WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama signed on Wednesday a defense bill despite recent congressional objections on transferring detainees from the U.S. prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
He said in a statement that those restrictions might be unconstitutional under certain circumstances, since the executive branch must have flexibility to determine “when and where to transfer” detainees at the prison, as long as the national security and humane treatment policy are taken into account.
Obama’s statement leads to further confrontation with republicans in terms of the constitutional separation of powers principle, as their provisions insist on restraining the president from achieving his objective of finally closing the Guantánamo prison.
“The continued operation of this facility weakens our national security by draining resources, damaging our relationships with key allies and partners, and emboldening violent extremists,” he affirmed in a “signing statement” attached to the defense policy bill. “It is imperative that we take responsible steps to reduce the population at this facility to the greatest extent possible and close the facility.”
According to the statement, 57 detainees have been transferred over the past two years, reducing the prison’s population by 85 percent. Obama asked the Congress to remove the restrictions in order to responsibly act with his Administration in the process of closing the facility. He has no authority to take that definite step through executive action alone, as told to Bloomberg by House Speaker Paul Ryan.
Obama has been engaged in closing the prison since he first ran for president in 2008 and has actively taken part in a debate with lawmakers, mostly Republicans and several Democrats, who firmly reject the idea of transferring detainees to facilities on U.S. territory.
On the other hand, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wrote in a statement last week that Obama’s promise of closing the secure detention facility must go beyond the campaign trail. The president has never presented a serious plan to Congress and that shows how little effort he is doing, said McConell.
The Guantánamo prison was set up after the September 11 terrorist attacks by Al Qaeda. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, mastermind of the attacks to New York and Washington, is one of the 100 who remain at the facility.
Congress has gradually been prohibiting the administration from spending money to find alternative prisons in the U.S., as well as restricting Obama’s flexibility to transfer detainees to other countries, which have shown opposition to take custody of prisoners.
Source: The New York Times