President Donald Trump has signed a new executive order announcing his intent to keep the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay open, the White House announced Tuesday.
Trump made it clear during his 2016 campaign for president that he wanted to keep Guantanamo open and “load it up with some bad dudes.” But the White House announcement, just before the president’s first State of the Union address, marked a formal reversal of President Barack Obama’s eight-year effort to close the detention center.
The order says the U.S. maintains the option to detain additional enemy combatants at the detention center in Cuba, when necessary. It requires the defense secretary to recommend criteria for determining the fate of individuals captured by the United States in armed conflict, including sending them to Guantanamo Bay.
“The executive order preserves a vital tool to protect the United States and its citizens from continuing significant threats,” the White House said. “The detention of enemies captured in an armed conflict is a lawful and necessary tool of warfighting that must continue to be available to the United States.”
Practically, not much is expected to change with Trump’s new order, said Lee Wolosky, who was Obama’s special envoy at the State Department for closing Guantanamo.
“I don’t think signing a new executive order changes very much,” Wolosky said. “But as a symbolic matter, it changes a great deal because the two presidents before him were trying to close Guantanamo because they recognized that it was a detriment to our national security. Symbolically, it reaffirms his interest in perpetrating a symbol that has greatly damaged the United States.”