President Obama called for greater action from Congress to close the Guantanamo Bay prison camp in a statement made during his holiday trip to Hawaii.
Obama spoke to the U.S. military members on Christmas Day and issued a statement the day after as follow-up to the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act that he signed into law.
“The continued operation of the facility weakens our national security by draining resources, damaging our relationships with key allies and partners, and emboldening violent extremists,” Obama said.
The NDAA set the U.S. military budget at $552.1 billion for the 2014 fiscal year, with an additional $80.7 for the war in Afghanistan.
The president called for greater authority for the United States to use funds to transfer prisoners to other U.S prisons or to other countries. He said the bill was “an improvement over current law” but that it does not “eliminate all of the unwarranted limitations” on prisoner transfers.
Obama’s promise to close Guantanamo was a large part of his 2008 election campaign. So far little has been accomplished by way of granting due process to the detainees, some of whom have been held without trial for over a decade.
Three Uighur Muslim detainees in Guantanamo were just transferred to Slovakia. The last prisoners of the Chinese ethnic minority to be imprisoned in Guantanamo, a U.S. federal judge ordered their release in 2008. After several hold-ups they were finally moved to Slovakia, the country that accepted them. The men had been held for more than 10 years after being captured in Pakistan in the wake of Sept. 11th, despite the fact that no al-Qaeda, Taliban, or other terrorist ties were ever proven.
Eight other prisoners have been moved since August, leaving the current total at 155 prisoners.
The NDAA, first signed into law in 2012 and updated each year since, first permitted the military to detain individuals indefinitely without trial. That provision has gone unchanged.