The Current

Obama's plan to close Guantanamo raises concern over prisoner transfers

Barack Obama began his presidency with a promise to close Gitmo. It means bringing a small group of detainees onto U.S. soil. Communities with empty prisons don't want them. Congressional leaders vow to block them. And constitutional experts say the whole idea is on shaky legal ground.
Will President Obama's final push to close Guantanamo succeed? Chris Anders, legal counsel to the American Civil Liberties Union, worries closing Gitmo will mean detainees are held without trial on American soil. (Brennan Linsley/Associated Press)

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Seven years ago, one of President Obama's first acts in office was signing an executive order to shut down the detention centre at Guantanamo Bay. The task isn't any easier today.

Behind the political battle are the 91 detainees still being held in Guantanamo after more than a dozen years. Most have never been charged with a crime.

Mohamedou Ould Slahi kept a diary of his years in detention. It was eventually smuggled out and published.

Here's an excerpt from his diary:

Detainees were not allowed to talk to each other, but we enjoyed looking at each other. The punishment for talking was hanging the detainee by his hands with his feet barley touching the ground. I saw an Afghani detainee who passed out a couple of times while hanging from his hands. The medics fixed him and hung him back up. Other detainees were luckier, they were hung for a certain time and then released. Most of the detainees tried to talk while hanging which made the guards double their punishment. 

While human rights activist are celebrating the push to close Gitmo, some advocates argue it still doesn't resolve the toughest detainee cases.

U.S. President Obama will face constitutional hurdles closing the Guantanamo Bay prison, says SUNY professor Robert Spitzer. (The Associated Press)

Since President Obama's plan involves sending Guantanamo detainees to the U.S., American officials are looking at several prisons in the U.S. as possible places to house them, including two in Colorado. One of those prisons is in Canon City and the other is nearby in Florence, Colorado.

Guests in this segment:

  • Chris Anders, senior legislative counsel to the American Civil Liberties Union. Since 2006, he has been leading a U.S. coalition of groups opposing Guantanamo. 
  • Lisa Hyams, executive director of the Canon City Chamber of Commerce in Colorado.
  • Robert Spitzer, political science professor at State University New York, Cortland, and author of The Presidency and the Constitution.

This segment was produced by The Current's Willow Smith and Karin Marley.