Former secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged President Obama to transfer suspected terrorists held at the Guantanamo Bay military prison to facilities in the U.S. in a confidential memo.
Clinton also advocated for U.S. jury trials for prisoners detained at Guantanamo Bay in the January 2013 memo, which was obtained by the Huffington Post through a Freedom of Information Act request.
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"If the law permits, I recommend that you consider transfers to the United States for pre-trial detention, trial, and sentences," Clinton wrote, arguing that "federal courts are time-tested and credible to our allies."
"We must signal to our old and emerging allies alike that we remain serious about turning the page of [Guantanamo Bay Naval Base] GTMO and the practices of the prior decade," Clinton, then outgoing secretary of state, wrote in early 2013. "The revitalization of transfers, efforts to prosecute some detainees in federal courts, a longer-term approach to the return of Yemeni detainees, and credible periodic reviews would send the signal and renew a credible detention policy."
Among other things, Clinton encouraged the administration to persuade members of Congress against closing Guantanamo not to reenact restrictions on the president’s ability to close the prison in fiscal year 2014 "on the grounds that tying the executive’s hands on detention policy has negative national security implications beyond GTMO."
Obama, who promised when he took office to close the military prison, has pressed forward to shutter the facility despite restrictions put in place by Congress. The president has threatened to use executive action to close the prison, which Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.) has said would prompt Congress to take the administration to court.
Obama last week signed the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act despite the fact that it includes language that bars the administration from transferring detainees held on terrorism charges at Guantanamo to stateside prisons. Still, the president remains committed to closing the facility.
In a statement, Obama said he was "deeply disappointed that the Congress has again failed to take productive action toward closing the detention facility at Guantanamo." Obama said that maintaining the prison "is not consistent with our interests as a Nation and undermines our standing in the world."
The Pentagon is expected to release a plan to close the prison to Congress that will lay out stateside facilities to which prisoners held at Guantanamo and deemed too dangerous to release could be transferred. The Defense Department has surveyed facilities in Colorado, Kansas, and South Carolina despite deep concern from lawmakers there.
The Obama administration delayed the release of the plan following the deadly terror attacks in Paris, though officials insisted that the decision was not prompted by the suicide bombings and gun attacks that killed 130 people in France.
A spokesman for the Clinton campaign said that the Democratic presidential candidate still backs the president’s effort to close the prison.
"Hillary Clinton supports the closure of the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, and as the memo makes clear, she has consistently sought to work with Congress towards that goal," spokesman Brian Fallon stated.
According to a YouGov poll conducted earlier this year, just over a quarter of U.S. adults support closing the prison, while nearly double believe the government should continue to operate it.