Counting the Days at Guantánamo

The U.S. government took its first prisoners to Guantánamo Bay 12 years ago today.

In the 4,380 days since, we have seen indefinite detention without formal charge or trial, the use of torture and other abusive treatment, and unlawful and inherently unfair military commission proceedings. Now home to 155 men, the detention camp has for 12 years violated both the basic rights of its captives, and our American values.

But there is cause for hope that we may someday soon stop counting the days of injustice and abuse at Guantánamo.

Last month, the president signed into law the Fiscal Year 2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which loosens restrictions on transfers of detainees from Guantánamo. These measures represent the first legislation ever passed by Congress to facilitate – rather than impede – the closure of the detention facility. Specifically, the provisions in the NDAA replace an unnecessarily cumbersome process for transferring abroad detainees from Guantanamo with a more sensible, factor-based standard designed to mitigate any risks related to transfer. With these measures in place, the administration may more easily move forward with transfers of the vast majority of men at Guantánamo who have never been charged with a crime.

The new foreign transfer provisions follow a renewed commitment by the Obama administration to close the prison. That commitment is in large part a result of a months-long hunger strike Guantánamo detainees conducted as a desperate protest against their indefinite detention. In response, the president reasserted his commitment to close the prison in a speech last May at the National Defense University. He appointed new envoys at the Department of Defense and Department of State who are responsible for overseeing the closure of Guantánamo. Since those appointments, the population at Guantánamo has shrunk at a faster rate faster than any time since 2010. Even under the more restrictive foreign transfer language in the FY2013 NDAA, nine detainees were transferred from the island prison in December. For purposes of comparison, consider that only three detainees were transferred in all of 2012, and only one in 2011.

For more, see our infographic, "Guantánamo By the Numbers"

Still, significant work remains to be done by Congress and the administration to ultimately close the detention facility and put an end to the practice of indefinite detention by the U.S. government.

The foreign transfer provisions in the FY14 NDAA do not affect the unconstitutional and broken military commissions system, in which six men are presently being tried. Still intact in the recent defense authorization bill is the prohibition against detainee transfers to the United States, even for trial. Though federal criminal courts have successfully completed terrorism-related prosecutions for more than 500 defendants since the September 2001 terror attacks, the government continues to rely on the flawed and extremely costly military commissions system at Guantánamo. To date, the military commissions have cost the American taxpayer some $600 million while delivering seven convictions. Two of these convictions have been reversed and the majority was arranged through plea bargains.

Meanwhile, the Periodic Review Board process announced by President Obama in 2011 and only first initiated this past summer is slowly moving forward. Just this week, the first case of approximately 70 up for review was successfully completed.

All these developments provide strong reason to believe that the tide is turning at Guantánamo Bay. Just last week, State Department Special Envoy for Guantánamo Closure Cliff Sloan told PBS that he is convinced that Guantánamo will close with Congressional support and intensified administration action.

As that day draws nearer, the administration must ensure that detainee transfers abroad are carried out swiftly and with regard to detainees' welfare. And the administration and Congress must continue to work together so that we may finally stop counting the days at Guantánamo.

For more on closing Guantánamo Bay

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A relative of a...

I don't understand why they have to be set free without a trial. Why don't people "formally charge them" and then do the trials? Why do they have to be set free even if some of them probably ARE guilty of aiding Osama bin Laden in his mad quest to kill everybody he just didn't like?
Why do 3,000 families of their victims - if they really committed the offenses, and I think Khalid Sheik Mohammed probably IS one of the culpable - have to suffer yet AGAIN by watching all of the offenders be set FREE with no trial? To roam the earth until they find other families to put through this hell on earth that nobody who doesn't know a victim will ever have to experience.
I don't understand how the hell that's justice for anyone but the murderers and their accomplices; it's certainly not ANYthing for their victims' families except one more pain in a marching line of YEARS of suffering every time something else like this arises.

Do people REALLY think that the government got every last ONE of them wrong when they brought them in for holding until a trial?
I know that I sure as hell don't believe that they could make an error hundreds of times and be wrong about every single last one of the prisoners there.
I think that some of them are guilty of aiding and abetting mass murder, and the fact that they get to live while Eric and all those other people they had a hand in killing are dead as door nails is a mockery all by itself. Now we get to add ANOTHer humiliation to the growing heap of them since the day we were forced to watch as our loved one died, and I don't understand it in any way, shape or form. I don't grasp it physically, emotionally or spiritually. All I seem to understand is that here comes one more pain that we have to deal with until the next freakin' one occurs; after 12 years of continued agonies, I'm finding hope a little damn hard to find and apply to the situation.

Yes I'm angry and, no, I don't apologize for it. The "people" who did this will NEVer feel the slightest twinge of contrition for what they've done. They'll go out and find more families to do this to.
Everyone else has to "pay" for their crimes if they're guilty. I don't understand why THESE guilty people don't. I'm referring to the ones who actually did something. I'm reFERring to Khalid Sheik Mohammed, whom I don't think they got wrong when they arrested him. I believe he helped finance the operation b/c there was too much evidence against him to NOT believe it.
Unless the FBI was lying about that too, but I don't see how they COULD fabricate documented evidence that can appear in a court of law during their trials.

I don't believe in torturing them. I don't believe in holding them without charging and then putting them on trial for what they've done (or didn't do, in the case of those who might be innocent.)
I DO believe in due process though, and letting the real offenders go free with no trial at all ISN'T due process.
I think it's just as bad to let a guilty person run amok in the world as it is to keep an INNOCENT one behind bars for something they didn't do.


It deeply saddens me to know the injustice of our military/government in the detention of (alleged) terrorists. In comparison, the Numberg trials were accurate and facts, admissions, and justice was quickly served.


I don't believe the ones who know they're guilty (and I refuse to believe that NONE of them are culpable in this matter) have any right to complain and protest, just as if they think that after killing almost 3,000 people they still have a right to be thought of as "stellar human beings."
I'm not referring to people who AREN'T a part of what happened, I'm speaking ONLY of those who are guilty and in their heart of hearts know it's true.
If I were guilty of doing what THEY'RE accused of, I damn sure wouldn't think I have the right to cause any trouble with my jailers.
I have a feeling that even the ones who KNOW they're guilty are acting as if they're innocent little lambs because they see all these damn people feeling more sorry for THEM than they probably did for the people whose major crime was to go to freakin' work and ended up dead for it.
It gets on my damn nerves.
The people who are guilty should be tried and sent to prison - or wherever you go when you commit a crime in a country where you're not one of the citizens.

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