The Biden administration’s “goal” remains to close the Guantanamo Bay prison for suspected terrorists, according to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who says the White House is intent on moving the facility’s 40 remaining prisoners away from the U.S. naval base in Cuba.
“We believe that it should be,” Mr. Blinken said when asked in an interview with CBS’ “60 Minutes” that aired Sunday whether the Biden administration will close the Guantanamo prison.
Successive U.S. administrations have been vexed by the controversial facility that the George W. Bush administration created to hold men rounded up in the global war on terror after al Qaeda flew hijacked airplanes into the Pentagon and World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.
Roughly 780 suspects have been detained at Guantanamo since the prison opened there in 2002. Some analysts have argued the facility’s existence has sent a bare-knuckle message to potential terrorists around the world not to mess with the United States.
But human rights groups have been sharply critical of the prison, the treatment of the men detained there over the years and the legal grey area surrounding the facility.
The Obama administration vowed to close it in 2009 and succeeded in reducing the number of prisoners from roughly 250 down to about 50 by 2015, with many being released and others moving to detention in other countries. However, Congress never fully signed off on closing the facility.
President Trump then reversed the White House‘s posture, fighting to keep the prison open — even famously promising at one point to “load it up with some bad dudes.” But the number of prisoners continued to dwindle during Mr. Trump’s tenure.
In February, the Biden administration said its “intention” is to close the prison, although doing so will still require approval from Congress.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters at the time that a “robust” formal review of the prison would be undertaken. Ms. Psaki did not offer a timeline, but she said the review would require the participation of officials from the Department of Defense, the Justice Department and other agencies.
Mr. Blinken told “60 Minutes” that the goal of closing the prison is “something that we’ll bring some focus to in the months ahead.”
• This article is based in part on wire service reports.