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February 05, 2014

The Hill: Close Gitmo now

By C. Dixon Osburn, Human Rights First

This week marks five years since President Obama's executive order to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay. Signed on his second day in office, the order reflected broad consensus that the facility should be shuttered for good. Both President Obama and Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), the Republican presidential nominee, supported the goal. Former President George W. Bush, Secretary of State Colin Powell, and others were on board. It seemed a foregone conclusion that the executive order would be realized. With 155 prisoners still at the island prison, what is the path forward?

Progress has been made on the path to closing Guantanamo, albeit much more slowly than anyone would have hoped. After years of legislating restrictions on transfers abroad and to the U.S., Congress reversed course in December when it passed a defense bill that clarified the foreign transfer rules for detainees, a near majority of whom have been cleared for transfer by our intelligence and defense agencies. Now that Congress has given the administration additional flexibility, the ball is in the president's court. And Obama has demonstrated renewed commitment to closing Guantanamo, from his speech at the National Defense University last May, to the appointment of two new special envoys in the State and Defense Departments charged with closing Guantanamo, to actually transferring detainees.

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