ACLU congratulates Obama, says close Cuban camps, ground drones

Subdued Guantánamo captives monitored news, seemed please at president's election

11/07/2012 4:28 AM

08/29/2013 5:38 PM

The American Civil Liberties Union chief congratulated President Barack Obama, and in the same breath early Wednesday called on him to make good on his first-term promise to shut down the prison camps at Guantánamo.

“We urge President Obama to dismantle a national security state where warrantless surveillance, extra-judicial killings of American citizens by drones and other attacks on our personal freedoms have been deemed acceptable,” ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero said in a pre-dawn statement.

Obama ordered his administration on his second day in office in January 2009 to empty the detention center within a year. He’s been able to cut the population to 166 but has been repeatedly was thwarted by Congress in his goal of closing the controversial camps by moving some of the captives to U.S. soil.

Romero’s remarks came hours after the detention center disclosed that two cellblocks of cooperative captives were “watching the elections on TV in Camp 6,” the main prison building at the U.S. Navy base in southeast Cuba, where the Pentagon confines more than 100 of the 166 captives.

Four years ago, word of Obama’s victory spread through the 240 or so prisoners on election night and detainees taunted their guards with chants of “Obama, Obama, Obama” because his campaign promise of closure was widely known.

Tuesday night, the captives were more subdued, said Army Capt. Jennifer Palmeri, a Guantánamo detention center spokeswoman.

“They are watching quietly — no chanting,” Palmeri reported by email.

Nobody cheered exactly when Obama was declared a winner, said Palmeri. But there were smiles and “the overall mood was of happiness.”

The fate of the prison camps was not a major issue in Campaign 2012. Obama was on record as saying he still wanted to shut them; challenger Mitt Romney had said that the president's first term inability to do so indicated he was a flip-flopper. But some cooperative captives had been following the elections since at least last month's foreign affairs debate at Lynn University in Boca Raton.

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