New and justified optimism greets the otherwise dismal sixth anniversary of President Barack Obama’s decision to close the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, one of his first decisions as president. While President Obama failed to meet the one-year deadline established in his 2009 executive order, fresh momentum behind the effort to close the prison has brought the achievement within reach. Congressional Republicans have other ideas, however, and now that they represent the majority in both chambers, they have proposed more roadblocks to closing Guantanamo that are seemingly designed to harm American security and waste taxpayers’ money.
President Obama remains deeply committed to closing Guantanamo despite these obstacles because the case for it continues to grow. The first commander of the prison facility at Guantanamo, retired Major General Michael R. Lehnert, recently came out strongly in favor of closing the detention center he helped create. Major Gen. Lehnert argues that we can manage the risk associated with releasing detainees who may take up the fight against the United States, but the “risks associated with keeping Guantanamo open are harder to mitigate, and the harm will be far more lasting.”