Politics

Obama’s Last-Minute Rush to Empty Gitmo

President orders more terrorists transferred from Cuba, nears 80 percent reduction since 2009

President Obama intends to transfer as many as 22 prisoners out of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in a hurried effort to empty the prison as much as possible during his final month in office before President-Elect Donald Trump succeeds him Jan. 20.

According to a report in The New York Times, 22 of the 59 remaining Gitmo prisoners are eligible for transfers, although Obama will likely transfer only 17 or 18. A congressional source told CNN that Congress was notified Monday of the president’s intentions.

“We’re gonna load it up with some bad dudes, believe me, we’re gonna load it up.”

Because the president is legally required to give Congress a 30-day notice of intent for such transfers, Obama utilized his power on the last day possible to take action before Trump officially takes office.

“The politics of fear has led Congress to prevent any detainees from being transferred to prisons in the United States,” Obama told U.S. troops at MacDill Air Force Base earlier in December. “Until Congress changes course, it will be judged harshly by history, and I will continue to do all that I can to remove this blot on our national honor.”

Of the likely remaining Gitmo prisoners following Obama’s last transfer, 10 men have been charged or convicted in the military commissions and 27 were deemed too dangerous for release for various reasons.

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“I watched President Obama talking about Gitmo, right, Guantanamo Bay, which by the way, which by the way, we are keeping open. Which we are keeping open … and we’re gonna load it up with some bad dudes, believe me, we’re gonna load it up,” Trump said during a campaign rally back in February.

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Trump’s campaign rhetoric seemed to have a significant effect on the Gitmo detainees themselves. David Remes, a lawyer for detainee Saifullah Paracha, said that as Election Day results rolled in, the prospect of a Trump victory took its toll.

“[My client] said that many detainees thought that it was the end of the world and felt terrible and that many detainees asked for tranquilizers, sleeping pills, because they were so distraught,” Remes said, according to CBS News.

A Trump presidency promises to bring a vastly different approach to apprehending and incarcerating terrorists than during the Obama years. When he assumed office in 2009, Obama inherited 242 Gitmo prisoners. With just 59 prisoners remaining a month before Obama steps aside, his legacy will be in a prime position for Trump to shred while reversing course.

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