US defense secretary orders Pentagon plan for closing Guantanamo News
US defense secretary orders Pentagon plan for closing Guantanamo

[JURIST] US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates [official profile] has ordered the Pentagon to draft a proposal for shutting down [press release] the military prison at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] in preparation for a possible order from President-elect Barack Obama [transition website], a Pentagon spokesperson said Thursday. Press Secretary Geoff Morrell told reporters that Gates wants to have a plan in place in the event Obama issues an order shortly after his inauguration to close the facility. Morrell said:

[Gates] has asked his team for a proposal on how to shut it down [and] what would be required specifically to close it and move the detainees from that facility, while at the same time ensuring that we protect the American people from some very dangerous characters.

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] Executive Director Anthony Romero applauded the move [press release], saying:

The fact that Defense Secretary Gates is finally taking steps to close down Guantanamo and its unconstitutional military commissions is a welcome and encouraging sign that President-elect Obama intends to fulfill his campaign pledge. This is an important first step toward turning the page on eight years of shameful policies that allowed torture and violations of domestic and international law.

Also Thursday, the ACLU, along with Amnesty International USA, Human Rights First, and Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy websites] issued a letter [press release and text] to Obama calling on him not to create a similar detention system, should he close Guantanamo and end the military commissions system.

On Sunday, Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff [official profile] told the BBC that before closing the Guantanamo prison, Obama must have a plan for dealing with the detainees [transcript text; JURIST report]. Last week Portugal's foreign minister said that his country would be willing to take in [JURIST report] Guantanamo detainees if Obama closed the facility, and encouraged other European Union member states to do the same. Rights groups have urged Obama to close the controversial military prison upon inauguration in January. Last month the ACLU launched an ad campaign [image, PDF] calling on Obama to close Guantanamo Bay and end the use of military commissions on his first day in office. Also in November, HRW called upon Obama to denounce Bush administration counterterrorism policies [JURIST report] that they described as "abusive." Obama and his advisers have yet to reach a firm decision [JURIST report] on the closure of the facility.