As the U.S. and Cuba begin establishing diplomatic ties for the first time in over half a century, the Obama Administration has announced plans to close down the infamous Guantánamo Bay prison. But it seems unlikely that the policy of indefinite detention and military commissions will cease anytime soon. According to Homeland Security adviser Lisa Monaco, fewer than half of current detainees will be returned to their home countries. Most of those remaining will be transferred to mainland facilities, while six who are considered “too difficult to prosecute” yet “too dangerous to release” will remain, subject to occasional “case reviews.”
According to a report from Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), as of January 2013, there were 97 detainees who had been “confirmed of re-engaging” in terrorist acts, and another 72 who were suspected of having done so. However, a separate investigation by New America, relying on public sources, came up with much lower numbers. Although those sources were “unofficial,” it should be pointed out that the media quickly draws public attention to former detainees who return to militant activities – as do terrorist organizations themselves.
So far, only one detainee has actually been convicted of a war crime. Six more are currently being tried, but the rest – perhaps as many as 50 – remain in legal limbo, being held without charges.
The Guantánamo Bay Naval Base remains a sticking point as diplomatic relations resume between the US and Cuba. Under the terms of Cuban-American Treaty of 1903, the US has been leasing the base for the past 112 years for the bargain price of just over $10,000. Since 1959, however, the Cuban government has been calling for its return on grounds that it was taken by force during the Spanish-American War. Cuba further maintains that the existence of the base is illegal under international law. Cubans themselves are divided on the issue; many want the US military gone, but a few – including an unnamed Cuban military intelligence officer – believe there are more important matters at hand requiring more immediate attention.
It doesn’t matter. The Obama Administration has made it clear that it has no intention of abandoning the US Navy’s first and oldest foreign base. Meanwhile, Public Law 40, which gives the White House unlimited powers to wage undeclared, perpetual “war” on terror and to hold detainees “until the end of hostilities” remains in effect.
It’s the same song, just a different tune.