The Cable

A Plan to Close Guantánamo Is Coming, Just Not This Week

Another week has gone by, and the White House still has not rolled out its long-awaited plan to close the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

ARLINGTON, VA - SEPTEMBER 26:  Aerial photo of the Pentagon in Arlington, Virgina on September 26, 2003.  (Photo by Andy Dunaway/USAF via Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, VA - SEPTEMBER 26: Aerial photo of the Pentagon in Arlington, Virgina on September 26, 2003. (Photo by Andy Dunaway/USAF via Getty Images)

Another week has gone by, and the White House still has not rolled out its long-awaited plan to close the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

Chatter that the release was imminent picked up over the past week after defense and White House officials said they expected the Obama administration to deliver the document to Congress soon, likely by Friday. But several defense officials confirmed to Foreign Policy on Friday that the plan will not come this week, and they are unsure when President Barack Obama will sign off on it.

Officials in the National Security Council have repeatedly chosen to put off releasing the plan originally drafted by the Defense Department last summer, which is expected to lay out options for transferring detainees from the Guantánamo facility to military or civilian prisons in the United States. Congress has passed legislation expressly forbidding Obama from doing so, so a decision to move ahead would be a legacy-defining test of the limits of presidential power.

The Pentagon has been ready to present its plan to Congress at least since August, defense officials told Foreign Policy. To prepare the report, a team of Pentagon officials shuttled between military prisons in South Carolina and Kansas, as well as several high-security civilian prisons in Colorado to assess their suitability to house dozens of detainees, all of whom are deemed unsuitable for release. There are 112 prisoners still being held at Guantánamo, 53 of which have been eligible for release for months or even years. The Defense Department continues to look for third countries that will take them in upon release.

The delay comes amid mounting speculation that the president may choose to shutter the controversial prison by executive action. That would be yet more evidence of Obama’s willingness to back away from a campaign promise not to follow in the footsteps of his predecessor, George W. Bush, by acting unilaterally in defiance of Congress.

Photo credit: USAF via Getty Images

Paul McLeary is Foreign Policy’s senior reporter covering the U.S. Defense Department and national security issues. @paulmcleary

Dan De Luce is Foreign Policy’s chief national security correspondent. @dandeluce

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