A military justice expert from Yale Law School said the president’s comments on closing the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay are a first step in an effort to get the American people behind him on the issue.
Eugene Fidell said President Barack Obama will need the support of the American people if he wants to make good on his promise to close the U.S. detention facility.
"And that may be a challenge, because people’s attention is focused elsewhere," Fidell said. "It's focused on the presidential campaigns. But without the people affirmatively behind him on this task, I think it’ll be really really difficult to see how he can bring the population down to zero which is what it should be."
Fidell teaches military justice at Yale Law School. He said there are potent reasons to want to shut down Guantanamo, starting with its cost.
"It's also a fact that the continuing operation of Guantanamo as a prison has a tremendously corrosive effect around the world," he said. "Our allies are disgusted about it, and the people who are not our allies are furious about it."
One key policy question, said Fidell, is whether the U.S. really wants to detain anyone forever without a trial. "There seems to be no end in sight to the kind of turmoil we see in the world," he said. "And we can’t permit that pattern of terrorism to detract from our basic values about the administration of justice."
GOP lawmakers said the president will face stiff resistance to his plan.