Closing Gitmo: U-M experts available to discuss

February 23, 2016
Contact: Nardy Baeza Bickel


President Obama has announced plans to close the prison in Guantanamo Bay, which has been on his agenda since he took office. The University of Michigan has experts who can comment:

Melvyn Levitsky, professor of international policy and practice at the Ford School of Public Policy, is a retired U.S. ambassador who closely follows Latin America.

“First, the president’s executive order does not mean the U.S. will close the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, but only the detention camp located inside the base. The president can close the detention camp on his own authority, though many in Congress will try to prevent this. The question is what happens to the 91 prisoners accused of terrorism in the camp. Both houses of Congress will oppose any transfer to United States territory. It’s possible that President Obama could order them transferred to a maximum security federal prison, like Florence, Colorado, or Marion, Illinois, or to a U.S. military base, but Congress has and presumably will, restrict funding to do so. Another important question is whether the remaining prisoners, after 30 or so are transferred to other countries that have agreed to take them, will be tried in civilian courts or in somewhat revised military commissions.”

“Clearly, closing of the prison camp at Guantanamo has a number of legal and political hurdles to overcome before the president’s plan can be carried out. The question of Guantanamo Naval Base itself, which is held under a 1903 lease agreement, will certainly be an issue in the process of re-establishment of relations between the U.S. and Cuba, along with the issue of compensation for American citizens and current residents for property confiscated after the Cuban revolution.”

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Michael Traugott, professor emeritus of communication studies and political studies and research professor emeritus at the Center of Political Studies, is a nationally recognized expert in political communication and polls.

“President Obama has proposed a reasonable and cost-effective solution to sequestering detainees now held at Guantanamo Bay,” he said. “His suggestion to bring them to a high-security facility in the United States would be a secure alternative that would not endanger the security of American citizens.”

Contact: 734-763-4702,