It was supposed to be one of President Obama's priorities. But the closing of the Guantanamo Bay detention center has been delayed — if not rendered impossible — by congressional opposition in which the president unfortunately has acquiesced. This week the administration itself seemed to erect another barrier to closure when CIA Director Leon E. Panetta said that, if captured, Osama bin Laden and his lieutenant, Ayman Zawahiri, probably would be held at Guantanamo, perhaps after questioning at the U.S. air base at Bagram, Afghanistan.
Shortly after his inauguration, Obama issued an executive order closing Guantanamo, saying that he wanted to "restore the standards of due process and the core constitutional values that have made this country great even in the midst of war, even in dealing with terrorism." Those words still ring true, as does Obama's argument that Guantanamo, which to much of the world symbolizes mistreatment of prisoners, has become a recruiting tool for Al Qaeda.
But closing the facility is opposed by both Democrats and Republicans in Congress. They refuse to accept the administration's assurances that detainees will be held and tried in secure locations, such as a "supermax" prison in Illinois.
The administration has criticized congressional resistance, but earlier this year Obama signed a defense authorization bill that barred funding for transfer of Guantanamo detainees to the U.S. Presumably he will lobby Congress not to include those restrictions in future legislation, but that will be harder if new prisoners, notorious or otherwise, are brought to the facility.