US President Joe Biden's administration has launched a formal review of the future of the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay.(Bloomberg Photo)
US President Joe Biden's administration has launched a formal review of the future of the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay.(Bloomberg Photo)

Biden administration launches review aimed at closing Guantanamo prison

  • Aides involved in internal discussions are considering an executive action to be signed by President Joe Biden in coming weeks or months, two people familiar with the matter told Reuters, signaling a new effort to remove what human rights advocates have called a stain on America’s global image.
Reuters, Washington
UPDATED ON FEB 12, 2021 09:48 PM IST

The Biden administration has launched a formal review of the future of the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, reviving the Obama-era goal of closing the controversial facility, a White House official said on Friday.

Aides involved in internal discussions are considering an executive action to be signed by President Joe Biden in coming weeks or months, two people familiar with the matter told Reuters, signaling a new effort to remove what human rights advocates have called a stain on America’s global image.

Such an initiative, however, is unlikely to bring down the curtain anytime soon on the high-security prison located at the Guantanamo Naval Station, due largely to the steep political and legal obstacles that the new administration will face.

Set up to house foreign suspects following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington, the offshore jail came to symbolise the excesses of the US “war on terror” because of harsh interrogation methods that critics say amounted to torture.

"We are undertaking an NSC process to assess the current state of play that the Biden administration has inherited from the previous administration, in line with our broader goal of closing Guantanamo," National Security Council (NSC) spokeswoman Emily Horne told Reuters.

"The NSC will work closely with the Departments of Defense, State, and Justice to make progress toward closing the GTMO facility, and also in close consultation with Congress," she added.

The immediate impact of a new approach could be to reinstate, in some form, the Guantanamo closure policy of Biden’s old boss, former President Barack Obama, which was reversed by Donald Trump as soon as he took office in 2017.

Trump kept the prison open during his four years in the White House - though he never loaded it up with “bad dudes,” as he once vowed. Now, 40 prisoners remain, most held for nearly two decades without being charged or tried.

Biden’s campaign said during the 2020 race that he continued to support closing the detention center but did not say how he would do it.

It is also unclear how specific Biden’s coming executive action might be about his plans for the prison, which holds suspects in the Sept. 11 attacks among its detainee population.

Filing out Biden's Guantanamo Team

Signaling that the process is still at an early stage, Horne said "a number of key policy roles still need to be filled within the interagency, including confirming sub-Cabinet policy roles at the Defense, State, and Justice Departments."

"There will be a robust interagency process to move forward on this but we need to have the right people seated to do this important work," she said.

Biden, who was Obama’s vice president, can expect to face many of the same political, legal and diplomatic hurdles that frustrated his former boss.

Former President George W. Bush opened the prison and its population grew to a peak of about 800 inmates before it started to shrink. Obama whittled down the number further but his effort to close the prison was stymied largely by Republican opposition in Congress.

The federal government is still barred by law from transferring any inmates to prisons on the US mainland. Even with his own Democratic party now controlling Congress, their majorities are so slim that Biden would face a tough challenge securing legislative changes because some Democrats might also oppose them.

A revived Guantanamo strategy is expected to focus initially on further decreasing the number of prisoners by repatriating them or finding other countries to accept them, according to the people familiar with the matter.

This could also mean re-establishing a State Department post of Guantanamo closure envoy, created by Obama but eliminated by Trump, to resume negotiations with other governments on detainee transfers, the sources said.

In addition, the Pentagon could restart a parole-style review process of prisoners’ cases to determine whether they still posed a threat, the sources said.

Still, any Guantanamo-closing plan could initially be hampered by the coronavirus pandemic, which would make moving prisoners unlikely for now.

The Biden administration has not made Guantanamo one of its top early priorities as it grapples with the pandemic and its economic fallout at home and global challenges such as China, Russia, Iran and Myanmar. In contrast, Obama made the closing of Guantanamo one of his first executive orders in 2009 but failed to achieve that goal by the end of his second term.

Shutting the facility has been a longtime demand of progressive Democrats whose support helped Biden win the White House in November.

The prison’s continued existence, critics say, is a reminder to the world of harsh detention practices that opened the United States to accusations of torture.

More than a hundred human rights organizations signed a Feb. 2 letter to Biden calling on him to close the prison and end indefinite detention of terrorism suspects held there, saying it was long past time for “a meaningful reckoning with the full scope of damage that the post-9/11 approach has caused.”

Even Trump once expressed dismay over the hundreds of millions of dollars a year it costs US taxpayers to keep the prison open.

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Close
Governments say getting vaccinated and having proper documentation will smooth the way to travel.(REUTERS)
Governments say getting vaccinated and having proper documentation will smooth the way to travel.(REUTERS)

Covid vaccination 'passports' may open society, but inequity looms

PTI, Tel Aviv
PUBLISHED ON FEB 26, 2021 01:03 PM IST
The highly controlled concert offered a glimpse of a future that many are longing for after months of Covid-19 restrictions.
Close
Representative Image
Representative Image

US achieves milestone of administering 50 million Covid-19 vaccine shots

PTI
PUBLISHED ON FEB 26, 2021 12:53 PM IST
President Joe Biden said on Thursday the US reached the halfway mark of 50 million shots in just 37 days since he came to office.
Close
The microfluidic chip developed by researchers from Rice University in the US measures the concentration of SARS-CoV-2 nucleocapsid (N) protein.(REUTERS)
The microfluidic chip developed by researchers from Rice University in the US measures the concentration of SARS-CoV-2 nucleocapsid (N) protein.(REUTERS)

Novel chip for Covid-19 testing delivers results on smartphone

PTI, Washington
UPDATED ON FEB 26, 2021 12:19 PM IST
The researchers noted that their process simplifies sample handling compared to swab-based PCR tests that are widely used to diagnose Covid-19.
Close
WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (File Photo/REUTERS)
WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (File Photo/REUTERS)

‘Hope other countries follow your example’: WHO chief lauds India, PM Modi

By hindustantimes.com | Written by Karan Manral
UPDATED ON FEB 26, 2021 12:17 PM IST
In a tweet late on Thursday night, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus praised India for providing Covid-19 vaccines to more than 60 countries.
Close
If confirmed by the 100-member Senate, Neera Tanden would become the first person of colour to head the federal agency(Stock images: Getty)
If confirmed by the 100-member Senate, Neera Tanden would become the first person of colour to head the federal agency(Stock images: Getty)

White House expects Neera Tanden to have a high bar of civility and engagement

PTI, Washington
PUBLISHED ON FEB 26, 2021 12:04 PM IST
  • Neera Tanden, 50, is facing a tough time for the confirmation of her nomination over her past Twitter outbursts against several lawmakers, including those from her own Democratic Party.
Close
Umer Jan, 12, takes part in a rally to encourage Canada and other countries as they consider labelling China's treatment of its Uighur population and Muslim minorities as genocide, outside the Canadian embassy in Washington, DC, US on February 19, 2021. (REUTERS)
Umer Jan, 12, takes part in a rally to encourage Canada and other countries as they consider labelling China's treatment of its Uighur population and Muslim minorities as genocide, outside the Canadian embassy in Washington, DC, US on February 19, 2021. (REUTERS)

Canadian panel calls for ‘targeted sanctions’ on China for its role in Hong Kong

By Anirudh Bhattacharyya I Edited by Nadim Siraj
PUBLISHED ON FEB 26, 2021 11:11 AM IST
It is among the recommendations listed in a report released by the House of Commons special committee on Canada-China relations, marking yet another low in the two countries’ deteriorating ties
Close
US State Department spokesman Ned Price speaks during the press briefing at the State Department in Washington, DC. (AFP)
US State Department spokesman Ned Price speaks during the press briefing at the State Department in Washington, DC. (AFP)

United States asks Pakistan to play a ‘constructive role’ in the region

By Yashwant Raj I Edited by Nadim Siraj
PUBLISHED ON FEB 26, 2021 11:01 AM IST
The development comes in the backdrop of a ceasefire agreement along the Line of Control and amid growing calls from experts for a re-set of US-Pakistan ties
Close
Jamal Khashoggi was killed and dismembered at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018.(Reuters File Photo)
Jamal Khashoggi was killed and dismembered at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018.(Reuters File Photo)

Saudi Crown Prince implicated in Khashoggi murder, US finds

Bloomberg
PUBLISHED ON FEB 26, 2021 10:41 AM IST
It wasn’t immediately clear how much detail the declassified version of the report will provide about Prince Mohammed’s role in the killing.
Close
Vivek Murthy returns as Surgeon General, his old job in the administration of Barack Obama.(Reuters file)
Vivek Murthy returns as Surgeon General, his old job in the administration of Barack Obama.(Reuters file)

'Priority is to turn the pandemic around': US Surgeon General nominee Murthy

PTI
UPDATED ON FEB 26, 2021 12:28 PM IST
Indian-American Dr Vivek Murthy, US President Joe Biden's nominee for America's Surgeon General on Thursday appeared for his confirmation hearing by the Senate.
Close
In a proclamation issued on Wednesday, President Joe Biden said the ban “does not advance the interests of the United States”.(Reuters Photo)
In a proclamation issued on Wednesday, President Joe Biden said the ban “does not advance the interests of the United States”.(Reuters Photo)

US lifts Trump-era ban on legal immigration

By Yashwant Raj, Washington
UPDATED ON FEB 26, 2021 08:00 AM IST
In April 2020, Trump had temporarily suspended for 60 days the entry of legal immigrants - affecting green cards - as layoffs had begun to spike. There were some exceptions, such as dependents of US citizens.
Close
A pedestrian wearing her facemask and holding a cup of coffee walks past a closed sign hanging on the door of a small business in Los Angeles, California.
A pedestrian wearing her facemask and holding a cup of coffee walks past a closed sign hanging on the door of a small business in Los Angeles, California.

In US' California, death toll due to Covid-19 tops 50,000

ANI
PUBLISHED ON FEB 26, 2021 07:58 AM IST
As per the latest data, 1,114 deaths were reported during the previous 24 hours, taking the total toll to 50,991.
Close
In a statement, the FATF noted that Pakistan has made “significant progress” on the entire action plan, and has “largely addressed 24 of the 27 action items”.(AP)
In a statement, the FATF noted that Pakistan has made “significant progress” on the entire action plan, and has “largely addressed 24 of the 27 action items”.(AP)

Terror financing watchdog keeps Pakistan on ‘grey list’

UPDATED ON FEB 26, 2021 07:55 AM IST
The outcome was widely anticipated, though Pakistan has failed to meet all deadlines set by the multilateral watchdog to complete the 27-point action plan that was drawn up after the country was placed on the grey list - which is the list of countries under increased monitoring - in June 2018.
Close
The UN logo at the United Nations headquarters in New York. (HT archive)
The UN logo at the United Nations headquarters in New York. (HT archive)

UNGA President welcomes ceasefire agreement between India, Pakistan

ANI
UPDATED ON FEB 26, 2021 07:53 AM IST
On Thursday, India and Pakistan released a joint statement saying that they have agreed to a ceasefire along the Line of Control (LoC) starting from February 25.
Close
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi met for nearly two hours on the sidelines of the SCO meet in Russia last year. (PTI)
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi met for nearly two hours on the sidelines of the SCO meet in Russia last year. (PTI)

Border dispute objective reality, should be put at right position in ties: China

By Sutirtho Patranobis, Beijing
PUBLISHED ON FEB 26, 2021 07:45 AM IST
  • The phone call was the first formal contact between Jaishankar and Wang since they met on the margins of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) meeting in Moscow on September 10 last year.
Close
FILE PHOTO: A 3D-printed Facebook logo is seen in front of a displayed Australian flag in this illustration photo taken February 18, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo(REUTERS)
FILE PHOTO: A 3D-printed Facebook logo is seen in front of a displayed Australian flag in this illustration photo taken February 18, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo(REUTERS)

Facebook signs pay deals with 3 Australian news publishers

AP, Canberra
PUBLISHED ON FEB 26, 2021 07:22 AM IST
The commercial agreements are subject to the signing of full agreements within the next 60 days, a Facebook statement said.
Close
SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP