Obama outlines plan to move terrorists from Gitmo to US prisons

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2016/02/23/obama-outlines-plan-to-move-terrorists-from-gitmo-to-us-prisons/

(CNSNews.com) – “I am very clear-eyed about the hurdles to finally closing Guantanamo,” President Barack Obama told the nation on Tuesday, as he submitted his plan to shutter the military prison in Cuba.

One of those hurdles is a law barring the transfer of Gitmo detainees to U.S. soil, which Obama himself signed. There are 91 prisoners now held in the facility.

Another hurdle is Americans’ concern about having terrorists brought to prisons in their communities:

“The politics of this are tough,” Obama said. “I think a lot of the American public are worried about terrorism, and in their mind, the notion of having terrorists held in the United States rather than in some distant place can be scary.”

“But part of my message to the American people here is, we’re already holding a bunch of really dangerous terrorists here in the United States because we threw the book at them, and there have been no incidents,” the president said. “We’ve managed it just fine.”

Obama noted that there continues to be a “fair amount of opposition” in Congress to closing Guantanamo, “in part because of some of the fears of the public that have been fanned, oftentimes, by misinformation.”

Nevertheless, Obama said he’s been working for more than seven years to get this done, and he’s determined to close Gitmo so his successor doesn’t have to deal with it.

“This plan deserves a fair hearing, even in an election year,” he said. “Let us do what is right for America. Let us go ahead and close this chapter, and do it right, do it carefully do it in a way that makes sure we’re safe.”

Obama argues that holding detainees in Cuba undermines national security, because it serves as a recruiting tool for terrorists.

He also says closing the prison will save taxpayers many millions of dollars, Obama said, adding a values argument:

“Keeping this facility open is contrary to our values,” he said. “It undermines our standing in the world. It is viewed as a stain on our broader record of upholding the highest standards of the rule of law.”

Obama briefly addressed the law barring the transfer of Guantanamo detainees to the United States:

“As Congress has imposed restrictions that currently prevent the transfer of detainees to the United States, we recognize that this is going to be a challenge,” he said. “And we’re going to keep making the case to Congress that we can do this in a responsible and secure way, taking into account the…great record of our maximum security prisons.”

Obama outlined a four-point plan to close Gitmo:

First, he’ll continue to transfer some of the detainees to third countries that agree to take them and agree to monitor them. Reportedly, 35 are in line for transfers out by summer.

Second, he’ll accelerate the periodic reviews of the remaining detainees to see if others eventually can be moved to third countries.

Third, Obama said he’ll continue to use “all legal tools,” including military commissions, to deal with detainees. But Obama made it clear he prefers to try terrorists in Article III (federal) courts:

“Even as we’ve used military commissions to close out cases of some detainees…this type of use of military commissions should not set a precedent for the future. As they have been in past wars, military commissions will continue to be an option when individuals are detained during battle. But our preferred option, the most effective option for dealing with individuals detained outside military theaters, must be our strong, proven federal courts.”

Finally, Obama said he will “work with Congress” to find locations in the United States to hold the remaining detainees. This includes those who “pose a continuing, significant treat to the United States.”

Obama did not identify a specific facility on Tuesday, but he did say he is presenting a number of options to Congress.

Written by Susan Jones