Closing Guantanamo

CLOSING GUANTANAMO…. On ABC News over the weekend, Barack Obama sounded an encouraging note with George Stephanopoulos on a certain notorious detention facility: “We are going to close Guantanamo and we are going to make sure that the procedures we set up are ones that abide by our constitution. That is not only the right thing to do but it actually has to be part of our broader national security strategy because we will send a message to the world that we are serious about our values.”

Obama hedged, however, when asked when this might happen. Just how quickly will Obama move on closing Guantanamo? Apparently, we can expect action very soon.

Advisers to President-elect Barack Obama say one of his first duties in office will be to order the closing of the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay. That executive order is expected during Obama’s first week on the job — and possibly on his first day, according to two transition team advisers. Both spoke Monday on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

Now, this is far from straightforward. Even if Obama signed the order on Jan. 20, this isn’t a situation in which the facility at Guantanamo would shut its doors for good on Jan. 21.

Rather, when Obama orders the prison closed, he’ll direct his administration to “figure out what to do with” the 250 or so detainees at the facility.

Will that be resolved within Obama’s first 100 days? Almost certainly not. The challenge, of course, is dealing with the mess Bush created by identifying terrorist suspects that can’t be tried in U.S. courts because the evidence against them was obtained through torture. It’s an untenable dynamic — Obama doesn’t want to release potentially dangerous detainees who are national security threats, and he doesn’t want to charge them based on inadmissible evidence that was abused of the suspects. It’s quite a legacy Bush is leaving behind for Obama to clean up.

That said, the sooner Obama gets to work on this, the better. Issuing an order on Guantanamo on his first day would, at a minimum, send the right signal, and get the process — a process — underway.