Washington, D.C. (ABC News) – After sending a plan to Congress to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility Tuesday morning, President Barack Obama stressed that the prison “undermines” the country’s national security and must be closed.
“This is about closing a chapter in our history. It reflects the lessons we’ve learned since 9/11,” Obama announced as he detailed his proposal from the Roosevelt Room at the White House.Inside the Pentagon Plan for Closing Guantanamo Detention Center
The proposal sets up a final battle with Congress as the president works to move dozens of detainees to the United States before he leaves office next year.
“We recognize that this is going to be a challenge,” he said. “We are going to keep making the case to Congress.”
The president’s plan has four primary elements, including transferring to other countries detainees who are already designated for transfer. Although 91 detainees are now at Guantanamo, 35 are already eligible for transfer if the administration can find another country to take them. Officials anticipate getting the prison’s population below 60 later this year.
The plan aims at accelerating periodic reviews of authority to detain an individual, prosecuting detainees who are facing charges, and working with Congress to establish a location in the homeland to securely hold detainees who cannot be transferred. Lastly, the president wants to move all remaining detainees to the United States.
“Our preferred option,” Obama said, “must be our strong, proven federal courts.”
The proposal does not specifically endorse any single facility, but the administration believes moving 30 to 60 detainees would cost between $290 to $475 million, upfront costs it believes would be recovered within years compared to keeping detainees at Guantanamo.
“I am very clear-eyed about the hurdles to finally closing Guantanamo. The politics of this are tough,” he said. “If it were easy, it would have happened years ago.”
Congressman Joe Wilson (SC-02) issued the following statement on the President’s proposal to close Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp:
“The President’s dangerous proposal to close Guantanamo and transfer terrorists to locations in the United States, potentially South Carolina, is unlawful. The 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), signed by the President, clearly bars the President from closing Guantanamo and transferring detainees to a domestic location, which would put American families at risk of attack by the most dangerous terrorists. This is yet another example of President Obama’s willful disregard for our laws and constitutional authority.
“The detainees housed in Guantanamo are the most dangerous terrorists. They should not be housed at the Charleston Naval Brig-adjacent to schools, churches, neighborhoods, and ports. Congress and the American public have spoken on this issue and it is time that the President listened.”
Last August, Senator Scott, Congressman Wilson, and other members of the South Carolina delegation sent a letter to President Obama regarding his consideration of using the Charleston Naval Brig to house detainees.View the letter here.
U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, released the following statement regarding the Obama administration’s announced plan to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility and move the remaining prisoners to the United States:
I strongly oppose the president’s proposal to close Guantanamo Bay prison and bring hardened terrorists to the United States. President Obama’s casual disregard for our nation’s safety in the interest of political convenience has already come at too high a cost. Not only is this plan irresponsible and dangerous, it’s against the law. At the end of 2015, President Obama himself signed a bill into law that specifically prohibits the action his administration has announced today.
Recent transfers of prisoners at Guantanamo have made the world less stable and send the wrong message to those who wish to terrorize free people. Our military leaders have deemed many of these prisoners too dangerous to send to other countries. We certainly don’t need them on American soil. I will fight against this decision because the interests and safety of Americans should come ahead of any political move that seeks to do otherwise.
Congressman Earl L. “Buddy” Carter (GA-01) released the following statement Tuesday regarding the Obama administration’s plan to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay:
The Obama administration’s announcement today proves the White House is willing to jeopardize the national security of the United States for a campaign promise. The detainees he hopes to bring to American soil are the worst of the worst. Not only is this unacceptable, President Obama’s own Attorney General and military leaders have said it is illegal to bring detainees from the facility at Guantanamo to the United States. Instead of continuing to underestimate the threat of radical Islamic terrorists and focusing on relocating or releasing these jihadist enemies, the President should be focused on destroying the threat to our homeland. He is living in an alternate universe if he believes released detainees will not return to the battlefield as many before them already have. This plan, which fails to include critical details like the exact location of where the detainees will be transferred, will do nothing more than increase this very real threat against the safety of our nation and it will not stand.
Presidential candidate Marco Rubio issued the following response to President Obama’s Guantanamo Bay closure announcement:
Not only are we not going to close Guantanamo — When I am president, if we capture a terrorist alive, they are not getting a court hearing in Manhattan. They are not going to be sent to Nevada. They are going to Guantanamo and we are going to find out everything they know.
You can view his response below: