Apparently Barack Obama has plans to close Guantanamo Bay on Day One (or at least issue the order):
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.
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.
As I’ve mentioned before, the biggest issue with Guantanamo was not that it broke international law, it’s that it was a public symbol of the abandonment of the freedoms for which the U.S. putatively stood. That is, it’s a pretty banal observation that the U.S. government has engaged in some pretty shady activity in the past, but the difference was that it didn’t flaunt the behavior, nor did was it done on such a large scale. This is actually an important distinction insofar as the international community is concerned, and it’s a step in the right direction that Obama plans to shut it down. Step two will be shutting down Guantanamo in Afghanistan and dismantling the military commissions.