2002: Holding Prisoners at Guantánamo and Denying Them POW Status

After 9/11, Joe Biden supported sending people to Guantánamo Bay prison and denying some prisoner-of-war status.

Taliban prisoners in orange jumpsuits sitingt in holding area under the watchful eyes of military police at Camp X-Ray at Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, during in-processing to the temporary detention facility on Jan. 11, 2002.
People in orange jumpsuits sit in a holding area at the Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, military prison during in-processing to the detention facility on Jan. 11, 2002. Photo: Shane Mccoy/Mai/Mai/The LIFE Images Collection via Getty Images

In the early months of the so-called war on terror, the Bush administration began to transfer people snatched on the battlefield — or handed over to the U.S. by foreign governments — to a military prison at Guantánamo Bay. In January 2002, Joe Biden appeared on CNN and was asked about holding people at Guantánamo as well as the Bush administration’s refusal to grant some of them prisoner-of-war status. After CNN’s Wolf Blitzer noted that civil liberties groups and European governments were opposed to these moves, Biden defended President George W. Bush. “No, I think the president is right,” he said. He declared that accused Al Qaeda fighters were not entitled to POW status and said it was debatable for Taliban prisoners. Biden said that people Bush accused of terrorism do “not qualify as prisoners of war and the status that would allow them.” He asserted that their status was a decision for the U.S. military to make. Biden also claimed at the time that people held at Guantánamo were being treated humanely, which would soon be proven false as revelations about CIA black sites and torture emerged.

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