2006-2007: Military Commissions Act and Guantánamo

Joe Biden was an early supporter of sending prisoners to Guantánamo, but by 2006, he denounced the practice, saying it was providing “fodder” to Al Qaeda.

(FILES) Photo dated 06 December 2006 shows a detainee escorted by US military guards to his annual Admistrative Review Board hearing inside Camp Delta's Maximum Security area on the US naval base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. Foreign nationals held at the US-run prison at Guantanamo Bay are barred from using the US court system to challenge their detentions, a federal appeals court ruled 20 February 2007. The DC Circuit Court in a two-to-one opinion rejected the detainees' argument that their cases were not covered by the Military Commissions Act of 2006, enacted by Congress last October after the Supreme Court challenged the legality of the panels initially set up by President George W. Bush.        AFP PHOTO/FILES/Paul J. RICHARDS (Photo credit should read PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP via Getty Images)
A detainee is escorted by U.S. military guards to his annual Administrative Review Board hearing inside Camp Delta’s maximum security area on the U.S. naval base at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba on Dec. 6, 2006. Photo: Paul J. Richards/AFP via Getty Images

Despite his early support for the Bush administration’s use of Guantánamo Bay prison and the denial of prisoner-of-war status to detainees, Joe Biden voted with a majority of Senate Democrats against the Military Commissions Act of 2006. The law, which passed and was signed by President George W. Bush, provided legal cover for the continued use of military tribunals and detention at Guantánamo Bay. Since then, Biden has publicly opposed the use of Guantánamo Bay prison to house detainees.

With no mention that he originally supported both sending prisoners to Guantánamo and the invasion of Iraq, Biden blasted Bush in 2007, saying that “the president’s policy has provided fodder to Al Qaeda’s propagandists and recruiters, who have broadcast images of the atrocities at Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib around the world.” In 2007, as Biden ran for president, he co-sponsored legislation to close the prison. He has suggested that all prisoners officially charged with crimes should be moved to secure federal facilities inside the U.S., including the military prison at Fort Leavenworth, to await trial. Despite this position and campaign pledges to close it, Guantánamo remained open during eight years of the Obama-Biden administration and remains open in Biden’s presidency.

Join The Conversation