Guantánamo in 2013 is a far cry from Guantánamo in 2002. Thanks to the spotlight placed on the facility by human rights groups, international observers and detainees’ lawyers, there has been a significant, if not uniform, improvement in conditions.

The majority of Guantánamo detainees now live in communal facilities where they can eat, pray and exercise together. If moved to the United States, these same men would most likely be held in military detention in conditions akin to supermax prisons — confined to their cells 22 hours a day and prohibited from engaging in group activities, including communal prayer. The hard-won improvements in conditions would be ratcheted back half a decade to their previous level of harshness.

And Guantánamo would no longer be that failed experiment on an island many miles away. The Obama administration would be affirmatively creating a new system of detention without charge for terrorism suspects on American soil, setting a precedent and creating a facility readily available to future presidents wanting to rid themselves of a range of potentially dangerous actors.