Obama mulls options on closing Gitmo, bringing inmates to mainland
President Obama is considering issuing an executive order that would close the prison camp at Guantanamo and move several dozen terrorists to jails on the mainland.
What's that you say? A bi-partisan Congress passed a law saying the president couldn't do that?
Administration officials told The Wall Street Journal that that the president is weighing two options to force the closure of the controversial facility, which he pledged to shutter before his election in 2008.
Obama could veto the annual defense spending bill, which includes a provision prohibiting him from moving any of the prison’s remaining 149 inmates back to the United States. Doing so would force Congress to either override the veto with a two-thirds majority or risk cutting off funding for the military.
Or, Obama could — as he has done in the past — sign the legislation but include a singing statement that declares the restrictions on detainee transfers unconstitutional. He could then unilaterally move to transfer the remaining prisoners to a military or civilian prison in the U.S.
“This Administration has repeatedly objected to statutory restrictions that impede our ability to responsibly close the detention facility and pursue appropriate options for the detainees remaining there, including by determining when and where to prosecute detainees, based on the facts and circumstances of each case and our national security interests,” then-White House press secretary Jay Carney said in May.
The White House has argued that the costs associated with the prison, which total nearly $500 million per year, are too high. Carney said the facility “wastes our resources, creates friction with our allies and undermines our standing in the world.”
But lawmakers have repeatedly and strenuously objected to housing terrorists, some of whom were reportedly involved in the planning of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, on the U.S. mainland.
Those objections will likely have intensified after the controversial decision to trade five Taliban militants being held at the prison for Taliban captive and Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl earlier this summer. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle were angry the president ignored notification requirements about the transfer of detainees.
According to the Journal, the administration is looking to ease those concerns by transferring as many detainees as possible before the possible executive action. Of the 149 inmates, 79 have been approved for transfer to foreign countries, although the Obama administration is still seeking suitable host countries that would take the detainees.
What's a little thing like the "law" got to do with legacy building? Obama has promised to close Gitmo many times, starting with his first day in office, but you wonder why he wants to keep this promise on Gitmo as opposed to the two dozen or so other promises he's broken since 2009.
Republicans could try to cut off funds for any prisoner transfers, but Obama has proven before that he can get quite creative when Congress refuses to give him the cash to implement his plans. Recall the nearly billion dollars he took from an HHS slush fund to pay for the Obamacare rollout. No doubt he could find a couple of similar funds in the Pentagon that would fill the bill.
This is obviously a trial balloon,. so you have to wonder how serious the White House is. Nevertheless, the president has shown in the past that congressional intent is meaningless when it comes to getting what he wants. And he has demonstrated repeatedly that he treats the law as optional when it comes to attaining his goals.