Guantanamo’s continuing legacy 11 years later and President Obama’s second term

Via 911 Blogger |

With President Obama’s second term about to begin, one of his administration’s first promises, that it would close the military detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, looks all but abandoned after he signed a defense bill late Wednesday that includes an array of tough restrictions on the transfer of detainees out of the facility.

Obama had threatened to veto the $633 billion National Defense Authorization Act but signed it, as he did last year, with a statement criticizing sections of the bill that he said are “unwarranted restrictions on the executive branch’s authority” by Congress.

In the case of Guantanamo, the legislation bars the transfer of detainees into the United States for any purpose, including trials in federal court. It also requires the defense secretary to meet rigorous conditions before any detainee can be returned to his own country or resettled in a third country.

Plea agreement rules

The measure may also have the little-noticed effect of reducing the number of prosecutions in military commissions at Guantanamo by making it more difficult for the government to reach plea agreements with defendants.

Until now, five of the seven completed prosecutions at Guantanamo have come through plea agreements, and a number of other detainees are anxious to strike deals with military prosecutors in return for a certain date of release, military officials and defense attorneys said.

Previously, the government could simply transfer out a detainee who had pleaded guilty and served his time without meeting stringent congressional reporting requirements. But the 2013 act removes that exception and requires the defense secretary to certify that such detainees will not be a future threat. The Pentagon has not been willing to provide that kind of certification for any detainee, including those cleared for release.

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