Lolita C. Baldor?and Kathleen Hennessey
WASHINGTON: President Barack Obama’s plan to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, slammed into a wall of Republican opposition on Tuesday, stopping cold Obama’s hope for a bipartisan effort to “close a chapter” that began in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks.
The long-awaited proposal, which was requested by Congress, is Obama’s last attempt to make good on an unfulfilled campaign promise by persuading Congress to change the law that prohibits moving detainees accused of violent extremist acts to U.S. soil. Fourteen years after the facility opened and seven years after Obama took office, the president argued it was “finally” time to shutter a facility that has sparked persistent legal battles, become a recruitment tool for Islamic militants and garnered strong opposition from some allies abroad.
Obama’s plan leaves unanswered the politically thorny question of where in the U.S. a new facility would be located. It offered broad cost estimates. The White House described it as more of a conversation starter than a definitive outline.
Republican leaders in Congress showed no interest in having that conversation.
“We will review President Obama’s plan but since it includes bringing dangerous terrorists to facilities in U.S. communities, he knows that the bipartisan will of Congress has already been expressed against that proposal,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said Obama had yet to convince Americans that moving detainees to U.S. soil is “smart or safe.”
“It is against the law — and it will stay against the law,” Ryan said.
Even Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a former prisoner of war and an advocate of closing the prison, called Obama’s report a “vague menu of options,” which does not include a policy for dealing with future detainees.’’
Under the plan, roughly 35 of the 91 current detainees will be transferred to other countries in the coming months, leaving up to 60 detainees who are either facing trial by military commission or have been determined to be too dangerous to release but are not facing charges.
The plan considers, but does not name, 13 locations in the U.S., including seven existing prison facilities in Colorado, South Carolina and Kansas.