Obama says will work meticulously to close Guantanamo prison

Obama says he will work meticulously with Congress to close Guantanamo prison, says Paris attacks may delay the process

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

A guard walks through a cellblock inside Camp V, a prison used to house detainees at Guantanamo Bay US Naval Base, in this March 5, 2013 file photo

US President Barack Obama on Thursday vowed his administration will work “meticulously” with Congress to close the controversial Guantanamo Bay prison, while warning of a possible delay of the process following terror attacks in Paris.

The Obama administration is due to announce its plan to close the prison. The plan was expected to be sent to Congress this week, however, Pentagon officials said the process has been postponed because the department is “currently working to refine additional cost estimates for different aspects of detainee operations.”

The Pentagon also said “the plan will be delivered to Congress as soon as it is complete."

Obama said he is prepared for a backlash after the Guantanamo plan is delivered.

The US President says population of the prison will drop to under 100 by early 2016.

With the latest release of 5 prisoners to United Arab Emirates, 107 detainees, more than dozens of whom are cleared for release, are left in Guantanamo.

During his presidential campaign and throughout his term in office President Obama has vowed several times to close the Guantanamo Bay prison camp.

In 2009, Obama signed an executive order to close the Guantanamo Bay prison in a year by releasing as much detainees as he can and transferring the remaining detainees to US supermax prisons.

Barack Obama caps his pen after signing an executive order closing the Guantánamo Bay prison, while vice-president Joe Biden and retired military officers applaud

However, starting in 2009, US Congress has been using its power over spending to block efforts to close Guantanamo.

The provisions ban the use of funds to transfer Guantanamo detainees to the US for any purpose, such as detention in prisons in the US and trial in federal courts.

These provisions are also included in the defence bill for the 2016 federal fiscal year.

Obama’s critics argue transfer of Guantanamo detainees to US soil or other countries will carry risks of further terrorist activity.

However, most of the detainees have never been charged with terrorism.

This argument is similar to the recently expressed view that settling Syrian refugees in the US soil is is too risky in the aftermath of the deadly Paris attacks carried out by the terrorist group DAESH.

Obama insists closure of Guantanamo and refugee intake are irrelevant to the worldwide war against terrorism.

"I guarantee you there will be strong resistance," he said. "Because in the aftermath of Paris, I think that there is just a very strong tendency for us to get worked up around issues that don't actually make us safer."

In the meantime, 30 US governors have announced they will stop the settlement of Syrian refugees in their states this week.

“We can keep the American people safe while shutting down that operation,” Obama said referring to the prison.

A positive outcome from Congress for Obama’s Guantanamo plan is unlikely, leaving Obama with the only option of using his executive powers to close the prison before he leaves the office. However, Obama has avoided that approach so far.

TRTWorld and agencies