The House Armed Services Committee (“HASC”) released its spending bill, the National Defense Authorization Bill, this past week, reserving a total of $93 million for new construction at Guantanamo Bay Detention Center, including $69 million for a new “high-value detainee complex.” Further, the bill would prohibit the transfer of Guantanamo detainees to the United States for further detention or trial. While the fate of the bill is still uncertain, as it ultimately needs to gain approval from Congress, its very existence indicates that, as many of us have speculated, Guantanamo will not be closing any time soon.
At this point, Guantanamo is well over a decade old. The detention center, intended to be temporary, is well-known to be in a state of disrepair and in need of an overhaul. In short, the detention center at Guantanamo Bay simply was not designed for the type of heavy, sustained use it is receiving. The fact that the HASC would propose spending nearly $100 million to revitalize the detention center, including spending over half of that sum on a new facility for high-value detainees, makes it clear that, despite frequent promises from the current administration, the prison will not be shuttered in the near future.
Further, if the prohibition on transferring detainees to the United States for trial or detention passes, this will almost certainly ensure Guantanamo’s continued existence. There are over 100 detainees left at Guantanamo; military commissions, much like civilian trials, are a long and arduous process. It is common knowledge that members of the international community are often hesitant to accept Guantanamo detainees into their country, whether for repatriation, continued detention, or trial. If the United States is not willing to accept detainees from their own detention center, the chance that other detainees will be willing to “step up to the plate” is slim to none.
As law students, one of our first lessons in Constitutional Law class is that money is a form of speech; the new HASC spending bill makes its agenda with regards to Guantanamo clear with its fiscal appropriations.