Trump signs executive order to keep Guantanamo Bay prison open
(CBS News) -- In his first State of the Union address, President Trump announced that he signed a new executive order to keep the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay open. The move reverses an Obama-era order to close the detention center.
"I am keeping another promise," Mr. Trump said. "I just signed, prior to walking in, an order directing [Defense] Secretary [James] Mattis, who is doing a great job thank you, to reexamine our military detention policy and to keep open the detention facilities in Guantanamo Bay."
"I am asking Congress to ensure that, in the fight against ISIS and al Qaeda, we continue to have all necessary power to detain terrorists, wherever we chase them down."
Mr. Trump has said he wanted to keep Guantanamo open and "load it up with some bad dudes." However, this is the first formal reversal of former President Obama's effort to close it down.
President George W. Bush opened the prison after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks to hold and interrogate suspected enemy combatants. At its peak in 2003, it held 680 detainees. Mr. Bush transferred about 500 out before leaving office.
Mr. Obama ran for office on a platform of closing the prison, and signed an executive order on Jan. 22, 2009 to close it within a year. But he was unable to completely shut it down during his presidency. During his time in office, he transferred 197 detainees out, leaving 41.
The order says the U.S. may transport additional detainees to the detention center in Cuba, when necessary to protect the nation. It requires the defense secretary to recommend criteria for determining the fate of individuals captured by the U.S. in armed conflict, including transferring individuals to Guantanamo Bay.
It remains to be seen if this will prompt much reaction overseas since foreign leaders already knew Mr. Trump wanted to keep it open. European allies, Muslim leaders and other critics have been vehemently opposed to how detainees have been held at Guantanamo for decades without charge and argue that militant groups have used the controversial lockup as a recruiting tool.