It was one of the first things that Barack Obama did on his first day as President of the United States. He signed an executive order to shut down the Guantanamo Bay terrorist detention center within a year.
“We think that it is precisely our ideals that give us the strength and the moral high ground to be able to effectively deal with the unthinking violence that we see emanating from terrorist organizations around the world,” he said. “We intend to win this fight. We’re going to win it on our terms.”
At the time many critics pointed out that the new president may find it difficult to follow-through on that executive order. Now over two years after he signed that order, and over a year after the deadline for its execution, administration officials are floating the idea that Gitmo will never close.
Testifying before the Senate today, Defense Secretary Gates said:
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“The prospects for closing Guantanamo as best I can tell are very, very low given very broad opposition to doing that here in the Congress,” Gates told a Senate hearing.
He also said it’s become harder to release detainees because he has to certify they will not be a danger and that the U.S. has not been particularly good at predicting which detainees will return to the battlefield when they are released.
This comes on top of Leon Panetta’s testimony yesterday that if Osama bin Laden or Ayman al-Zawahiri were captured they would be sent to Guantanamo Bay.
“The process would obviously involve — especially with the two targets that you just described — we would probably move them quickly into military jurisdiction at Bagram [air base in Afghanistan] for questioning and then eventually move them, probably to Guantánamo,” said Panetta
After Panetta made is comments yesterday, new White House Press Secretary Jay Carney seemed to ” walk it back” saying that Obama “remains committed to closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay, because, as our military commanders have made clear, it’s a national security priority to do so.”