Guantánamo

White House: Guantánamo Bay ‘serves a very, very healthy purpose’

A detainee kneels in prayer at sunset on Saturday, Feb. 11, 2017 at Camp 6 at Guantánamo’s Detention Center Zone. The military approved release of this photo.
A detainee kneels in prayer at sunset on Saturday, Feb. 11, 2017 at Camp 6 at Guantánamo’s Detention Center Zone. The military approved release of this photo. emichot@miamiherald.com

White House spokesman Sean Spicer dodged a question on whether the Trump administration would send U.S. citizens to Guantánamo but says the president “believes that Guantánamo Bay does serve a very, very healthy purpose in our national security.”

Related story: Guantánamo policy is in limbo

Spicer elaborated on Wednesday that the base’s purpose was “in making sure that we don’t bring terrorists to our shores.”

As a general rule, advocates of housing suspected terrorists there say it enhances national security to keep the captives off U.S. soil. Currently the Pentagon has 41 war on terror prisoners at the detention center, six awaiting death-penalty trials, and, commanders say, room for about another 200 more.

Spicer twice declined to say whether U.S. citizens could be held there. “As the president has said very clearly before, we don’t telegraph what we’re going to do,” he said.

In August, then presidential candidate Donald Trump told the Miami Herald it “would be fine” if Americans were tried by military commissions at Guantánamo, something not currently permitted by U.S. law. “I know that they want to try them in our regular court systems,” Trump said, “and I don’t like that at all.”

Tuesday, Spicer said at a White House briefing: “I’m not going to get into what we may or may not do in the future.”

The White House has yet to issue an Executive Order or any kind of directive on detention policy, including rescinding former President Barack Obama’s Jan. 22, 2009 instruction to his administration to close the detention center within a year.

Congress thwarted that ambition by prohibiting the transfer of any captive to the United States for any reason, including trial.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump answers questions about the Guantánamo Bay prison camp during an interview with Miami Herald political reporter Patricia Mazzei on Thursday, Aug. 11, 2016.

Sean Spicer says that President Donald Trump 'believes that Guantánamo Bay does serve a very, very healthy purpose in our national security' during a White House press briefing on Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2017.

Carol Rosenberg: 305-376-3179, @carolrosenberg

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