While the White House continues to say it is committed to closing the detainee prison at Guantanamo Bay, President Obama's actions today make it clear the facility will remain open for the foreseeable future.
Mr. Obama today approved the resumption of military trials at Gitmo for those detainees designated by the Justice Department for the military justice system. New military trials at Guantanamo were stopped in January 2009 by Defense Secretary Robert Gates pending a review of U.S. detention policy.
One of the first military trials is expected to be that of Abd al Nashiri (pictured at left), the alleged mastermind of the USS Cole bombing 2000. Al Nashiri is one of three Guantanamo detainees to be waterboarded under the enhanced interrogation program put in place by the Bush Administration after the 9/11 attacks.
The president's order has no immediate effect on the potential trials of accused 9/11 plotter Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his four 9/11 co-defendants. In November, 2009 Attorney General Eric Holder ordered the five al Qaeda prisoners to stand trial in New York. But, strong local opposition scuttled that plan, and Congress now has stopped the Obama Administration from proceeding with federal trials for Guantanamo prisoners.
The president also today issued an Executive Order requiring that Guantanamo prisoners receive periodic reviews before a panel of interagency officials to determine if their detentions should continue. Prisoners will have the right of counsel and will be permitted to present statements.
About 36 Guantanamo prisoners have been deemed by the Justice Department to be eligible for trial in either military of federal courts. But, dozens of detainees may face indefinite detention - with officials saying they may be impossible to prosecute but too dangerous to release.