Q: What rules apply to how theyre treated?
A: The United States characterizes most as "unprivileged enemy belligerents," a category of war prisoner. Under Executive Order 13492, however, detainees are supposed to be treated in a manner consistent with Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, which among other things prohibits "outrages upon personal dignity." Congress also has specified certain standards through laws such as the 2005 Detainee Treatment Act, which prohibits "cruel, inhuman or degrading" treatment and requires that interrogations conform with conventional U.S. Army standards.
Q: Does the U.S. Constitution apply to detainees at Guantánamo?
A: To a degree, yes. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a 2008 decision called Boumediene v. Bush that Guantánamo detainees had the same constitutional right to file a habeas corpus petition as prisoners in the United States. Although Cuba owns the Guantánamo land, the Supreme Court noted, the United States has exercised "complete jurisdiction and control" for more than 100 years. Consequently, the justices reasoned that this amounted to de facto U.S. sovereignty.
Q: How much does Guantánamo cost to operate?
A: The Obama administration reported to Congress in mid-2011 that it "spends approximately $150 million per year on detention operations at Guantánamo, currently at a rate of more than $800,000 per detainee." In addition, the Bush and Obama administrations have spent hundreds of millions of dollars to upgrade the facility. The average cost to hold a prisoner in the United States is about $30,000 per year.
Q: Whats stopping Obama from closing it and moving the men to U.S. prisons?
A: Since 2009, Congress has made it difficult for the Obama administration to transfer men out of Guantánamo. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 prohibits using any military funds to transfer detainees to the United States. It also prohibits transfers to foreign countries unless the secretary of defense certifies that the country meets certain standards, including that it isnt "facing a threat that is likely to substantially affect its ability to exercise control over the individual." Thats a problem for Yemen, which has an active al Qaida branch. After a Nigerian who said hed been recruited in Yemen tried to blow up a Detroit-bound plane, Obama ordered a halt to all transfers to Yemen. Thats held up the release of 26 Yemenis whove been approved for transfer and 30 more who the U.S. says could be transferred back to Yemen if the government there demonstrates it can hold them.
Q: How many released Guantánamo detainees have returned to fighting the United States?
A: This a hotly debated topic. In January, the director of national intelligence issued a report on what had become of 603 men whod been transferred out of Guantánamo. The report found that, without providing names or proof, 97 men were "confirmed of re-engaging" against U.S. forces, of which about half were dead or back in custody. Another 72 were "suspected of re-engaging" against U.S. forces, though there was no explanation of what evidence led to the suspicion.