As a result, officials now believe that they are unlikely to close the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and transfer its population of terrorism suspects until 2011 at the earliest — a far slower timeline for achieving one of President Obama’s signature national security policies than they had previously hinted.The Democrats, including many of those who wanted Gitmo closed, didn't provide funding to make the closure possible.
While Mr. Obama has acknowledged that he would miss the Jan. 22 deadline for closing the prison that he set shortly after taking office, the administration appeared to take a major step forward last week when he directed subordinates to move “as expeditiously as possible” to acquire the Thomson Correctional Center, a nearly vacant maximum-security Illinois prison, and to retrofit it to receive Guantánamo detainees.
But in interviews this week, officials estimated that it could take 8 to 10 months to install new fencing, towers, cameras and other security upgrades before any transfers take place. Such construction cannot begin until the federal government buys the prison from the State of Illinois.
The federal Bureau of Prisons does not have enough money to pay Illinois for the center, which would cost about $150 million. Several weeks ago, the White House approached the House Appropriations Committee and floated the idea of adding about $200 million for the project to the military spending bill for the 2010 fiscal year, according to administration and Congressional officials.
But Democratic leaders refused to include the politically charged measure in the legislation. When lawmakers approved the bill on Dec. 19, it contained no financing for Thomson.
It has always been about the appearance of closing Gitmo and what Democrats claim that the facility represents more than what the facility actually is. Gitmo remains a highly secure environment that protects the US from terrorists captured overseas and does so in a humane fashion. Transferring the detainees to a mainland facility doesn't change the fact that they're being held without trial (one of the issues that the far left continues to rail against, even as the Obama Administration is on the record as saying that while Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other high value terrorists will not be released regardless of a federal court trial outcome). It simply is a way to make hay with a decision made by the Bush Administration. The Obama Administration realizes that they can't simply release these detainees, even if it wanted to and many localities simply do not want these terrorists in their own backyard.
That, to be sure, has played a role in not providing funding for the Thompson facility.
In sum, the Democrats railed against Gitmo's existence (and as an extension the Bush Administration), but refuse to act to close it because it isn't in their interest to do so. It also lets the Administration claim credit for trying to close the facility while blaming Congress for not providing the means to do so. This way, Gitmo stays open and the detainees go nowhere, but the Administration can claim that it has lived up to its promises to try and close it.