President-elect Barack Obama plans to issue an executive order on his first full day in office directing the closing of the Guantánamo Bay detention camp in Cuba, people briefed by Obama transition officials said Monday.All good, though I agree with Hilzoy that, while closing Gitmo is an important symbolic gesture, the more pressing substantive issue is ceasing the practice of indefinite detention sans charges: "We need to detain people only if they belong to some recognized legal category of, well, people who can be detained: prisoners of (non-metaphorical) war, people who have been indicted on concrete charges, people who have been convicted, etc. Anyone currently under detention who does not fit one of those categories should either be fit into one (e.g., by being charged with a crime) or released."
But experts say it is likely to take many months, perhaps as long as a year, to empty the prison that has drawn international criticism since it received its first prisoners seven years ago this week. One transition official said the new administration expected that it would take several months to transfer some of the remaining 248 prisoners to other countries, decide how to try suspects and deal with the many other legal challenges posed by closing the camp.
People who have discussed the issues with transition officials in recent weeks said it appeared that the broad outlines of plans for the detention camp were taking shape. They said transition officials appeared committed to ordering an immediate suspension of the Bush administration's military commissions system for trying detainees.
As Team Obama appears, per the New York Times, "to have rejected a proposal to seek a new law authorizing indefinite detention inside the United States," it looks like we're headed in the right direction both symbolically and substantively.