President Biden boasted about his administration's goal to give 100 million vaccine doses in his first 100 days in office. It was hardly a goal since Biden pretty much inherited that pace from the Trump administration. But what Biden didn't boast about was his administration's plan to vaccinate detainees, like 9/11 mastermind Kaled Sheik Mohammad, being held at the Guantanamo Bay detention center long before the vaccine becomes available to the overwhelming majority of Americans.
Biden is just days into the job and is already backtracking on an administrative decision to give the coronavirus vaccine to detainees at Guantanamo Bay. The 6,000 residents at the U.S. naval base began receiving the first of two vaccine doses on Jan. 8, but the Trump administration never clarified at the time whether or not detainees would be among those vaccinated. The Biden administration, however, wanted to make sure they would be.
On Thursday, a Pentagon official confirmed that detainees would be offered coronavirus vaccines on a voluntary basis beginning as early as Monday. But the Pentagon announced on Saturday that it was pausing the plan to vaccinate detainees at Gitmo.
The reversal comes after intense backlash to the decision from 9/11 survivors, Republicans, and incensed Americans.
"It is inexcusable and un-American that President Biden is choosing to prioritize convicted terrorists in Gitmo over vulnerable American seniors or veterans," said Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY).
"The fact that the 9/11 community can’t get the vaccine and the terrorists can show how backward our government is,” John Feal, a demolition supervisor at Ground Zero who suffers from various 9/11-related illnesses, told the New York Post. "It’s the most ludicrous thing I’ve ever heard. It’s an insult to the people who ran into the towers and were killed and those who worked on the pile for months and are ill."
"This news adds insult to injury. It’s slap in the face to the 9/11 victims’ families," said Brian Sullivan, a retired special security agent with the Federal Aviation Administration, noting the terror suspects behind the attack still haven't faced justice nearing the 20th anniversary of the September 11th attacks.
The detention camp at Guantanamo was created in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks to house enemy combatants captured during the war on terrorism. Among the 40 detainees currently housed at Gitmo are five men, including the so-called mastermind of 9/11 Kaled Sheik Mohammad, who stand accused of aiding the 19 hijackers who carried out the attacks.