Forget closing Guantánamo Bay — President Barack Obama has reportedly green-lighted a plan to begin charges against new detainees at the controversial off-shore prison for the first time under his administration.
“The Obama administration is preparing to increase the use of military commissions to prosecute Guantánamo detainees, an acknowledgment that the prison in Cuba remains open for business after Congress imposed steep new impediments to closing the facility,” the New York Times reported.
Administration officials told the newspaper they were preparing military tribunal trials for several suspected terrorists at the prison, signaling a major policy shift for Obama in the face of high pressure from Congressional Republicans and numerous Democrats.
The ban would soon be officially lifted by Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
As a presidential candidate, Obama promised to close Guantánamo, arguing in part that it had become a worldwide symbol of a United States gone morally awry. He appeared to be making good on his pledge when he ordered the detention facility shut during his first week in office, explicitly banning its use for more suspects.
But, facing a defiant Congress and a public that’s skittish about trying terror detainees in civilian courts, Obama’s plan stalled. Several months into office, Obama accepted the use of military tribunals for some suspects. Two years later, it appears the administration has accepted the use of Guantánamo.
Critics have argued that shutting Guantánamo is necessary to restore respect for the rule of law, as the facility has been used to imprison suspects indefinitely without due process, casting a dark shadow over America’s outspoken advocacy for human rights.
According to the Times, the Department of Justice would during the next few weeks send several terror suspects to Guantánamo, including “Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, a Saudi accused of planning the 2000 bombing of the American destroyer Cole in Yemen; Ahmed al-Darbi, a Saudi accused of plotting, in an operation that never came to fruition, to attack oil tankers in the Straits of Hormuz; and Obaydullah, an Afghan accused of concealing bombs.”