The United States has had a Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba since 1898 and leases the land for about $4,000 a year.
In 2002, Camp Delta was opened at Guantanamo to hold the detainees swept up in President George W. Bush’s “War on Terror.” His administration’s Justice Department originally sought to deny the detainees any rights – arguing that the federal courts had no jurisdiction over foreigners captured abroad and held in Cuba. And, by labeling them unlawful combatants rather than prisoners of war, they similarly sought to deny them even the basic rights guaranteed POWs by the Geneva Conventions.
Three times since the opening of Camp Delta – in 2004, 2006 and 2008 – the Supreme Court has found that key pieces of the Bush Administration’s detention policy were in violation of the US Constitution. In Rasul v. Bush, the Court threw out the President’s claim that detainees held in Guantanamo were outside the jurisdiction of federal courts, allowing them to challenge their captivity. Two years later, in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, the Court found that the procedures instituted by the Bush Administration to review the status of detainees at Guantanamo violated military law and the Geneva Conventions.
In the Court’s 2008 ruling in Boumediene v. Bush, the Supreme Court once again granted detainees the writ of habeas corpus and guaranteed that federal courts would be able to provide a crucial check against the government’s indefinite detention of detainees at Guantanamo Bay. Applying that decision, Federal District Court Judge Richard J. Leon ordered the release of 5 of the 6 men at the heart of that case because the government provided an insufficient justification for their continued detention.
In all, the detention center at Guantanamo Bay has housed a total of 779 detainees – approximately 550 of which have already been released or transferred into the custody of other governments. Only 3 detainees have ever been charged and convicted of a crime.
On the second day of his presidency, President Obama announced that he would close the Guantanamo Bay detention center, the shameful symbol of torture that has undermined our nation’s security and destroyed its moral authority. And over a dozen retired Generals and Admirals joined the President when he signed his very first Executive Order to Guantanamo to send the message that we must “restore the standards of due process and the core constitutional values that have made this country great, even in the midst of war, even in dealing with terrorism.”
Since his historic announcement, former Vice-President Dick Cheney has launched a highly-visible right-wing political campaign to discredit the president’s security strategy and has sought to pressure politicians into turning back the clock. This past May, speaking to the ultra-conservative American Enterprise Institute, he said, “I think the President will find, upon reflection, that to bring the worst of the worst terrorists inside the United States would be cause for great danger and regret in the years to come.”
So far it’s been working. This May, both the House and Senate rejected the President’s request for funding to close the detention center at Guantanamo. And the Senate, in a 90-6 vote, went so far as to bar the administration from bringing detainees into the US except for trial, and even then under very specific limitations.
This summer and fall conservatives have kept up the fearmongering – Like Senator Inhofe (OK) saying that “President Obama is obsessed with turning terrorists loose in America” – and playing politics with government funding bills to embarrass the President.
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