What Happened to Guantanamo Bay?

Remember 2008?  (That was before the iPad.)  At that time, the existence of a military detention facility for alleged enemy combatants in Cuba was considered a scandal by many Americans.  Candidate Obama vowed to close the prison within a year of taking office.  The Court decided Boumediene v. Bush, the latest in a series of cases filled with denunciations of executive high-handedness.  And plenty of eloquent voices were heard in the media and in the academy denouncing what Guantanamo represented.

Today nobody cares.  The President almost never discusses Guantanamo.  The Justices are no longer interested in the detainees (they have not taken a new case since 2008).  And the folks who pilloried George W. Bush for creating the prison have largely fallen silent. Initially there was a fair amount of criticism directed at President Obama for not fulfilling his campaign pledge, but now that’s dissipated to something like sheepish embarrassment.

I wonder what lesson should be drawn from this.  Does this vindicate the Bush Administration to some extent?  Does it mean that Guantanamo was just a handy partisan club and nothing more?  Were the Justices just grandstanding?

Gerard Magliocca

Gerard N. Magliocca is the Samuel R. Rosen Professor at the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law. Professor Magliocca is the author of three books and over twenty articles on constitutional law and intellectual property. He received his undergraduate degree from Stanford, his law degree from Yale, and joined the faculty after two years as an attorney at Covington and Burling and one year as a law clerk for Judge Guido Calabresi on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Professor Magliocca has received the Best New Professor Award and the Black Cane (Most Outstanding Professor) from the student body, and in 2008 held the Fulbright-Dow Distinguished Research Chair of the Roosevelt Study Center in Middelburg, The Netherlands. He was elected to the American Law Institute (ALI) in 2013.

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2 Responses

  1. Brett Bellmore says:

    “Does it mean that Guantanamo was just a handy partisan club and nothing more?”

    Pretty much. Guantanamo, drone attacks on wedding parties, violations of the war powers act, transparency. Pretty much all of it is just a handy partisan club, and nothing more. It’s like Glenn Reynolds is fond of saying: The only time Democrats care about Executive branch abuses is when a Republican is President.

    We could wish otherwise, but that’s the brutal truth.

  2. Joe says:

    Past extended replies failed to post … suffice to say this (more so the comment) is a rather incomplete analysis, down to Breyer’s recent concurring statement in a cert dissent denial. Oh well.