US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has ordered the Pentagon to draft a proposal for shutting down the military prison at Guantanamo Bay in preparation for a possible order from President-elect Barack Obama, a Pentagon spokesperson said Thursday. Press Secretary Geoff Morrell told reporters that Gates wants to have a plan in place in the event Obama issues an order shortly after his inauguration to close the facility. Morrell said:
[Gates] has asked his team for a proposal on how to shut it down [and] what would be required specifically to close it and move the detainees from that facility, while at the same time ensuring that we protect the American people from some very dangerous characters.
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] Executive Director Anthony Romero applauded the move [press release], saying:
The fact that Defense Secretary Gates is finally taking steps to close down Guantanamo and its unconstitutional military commissions is a welcome and encouraging sign that President-elect Obama intends to fulfill his campaign pledge. This is an important first step toward turning the page on eight years of shameful policies that allowed torture and violations of domestic and international law.
Also Thursday, the ACLU, along with Amnesty International USA, Human Rights First, and Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued a letter to Obama calling on him not to create a similar detention system, should he close Guantanamo and end the military commissions system.
It can not happen soon enough for those still languishing there. Obama must end the torturing of this individuals as well as provide them with due process. Gates is stepping up to the plate on this issue and I do applaud him for that move.