U.S. President Barack Obama pledged to close down the military prison Guantanamo Bay during his 2008 campaign. Now he has unveiled a new plan to fulfill that promise in the last year of his presidency (video below).
On Feb. 23, Obama addressed the press in the Roosevelt Room, flanked by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter.
“It’s been clear that the detention center at Guantanamo Bay does not advance our national security,” Obama said. “It undermines our standing in the world."
Guantanamo Bay, at its peak, held roughly 800 prisoners deemed accessories to terror. Today there are only 91 individuals being held in the detention facility. The prison has been criticized as a violation of civil liberties and a recruitment tool for terrorist organizations abroad.
It would cost up to $475 million to enact the White House's plan, which entails shuttering Guantanamo Bay and building a new facility on U.S. soil. Roughly 30 to 60 of the currently detained prisoners would be transferred to the U.S. The others would be sent to other countries.
The plan does not designate an exact location in the U.S. to relocate these prisoners but suggested 13 sites, including states such as South Carolina, Kansas and Colorado. Selecting which state would have to be negotiated with Congress.
Despite the $475 million price tag, the plan is being pitched as cost effective. According to government officials, within three to five years, the lower operating costs of a U.S. facility with fewer prisoners would pay off, and it would “generate at $335 million in net savings over 10 years and up to $1.7 billion in net savings over 20 years,” The Washington Post reports.
The President’s proposal has already been met with pushback from Republicans in Congress, who have already successfully blocked his efforts to close the facility.
“President Obama seems to be captured on one matter by one campaign promise he made in 2008,” Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Senate Majority Leader, said, according to NBC News.
Republican Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the House Speaker, told Bloomberg Politics that Congress will not cooperate with any efforts to shut down Guantanamo Bay.
“It is against the law — and it will stay against the law — to transfer terrorist detainees to American soil,” Ryan wrote in an email. “We will not jeopardize our national security over a campaign promise.”
Obama declined to state whether or not he would use an executive order to OK a transfer if Congress blocks his plan.
“I really think there’s an opportunity here for progress,” he said. “There’s an obligation to try. I don’t want to pass this problem on to the next president no matter who it is.”