A federal judge is fed up with the Obama administration for its insistence upon adding additional hurdles to Guantánamo Bay detainee hearing procedures, while at the same time demanding the close of the base.
A 2011 executive order issued by President Obama requires a special review board for each and every enemy combatant still held at the base. The order was given as a way to help clear out people who the review board determines to not pose a “significant threat to the security of the United States,” the Wall Street Journal reported. The prison population stands at 107 detainees.
U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth castigated the White House Tuesday during a hearing, airing his frustrations over the bureaucratic hurdles in the way for the review board to properly do its job.
“At this rate, how many years is it going to take” before Guantánamo is closed, Judge Lamberth asked. “Several more years?”
Government attorney Joseph Folio III admitted that the judge may be correct, declaring that the administration needs “more time than the government perhaps first anticipated.”
Lamberth said bluntly: “Obviously, if the president cared, he could get this done in a year.”
The conversation occurred during court proceedings scheduled for the case of one detainee, Mohamedou Ould Slahi, a Mauritanian national who was detained in November 2001.
Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld authorized a “special projects” enhanced interrogation of Slahi, who feds say helped recruit the plane hijackers of the 9/11 attacks. He later became an asset for U.S. intelligence, according to the Journal.
Slahi reportedly traveled to Afghanistan in the early 90s as an al-Qaeda recruit. The United States government claims he “recruited for Al Qaeda and provided it with support.”
On Wednesday, President Obama signed a $607 billion dollar defense bill into law despite the provisions that ban him from moving Guantanamo detainees into the United States.
Obama said in a statement Wednesday he was “deeply disappointed that the Congress has again failed to take productive action toward closing the detention facility at Guantanamo,” adding the site’s mere existence “undermines our standing in the world.”
The Senate voted 91-3 in favor of the defense bill, while Congress voted 370-58 to approve the legislation, before it made its way to the president’s desk.