A new GAO report finds that there are 104 prison facilities where those still imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay could be moved with no real risk to anyone’s security. My former colleague Spencer Ackerman has some of the details:
As Danger Room first reported last month, Feinstein asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to look into the practicalities of where to house Guantanamo’s detainee population. Its findings, released late Wednesday: The Justice Department operates 98 prisons suitable for holding individuals convicted on terrorism charges; and the military runs six more. But the report also makes clear that it’s not as simple as moving the detainees from one holding facility to another: Not only would the law have to change, but non-terrorism prisoners would likely have to be moved, and the federal prisons are already seriously overcrowded.
“This report demonstrates that if the political will exists, we could finally close Guantanamo without imperiling our national security,” Feinstein said in a prepared statement. “The United States already holds 373 individuals convicted of terrorism in 98 facilitates across the country. As far as I know, there hasn’t been a single security problem reported in any of these cases.”
The GAO study Feinstein requested is rigorously agnostic on whether Guantanamo ought to be closed. Accordingly, it doesn’t make any recommendations. And the numerous operational difficulties it highlights for imprisoning the remaining 166 Guantanamo detainees in federal or military prisons show it’s not just a matter of pure political will.
Still, the study points to the inherent physical similarities between Guantanamo and federal prisons. Camp Six, for instance, the newest detention center and the one holding some two-thirds of the remaining Gitmo population, is “designed after the layout of a U.S. county jail, and it consists of eight indoor climate-controlled, two-story housing units that each contain 22 individual cells and one large common area.” Nor is Guantanamo a hub for intelligence anymore: Since the facility hasn’t admitted a new detainee since
20062007, whatever residual intelligence operations happen at Guantanamo are to “help ensure the safety and security of the detention facilities and personnel.”
This has always been about political will alone. Several years ago, a Michigan facility that was ideal for holding those prisoners was ruled out when Republican members of the state’s congressional delegation and outraged state officials threw a temper tantrum about it, scaring people with visions of escaped Muslim extremists beheading sweet grandmothers and eating Christian babies. It’s pure demagoguery, which is the only thing preventing this from happening.