President Barack Obama has refused to send any suspected terrorists captured overseas to the American detention center at Guantanamo Bay. But if the U.S. starts seizing more militants in expanded military operations, where will they go, who will hold them and where will they be tried?
Those are questions that worry legal experts, lawmakers and others as U.S. special operations forces deploy in larger numbers to Iraq, Syria and, maybe soon, Libya, with the Islamic State group and affiliated organizations in their sights.
Throughout Obama’s presidency, suspects have been killed in drone strikes or raids, or captured and interrogated, sometimes aboard Navy ships. After that, they are either prosecuted in U.S. courts and military commissions or handed over to other nations. This policy has been enough, experts say — at least for now.
“If you’re going to be doing counterterrorism operations that bring in detainees, you have to think through what you are going to do with them,” said Phillip Carter, former deputy assistant defense secretary for detainee policy. “If the U.S. is going to conduct large-scale combat operations or large-scale special ops and bring in more detainees, it needs a different solution.”