Trump to expand use of Prison at Guantanamo Bay

WASHINGTON , USA - CMC | The Trump administration is making a fresh attempt at drafting an executive order on handling terrorism detainees, eviving a struggle to navigate legal and geopolitical obstacles to expand use of the Guantanamo Bay wartime prison in Cuba, according to reports here. Administration officials said President Trump had been expected to sign a detention policy order three weeks ago.

But that plan changed after he fired his first chief of staff Reince Priebus on July 28 and replaced him with John F Kelly, a retired Marine Corps general, who once oversaw the prison operation at the American naval base in Cuba, reported the New York Times on Friday. Instead, officials said, on July 31 - Kelly's first day - the National Security Council announced that the White House wanted a new round of interagency deliberations. It said the message came during a secure video teleconference with counterterrorism strategy and legal officials at military, diplomatic and intelligence agencies.

The agencies were asked to consider three potential versions of the order and make recommendations by this week. It said one was the version that Trump was preparing to sign three weeks ago. It would reverse a January 2009 order by former US President Barack Obama that directed the government to close the prison and make clear that the Trump administration 's policy was instead to keep it open indefinitely. That version would also say that Guantanamo Bay could be used to hold accused members of Al Qaeda or the Islamic State.

It said transferring Islamic State suspects there would defy warnings by national security and legal officials about creating legal risks for the broader military campaign underway in Iraq and Syria. The second version would add language that says the secretary of defence, Jim Mattis, may bring newly captured terrorism suspects to the prison. That version explicitly grants an authority that is merely implicit or ambiguous in the first version, the New York Times said. The paper said the third version, would direct Mattis to establish criteria about which new detainees should be brought to It would also make clear that new arrivals would be given periodic reviews by a six agency parole-like board that recommends whether to keep holding or to transfer detainees.

It said an official familiar with internal deliberations said Trump is unlikely to sign any detention order for several weeks "because the changes may be wrapped into a broader counterterrorism policy review that is underway."

Former US President George W Bush opened the military prison in Cuba in January 2002 to hold and interrogate detainees from the Afghanistan War and sent about 780 men to Guantanamo Bay for indefinite detention without trial. In 2009, Obama inherited about 242 detainees and directed his administration to close the prison within a year. But the US Congress blocked Obama's plan to bring several dozen detainees - who were deemed un-triable but unable to be released -to a domestic prison in the United States.

Still, arguing that Guantanamo Bay was too expensive and fuelled anti­Americanism , Obama chipped away at its population; 41 remained when he left office.

The five detainees are on a list recommended for transfer to stable countries including one each from Algeria and Morocco , which have already taken back many others.

However, Trump, who called for ending all transfers because of the risk of recidivism, has given no sign that he will permit their repatriations.