Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his deputy Rod Rosenstein toured the facilities at the military prison located at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, this weekend. This lead observers to speculate on a potential Trump administration effort to revive the detention center’s use for detainees from the Islamic State group.
According to a statement released by a Justice Department spokesman Ian Prior, the visit was for “meeting with the people on the ground who are leading our government wide efforts” at the prison. He said it was important for Justice Department officials “to have an up-to-date understanding of current operations” there.
“Keeping this country safe from terrorists is the highest priority of the Trump administration,” Mr. Prior said. “Recent attacks in Europe and elsewhere confirm that the threat to our nation is immediate and real, and it remains essential that we use every lawful tool available to prevent as many attacks as possible.” The New York Times reported.
Beginning with the Bush administration’s use of the prison as a holding center for Al Qaeda suspects captured overseas in military operations, Gitmo became a political lightning rod for controversy over the treatment of the terror suspects, and to what extent American civil liberties extend to the ‘gray area’ of enemy combatants, fighting for a terrorist group, who are captured on the battlefield.
After political winds shifted during the Bush years, the administration slowed the number of detainees arriving at Gitmo while sending others out. One of President Obama’s first moves as newly elected Commander-in-Chief was to issue an executive order to close the prison, which remains in effect to this day. The majority of detainees were released during Obama’s presidency, however, despite two full terms in office attempting to close the facility, 41 men remain at Gitmo.
During the campaign, Trump indicated he would be in favor of keeping the prison open, and to “load it up with bad dudes,” to include sending terrorist suspects who are U.S. citizens. But beyond campaign rhetoric, no definitive steps have been taken towards establishing a policy for Guantanamo Bay.
Image courtesy of the Department of Defense