Guantanamo Bay Ten Years Later

Guantanamo Bay Ten Years Later

Ten years after the first suspected terrorists arrived, the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is still open and the fate of 171 remaining prisoners is uncertain.

The Bush administration opened the Guantanamo Bay detention facility in Cuba on January 11,2002. GITMO became infamous for prisoner abuse and torture. Shortly after his inauguration in 2009, President Obama issued an executive order to close the prison within the year, but the deadline came and went. Congress has prohibited moving prisoners to the U.S. for detention or trial, put new restrictions on transfers to other countries, and mandated military detention. Nearly 800 individuals have been held there; 171 remain. Guest host Tom Gjelten leads a discussion about the future of Guantanamo Bay.


David Cole

professor of law at Georgetown University Law Center and author of "The Torture Memos: Rationalizing the Unthinkable". Previous books include "Less Safe, Less Free," and "Terrorism and the Constitution."

Marc Thiessen

a Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a columnist for the Washington Post and author of "Courting Disaster." He served as a speechwriter for President George W. Bush (2004–2009) and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld (2001-2004).

John Bellinger

a partner at the law firm of Arnold & Porter and a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. He served as the legal adviser for the National Security Council and the Department of State under Condoleezza Rice during the Bush Administration.

Rep. Adam Smith

(D-WA), ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee

Program Highlights

Ten years ago, the first 20 terrorist suspects were sent to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. President Obama vowed to close the detention facility, but Congress put up road blocks, the courts upheld indefinite detention and the future of the prison and its remaining inmates remain in limbo. Our
guests explore future possibilities for both Guantanamo and the prisoners who are currently being held there.

In Shutting Guantanamo, Little Is Up To The President

"The Congressional restrictions on transfer out of Guantanamo and the Congressional restrictions on building facilities in the U.S. to accommodate them make it impossible to close Guantanamo, and I think that's a horrible policy," Congressman Adam Smith said. Smith's biggest concerns about the facility are the facts that there is no effective way to transfer or release prisoners there if it later comes to light that an individual was wrongly imprisoned. The best way to bring terrorists to
justice is through article three courts and due process, Smith said. "We should use it and we should not shy away from it," he said.

Guantanamo "Now Hurting Us More Than It Is Helping Us"

John Bellinger thinks that 10 years ago, it made more sense to have a facility like Guantanamo. Our troops in Afghanistan were capturing thousands of Taliban and al-Qaeda members, with nowhere to put them. Now, Bellinger said, it has become a very costly facility to operate.
"Guantanamo is now hurting us more than it is helping us," Bellinger said.

Strong Criticisms of Guantanamo's Management

According to David Cole, it is not Guantanamo itself, but how the Bush administration chose to manage the facility and the process, that present the most serious enduring problems. The laws of war require a hearing when
there's doubt about who a prisoner may be, humane treatment, and release when the war is over, Cole said. But because, in his opinion, the Bush administration chose not to grant detainees hearings and assume they were the "worst of the worst" criminals, we have the enduring problem of what to do with the current prisoners there.

When Would It Be Possible to Close Guantanamo?

Marc Thiessen said that Guantanamo would close tomorrow if al-Qaeda issued a statement of surrender. But since nobody expects that to happen, by that standard, Guantanamo could stay open indefinitely. There is also a disagreement between Cole and Thiessen about whether torture actually happened at Guantanamo. Thiessen said nobody was ever tortured there, but Cole said that the Bush administration's lead prosecutor at Guantanamo, Susan Crawford, is on the record as saying that one prisoner - Mohammad al-Qahtani - was tortured at Guantanamo, and that's why she dismissed his prosecution.

You can read the full transcript here

Please familiarize yourself with our Code of Conduct and Terms of Use before posting your comments.

Our address has changed!

The Diane Rehm Show is produced by member-supported WAMU 88.5 in Washington DC.