Here’s the nut of the executive order Barack Obama released today on Guantanamo Bay:
Sec. 3. Closure of Detention Facilities at Guantánamo. The detention facilities at Guantánamo for individuals covered by this order shall be closed as soon as practicable, and no later than 1 year from the date of this order. If any individuals covered by this order remain in detention at Guantánamo at the time of closure of those detention facilities, they shall be returned to their home country, released, transferred to a third country, or transferred to another United States detention facility in a manner consistent with law and the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States.
The whole thing is available here.
As I’ve noted before, after Sept. 11 President Bush was confronted with an unprecedented challenge when it came to devising a strategy to fight terrorism. One thing the administration inevitably had to grapple with was how to deal with detainees caught during this ongoing war who do not respect the Geneva Conventions themselves. President Obama is now determined to reverse many of Bush’s policies, and in this case, close Gitmo within a year. But between now and then, difficult questions remain. Will these prisoners be accepted by their home countries? What if a prisoner’s home country is one that engages in torture, does sending him back violate the Obama administration’s principles on rendition? What third countries would accept these men? Will Americans be comfortable with terrorists being held in their neighborhoods? How do we try prisoners if releasing the evidence we have against them could compromise our intelligence? And what do we risk by simply releasing prisoners? If the new administration can resolve these issues, close Gitmo within a year, and do so without putting Americans in greater danger, then I’d be happy to give Obama credit. But now that he’s in power, we no longer have to have a theoretical debate about this.