Commentary: Obama needs to step up and follow through on promise to close Guantanamo

President Barack Obama told reporters on Tuesday that he believes the U.S. detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba should be closed but maintained that he is helpless to do so without the cooperation of Congress.

“When I was elected in 2008, I said we need to close Guantanamo. I continue to believe that we’ve got to close Guantanamo,” said Obama. “Now, Congress determined that they would not let us close it — and despite the fact that there are a number of the folks who are currently in Guantanamo who the courts have said could be returned to their country of origin or potentially a third country.”

While it is true that Congress has erected funding and legislative obstacles to block the transfer of the remaining 86 detainees who have been cleared for release by the CIA, FBI, State Department, Justice Department, and the Pentagon since 2009, it is not true that the Obama administration is completely helpless when it comes to closing Guantanamo.

In fact, the President could hardly claim that he is powerless to do anything when, in fact, Congress granted him the authority to transfer detainees who have been cleared under the certification/waiver provision in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2012.

Section 1028 of NDAA would allow the Secretary of Defense in consultation with the Secretary of State to waive certification requirements guaranteeing zero risk of recidivism by the detainee provided that the U.S. government take actions to “substantially mitigate the risk of recidivism with regard to the individual to be transferred…if the transfer is in the national interests of the United States.”

Thomas Wilner, an attorney representing Guantanamo detainees, pointed out that “Those waiver provisions clearly give the [Obama] Administration both the legal authority and the practical ability to transfer detainees from Guantanamo to their home countries.”

“The question is no longer whether the Administration has the authority to transfer detainees home but whether it has the political courage to do so,” Wilner noted.

Obama needs to stop using Congressional obstruction as a cop-out for doing absolutely nothing to close Guantanamo. He needs to step up and use the NDAA waiver provisions to transfer the 86 detainees cleared for release and put an end to the practice of arbitrary and indefinite detention once and for all.

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One Comment on “Commentary: Obama needs to step up and follow through on promise to close Guantanamo

  1. Pingback: Transcript: President Obama on the detainee hunger strike in Guantanamo - April 30, 2013 press conference | What The Folly?!

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