President Trump has signed an executive order to keep open the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, marking a formal reversal of his predecessor’s eight-year effort to shut it down, the Associated Press reports. Trump made it clear during his campaign that he wanted Guantanamo to remain open and to “load it up with some bad dudes,” but he has not yet sent a new detainee to the facility. The order, which Trump signed Tuesday night just before delivering his State of the Union address, says the U.S. maintains the option to detain additional enemy combatants at the detention center in Cuba when lawful and necessary to protect U.S. national security. It requires the defense secretary to recommend criteria for determining the fate of individuals captured by the U.S. in armed conflict, including sending them to Guantanamo.
The office of the Director of National Intelligence said that about 17 percent of the 728 detainees who have been released from Guantanamo are “confirmed” and 12 percent are “suspected” of re-engaging in militant activities. The vast majority of those re-engagements occurred with former prisoners who did not go through the security review that was set up under President Obama. Trump’s order says this review process would continue to be used to determine whether detainees should be held. The detention center, which President George W. Bush opened after Sept. 11, 2001, reached a maximum population of 680 in 2003. Bush transferred about 500 out before he left office. Obama transferred 197 detainees out, leaving 41, including five cleared for release.