Roosevelt Institute | Cornell University

Guantánamo Bay: 15 Years With Few Results

By Michele PothenPublished February 25, 2016

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Guantánamo Bay is known infamously around the globe as the inhuman US terrorist prison one rarely leaves. President Obama once said the facility would be closed within a year of his presidency; but with his 8 year term coming to a close, many are wondering what will become of this incomplete initiative.
    Guantánamo Bay is known infamously around the globe as the inhuman US terrorist prison one rarely leaves. President Obama once said the facility would be closed within a year of his presidency; but with his 8 year term coming to a close, many are wondering what will become of this incomplete initiative. Guantánamo Bay began as President George W. Bush's response to 9/11, with the intention of capturing terrorist intelligence regarding the attack. Detainees are held without charge for an indefinite amount of time, the most recent arrival being in 2008. The urge to close the facility stems around the values and ideals of American justice, namely habeas corpus. The prison is seen by many as an inhumane facility where detainees are stripped of their rights and freedoms. Many Republicans in congress are against the closure of the prison in fear of the detainees reengaging in terrorist activity. However, according to the The US Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the rate of reengagement has significantly decreased.

    Under Bush, of the 532 prisoners released 110 had confirmed reengagement activity. Under Obama, of the 115 released only 6 have shown signs of
reengagement. While the number has significantly decreased, many question whether this slight chance is worth the risk. In the most recent State of the Union address, President Obama said, "[Guantánamo Bay] is expensive, it is unnecessary, and it only serves as a recruitment brochure for our enemies. There's a better way." This better way includes the transference of previous detainees to max security prisons in the US. Human rights advocates have begun to call the proposed facility in Thomson, Illinois, "Gitmo North," referring to the transference of prisoners as a mere bandaid on the problem with indefinite detention.  Trevor Timm of The Guardian describes this premise saying, "Indefinite detention — holding detainees for what is now decades with no trial or even charges of any kind on the horizon — is about as antithetical to American values and the constitution as it gets." The Cuban offshore prison remains as a blemish on US history as it serves as a reminder of the unethical tactics that occur on site.  The Senate Intelligence Committee put out a report on CIA torture detailing the methods agents used to extort information from detainees. Tactics ranged from brutal stress positions to waterboarding, with prisoners constantly begging for release. The report concludes that the torture methods were overall ineffective and unnecessary as prisoners would often reveal false information simply to stop the torture or would be willing to divulge secrets without the use of such force.

    Human rights advocates are calling for the closure of the institution as well as the punishment of the agents who administered the counter-productive torture. The Republican controlled congress seems to have other intentions as it continues to strike down President Obama's attempts at closure, and presidential candidates like Marco Rubio have put out many statements about keeping the facility open. He states, "We simply cannot hand over this critical base, especially not as the end result of President Obama's dangerous plan to release terrorists back into the battlefield or bring them to US
soil." The question remains whether keeping the detention prison open, with inmates who may never be charged, is worth the exorbitant costs and the immense human rights violations.