Obama's Guantánamo

Stories from an Enduring Prison

256 pages

3 halftones

June, 2016

ISBN: 9781479852802



Add to Cart Available: 5/27/2016

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Jonathan Hafetz is Associate Professor at Seton Hall Law School and has litigated numerous landmark habeas corpus detention cases. He also is the co-editor (with Mark Denbeaux) of The Guantánamo Lawyers: Inside a Prison Outside the Law (NYU Press, 2009).

All books by Jonathan Hafetz

The U.S. detention center at Guantánamo Bay has become the symbol of an unprecedented detention system of global reach and immense power. Since the 9/11 attacks, the news has on an almost daily basis headlined stories of prisoners held indefinitely at Guantánamo without charge or trial, many of whom have been interrogated in violation of restrictions on torture and other abuse.  These individuals, once labeled “enemy combatants” to eliminate legal restrictions on their treatment, have in numerous instances been subject to lawless renditions between prisons around the world. The lines between law enforcement and military action; crime and war; and the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of power have become dangerously blurred, and it is time to unpack the evolution and trajectory of these detentions to devise policies that restore the rule of law and due process.
Obama’s Guantánamo: Stories from an Enduring Prison describes President Obama’s failure to close America’s enduring offshore detention center, as he had promised to do within his first year in office, and the costs of that failure for those imprisoned there. Like its predecessor, Guantánamo Lawyers: Inside a Prison Outside the Law, Obama’s Guantánamo consists of accounts from lawyers who have not only represented detainees, but also served as their main connection to the outside world. Their stories provide us with an accessible explanation of the forces at work in the detentions and place detainees’ stories in the larger context of America’s submission to fearmongering.   These stories demonstrate all that is wrong with the prison and the importance of maintaining a commitment to human rights even in times of insecurity.


  • "Jonathan Hafetz has done it again with Obama's Guantánamo. Picking up where The Guantánamo Lawyers left off, the book follows the depressing trajectory of the detentions over the course of the Obama administration, a period that began with high ideals and lofty rhetoric but, as chronicled in these stories, degenerated into a tale of Executive Branch irresolution and missed opportunities coupled with 'Guantánamo fatigue' on the part of the Supreme Court. The result was to leave the field to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which turned habeas corpus into a cruel joke, and Congress, which threw endless obstacles in President Obama's path. The precise timing and course of the endgame remains to be seen, although slowly but surely the prison population is dwindling, Spandau-like, to the point that even those most committed to keeping the place open will have to recognize how profligate and indefensible a waste of taxpayer resources it has become. Obama's Guantánamo helps ensure that the stories of the prisoners, their lawyers, and the public officials responsible for this overlong grim saga are remembered long after the doors are shuttered."

    —Eugene R. Fidell, Yale University

  • "This collection of essays reveals the many ways in which the Obama administration, Congress, and the courts have all failed the Guantánamo prisoners. Its publication comes at an important time, with just months for President Obama to fulfill his 2009 promise to close the prison for good.  Everyone in a position of power and authority in the U.S. should pay attention to what the lawyers have to say."

    —Andy Worthington, author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison

  • "An alarming and important indictment of Obama's ineffectual approach to one of his signature campaign issues and of America's tarnished system of justice as a whole."

    Kirkus Reviews

  • "These searing essays on the 'enduring prison' make an impressive follow up to The Guantanamo Lawyers, an earlier collection coedited by Hafetz...This book, from a legal perspective, looks deeply and insightfully into an American institution working in secret in the age of the War on Terror."

    Publishers Weekly

  • "Obama's Guantanamo...presents 14 essays from lawyers who work behind the scenes in the civilian habeas bar and the military commissions [that] make the case that Obama lost his way more than once when he had the chance to do the right thing, and retreated to the same failed positions of his predecessor."

    Los Angeles Review of Books