The base, sometimes referred to as “Gitmo,” is located in southeastern Cuba, on the coast of Guantánamo Bay.
The United States has been leasing the 45 square miles that the base sits on since 1903. The base shares a 17-mile border with Cuba.
The lease can only be terminated by mutual agreement.
In response to the 9/11 attacks in 2001, and subsequent military operations in Afghanistan, existing migrant detention facilities at Guantánamo were repurposed to hold detainees in the “war on terror.”
During the administration of President George W. Bush (2001-2009), the United States claimed that Guantánamo Bay detainees were not on US soil and therefore not covered by the US Constitution, and that “enemy combatant” status meant they could be denied some legal protections.
Shortly after his inauguration in 2009, President Barack Obama signed an executive order to close the detention facilities within one year. However, the facilities are still open as of 2016.
There are 60 detainees at Guantánamo Bay as of October 2016.
More than 700 detainees have been held at Guantánamo since it opened. Peak population was 684 detainees in June 2003.
At least nine detainees have died in custody.
The US Defense Department spent about $445 million to run Guantánamo Bay in 2015, down from $522.2 million in 2010.
1903 – The new Republic of Cuba leases 45 square miles of land in Guantánamo Bay to the United States for construction of a naval station. Building on the naval station begins that same year.
1934 – Cuba and the United States sign a perpetual lease that rents the 45 square miles of Cuba to the US for $4,085.00 a year.
1991 – Approximately 34,000 Haitian refugees are detained on the base after they flee a coup in Haiti.
1994-1995 – More than 55,000 Cubans and Haitians captured at sea are kept at Guantánamo.
January 11, 2002 – The first detainees from Afghanistan and Pakistan arrive at the temporary facility of Camp X-Ray.
June 28, 2004 – A divided Supreme Court rules that the Guantánamo detainees have some rights but leaves open how these rights will be exercised.
January 18, 2005 – The Supreme Court refuses to consider whether the government’s plan for military trials unfairly denies the detainees basic legal rights.
July 13, 2005 – A report presented to the Senate Armed Services details the interrogation of the suspected “20th hijacker” in the 9/11 attacks, Mohamed al-Khatani. He was forced to wear a bra, dance with a man and do dog tricks while tied to a leash. But military investigators said that was not considered prohibited, inhumane treatment.
April 19, 2006 – Following a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by the Associated Press, the Pentagon releases the most detailed and extensive list of detainees ever provided. It provides the names and nationalities of 558 detainees who’ve gone through a hearing at Guantánamo Bay.
May 15, 2006 – The Defense Department releases another list of current and former detainees to the AP. It says this list of 759 names includes everyone who has ever been held at Gitmo, since 2001. The list does not include the names of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed or Ramzi bin al Shibh.
June 10, 2006 – Three detainees, Ali Abdullah Ahmed, Mani al-Habardi al- Utaybi, and Yassar Talal al-Zahrani are found dead in their cells by guards after apparently committing suicide.
June 29, 2006 – The Supreme Court strongly limits the power of the US government to conduct military tribunals for suspected terrorists imprisoned at Guantánamo Bay. The 5-3 ruling effectively means officials will either have to come up with new procedures to prosecute at least 10 “enemy combatants” awaiting trial, or release them from military custody.
September 6, 2006 – President Bush acknowledges that the CIA has held suspected terrorists in secret prisons overseas. He announces the transfer of 14 captured al Qaeda operatives, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Ramzi bin al Shibh, and Abu Zubaydah, to Gitmo.
January 9, 2007 – Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer says that he expects Australian citizen David Hicks to be charged “within a matter of weeks.” Hicks has been detained without charges at Guantánamo Bay since January 12, 2002.
March 12, 2007 – Walid Muhammad Salih bin Attash, a detainee at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, admits to helping orchestrate the bombings of the US embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, in 1998 and the USS Cole in Yemen in 2000.
March 15, 2007 – During a military hearing, a transcript of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed confessing to being the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks is released.
May 30, 2007 – A Saudi detainee is found dead from an apparent suicide.
June 5, 2008 – Alleged 9/11 conspirators Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Ramzi bin al Shibh, Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali, Walid bin Attash and Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi are arraigned.
June 12, 2008 – The US Supreme Court rules 5-4 that detainees have a constitutional right to challenge their detentions.
July 21, 2008 – Salim Hamdan pleads not guilty at the opening of the first war crimes trial at Guantánamo Bay. He’s charged with transporting Osama Bin Laden and some missiles in connection with terrorist activity.
August 6, 2008 – Salim Hamdan is found guilty of five counts of material support to a terror organization. He is later sentenced to five years and six months in prison.
December 7, 2008 – Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Ramzi bin al Shibh, Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali, Walid bin Attash and Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi tell a judge that they want to make a full confession.
January 20, 2009 – On his inauguration day, President Barack Obama directs Defense Secretary Robert Gates to ask prosecutors to seek stays for 120 days so terrorism cases at Guantánamo can be reviewed.
January 22, 2009 – President Obama signs an executive order to close Guantánamo Bay within a year.
November 13, 2009 – Attorney General Eric Holder announces that five detainees, accused of complicity in the September 11th attacks, will be transferred to New York City to stand trial in a civilian court. They are: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Ramzi bin al Shibh, Walid bin Attash, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali and Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi. Five other detainees will be transferred to the United States and have their cases heard before military commissions. They are: Omar Khadr, Mohammed Kamin, Ibrahim al Qosi, Noor Uthman Muhammed and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri.
November 18, 2009 – President Obama announces that the Guantánamo Bay detention center will not be closed by January 22, 2010, due to difficulties in relocating the prisoners.
December 15, 2009 – The Obama administration announces that between 70-100 detainees will be moved to an empty prison in Thomson, Illinois.
October 25, 2010 – Guantánamo Bay detainee Omar Khadr pleads guilty to all charges against him. Khadr is sentenced to 40 years in prison but will serve eight years as part of his plea agreement.
February 2011 – Detainee Awal Gul collapses and dies of an apparent heart attack after exercising.
March 7, 2011 – President Obama announces that the United States will resume the use of military commissions to prosecute detainees at Guantánamo Bay.
April 4, 2011 – Attorney General Eric Holder announces that five detainees will face a military trial at Guantánamo Bay.
April 24, 2011 – Nearly 800 classified US military documents obtained by WikiLeaks reveal details about the alleged terrorist activities of al Qaeda operatives captured and housed at the US Navy’s detention facility in Guantánamo Bay. Included are intelligence assessments of nearly every one of the 779 individuals who have been held at Guantánamo since 2002, according to the Washington Post.
May 18, 2011 – A detainee identified as Inayatullah (aka Hajji Nassim) commits suicide in his cell.
September 8, 2012 – A detainee is found dead in his cell. US Southern Command later identifies him as Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif, 32, of Yemen.
March 25, 2013 – US military spokesman Robert Durand announces that 28 of the 166 prisoners detained at Guantánamo Bay are on hunger strikes. Ten of the detainees are being force-fed, according to Durand.
April 13, 2013 – Detainees wielding “improvised weapons” clash with guards. Guards respond by firing “four less-than-lethal rounds,” according to Joint Task Force Guantánamo.
April 22, 2013 – US spokesman Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale says that 84 detainees are currently on hunger strikes, more than half of the 166 people being held.
May 16, 2013 – Army Lt. Col. Samuel House announces that 102 of the 166 detainees are on hunger strikes, with 30 being fed by tubes. Three have been hospitalized.
May 23, 2013 – In a speech at the National Defense University, President Obama calls on Congress to close the detention center at Guantánamo Bay by saying, “Given my administration’s relentless pursuit of al Qaeda’s leadership, there is no justification beyond politics for Congress to prevent us from closing a facility that should never have been opened.”
June 6, 2013 – US spokesman Capt. Robert Durand says that 103 detainees remain on hunger strikes, with 41 being force fed.
September 2013 – The Office of the Director of National Intelligence releases a report, saying that some former detainees are returning to terrorist activity after being released. The study says that of the 603 detainees who’ve been released, 100 of them have resumed fighting against the United States.
December 31, 2013 – The final three ethnic Chinese Uyghur detainess are transferred to Slovakia.
February 2014 – Detainee Fawzi Odah files a lawsuit relating to the upcoming completion of US combat operations in Afghanistan. His lawyers argue that to hold detainees after the end of active hostilities is a violation of the Geneva Conventions.
May 22, 2014 – US District Judge Gladys Kessler lifts a temporary restraining order that had stopped the force feeding of detainee Abu Wa’el Dhiab. Kessler rules that he must be forcibly fed because of the “very real probability that Mr. Dhiab will die.”
May 29, 2014 – Detainee Ghaleb Nassar al Bihani, held since December 2001, is cleared for release.
May 31, 2014 – The United States transfers five detainees to Qatar in exchange for the release of US Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. They are: Khair Ulla Said Wali Khairkhwa, Mullah Mohammad Fazl, Mullah Norullah Nori, Abdul Haq Wasiq and Mohammad Nabi Omari.
August 21, 2014 – The US Government Accountability Office declares that the Defense Department broke federal law by exchanging five Taliban detainees for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl without giving Congress the appropriate notice.
October 3, 2014 – US District Judge Gladys Kessler orders the release of videotapes showing detainee Abu Wa’el Dhiab being force fed.
November 5, 2014 – Detainee Fawzi Odah is released. He will be repatriated to Kuwait where he will remain in custody for a year, in a rehabilitation program.
December 7, 2014 – Six detainees are transferred to Uruguay, including Abu Wa’el Dhiab, who has been on a hunger strike. Dhiab took his fight against forcible feeding to federal court in the District of Columbia.
February 18, 2015 – A US military appeals court vacates the conviction of David Hicks, an Australian who pleaded guilty to providing material support to terrorism. Hicks was the first detainee at Guantánamo to be convicted in a military commission.
September 17, 2015 – Prisoner Younis Abdurrahman Chekkouri is sent back to Morocco.
September 22, 2015 – Detainee Abdul Shalabi is transferred to Saudi Arabia.
October 29, 2015 – Prisoner Ahmed Ould Abdel Aziz is released to the government of Mauritania.
October 30, 2015 – Shaker Aamer, the last British resident held at the prison camp, arrives home in the UK after his release.
December 1, 2015 – The Department of Defense reveals that a case of mistaken identity has kept Mustafa Abd-al-Qawi Abd-al-Aziz al-Shamiri at Guantánamo Bay for more than 13 years. Al Shamiri is an admitted fighter associated with US-designated terror groups, but it was believed that he was also an al Qaeda facilitator and trainer. US officials now say that these activities were carried out by other extremists with a similar name.
January 6, 2016 – The Department of Defense announces that prisoners Mahmud Umar Muhammad Bin Atef and Khalid Muhammad Salih Al-Dhuby have been transferred to Ghana.
January 8, 2016 – The Department of Defense announces the repatriation of Faez Mohammed Ahmed Al-Kandari to Kuwait.
January 11, 2016 – The Department of Defense announces the repatriation of Muhammed Abd Al Rahman Awn Al-Shamrani to Saudi Arabia.
January 14, 2016 – The Department of Defense announces the transfer of Fahed Abdullah Ahmad Ghazi, Samir Naji al-Hasan Muqbil, Adham Mohamed Ali Awad, Mukhtar Yahya Naji al-Warafi, Abu Bakr Ibn Muhammad al-Ahdal, Muhammad Salih Husayn al-Shaykh, Muhammad Said Salim Bin Salman, Said Muhammad Salih Hatim, Umar Said Salim al-Dini and Fahmi Abdallah Ahmad Ubadi al-Tulaqi to Oman.
January 21, 2016 – The Department of Defense announces the transfer of two detainees, Tariq Mahmoud Ahmed Al Sawah and Abd al-Aziz Abduh Abdallah Ali Al-Suwaydi.
April 4, 2016 – The Department of Defense announces the transfer of Salem Abdu Salam Ghereby and Omar Khalif Mohammed Abu Baker Mahjour Umar to Senegal.
April 16, 2016 – The Department of Defense announces the transfer of nine detainees to Saudi Arabia.
June 22, 2016 – The Department of Defense announces the transfer of Abdel Malik Ahmed Abdel Wahab Al Rahabi to Montenegro.
July 10, 2016 – The DOD announces the transfer of Fayiz Ahmad Yahia Suleiman to Italy.
July 11, 2016 – The US Department of Defense announces the transfer of two detainees, Muhammadi Davlatov and Mansur Ahmad Saad al-Dayfi, to Serbia.
April 15, 2016 – The Department of Defense announces the transfer of 15 detainees to the United Arab Emirates. It’s the single-largest transfer since President Barack Obama took office.
October 17, 2016 – The DOD announces the transfer of Mohamedou Ould Slahi to Mauritania.