The challenge of closing Guantanamo


President-elect Barack Obama wants to close the Guantanamo Bay prison camp — but how?

The Center for American Progress, the think tank run by John Podesta, Obama’s transition co-chair, held a panel this afternoon to discuss closing Guantanamo. The panel recommended a “hybrid” approach: release the prisoners who aren’t dangerous, and try the rest in U.S. courts.

Obama hasn’t discussed how he will close the facility. But FedLine wonders how he will handle the complex logistics involved.

The Defense Department runs Guantanamo, which currently holds about 250 detainees. The Pentagon would have to transfer all of them to their home countries, or to the United States, where (presumably) they would be turned over to the Justice Department.

Justice would have to find prisons to hold those detainees, both before their trials and (if convicted) afterwards. That could be a challenge, given that many federal prisons are already overcrowded, and that some detainees could pose a particular security risk.

The department would also be responsible for prosecuting the detainees. And prosecutors can’t use at least some of the evidence against Guantanamo inmates, because it was obtained through torture. That means lengthy casework for federal prosecutors.

Presumably the Homeland Security Department would want some role in the process, too?

All of this means closing Guantanamo will be a complicated effort.

Do you work at any of these departments? Do you have any thoughts on closing Guantanamo? We’d be interested in hearing from you, either in comments or via e-mail.


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