President Barack Obama thinks he has figured out a way to sign the annual defense budget bill, while still allowing some amount of room to evade provisions blocking the transfer of detainees to the United States.
After he signed the $607 billion bill Wednesday, which he previously vetoed, Obama issued a statement saying the ban on transferring detainees to U.S. soil either for trial or detention blocks the push to close the facility, which in turn impedes counterterrorism, The Wall Street Journal reports.
Obama said in a statement he is “deeply disappointed that the Congress has again failed to take productive action toward closing the detention facility at Guantanamo.”
In other words, the White House believes the restrictions are unconstitutional restrictions on executive power. Nevertheless, the White House still plans to submit a closure plan to Congress in the coming weeks as required by the newly signed National Defense Authorization Act, but many members like GOP Sen. John McCain are skeptical, given endless delays. (RELATED: White House Says Gitmo Closure Plan Is Delayed).
The prospective plan is already taking heat since there are reports it may present multiple sub-plans to Congress. Legislators like McCain insist the plan is the only option for closure to Congress.
McCain is also pledging that if the White House moves forward to unilaterally close Gitmo, Congress will sue. (RELATED: McCain: I’ll Sue Obama If He Tries To Close Gitmo With Executive Action)
Only 107 detainees remain in Guantanamo Bay. Obama promised to close the facility during his first year in office, but he has been thwarted every step of the way, including from his own administration.
Former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel resigned in part over excessive pressure from the White House to empty the facility. Current Secretary of Defense Ash Carter faced similar allegations, though in every case, he has affirmed he stands with the White House. Congress has thrown up roadblocks at every turn, and many countries declined to cooperate with the United States by accepting detainees. While there is some dispute on the exact recidivism figure, it is high enough to cause concern among receiving countries.
One of the administration’s central claims is that the continued existence of the facility functions as a devastating recruitment tactic for radicals. But the administration doesn’t plan to close the endeavor entirely. In fact, the administration plans to indefinitely detain 49 radicals, placing the initial justification for ending Gitmo on shaky grounds.