The Geopolitical Dynamics of Extraterritorial Detention

The Geopolitical Dynamics of Extraterritorial Detention

Source: “100609-F-3431H-051” by JTF Guantanamo is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

The Biden administration is undertaking a formal assessment of Cuba’s Guantanamo Bay military prison. Former President George W. Bush created the detention center in 2002 to hold foreign terrorist suspects in the aftermath of 9/11. President Biden wants to shut down the prison by the conclusion of his first term in 2024, resurrecting an Obama-era objective that was never realized.

After Afghanistan

The events of September 11 fundamentally changed the US’s counterterrorism strategy, resulting in measures focused on apprehending and holding individuals who were suspected of terrorist activity. As a result, the detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, a US military facility, was created. The majority of those classified as extremists have been sent to other countries, where they are being imprisoned or have been freed. Individuals held in Guantanamo Bay are those who have been taken as prisoners of war (POW) in a foreign country. According to the New York Times, 780 prisoners have been detained at Guantanamo Bay since 2002. The remaining 741 were transferred to the care of a foreign government. There are presently 39 people that are still imprisoned there. They have been detained by the Executive branch of the government. These individuals will not be prosecuted, and in some instances, the reason for this will be due to the fact that the evidence against them will be deemed inadmissible in court. In any case, there appears to be sufficient evidence to infer that they are at war with the US.

The Current State

The cost of operating Guantanamo Bay’s jail and judicial system increased by almost $90 million between 2013 and 2018, despite a decline in the number of detainees. Since opening over 19 years ago, the US military court and prison at Guantanamo Bay have cost more than $6 billion to maintain and continue to consume more than $380 million each year while holding just 39 detainees.

In the past we have seen detainees released, only to carry out new attacks on Americans. Senate Republicans state that “relocating the remaining 40 individuals or closing the facility would create an unnecessary risk.” On the other side, Senate Democrats argue that Guantanamo has tarnished America’s reputation, promoted anti-Muslim prejudice, and undermined America’s capacity to combat terrorism and promote human rights and the rule of law globally. House Democrats believe the US has an obligation to treat prisoners in Guantanamo humanely and to make adjustments for their medical treatment. Additionally, they note that certain prisoners should be tried in federal courts, and other prisoners should be deported to their home countries or sent to other nations under suitable circumstances. 

Biden’s Agenda and The Risk of Closing Guantanamo 

Since taking office, the Biden administration repatriated its first inmate from Guantanamo Bay in July; Abdul Latif Nasir, a Moroccan man who had been imprisoned there for almost two decades. Nasir was detained indefinitely as a prisoner of war (POW) for 19 years without prosecution as part of the armed battle against the terrorist organization, al-Qaeda. The Biden administration has not specified how or when it would carry out their plan to close the detention center. However, early actions to release one prisoner and add five others to a list of individuals eligible for release has sparked hope among those eager to see it end. Guantanamo has been a financial, legal, and moral hardship throughout its existence. The expense of holding prisoners in Guantanamo is significantly more than the cost of holding them at a maximum-security prison in the United States. Guantanamo costs the US government $445 million each year, or around $5.56 million per inmate, in comparison to Federal prisons that house detainees for a maximum yearly cost of approximately $78,000 per prisoner.

A report by Human Rights First, a nonpartisan organization, posits that the danger of returning detainees authorized for release from Guantánamo to their homes is manageable. The assertion that transferred prisoners are very likely to engage in or re-engage in terrorist activity upon their release is mostly false. Under the Bush administration, which released over 500 inmates, 21.4% of freed detainees were found to have participated in criminal activity after their transfer. This rate has decreased to 4.6% as the Obama administration implemented more rigorous vetting procedures (i.e., The Guantanamo Review Task Force). Given the fact that the Obama administration revised the prisoner review and transfer systems, according to national security leaders, releasing prisoners who are no longer a danger to the US or its interests can be done securely.

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