White House threatens veto of Guantanamo bill

White House threatens veto of Guantanamo bill
© Getty

The Obama administration is threatening to veto a House bill that would prohibit all transfers out of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility.

The veto threat, in the form of a statement of administration policy, reiterates the administration’s longstanding argument that closing the facility would improve national security. It says detainee transfers to foreign countries happen only after a comprehensive review process.


“This bill represents an effort not only to extend the facility's operation — as have the other unwarranted legislative restrictions on transfers — but to bring to a standstill the substantial progress the administration has made in safely and securely reducing the facility's population,” the Office of Management and Budget statement reads.

“If the president were presented with H.R. 5351, his senior advisors would recommend he veto the bill,” it adds.

The House is expected to vote later this week on the bill, from Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.). It would ban all transfers out of the facility until Jan. 1 or the enactment of this year’s defense policy bill, whichever comes first.

The Republican drive to block Guantanamo transfers accelerated after the administration transferred 15 detainees last month, Obama’s largest single transfer to date. There are now 61 detainees left at the facility, 20 of whom have been cleared for transfer.

Republicans argue that continuing to send detainees to foreign countries is dangerous. They point to a 30 percent recidivism rate among detainees released by both Obama and President George W. Bush who are are confirmed or suspected of re-engaging in terrorism.

The administration, meanwhile, stresses that 4.9 percent of detainees released by Obama are confirmed to be re-engaging in terrorism. Another 8 percent released by Obama are suspected of re-engaging.

The administration argues the recidivism rate has been lower for detainees transferred by Obama because the administration put in place a rigorous review process.

“As the administration has repeatedly emphasized, detainees are transferred from Guantanamo Bay only after a rigorous interagency review process assesses, based on all relevant facts and circumstances, that potential receiving countries are capable of successfully reintegrating them and implementing appropriate security measures, consistent with our humane treatment policy,” Tuesday’s statement says.

The statement also warns that banning transfers could infringe on the president's powers.

“By purporting to prohibit all transfers of individuals detained at Guantanamo Bay, the bill would in some circumstances violate constitutional separation of powers principles,” the statement says, “and could interfere with the ability to transfer a detainee who has been granted a writ of habeas corpus.”