Obama Guantanamo: The White House administration revealed its plan for closing the controversial Guantanamo Bay detention facility. Obama has made the closure one of his long-standing goals as the Pentagon has proposed transferring the remaining 91 detainees to their home countries or to US military or civilian prisons, according to CNN.
But the Guantanamo Bay plan to close the facility may be blocked by Congress since it is deeply opposed to the move. The prison costs $445 million to run annually and closing it was an early promise from President Barack Obama.
Senior administration officials told reporters on Tuesday that closing the prison is a national security imperative.
“Implementing this plan will enhance our national security by denying terrorists a powerful propaganda symbol, strengthening relationships with key allies and counterterrorism partners, and reducing costs,” said Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook in a statement. The Obama administration wants Guantanamo Bay closed permanently.
The Pentagon outlined four main components of the plan:
- transfer 35 detainees to foreign countries who have been designated to do so
- do periodic reviews of remaining detainees to see if their detention is still necessary
- continue to use legal tools to deal with remaining detainees
- working with Congress to establish a location in the US to hold detainees who will not go to foreign countries
“This is about closing a chapter in our history,” said Obama. “It reflects the lessons we’ve learned since 9/11 - lessons that must guide our nation going forward.” He said Guantanamo is contrary to US values and undermines its standing in the world.
President Obama has tried for years to close Guantanamo. He and his deputies say that it hurts the reputation of the US and that militants use “the infamous orange jumpsuit”, as one senior administration official described it, as a recruiting tool.
But members of Congress have baulked at Obama’s plan to close the prison, saying they believe it should remain open - and they don’t want any detainees to be transferred to the US. Representative Mike Pompeo of Kansas, for example, said the prisoners should “stay right where they are.”
Lately, though, White House officials said that lawmakers, or at least some of them, seem more receptive to the idea.
A senior administration official told reporters that there’s “room for conversation.” That’s important since Obama has less than a year to close the Guantanamo Bay prison - and for him time is of the essence.