President Trump has signed an executive order to keep open the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay, reversing the policy of the Obama administration.
The order was signed moments before president Trump stepped to the podium to present his first State of the Union Address. Trump said that he had directed defense secretary, James Mattis, “to re-examine our military detention policy and to keep the detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay”.
During his State of the Union address, Trump said that the US government had “foolishly” released a great number of terrorists, including ISIS leader, al-Baghdadi, most of whom resumed their agenda.
The president urged Congress to ensure that every available institution designed to detain terrorists, be it from ISIS or al-Qaeda, remain open, citing Guantanamo Bay as the prime location for their detainment.
Trump’s order reverses a policy issued by President Obama during his first days in office that called for the facility to close, a key promise of the Obama campaign.
Under President Obama, many prisoners were released from Guantanamo, however, he was unable to keep his vow to close the facility altogether. The main reason was due to concerns over the fate of some prisoners who were deemed too risky to be released or moved to US soil.
Obama signed the order to shut down the facility eight years ago and when he left office, there were still 41 inmates residing in Guantanamo Bay. These detainees still remain with five others being cleared for release by federal agencies when Trump became president.
According to Lee Wolosky, who served as Obama’s special envoy at the State Department for closing the facility, not much will change with Trump’s order.
“But as a symbolic matter, it changes a great deal because the two presidents before him were trying to close Guantanamo because they recognized that it was a detriment to our national security,” claims Wolosky.
He adds that Trump’s gesture is more symbolic as it reaffirms his interest in destroying a symbol that has damaged the country’s reputation.
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