President Barack Obama appears ready to ignore key provisions of the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that aim to block him from closing the Guantanamo Bay military prison in Cuba, according to a signing statement issued by the White House on Wednesday.
The White House initially warned it would veto the bill, which gives $633 billion to the Department of Defense, if it contained provisions that block detainee transfers to and from the U.S. Despite that veto threat, President Obama signed the 2013 NDAA into law on Wednesday, but like 2011’s bill he attached a signing statement to it.
“I continue to oppose this provision, which substitutes the Congress’s blanket political determination for careful and fact-based determinations, made by counterterrorism and law enforcement professionals, of when and where to prosecute Guantanamo detainees,” the president wrote.
He added: “I continue to believe that operating the facility weakens our national security by wasting resources, damaging our relationships with key allies, and strengthening our enemies. My Administration will interpret these provisions as consistent with existing and future determinations by the agencies of the Executive responsible for detainee transfers.”
The statement continued by explaining that the White House will implement the will of Congress “in a manner that avoids the constitutional conflict,” giving clear signal that the detainee provisions will be ignored if the administration believes its constitutional powers are being stepped upon.
Despite the statement, the president’s signature on the NDAA will only further complicate efforts to close the notorious terror war landmark, even though a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report published in November found that there’s more than enough secure prison space in the U.S. to safely house he 166 remaining prisoners at the military facility.
“Scores of men who have already been held for nearly 11 years without being charged with a crime–including more than 80 who have been cleared for transfer–may very well be imprisoned unfairly for yet another year,” American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Executive Director Anthony Romero said in an advisory. “The president should use whatever discretion he has in the law to order many of the detainees transferred home, and finally step up next year to close Guantanamo and bring a definite end to indefinite detention.”
Photo: Flickr user takomabibelot, creative commons licensed.