A new report by the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) has revealed that there is now enough space for the 166 detainees to be moved from Guantanamo Bay, the infamous detention camp. Commissioned by Senator Dianne Feinstein, the report details up to six military prisons and 98 Justice Department prisons all across America, that have available space and security requirements. The study shows that US prisons already hold up to 378 prisoners convicted for terrorism, in 98 facilities. Feinstein, a Democrat from California, argues that as “there hasn't been a single security problem reported in any of these cases, this fact outweighs not only the high cost of maintaining Guantanamo – which costs more than $114 million a year – but also provides the same degree of security without the criticism of operating a military prison in an isolated location."
So far, So good – the along waited closure of Guantanamo and the suspension of military tribunals, as set out by Obama on 14 January 2009, will surely be a landmark in American politics. Guantanamo Bay, and its blatant human rights abuses, marked the height of atrocities committed by the Military and Bush Administration during America’s War on Terror. At the end of 2009, Obama received the Nobel Peace Prize for his work, and himself described Guantánamo as a "sad chapter in American history.’
In truth, what is even sadder is Guantanamo may be here for many more years.
The report bases all the possibilities of closure on one thing: ‘if the political will exists’. And it looks like it is this will that has vanished from the mind of Obama. Faced with an unemployment rate of 7.9%, the likelihood of the fiscal cliff and growing tension in a new wave of Middle East Crises, the issue of Guantanamo is not in the forefront of American Politics. And so despite this space being available, a history of continued setbacks, postponement and avoidance confirms the growing worry that Obama’s promise will fall flat. How? How have we let America’s biggest scandal go unnoticed, go unchecked, be forgotten?
First of all: it is cutting through the paperwork. Most of the files surrounding the detainees at Guantanamo are non-existent, meaning they have to be processed and the evidence assembled. The first deadline for Obama’s order that Guantanamo to be closed in a year – missed. Two years later, Obama signed a second order, this time to set up a lengthy review process for detainees. Efforts to prepare US Military Prisons for the arrival of detainees from Guantanamo failed, with State Senators for Kansas, such as Pat Roberts, and Sam Brownback, objected to efforts to rehouse terrorist suspects in Fort Leavenworth, a military prison in their state – and hence opposed Obama in Congress.
Further legislation, such as the Defence Authorization Bill, has placed restrictions on the transfer of Guantánamo prisoners to the mainland or to other foreign countries. Obama signed this in January 2011, despite continually voicing objections to its stance upon Guantanamo. This is a stance further entrenched in the National Defence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012, which not only denied funds for the transfer of Guantanamo detainees into US Military prisons, but allowed for the indefinite detention of Americans in a military prison without trial. This was the case in 2011, and, unless something dramatic happens – will carry on into 2013 too.
Obama of course, has blamed such legislation on opposition from Republican lawmakers in Congress, who have been arguing for the need for Guantanamo to stay open as a high-security detention centre for terrorist suspects. Defending his decision to sign acts that fundamentally prohibit the conditions needed for