Defense

Obama hints at closing Gitmo unilaterally

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President Obama says he’s giving Congress another chance to close the prison at Guantánamo Bay but hinted that he may act unilaterally.

Obama told reporters at his year-end press conference that he would present a plan to Congress on transferring the remaining detainee population to the U.S.

“We will wait until Congress has said definitively ‘no’ to a well thought out plan with numbers attached to it, before we say anything definitive about my executive authority here,” he said.

{mosads}”I’m not gonna be forward-leaning on what I can do without Congress before I’ve tested what I can do with Congress.” 

He acknowledged that he faces an uphill battle to close the detention facility. The president signed into law a defense policy bill earlier this year that included more restrictions on detainee transfers. 

Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), a lead opponent of plans to close Guantánamo, on Friday called on the president to “immediately halt” any further detainee transfers. She cited reports that one former prisoner is now a leader in al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and that other transfers did not receive the Joint Chiefs chairman’s approval.

“The president should immediately halt any further Guantanamo transfers and the Senate should fully investigate these incidents and the review process,” she said in a statement. 

In the meantime, the president said the population of the facility would be reduced to below 100 by early next year. 

Obama said he believes he can make a strong argument to close Guantánamo, arguing it is a jihadist recruiting tool and also expensive.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) has said he is willing to work with the administration to try to close the facility, but has asked for a plan first. The administration has struggled to do that.

The Pentagon recently completed a review of options on where to relocate the remaining detainees in the U.S. Its planned release last month, however, was reportedly delayed after it showed a higher cost than expected to house detainees in the U.S. 

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