Has the Guantanamo Bay detention camp had a positive or negative impact?


In the aftermath of the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks, the United States government constructed the Guantanamo Bay detention camp on the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in southeastern Cuba. The camp was intended to house suspected members of al-Qaeda and the Taliban, as well as other Muslim militants and suspected terrorists captured by U.S. forces in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere.

The administration under President George W. Bush described that the United States was not required to grant constitutional protections to the prisoners, since the camp was outside U.S. territory. Additionally, the administration argued that the United States was not required to observe the Geneva Conventions, as the detainees were labeled as unlawful enemy combatants.

The facility became the focus of worldwide controversy after alleged violations of the legal rights of detainees under the Geneva Conventions became public. Additionally, accusations of torture and abusive treatment of detainees by United States officials surfaced.

Under the presidential administrations of George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Donald Trump, and Joe Biden, the camp has incrementally released a majority of its detainees. Since its inception, the detention camp has held 780 detainees, of which 732 have been released without charge. At present, the camp holds approximately 39 remaining detainees.

The fate of these remaining individuals and of the camp itself are currently subject to ongoing political, legal, and national security debate. Specifically, Supreme Court cases, proposed legislation, and national foreign policy goals have each influenced the scope, purpose, and perception of the detention camp. This deliberation guides students through a review of contemporary explanations and perspectives of the camp’s perceived success of safeguarding American security and what the future holds for the camp, its operations, and its detainees.

Objectives and Outcomes

  • Students will be able to describe key vocabulary terms and concepts associated with the debate surrounding the continued use of the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.

  • Students will be able to identify and explain aspects of the Guantanamo Bay detention camp debate including civil liberty, Constitutional rights, torture and enhanced interrogation, justice, and national security.

  • Students will be able to evaluate arguments relating to the continued use of the Guantanamo Bay detention camp and formulate an opinion on this question.