Obama Outlines Initial Steps In Renewed Effort To Close Gitmo

President Obama on Thursday in a major speech outlining his administration’s counterterrorism policies also detailed plans on how to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay.

Amid a growing hunger strike among Gitmo detainees that gained national attention after one described the harrowing process of being force-fed, Obama said last month that he would renew his administration’s efforts to close Guantanamo.

“I once again call on Congress to lift the restrictions on detainee transfers from Gitmo,” Obama said in his speech today. And while some media outlets previously reported that part of Obama’s plan would involved authorizing the transfer of Yemeni detainees that have been cleared for release, the president expounded on some of the initial details of his plan:

OBAMA: I have asked the Department of Defense to designate a site in the United States where we can hold military commissions. I am appointing a new, senior envoy at the State Department and Defense Department whose sole responsibility will be to achieve the transfer of detainees to third countries. I am lifting the moratorium on detainee transfers to Yemen, so we can review them on a case by case basis. To the greatest extent possible, we will transfer detainees who have been cleared to go to other countries. Where appropriate, we will bring terrorists to justice in our courts and military justice system. And we will insist that judicial review be available for every detainee.

“I know the politics are hard,” Obama said of closing Gitmo. Indeed, the president is already facing fierce resistance from Republicans in Congress. Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) said Obama’s plan amounted to a “victory” for terrorists. “GITMO must stay open for business,” he said. Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) in a press conference after Obama’s speech said they want Guantanamo closed but said they wanted a plan (and didn’t appear eager to offer one themselves). House and Senate Democrats, however, are sounding a more supportive.


“Imagine a future — ten years from now, or twenty years from now — when the United States of America is still holding people who have been charged with no crime on a piece of land that is not a part of our country,” Obama said, seemingly pre-empting those who will resist his plan. “Look at the current situation, where we are force-feeding detainees who are holding a hunger strike. Is that who we are? Is that something that our Founders foresaw? Is that the America we want to leave to our children?”