US president Barack Obama announced his plan to finally shut down the Guantanamo Bay detention facility and transfer its prisoners stateside. But his attempt to move forward on his 2008 campaign promise in the final year of his presidency is not expected to make any headway in Congress, where Republicans have opposed the plan for years.
“Keeping this facility open is contrary to our values,” Obama said, arguing that Guantanamo gives terrorists a propaganda tool and is a drain on US resources.
His plan will cost up to $475 million, and lists 13 potential locations, including prisons and military bases, across the United States. Thirty-five prisoners would be moved this year, leaving 60 or less prisoners at the Cuban location.
Obama said he was confident detaining Guantanamo prisoners on US soil would be manageable, although he acknowledged ”it can be scary … This is about closing a chapter in our history and reflects the lessons we have learned since 9/11.”
US officials have not been able to determine the exact details of adapting US facilities for the purpose of detaining terrorists because of funding shortfalls, CNN reports. Existing law does not allow government funds to be used to even make plans to close the prison.
Obama acknowledged that his proposal would be difficult to get through Congress.
“I am very clear-eyed about the hurdles to finally closing Guantanamo,” he said. “The politics of this are tough.” Even so, he said he would continue to keep making the case for the closure to Congress, even in an election year. “I do not want to pass this problem onto the next president, whoever it is,” he said, noting with frustration that he has spent “countless hours” on this issue.
Obama tried to close the facility soon after he took office, in 2009, but the effort was squashed by Congress.
Even as Obama was speaking, Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan issued a statement pouring cold water on his plan.
“After seven years, President Obama has yet to convince the American people that moving Guantanamo terrorists to our homeland is smart or safe,” Ryan said. “It is against the law—and it will stay against the law—to transfer terrorist detainees to American soil. We will not jeopardize our national security over a campaign promise.”