President Trump has signed an executive order to keep open the detention facility for suspected terrorists at the U.S naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Mr. Trump touted the order during his first State of the Union address Tuesday night, saying it also directed Defense Secretary James Mattis to “re-examine our military detention policy” as a whole.
“I am also asking the Congress to ensure that, in the fight against ISIS and al Qaeda, we continue to have all necessary power to detain terrorists — wherever we chase them down, wherever we find them,” the president said.
“For many cases, for them, it will now be Guantamao Bay,” he said.
Nearly 800 terrorism suspects captured by U.S. forces and intelligence services around the world have been brought through Guantanamo since shortly after the September 11 terrorist attacks.
Most have been released or transferred to other countries without charges in the years since. As of early January, there were 41 detainees held at Guantanamo.
The American Civil Liberties Union sharply criticized Mr. Trump’s executive order to keep Guantanamo open.
“Trump is making a big mistake by doubling down on the national security and human rights disaster that is Guantanamo,” ACLU National Security Project Director Hina Shamsi said in a statement circulated to reporters late Tuesday night.
“For more than a decade, Presidents Bush and Obama tried to transfer people out responsibly, but Trump is reversing course. In trying to give new life to a prison that symbolizes America’s descent into torture and unlawful indefinite detention, Trump will not make this country any safer,” Ms. Shamsi said.
“In addition to the incalculable human suffering, it costs taxpayers more than $445 million a year to detain the 41 men now there,” she said. “Congress should prevent President Trump from continuing unlawful detention and unconstitutional military commissions. And we all must pledge — not one person more in Guantanamo, not in our names.”
Mr. Trump made his comments on the matter Tuesday night after asserting that “terrorists who do things like place bombs in civilian hospitals are evil.”
“When possible, we annihilate them. When necessary, we must be able to detain and question them,” Mr. Trump said. “But we must be clear: Terrorists are not merely criminals. They are unlawful enemy combatants, and when captured overseas, they should be treated like the terrorists they are.”
The president lamented that “in the past, we have foolishly released hundreds of dangerous terrorists, only to meet them again on the battlefield — including the ISIS leader, al-Baghdadi.”
Islamic State founder Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was detained by American-led forces during the U.S. occupation of Iraq in 2004 but later released from custody.
“One year later,” Mr. Trump said, “I am proud to report that the coalition to defeat ISIS has liberated very close to 100 percent of the territory just recently held by these killers in Iraq and in Syria and in other locations as well.”
“But there is much more work to be done,” he said. “We will continue our fight until ISIS is defeated.”
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