President Donald Trump said Wednesday that “it’s crazy” the United States spends about $13 million per Guantánamo inmate a year, and is actively searching for ways to save costs.
Trump did not tell reporters on Air Force One as he flew back to Washington after a campaign trip to New Mexico and California that lasted three days that he would consider shutting the detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, the New York Times reported.
“I know about that,” Trump said about the costs. “I think it’s crazy. It costs a fortune to operate, and I think it’s crazy.”
“We’re looking at a lot of things,” he added. “Look, President Obama said that Guantánamo Bay would be closed, and he never got it done.”
The secret military base, established 18 years ago by President George W. Bush, according to the Times, is the most expensive prison in the world.
There are 40 prisoners at Guantánamo accused of plotting the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, including the alleged mastermind, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, and 14 other former CIA captives.
“The big decision we have now is we have thousands of people,” Mr. Trump said. “They came from other countries. We want those countries to take them back. We did them a big favor by stopping them. If they came from France, we want France to take them and to try and do whatever they have to do with them. But that’s a very expensive situation.”
Last year, the Pentagon proposed to replace Guantánamo’s Top Secret Camp 7 prison, where the 9/11 terrorists are held, with a less expensive facility, the Miami Herald reported.
The proposal included a request for $69 million to replace the facility, and was to be included in the massive 2019 Department of Defense budget package.
It warned that it is at risk of several technical failures including mechanical, electrical and secure-communications failures, which would risk the lives’ of the U.S. Army guards there.
Regardless, the military currently has plans for a trial of the 9/11 terrorist suspects, recently setting a date on January 11, 2021, for the start of what will be a long-stalled war crimes trial, Military Times reported.
Air Force Col. W. Shane Cohen noted that the trial at the U.S. base at Guantanamo “will face a host of administrative and logistics challenges.”
The trial will be for five defendants charged with war crimes that include terrorism, hijacking and nearly 3,000 counts of murder for their alleged roles in the terrorist attacks.
They have been detained there since 2006.