Joe Biden has a goal of closing the Guantanamo Bay military prison by the end of his administration, the White House said on Friday, following news it would launch an official review into the future of the controversial facility in Cuba.
According to two Biden administration aides with knowledge of the matter, the US president will sign executive actions on Guantanamo Bay in the coming weeks and months.
"We are undertaking an National Security Council (NSC) process to assess the current state of play that the Biden administration has inherited from the previous administration, in line with our broader goal of closing Guantanamo," NSC spokeswoman Emily Horne said to Reuters.
"The NSC will work closely with the Departments of Defense, State, and Justice to make progress toward closing the GTMO facility, and also in close consultation with Congress," she added.
The proposals signal a new effort to remove what human rights advocates have called a stain on America’s global image, with the Guantanamo Bay facility symbolising the country’s excessive detention methods used during the “war on terror”.
Critics also claim that the interrogation methods carried out at Guantanamo Bay, which was set up in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington in 2011, amounted to torture.
The Biden administration’s move to close the military facility, which now houses around 40 inmates, follows an attempt by former US president Barack Obama to do the same.
Mr Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, reversed that policy – but did not add more prisoners to the military prison, despite once pledging to do so.
According to Ms Horne, it is not clear how Mr Biden’s coming executive action would bring about the closure of Guantanamo Bay, with discussions in the early stages.
"A number of key policy roles still need to be filled within the interagency, including confirming sub-Cabinet policy roles at the Defense, State, and Justice Departments," the NSC spokeswoman told Reuters.
"There will be a robust interagency process to move forward on this but we need to have the right people seated to do this important work," she said.
Mr Biden can expect to face many of the same political and legal challenges that frustrated his former boss, Mr Obama, who whittled down the facility’s population – but was unable to close Guantanamo Bay outright.
The US government is still barred by law from transferring any inmates to prisons on the US mainland, and despite controlling Congress, Democrats do not have a large enough majority to afford any Democratic opposition to legal challenges on Guantanamo.
Additional reporting by Reuters.
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