With only one year left in President Obama’s tenure, the White House continues to hint at the possibility that the President may use his executive powers to unilaterally shut down Guantánamo Bay prison without the consent of Congress.
When running for president in 2008, then-Senator Obama pledged to shut down the facility and move the terrorist detainees into facilities in the continental United States.
AFP reported on Thursday that Obama seemed “increasingly likely to bypass lawmakers who have blocked the facility’s closure.”
“I’m certainly not going to take anything off the table,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Thursday regarding the President’s taking unilateral action on the prison, adding that President Obama would do “everything that he can to make progress” on that front.
Earnest went on to say that closing the base is a “national security priority.” White House officials have previously stated that they believe the negative stigma surrounding Guantánamo Bay is helping terrorists recruit people with anti-U.S. sentiments.
The President is expected to face a fight in Congress when it comes to closing down the facility. Senate Armed Services Chairman Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has pledged to fight Obama every step of the way.
“It’s disgraceful, because I have asked for six and a half years for this administration to come forward with a plan — a plan that we could implement and close Guantánamo,” McCain said Thursday. “He lies when he says that he really wants to close Guantánamo with the cooperation of Congress, because he’s never sent over a plan.”
Newly minted Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) has come out against the President’s plans to close down Gitmo.
“I think Guantánamo detainees should be in Guantánamo,” Speaker Ryan told reporters in a press conference.
Additionally, 28 retired generals and admirals have come forward asking the President to immediately suspend plans to shut down the facility.
“The way forward depends principally on strong, persistent leadership from you [President Obama] and your administration,” the letter from the generals and admirals reads. “You have no doubt faced real opposition, but the effort your administration has dedicated to overcome it has been inadequate to the task.”
There are 112 detainees left at Guantánamo Bay. The White House has already cleared fifty-two of them for transfer, while another 47 are set for Periodic Review Board (PRB) hearings.
President Obama recently vetoed the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) over a provision that would ensure Guantánamo remains operational.