Congressional Republicans are sending an early warning to the Defense Department that its plan to close Guantánamo Bay would break the law.
“No matter how hard the President wishes it wasn’t the case, transferring dozens of dangerous terrorists to any domestic location is illegal,” Republican Sens. Cory Gardner (Colo.), Pat Roberts (Kan.) and Tim Scott (S.C.) said Friday. “Moving the detainees to South Carolina, Kansas or Colorado will not lead to even the smallest change in the beliefs or propaganda of radical Islamic terrorists.”
They added that the President Obama’s push to create a “Gitmo North” location within the United States makes the country less secure.
Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) added, separately, that any push to bring detainees into the United States would “represent a blatant and serious violation of the plain language of the law.”
Ayotte and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) have also requested that the Armed Services Committee have a hearing on Obama’s Guantánamo Bay policy.
Their comments follow comments
from Defense Secretary Ashton Carter Thursday that he has “framed for the President a proposal to establish an alternative location,” including moving some detainees into the United States.
The Pentagon has sent teams to review facilies in South Carolina, Kansas and Colorado as potential alternatives to the Cuban facility.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest, however, said Friday that he was unable to confirm if the White House is reviewing the Pentagon’s plan.
“I don’t know the answer to that question,” he told reporters. “Presumably the White House has some insight into the work that they are doing. … I don’t know if they’ve emailed over a draft version or anything.”
The Obama administration has pledged for months that it intends to turn over a plan to close the controversial Cuban facility to Congress, as part of an effort to fulfill a long-standing campaign pledge to close the prison.
The administration announced
earlier this week that it had transferred 10 detainees to Oman, bringing the Cuban prison’s population below 100 for the first time since it was opened in 2002.
Republican leadership, however, have signaled they have no interest in taking up the president’s forthcoming plan, and have sent several bills to Obama’s desk that directly forbid him from moving detainees into the country.
Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said
on Friday that there was “one problem” with Carter’s proposal: “It’s illegal, and that’s not going to change anytime soon.”
Asked earlier this week if Congress would be able to prevent Obama from shuttering the facility, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said “I sure hope so.”
“I’m a big fan of using Gitmo the way it has been used and I think — hopefully, he will fail in his effort to completely remove all of these bad guys from Guantánamo,” he told reporters.
The White House hasn’t ruled out the president trying to use his executive authority to close the prison.