End 15 Years Of Injustice

100 Days of Trump: Join Us in Telling Him to Close Guantánamo

The most recent photos published as part of the latest Close Guantánamo initiative, urging Donald Trump to close Guantánamo, and not to keep it open, and to send new prisoners there, as he has threatened to do.

By Andy Worthington, April 27, 2017

On Saturday, Donald Trump will have been in office for 100 days, and all but his most deranged and devoted supporters must surely conclude that this has been the most shambolic and disappointing first 100 days of any presidency — as reflected in his historically low approval ratings. As we approach 100 days, Trump’s approval rating is just 44%, 11 points lower than Bill Clinton after 100 days, and 19 points lower than Barack Obama at the 100-day mark.

Trump’s sweeping and indefensible travel ban remains one of the low points of his presidency, an effort to target, by religion, seven Muslim-majority countries for a ban on all travel to the U.S., on the basis of a supposed terrorist threat that, to be blunt, doesn’t exist at all. Unfortunately, however, the racism of the travel ban continues to bleed into other aspects of Trump’s policies — his obsession with a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, for example, and, for us at Close Guantánamo, his enthusiasm for keeping Guantánamo open and for sending new prisoners there.

In his first week in office, a leaked draft executive order found Trump threatening the worst possible scenario for Guantánamo and the U.S.’s counter-terrorism policies — reviving torture and CIA "black sites," and bringing new prisoners to Guantánamo. On torture, a barrage of criticism, including from prominent Republicans, including his own defence secretary and others at the CIA, persuaded him to back down, but on Guantánamo a second leaked draft executive order found him still intending to bring new prisoners — Islamic State prisoners — to Guantánamo.

Since then, everything has gone quiet. We can presume that wiser voices than his persuaded him that he doesn’t have the authority to bring Islamic State prisoners to Guantánamo, as he would need a new Authorization for Use of Military Force, and seeking one might reveal how his bellicosity is not backed up with common sense. In any case, the federal courts have proven extremely adept at prosecuting terrorists for the last 15 years — even while George W. Bush was pushing Guantánamo as the centerpiece of a "new paradigm" in warfare, his so-called "war on terror."

Nevertheless, although there are no new developments regarding Guantánamo, for which we must be grateful, Trump has effectively shut the door on the prison, even though he as not opened it up to let in anyone new. 41 men are still held, but only ten of them are facing, or have faced trials, while the rest continue to be held indefinitely without charge or trial — a betrayal of U.S. values, as it has been every day since Guantánamo opened over 15 years ago.

To make matters worse, five of these 31 men were unanimously approved for release under President Obama by high-level government review processes involving the major government departments and the intelligence agencies — three in 2009, by the Guantánamo Review Task Force, and two last year by Periodic Review Boards, a parole-type process that began in 2013, and which we have spent much of the last three years covering.

64 men went before Periodic Review Boards, and 38 were approved for release, with all but these two men freed. The 26 other men held without charge are those whose ongoing imprisonment was approved by the PRBs, although their cases continue to be reviewed — in administrative file reviews every six months, and in full reviews up to three years after their initial reviews.

Again, we must be thankful that the PRBs have not been stopped, as seven Republican Senators urged Trump to do shortly after he took office, and, although the process is flawed — relying on classified information, and requiring the prisoners to show contrition, even if they maintain that they never did anything wrong — it ended up being the only way out of the prison for numerous largely insignificant prisoners otherwise stranded at Guantánamo because of the prison’s fundamental lawlessness and the cynicism or hysteria of Republican lawmakers who spent the whole of Obama’s presidency working to keep it open.

No one has yet been approved for release under Trump, but, if anyone does, there appears to be no active mechanism in place to arrange their release, just as the five men approved for release under Obama but still held when he left office have no means for release. Under Obama, two envoys were appointed, in the Pentagon and the State Department, to work on prisoners’ resettlement, and monitoring them after their release, but as Vice News reported recently, with the posts unfilled, there is no one in Trump’s administration monitoring former prisoners to make sure they don’t become security threats.

To mark Trump’s 100th day in office, we hope you will join us in printing off a poster urging him to close Guantánamo, taking a photo with it and sending it to us. We have already published dozens of photos on the website and on Facebook, and many were also featured in our latest promotional video, which we made available in February, and which features Close Guantánamo co-founder Andy Worthington’s band The Four Fathers singing their song, "Close Guantánamo," first issued last year but now with an added verse about Trump and his "dystopian ways."

We look forward to hearing from you!