President Obama has made closing Guantanamo Bay one of his top priorities in his final year in office. And while the release of many of the detainees has reduced the detention center’s population from 242 when he first took office to 93, there are still a number of detainees who are deemed too dangerous to release. This, the Obama administration argues, is why many of the remaining prisoners must be transferred to U.S. soil, despite much backlash about the plan.
Critics, however, can find solace in knowing that under current U.S. law it is illegal to transfer Gitmo detainees to the homeland—something Secretary of Defense Ash Carter confirmed in an interview with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria on Monday. But opponents can’t rest easy just yet. Obama administration officials, including Carter, are hoping to get Congress to change the law.
“I’ve made a proposal for the president, and he has indicated that he’s going to submit that to the Congress,” Carter said. “Why is that? Because it’s against the law now to establish another detention facility [in the U.S.], so therefore we have to get the support of Congress.”
Carter expressed hope that Congress would support his proposal and called for people to be realistic about Guantanamo.
The Defense Secretary told Zakaria that because some Guantanamo detainees are too dangerous to ever be released to another country, the only option is to move them to the U.S.
“Here’s the issue,” Carter said. “There are people in Gitmo who are so dangerous that we cannot transfer them to the custody of another government no matter how much we trust them … So the reality is that this portion of the Gitmo population has to be incarcerated somewhere.”
Therefore, according to Carter, if the U.S. is going to close Guantanamo, the only place to move these detainees “would have to be in the United States.”
Carter’s statements came just over a week after he announced that he was preparing such a plan for President Obama to close Guantanamo.
President Obama has argued that Guantanamo Bay is used as a recruiting tool for terrorists to rally support from others to their cause. Experts on jihadist propaganda disagree, however. The president has also said that the detention center is not in line with American values—again, something experts, including Gen. John Kelly, who recently retired as head of the U.S. Southern Command, say is incorrect.
If the law is changed and detainees are transferred to the U.S., the Pentagon has reportedly been looking at prison facilities in Colorado.