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Homeland Security

Analysis: Still Open for Business

Council on Foreign Relations

May 18, 2006
Prepared by: Carin Zissis

Four years after U.S. officials began detaining "unlawful enemy combatants" at a camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, steady international calls to close the center have failed to budge Washington. The U.N. Committee Against Torture weighed in this week with a report on the issue. Opponents of the detention camp, where nearly 500 people are still held without formal charges, may have been hopeful after U.S. President George W. Bush recently told German television: "I very much would like to end Guantanamo; I very much would like to get people to a court." Bush said closing the camp depends on whether the Supreme Court decides that detainees will be tried in civilian courts or by military tribunals. That ruling is expected in June in the Hamdan v. Rumsfeld case, discussed in this CFR Backgrond Q&A.

CFR Senior Fellow Noah Feldman, in an interview with, says this is no mere political dodge. However, "the president could, if he wanted to, close Guantanamo tomorrow," he says. "He’d just have to do something with the people there."

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld indicated during a subsequent press briefing that 'Gitmo' would not be closed and the administration still hopes to set up a military commission to try detainees. However, Slate Supreme Court analyst Dahlia Lithwick says Bush's comments are significant because they amount to a rare admission that he is bound by a decision of the high court on an issue related to the war on terror.


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Copyright 2006 by the Council on Foreign Relations. This material is republished on with specific permission from the Reprint and republication queries for this article should be directed to

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