In one of his first official acts on day one of his presidency, Barack Obama has halted prosecutions at the controversial Guantanamo Bay prison. Issuing a 120 suspension of military tribunals, the move was the first of many that President Obama will use to distance himself from the legacy of former President George Bush, who created the detention center in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York City.
The Guantanamo Bay military base in Cuba, or Gitmo as it is commonly referred, has a history of unique use by the US government. In the 1990s, George H.W. Bush used it as a refugee camp for thousands of Haitians who had fled their country in the wake of violent elections and unrest. Later, Bill Clinton used the base as a processing center for immigrants found at sea.
In 2001, government officials were trying to determine where to hold suspected terrorists and Al-Qaeda members. A prison facility was eventually built on the base, capable of holding up to 2,000 detainees. In 2002, suspects were brought to the prison, wearing black hoods and shackled at the ankles and wrists. Right now, the detention center holds 245 prisoners. Most have yet to be charged with a crime and others have been cleared for release, but have nowhere to go.
The Obama administration has repeatedly admonished the secret military tribunals and stated their desire to have the Guantanamo Bay Prison shut within the year. A draft order written by officials in Obama's administration and recently obtained by the Associated Press states, "In view of the significant concerns raised by these detentions, both within the United States and internationally, prompt and appropriate disposition of the individuals currently detained at Guantanamo and closure of the facility would further the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States and the interests of justice."