President Barack Obama said on Tuesday that he still wants to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, as he had promised on the campaign trail in 2008:
I think it is critical for us to understand that Guantanamo is not necessary to keep America safe,” he said. “It is expensive. It is inefficient. It hurts us in terms of our international standing. It lessens cooperation with our allies on counterterrorism efforts. It is a recruitment tool for extremists. It needs to be closed.”
The problem, Obama said, is with Congress, which has blocked efforts to transfer detainees or close the prison camp.
Last November, the Senate approved an amendment to the annual defense budget bill to ban the transfer of detainees to U.S. prisons. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) offered a colorful explanation for the provision to The Hill:
“We don’t want these crazy bastards brought here to the United States,” he said. “They want to steal your way of life, not steal your car. Have you lost your mind?”
Obama had threatened to veto the bill if the amendment passed, but signed it anyway, attaching a signing statement claiming the constitutional power to override the amendment. But he hasn’t yet done so, and it’s not clear whether he will: Congress made the same provisions in the 2012 defense bill, and he didn’t override those, either.
On Tuesday, Obama said he was going to try again. “I’m going to go back at this,” he said. “I’ve asked my team to review everything that’s currently being done in Guantanamo, everything that we can do administratively, and I’m going to re-engage with Congress to try to make the case that this is not something that’s in the best interests of the American people.”