By Genevieve Long for The Epoch Times
The notorious Guantánamo Bay Detention Center in Cuba is set to close within the next year. As one of his first orders of business, newly inaugurated President Obama asked Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to pause military prosecutions at Guantánamo Bay on Wednesday. On Jan. 22, Obama signed an executive order to close the detention center within a year.
It is not yet clear how the nearly 250 current detainees, termed “enemy combatants” in the war on terror, will be handled.
Executive orders, which are controversial because they unilaterally legislate, can be challenged by a two-thirds majority in congress or through the federal courts. The issues tied to President Obama’s executive order on Guantánamo are rich in complexities.
“There are people who are being held at Guantánamo who are still bent on doing harm to America, Americans, and our allies,” said Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell during a Jan. 19 press briefing. “There will have to be some solution for the likes of them.”
According to recent Pentagon statistics, about 11 percent of Guantánamo detainees have returned to fighting, a “substantial increase”. Of former detainees, 18 are confirmed and 43 suspected of returning to fighting—61 in all.
The current number of Guantánamo detainees is approximately 250.
Swift Congressional Response
The congressional response to Obama’s executive order was swift on both sides of the aisle, as several congressional leaders issued statements on their websites. The reaction was mixed—a common question being where detainees would go after the center closes.
“The Guantánamo Bay prison is filled with the worst of the worst—terrorists and killers bent on murdering Americans and other friends of freedom around the world,” said House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-OH) in a statement on Thursday. “If it is closed, where will they go, will they be brought to the United States, and how will they be secured?”