Guantanamo Bay Prison Closure Plan Submitted to Congress, But Opposition Already Awaits
President Barack Obama announced a plan has been sent to Congress regarding to closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility in Cuba.
The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) submitted the administration's plan to close the facility to Congress on Tuesday, addressing a matter Obama calls a "national security imperative."
"For many years, it's been clear that the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay does not advance our national security -- it undermines it," said Obama during a press conference on Tuesday morning. "This is not just my opinion, it's the opinion of experts, this is the opinion of many in the military. It's counterproductive in our fight against terrorists because they use it in their propaganda in their efforts to recruit."
Obama acknowledged that one of his first acts as president was to close the detention facility, but unfortunately the process suddenly became a partisan issue and support waned. He noted $450 million was spent on maintaining Guantanamo Bay last year, with an estimated $200 million in the upcoming years, despite the facility housing less than 100 detainees.
The plan lists four main points:
1. Securely and responsibly transferring to foreign countries detainees who have been designated for transfer by the president's national security team;
2. Continuing to review the threat posed by those detainees who are not currently eligible for transfer through the Periodic Review Board (PRB);
3. Identifying individualized dispositions for those who remain designated for continued law of war detention, including possible Article III, military commission, or foreign prosecutions;
4. Working with the Congress to establish a location in the United States to securely hold detainees whom we cannot at this time transfer to foreign countries or who are subject to military commission proceedings.
The plan, as Obama said from the White House, does not specify a location for Guantanamo Bay detainees to transfer into once entering the U.S. The DOD wrote the Obama administration does seek an "active" dialogue with Congress on the transfer topic.
Prompt GOP Opposition
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., said it's unlawful for Obama to transfer terror detainees into the U.S. and such an act may affect national security.
"After seven years, President Obama has yet to convince the American people that moving Guantanamo terrorists to our homeland is smart or safe. And he doesn't seem interested in continuing to try. His proposal fails to provide critical details required by law, including the exact cost and location of an alternate detention facility. Congress has left no room for confusion," said Rubio. "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."
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., among the five major GOP presidential candidates and son of Cuban immigrants, spoke against the plan during a campaign stop in Las Vegas, Nevada. Rubio said Americans have the right to be frustrated with the proposal, which "maybe" includes transferring the land back to the Cuban government. Rubio said he will not return the naval base to Cuban control and will keep the detention center open.
"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," said Rubio.
The Florida senator is also co-sponsoring legislation with Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., titled "Naval Station Guantanamo Bay Protection Act," which prevents the U.S. naval base from being transferred to the Cuban government without congressional approval.
"Since announcing the re-establishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba, President Obama has given the Castro regime concession after concession, prioritizing political promises over national security, the integrity of America's justice system, human rights and democracy. The Castro regime is already ripping the American people off and now it's demanding the return of a U.S. naval station, which has been vital to Navy and Coast Guard operations in the Caribbean for over a century," said Rubio in a statement regarding the Senate bill.
He later added, "Naval Station Guantanamo Bay has been an essential tool for our military to resupply U.S. ships supporting counter illicit trafficking and humanitarian missions in Latin America, as well as for mass migration contingencies."
About Guantanamo Bay
The U.S. created the base following an agreement with then-Cuban officials in 1903. Cuba had agreed to lease Guantanamo Bay to the U.S. for "the purposes of coaling and naval stations."
Approximately 800 detainees have been held at the base's detention facility, but more than 85 percent were transferred, mostly during President George W. Bush's administration when over 500 detainees were transferred. During the Obama administration, 147 detainees have been transferred. As of Feb. 23, the facility is home to 91 detainees.
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