President Obama sent his administration’s long-awaited plan to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay to Congress on Tuesday, calling the jail “contrary to our values.”
“It’s counterproductive to our fight against terrorists,” Obama said of the Cuban prison, which is used to house suspected terrorists. “Moreover, keeping this facility open is contrary to our values.”
Obama has wanted to close the facility—which opened in 2002, in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks—since the beginning of his presidency, arguing that it is expensive, ineffective and is used in propaganda to recruit extremists, an argument he reiterated on Tuesday.
Since Obama took office, he’s whittled the number of prisoners held there from 242 to 91. About a third of those remaining have been cleared for transfer by high-level officials, but Congress has imposed restrictions on transferring prisoners to the U.S.
“It’s not just about dealing with the current group of detainees,” Obama said Tuesday. “This is about closing a chapter in our history.”
Though the White House is moving forward with its plan to shutter the prison, Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Monday he was unsure of whether Congress would approve it. ” We’ve seen many members of Congress express their opposition to considering the kinds of necessary steps to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay,” Earnest told reporters on Monday. “That political opposition stands in stark contrast to the best advice that the Commander-in-Chief receives from our military.”
Obama could use his executive authority to transfer the remaining prisoners out of the facility, but the White House has signaled it wants to work with Congress.
“The President has said on a number of occasions that working with Congress to succeed in closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay is the preferable outcome here,” Earnest said Monday. ” That’s something that we’ve been hard at work on for seven years, and we certainly are committed over the course of this year to continuing to do that work.”