Fate Of Inmates Uncertain As Gitmo Deadline Passes
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If President Obama had his way, the Guantanamo Bay Prison would be closed by now. A year ago, he signed an executive order to empty the prison. The administration did not meet that deadline but now, it's taken another step towards that goal. A task force has been reviewing each detainee's file, and now it has recommendations about where each prisoner should go.
NPR's Ari Shapiro reports.
ARI SHAPIRO: The task force included people from agencies across the federal government: State, Justice, the Pentagon, Homeland Security and more.
First, the team took months assembling a file for each detainee. Those records were scattered in various departments during the last administration. Then the team went through the files one by one, deciding whether each prisoner was best suited for trial, release or indefinite detention. Now, an administration official says the task force is done.
With almost 200 men left at Guantanamo, here's how the numbers break down: About 110 are designated for transfer to their home countries or another country. Another 35 or so will be put on trial in either military or civilian court, and about 50 detainees will be held indefinitely without trial - most likely at a federal prison in Illinois.
Mr.�VIJAY PADMANABHAN (Cardozo Law School): It's fantastic that the government, after this many years, has finally completed the task of categorizing individuals into these three categories.
SHAPIRO: Vijay Padmanabhan of Cardozo Law School worked on detainee issues at the State Department under President Bush.
Mr.�PADMANABHAN: I know that when the Bush administration was looking at this issue, we - for a long time - had the problem of not having a clear handle on how many individuals fell into which particular category.
SHAPIRO: But putting the detainees in categories does not mean Guantanamo will close right away. Some Yemeni detainees, for example, are cleared to be sent home, but the Obama administration has suspended transfers to Yemen because the country is too unstable. Republicans in Congress plan to fight the administration's efforts to bring detainees to the United States for civilian trials. And in what may be the most controversial category, human rights groups are challenging the administration's plans to hold detainees indefinitely.
Mr.�JAMEEL JAFFER (Director, National Security Project, American Civil Liberties Union): If we keep the policy of indefinite detention in place, then closing Guantanamo, I think, is purely cosmetic.
SHAPIRO: Jameel Jaffer runs the ACLU's National Security Project.
Mr.�JAFFER: We have never had this kind of indefinite detention without charge or trial on U.S. soil. This is something that's entirely new, and that's the proposal.
SHAPIRO: The United States has held enemies without trial during a war before, but this is not a typical war. Glenn Sulmasy of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy is author of the book "The National Security Court System."
Mr. GLENN SULMASY (Author, "The National Security Court System): The problem with the law of war analysis in this area is that normally, you hold someone in a law of war position until cessation of hostilities, until the war ends. In this case, in this war against al-Qaida, it's a generational war or longer, and that means we're essentially having these folks held until they die.
SHAPIRO: The administration wants a judge to occasionally check in on those men to make sure they're still dangerous. Attorney General Eric Holder sketched the rough outline of a plan at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last June.
Mr. ERIC HOLDER (Attorney General, Obama Administration): The thought we had was that it would be some kind of review with regard to the initial determination, and then a periodic review with regard to whether or not that person should be continued - to be detained.
SHAPIRO: So far, the administration has not provided much more detail than that. Setting up that system is just one more item on the president's closing Guantanamo to-do list.
Ari Shapiro, NPR News, Washington.