Speaking from the White House Tuesday morning, President Obama announced that a proposal has been submitted to Congress for closing Guantanamo Bay. Not only does the detention facility fail to work as intended, he argued, it also runs contrary to American values.
“For many years it’s been clear that the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay does not advance our national security—it undermines it,” he said. “This is not just my opinion, this is the opinion of experts, and those in our military.”
When he first ran for president he said there was bipartisan support for closing the facility, with his predecessor George W. Bush and his Republican opponent Sen. John McCain both agreeing.
“Because we had bipartisan support, I wanted to make sure we did it right, that we did it in a systematic way and had examined all options,” he continued, adding that during this evaluation process is when the issue turned partisan.
"Suddenly, many of those who said it needed to close backed off because they were worried about the politics," he said.
Despite the contention surrounding the issue, progress has been made during his tenure in office, he added. Today, only 91 detainees remain in a facility that once held nearly 800 (many of whom were released under President Bush).
President Obama briefly outlined four main elements of the strategy to close Gitmo. The plan would first continue with the transfer to other countries those detainees who’ve already been approved to leave. Additionally, it would accelerate the periodic reviews of the remaining detainees to determine whether their detention is necessary. Third, the administration will continue to use all legal tools to deal with the remaining detainees. And finally, the president and his national security team will work with Congress to identify a secure location within the United States to hold those detainees who can’t be transferred or who must remain in detention because they continue to pose a significant threat to the homeland.
“I am very clear eyed about hurdles to finally closing Guantanamo Bay, the politics of this are tough,” the president said in closing. “The American public is worried about terrorism, in their mind the notion of having [detainees] held in the U.S. rather than in some distant place can be scary. But part of my message here is that we’re already holding a bunch of dangerous terrorists in the U.S. And there have been no incidents. We’ve managed it just fine.”
As far as Congress is concerned, the president believes the plan deserves a fair hearing, and that it should be bale to have an “open, honest, and good faith dialogue.”
“Let’s go ahead and get this thing done,” he said.