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?

  • It’s a legal problem. If the prisoners are transferred to US territory, they will be entitled to more legal rights. So long as they remain on foreign territory, the US can treat them as war terrorists and hold them indefinitely.

    There was a logic to it at the time, but it may not have been the wisest move, as it has opened up other problems.

    Of course, Obama has avoided adding more prisoners to the camp by vaporizing terrorists with Hellfire missiles. Is that legally, morally or diplomatically preferable?

  • I do support human rights. But why should these people receive a civil trial? They don’t.

    They fit the definition of war terrorist as defined by the Geneva Conventions. They were not uniformed regular soldier, nor were they recognized militiamen operating under the established rules of war. Under the Geneva Conventions, it is permissible to execute them. Many such terrorists were executed during WWI & WWII.

  • I have no problem with them being locked up if they are found guilty of committing crimes after receiving a fair trial. If they are in fact violent fanatics that shouldn’t be too difficult. Without that you are just speculating. I thought you were an ardent supporter of human rights, but as usual that only seems to apply to Cuba.

  • The US has been paying some counties to accept these prisoners. Many of them have slipped off and returned to terrorism. Some of them are certain to face torture or execution back home and therefore the US won’t send them home. Occasionally, a third country has foolishly accepted the prisoners, as Uruguay recently did, much to their eventual dismay.

    You imagine all these poor fellows are boy scouts. In fact, they are violent fanatics determined to kill infidels.

    Simple problem? What’s the problem? Keep these bad guys locked up or execute them. Problem solved. The only problem is the one invented by bleeding heart liberals who either don’t understand who these people are, or the deliberately lie about it.

    You claim to have offered several solutions to this problem. OK, …so what should the US do with Khalid Sheik Mohamad? What’s your simple solution to him? I doubt you even know who he is (without googling his name).

  • Why not open the prison on US land, since it is a US prison? Why is it acceptable to detain those high risk prisoners close to Cuban people but not American? Or, maybe… 120 sq.km for $ 4,085 looks like a good deal for the US government to have their “foot set” on Cuban land and to justify the presence of US military base?

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