Defense Secretary Ash Carter, like his predecessor Chuck Hagel, is frustrating the Whie House by dragging his heels in terms of releasing detainees from Guantanamo Bay.
President Barack Obama’s time in office is winding down, prompting a dramatic upshift in efforts to shutter Guantanamo Bay in order to fulfill a promise made during his first presidential campaign. But although 52 of 116 detainees have been cleared for release, Carter appears worried of the possibility that he would be held accountable for detainee recidivism, The Daily Beast reports.
According to one defense official who spoke with The Daily Beast, Carter “is definitely under pressure… The White House, if it had its way, would like to see more regular signatures.”
The Pentagon has acted as a consistent thorn in the side of the White House. Chuck Hagel, the previous defense secretary, resigned over excessive micromanagement and pressure regarding the pace of Gitmo transfers and during his tenure resisted moving prisoners out of the facility.
Congress, too, has blocked the Obama administration time and again from releasing the flood gates. The House version of the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act includes further restrictions on transferring detainees out of Gitmo, but the White House has threatened a veto in response. There’s some speculation that the Obama administration will request an amendment to remove authority from the defense secretary to provide the final signature authority and vest it in the president instead.
True to his word, Ash Carter said in his confirmation hearing that as far as Guantanamo Bay is concerned, he wouldn’t cave to undue influence. The White House has actively pushed for Carter to speed up the pace of signatures, yet still has not submitted a closure plan to Congress. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest stated two weeks ago that the draft plan was almost finished. (RELATED: White House Confirms Draft Plan To Close Guantanamo Almost Finished)
Lawmakers head on summer recess at the end of the week, and it is unlikely the administration will present its plan before then.
At this point, one detainee would have to be released every 10 days to move out all 52 cleared detainees. But not every detainee is equal. Carter has reportedly transferred the easiest cases out of Gitmo already, making each successive transfer slightly more difficult. Additionally, 43 of the 52 detainees are Yemeni and, as the country has entered a period of war and instability, the U.S. is currently opposed to transferring detainees to the region. Carter stated in June that he’s not confident the administration will succeed in shuttering the prison. (RELATED: Carter Doesn’t Think Obama Can Close Gitmo)