President Barack Obama, commenting on one of his earliest campaign promises, said he has not been able to shut down the U.S. military prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, “because of congressional restrictions.”
However, the President himself signed into law a bill that prevents him from carrying out his proposal to close down the facility, also known as Gitmo.
Apparently referring in part to that law, the commander-in-chief told reporters Monday:
One of the things you discover about being president is that there are all these rules and norms and laws, and you got [sic] to pay attention to them. And the people who work for you are also subject to those rules and norms. And that’s a piece of advice that I gave to the incoming President. I am very proud of the fact that we will — knock on wood — leave this administration without significant scandal.
The president suggested that has considered executive options for circumventing Congress that “have legal challenges and could make those who carried out his orders vulnerable to charges,” notes The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), alluding to Obama’s comments.
Earlier this year, the Pentagon submitted a proposal to Congress outlining the Obama administration’s plan to close down the military prison, which would include transferring detainees onto U.S. soil.
The proposal came after the President signed legislation into law, passed with bipartisan support, that prohibits his administration from using federal funds to build or modify a facility in the United States to house Guantánamo prisoners.
Obama explained to reporters:
With respect to Guantánamo, it is true that I have not been able to close the darn thing because of the congressional restrictions that have been placed on us. What is also true is we have greatly reduced the population. You now have significantly less than a hundred people there. There are some additional transfers that may be taking place over the next two months
My strong belief and preference is that we would be much better off closing Gitmo, moving them to a different facility that was clearly governed by U.S. jurisdiction. We’d do it a lot cheaper and just as safely. Congress disagrees with me, and I gather that the president-elect does, as well. We will continue to explore options for doing that.
President-elect Donald Trump has declared that he would expand the population at Guantánamo Bay.
The number of Gitmo prisoners has dropped from 240 to 60 under President Obama.
“There is a group of very dangerous people that we have strong evidence of having been guilty of committing terrorist acts against the United States,” acknowledged Obama on Monday, adding “that group has always been the biggest challenge for us.”
According to the most recent U.S. government data, nearly 30 percent of jihadists who are released from the prison are either confirmed or suspected of having returned to terrorist activities.