President Obama has accelerated his effort to close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay in the few days since his final State of the Union address.
Since his State of the Union address on Tuesday, when Obama reiterated that he will “keep working” to shut down the prison, the administration has sped up the effort significantly. Ten prisoners were transferred this week. Ninety-three prisoners remain, 34 of whom have already been cleared for release. On Thursday, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said he had sent a detailed, written plan to Obama laying out how to move the remaining prisoners to the U.S. The White House is to submit that plan to Congress soon.
Obama, who promised to close Guantanamo when he first took office, has pressed forward with his agenda despite increasing concerns from Republican lawmakers. The president has threatened to use executive action to shutter the military prison, which Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.) has said could prompt Congress to take the administration to court.
The administration intends to move Guantanamo prisoners deemed too dangerous to release to stateside prisons. The Defense Department has assessed detention facilities in Colorado, Kansas, and South Carolina as possible locations to transfer the terrorist suspects.
Lawmakers like Sen. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) have warned of the dangers of moving Guantanamo detainees to U.S. prisons. Cotton said in December that Guantanamo prisoners would “radicalize” hardened criminals held in U.S. prisons if they were moved stateside. Additionally, he expressed concern that prisoners transferred to their home countries who gain ultimate release would rejoin terrorism.
Last month, a former Guantanamo Bay detainee and cook for Osama bin Laden appeared as a leader of the al Qaeda branch in Yemen in a propaganda video released by the group.
The administration, in part, has justified its push to close Guantanamo by insisting that it serves as a propaganda tool for terror groups like ISIS. Like several lawmakers, Gen. John Kelly, the commander of U.S. Southern Command and America’s longest serving general, pushed back on that notion in a recent interview with Defense One.
Obama has continued to work to close the prison despite signing legislation that placed a ban on transferring Guantanamo prisoners to the U.S., in addition to other restrictions.