole, which came under terrorist attack in Yemen in 2000. He contends the Obama plan to transfer the detainees "will endanger the lives of American citizens and allow terrorists to have taxpayer funded flights back to the battlefield.”
Lippold and Livingstone have a majority in Congress behind them. Lawmakers has already rejected President Obama's initial request for $80 million to begin the process of breaking down Guantanamo. They want more details on how the administration wants to deal with detainees.
Obama's Argument for Closing Guantanamo
President Obama, however, is stedfast in his determination to close Guantanamo. "Instead of serving as a tool to counter terrorism, Guantanamo became a symbol that helped al Qaeda recruit terrorists to its cause," said President Obama in a recent speech. "Indeed, the existence of Guantanamo likely created more terrorists around the world than it ever detained. So the record is clear: Rather than keeping us safer, the prison at Guantanamo has weakened American national security. It is a rallying cry for our enemies," he said.
The United States maintains a military facility at Guantanamo Bay, on the southeastern end of Cuba, under the 1903 Cuban-American Treaty which granted the United States perpetual lease of the area. It became a focal point in the war against terrorism after 2001 when President George W. Bush stipulated the U.S. military could indefinitely detain any non-citizen believed to be involved in international terrorism. Since 2001, 775 detainees have been brought to Guantanamo. Most have been released without charges, but 229 detainees remain.