Obama lays out plan to close prison at Guantanamo Bay

Alex Hanson

President Obama outlined a plan Tuesday to close the U.S.-run detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, arguing it does not further national security interests going forward.

Speaking at the White House, Obama said one of the first actions as president he sponsored was to begin the process of closing the detention camp — which he said had bipartisan support at the time — but Republicans in Congress have now adamantly argued against the closure.

“For many years, it’s been clear that the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay does not advance our national security — it undermines it,” Obama said. “This is not just my opinion. This is the opinion of experts, this is the opinion of many in our military. It’s counterproductive to our fight against terrorists because they use it as propaganda in their efforts to recruit.”

Obama said the closure was about closing a chapter in the history of the United States that has compromised the country’s values. 

U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, who has visited the prison and is a veteran, said in a statement that she is concerned about the proposal to close the facility and bring some detainees into the United States. 

“The detention facility for terrorists at Guantanamo Bay is an important component of our counterterrorism strategy,” Ernst said. “These detainees are some of the world’s most dangerous terrorists and the facility houses many responsible for planning the attacks upon our nation on September 11, 2001.”

Along with his comments, Obama submitted a proposal to Congress that outlines his plan to close the prison. The plan identifies 13 different prisons in the United States that some detainees could be transferred to, while some who are considered “low risk” could be sent to other countries.

“I urge President Obama to reconsider this reckless plan,” Ernst said. “I remain committed to working on behalf of the security of the American people, our allies and our global community.”

The Obama administration said closing the facility transferring detainees may have a cost right away, but it would save between $65 million and $85 million per year. 

Obama was required to submit a proposal to close the facility under the defense authorization bill passed by Congress.