White House Chief says Obama still intends to close Gitmo

Update – 11:50 AM: The U.S. has transferred 10 Yemeni detainees from Guantanamo to Oman, a middle-eastern country bordering Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates, bringing the facility’s detention population down to 93.

White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough told “Fox News Sunday” over the weekend that President Obama plans to make good on his 2008 campaign pledge to close Guantanamo Bay’s detention facility, which houses international terrorist suspects.

McDonough said the Administration will outline a plan and present it to Congress at some point in 2016, but did not give a specific time-table.

“(Obama) feels an obligation to the next president,” McDonough said. “He will fix this so that they don’t have to be confronted with the same set of challenges.”

Republicans on Capitol Hill responded Monday to the renewed effort, as Sens. Kelly Ayote and Lindsey Graham sent a letter to Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain asking for a hearing on the matter.

“We believe that Congress must conduct a through review of the administration’s actions which are endangering the security of Americans and our allies . . . related to Guantanamo detainee transfers”, the letter read.

Since taking office in 2009, the Obama Administration has transferred some Guantanamo prisoners to foreign countries, a move which Ayotte and Graham are “deeply concerned” about, given the president’s goal “to [continue to] transfer high-risk detainees who are likely to reengage in terrorism and put Americans . . . at risk.”

The Administration has also said that it would like to transfer some of the highest-risk detainees to the U.S. mainland.  Congress has already passed legislation banning terrorist suspects from being place in domestic facilities, however.

“The president has said from the beginning of this administration that we will close Gitmo because it’s bad for our national security and because it’s too costly,” McDonough went on to say. “We ought to make sure that we’re in a position to close that facility because it strengthens us when we close it.”

Guantanamo Bay, territory in Cuba used primarily for a U.S. Naval base, has been controlled by the American government since 1903.  There are currently 104 terrorist suspects being held at the detention facility there.


[Reuters] [The Hill]