Tuesday, February 23, 2016

How Obama can close Gitmo prison before his term is up

Let's face it, Congress will never go along with President Obama's plan to close Guantanamo Bay prison. I mean the Senate won't even hold a hearing on Obama's next Supreme Court nominee and he hasn't even said who that is yet! There's even less chance that any closure plan will be seriously considered, let alone passed, by this Congress.

And yet, President Obama really does hold the ultimate decision here. The prison at Guantanamo Bay is purely a creature of executive authority. President Bush created it by executive order and, while he was president, conservatives defended his right to do so. President Obama can close the prison simply by ordering it closed. The only issue is what to do with the 91 detainees who are currently being held there. Congress has cut off funding for any transfers to the U.S. mainland. That is why if the U.S. wants to keep any of those people detained after Gitmo closes, Obama will need Congress to approve his closure plan.

Congress will not pass that plan as long as they think that the alternative to not passing the plan is for Guantanamo prison to remain open. But what if that were not the case? What if Obama presents his closure plan to Congress and says "If you don't authorize the transfer of the detainees who are slated for transfer to mainland prisons in my plan, I will use my executive authority to close Gitmo prison anyway. Your choice is not whether the prison closes, it's whether those detainees are transferred to mainland prisons or set free."

It is possible that Congress will wouldn't agree to the plan. Maybe Congressional leaders would bet that the public would blame the President more than Congress for setting those "terrorists" free. And maybe they would be right. But if Obama really wants to close the prison before the end of his term, that is what he should do.

(yeah, I know I already floated a similar idea more than one year ago)