Bush Opened the Guantanamo Prison Without Congress, So Why Can’t Obama Close It?

Democracy Now

guantanamo prisonHAVANA TIMES – As President Obama takes executive action on gun control without going through Congress, could closing Guantánamo be next? In January 2009, Obama ordered the closure of the Guantánamo Bay military prison in one of his first executive actions. Seven years later, 107 prisoners are still there.

We speak with Caroline Fredrickson, president of the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy. “I think something that’s really important for people to remember is that President George W. Bush opened Guantánamo on his own say-so, without Congress, without any authorization, any legislation to do so,” Fredrickson says. “Obviously, Congress can use the power of the purse … But in terms of the president’s basic authority, he certainly has that.”


TRANSCRIPT

AMY GOODMAN: And, Caroline Fredrickson, I’d like you to stay on for one minute to address another issue—not guns, but the issue of the executive authority of the president, what power President Obama can use, that we’re seeing he’s using on the issue of gun control. Could he use this to close the Guantánamo prison camp without congressional approval? In January 2009, one of his first executive orders was calling for the closure of the Guantánamo Bay military prison. Seven years later, 107 prisoners are still there.

CAROLINE FREDRICKSON: Well, so, you know, I think something that’s really important for people to remember is that President George W. Bush opened Guantánamo on his own say-so, without Congress, without any authorization, any legislation to do so. So I would call people’s attention—there was a very important Washington Post opinion piece about a month or so ago by Cliff Sloan, who is the special envoy to close Guantánamo appointed by John Kerry, secretary of state, and Greg Craig, who’s the former White House counsel. And they argue, quite convincingly, that the president is fully within his executive authority to close Guantánamo without going through Congress, because of that very same power that George W. Bush used to open Guantánamo, which is the commander-in-chief power, which is in his purview to take significant actions to affect our national security. And so, I think that’s a very compelling argument. Now, obviously, Congress can use the power of the purse to try and limit that. But in terms of the president’s basic authority, he certainly has that.

AMY GOODMAN: Caroline Fredrickson, I want to thank you for being with us—

CAROLINE FREDRICKSON: Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: —president of the American Constitutional Society for Law and Policy.

This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. When we come back, we go to Chicago to hear the story of a man who has lived in this country for a quarter of a century. He comes from Turkey, was imprisoned and tortured there. Now the U.S. is threatening to send him back. We’ll speak with him, his daughter and his lawyer. Stay with us.


12 thoughts on “Bush Opened the Guantanamo Prison Without Congress, So Why Can’t Obama Close It?

  • by United States government admission most of those who were in Guantanamo where innocent and have been released from concentration camp Guantanamo , there are some who are innocent and still detained with nowhere to go ,
    how should someone feel when a 1000 pound bomb wipes out is mud hut killing his wife children mother father grandfather grandmother goats dogs cats and whatever was living in his neighborhood ?
    how can someone who’s defending his home and country be called a terrorist?
    what would the average American do if the US gets invaded ?
    I’m not going to say you I don’t think you count ,
    for the handful who are guilty they happen to be the creation of the CIA anyway , the government of the United States is as guilty as they are , if United States government was a private entity they will be in front of the grand jury charged with conspiracy ,

  • The Geneva Conventions refer to a war situation un-uniformed armed personnel (spies) conduct intelligence gathering or sabotage behind enemy lines. In that situation they can be executed on the spot. If they are captured they shouldn’t be subject to torture or humiliation and after the conflict is over they are released. I think it is stretching it a bit to say this applies to charity workers and people kidnapped from third countries.

    You ask “why should these people receive a civil trial?” and I would turn it round and say why not. If they are so obviously guilty in your mind. Take the example of Northern Ireland, though far from perfect and after a brief period of internment without trial, the British introduced the Prevention of Terrorism Act which made conviction easier. But at least everyone was granted a trial and a right to defend themselves and if convicted were given a set number of years imprisonment.

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