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Closing Guantanamo

Introduction

On his second full day in office, President Barack Obama signed an executive order calling for the closure of the detention camp at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba. White House officials say the move is part of an effort to repair America's image abroad and will include assurances that the United States does not torture. "We will uphold the rights of those who we bring to justice," Vice President Joe Biden told European leaders in Germany in February 2009. "And we will close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay." The order has been met with praise from many lawmakers and human rights advocates, though recently departed U.S. officials have voiced skepticism. Former Vice President Dick Cheney, in an interview with Politico, called Guantanamo a "necessary" facility that, if closed, would put Americans in danger and increase the recidivism rate of terrorists.

For some Guantanamo inmates, "we are going to have to give them some kind of residency.” -- Noah Feldman, CFR adjunct senior fellow

But Obama's departure from the policy of the Bush administration poses a string of legal and security issues--from how to charge inmates, to how to safely release those no longer deemed a threat--that will test his deadline of January 22, 2010, as the date for Guantanamo's closure. "The public debate has really shifted from the issue of whether to close Guantanamo, to how," says Matthew Waxman, a CFR adjunct senior fellow and former deputy secretary of defense for detainee affairs in the Bush administration. The how questions, he says, are more difficult, but "in many ways more consequential."

The Guantanamo Inmates: Who Are They?

As many as 800 prisoners have passed through the Guantanamo prison camp since its inception in 2002; about 250 remain. The majority...

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