During an appearance on The Daily Show, President Barack Obama reaffirmed his belief that Guantanamo Bay should be shut down and said Congress needed to “rein in” presidential power.
“There’s some things that we haven’t gotten done, I still want to close Guantanamo, we haven’t been able to get that done,” Obama told Jon Stewart.
Obama vowed to close down the controversial Guantanamo Bay prison facility during his campaign for president. After taking office, Obama called for some terrorism suspects to face trial in federal civilian courts, but Congress blocked the transfer of Guantanamo detainees to the United States. In 2011, Obama issued an executive order that allowed military trials for terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay to resume.
“One of the things that we’ve got to do is put a legal architecture in place and we need congressional help to do that to make sure that not only am I reined in, but any president’s reined in, in terms of some of the decisions that we’re making,” he continued. “Now there’s some tough trade-offs, I mean there are times when there are bad folks somewhere on the other side of the world and you’ve got to make a call and it’s not optimal.”
Drones operated by the U.S. have been used to kill suspected terrorists in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. While the drone campaign has killed top leaders of al Qaeda, the practice has received criticism from human rights advocates. According to the New York Times, Obama is intimately involved in the unprecedented counter-terrorism operation, personally approving or disapproving every new name on a CIA “kill list.”
“When you look at our track record as to say we’ve ended the war in Iraq, we’re winding down the war in Afghanistan we’ve gone after Al Qaeda and it’s leadership, it’s true that Al Qaeda is still active at least remnants of it are staging in North Africa and the Middle East, and sometimes you’ve got to make some tough calls, but you can do so that is consistent with international law and American law,” Obama said.
When it came to government surveillance programs started under the Bush administration, Obama insisted new legal safeguards had been put in place to prevent the laws from infringing American’s civil liberties.
“Now, they’re not real sexy issues,” Obama remarked. But Stewart quickly shot back: “You don’t know what I find sexy.”