In a weekend interview with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter acknowledged that transferring Guantanamo Bay prisoners to the United States is “against the law.” He joins Attorney General Loretta Lynch as the second senior Obama administration official to make such an admission in recent months.
As Secretary Carter explained, “There are people in Gitmo who are so dangerous we cannot transfer them to the custody of another government no matter how much we trust that government. . . .We need to find another place [and] it would have to be in the United States. So I’ve made a proposal for the president, and he has indicated that he’s going to submit that to the Congress. Why is that? Because it’s against the law. Now, to establish another detention facility, so therefore have to get the support of Congress.”
Congress has already spoken many, many times on this issue. Democrats first included language in the annual defense bill prohibiting the transfer of Guantanamo prisoners to American soil in 2009. These provisions have been reaffirmed annually on a bipartisan basis, including most recently this past November, when President Obama signed into law the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act. An additional funding prohibition was also included in the year-end funding bill passed in December.
Any plan to close Guantanamo by relocating detainees to the U.S. is a non-starter. Yet rather than focus on a myriad of more pressing national security issues, like presenting to Congress a real strategy to defeat ISIS, the president continues to waste time deliberating how to bring more deadly terrorists to our shores.
The American people have spoken. Their representatives in Congress have acted. And the president is bound by that law.